Nothing beats gathering around the table with your favorite people for a celebratory meal after you’ve just said “I do” to a lifetime of happiness with your partner. Not only does your reception dinner give you the opportunity to bond with your guests and provide a deeper look at your relationship, but it’s also a chance to show off the delicious flavors of the season.
For couples hosting winter weddings, your culinary spread is the perfect excuse to load up on hearty foods and rich flavors. By providing warmth and comfort, your menu is also one of the best ways to help your guests brave the cold. “With a winter wedding, you’re battling the temperatures outside, and you’re now trying to make the inside warm and cozy,” planner Fallon Carter says. “Outside of the décor, another great way to do that is through taste.”
From your starters to your entrées, there are so many ways to nod to the season with your cuisine. Through various spices and seasonal produce, your menu will capture the essence of winter. Whether it’s a creamy soup in a bread bowl, roasted chicken dusted with coriander, or a crispy kale salad topped with orange slices, serving seasonal dishes will make your menu fresher, tastier, and more aesthetically pleasing.
Keep reading for expert-approved tips and tricks to create the perfect winter wedding menu, plus 20 seasonal meal ideas to inspire you.
Meet the Expert
One of the best ways to provide warmth on your plate is through various spices. “I love big, hearty, warm foods that are accessible and garnished well,” Carter notes. “They’re bringing in different flavors and spices.” Whether it’s a cumin rub on grilled chicken or a sprig of rosemary on mashed potatoes, seasonings are an easy way to add a kick to any dish, and they’ll give your guests a taste of winter.
Amy Iserman of Forte Belanger also advises couples to use spices in a way that creates new flavors their friends and family probably haven’t tasted before. “We love to mix in the unexpected, so each bite evokes wonder,” she remarks. People will be asking, “Is that a hint of cinnamon in this beef dish?”
Stick With Familiar Foods
Want to create a menu that will really wow your guests? Instead of introducing new and unfamiliar foods, stay within your wheelhouse—but play up the presentation. “We recommend providing foods that are of comfort or familiarity, but then plating or displaying them in a more creative, exciting way,” Iserman suggests. Doctoring up your favorite dishes will also more authentically capture your relationship within your wedding reception.
Strive for Balance
Although warm and hearty meals are often at the forefront of winter wedding menus, Carter urges couples to keep their spread balanced. “Don’t go too heavy,” she warns. “Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that every single meal needs to be hot. There should be some ambient temperatures.” Consider serving light and refreshing dishes, such as seasonal salads, with heavier pastas and stews so guests aren’t too stuffed to hit the dance floor.
Capture Your Love Story
Yes, a spread of seasonal items will look and taste best, but it makes more of an impact if the dishes you serve reflect your relationship. To select a lineup that speaks to you and your significant other, reflect on the most delicious meals you’ve had together during the season. “I tell people to think of trips they’ve taken in the winter,” Carter explains. “Recreate those interactive moments or those types of meals in miniature size.” You can even incorporate your childhood favorites, the first dish you had as a couple, or the date night meals you always fall back on.
Whipped Ricotta Tarts
Bite-sized appetizers are essential for any winter vow swap. These mini tarts stuffed with whipped herb ricotta and topped with cranberries are no exception. From the fluffy, buttery pastry to the creamy filling, these tartlets are loaded with cozy flavors that are bound to make a splash. We love how the red and green garnishes give this hors d'oeuvre a festive flair that complements a holiday wedding.
Since fresh fruit isn’t as readily available come winter, using dried alternatives is the perfect way to sweeten a meal. Dense and sugary dates wrapped in bacon might not seem like an obvious choice, but the unexpected combination is packed with sweet-and-salty flavors that make it a crowd favorite.
Although chicken is a common entrée for any season, your caterer can doctor it up to suit a winter soirée. Drizzled with herb tahini sauce and paired with sautéed onions, you’ll have an elevated option that’s anything but boring. Straight out of the oven, the meal will keep your guests nice and toasty.
Although they might not seem as exciting, vegetables are a versatile and nutrient-dense side dish that can be prepared in so many mouthwatering ways. Transform spheres of grilled eggplant into a winter-appropriate accompaniment by having pine nuts and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on top.
You might think fish is only appropriate for a summer celebration, but when it’s prepared the right way, salmon is an excellent option for vow exchanges in cold weather. With a maple marinade, this flaky fish won’t disappoint. It’s also a nutritious entrée that your pescatarian guests will appreciate. Serve with roasted Brussels sprouts and velvety mashed potatoes for the ultimate lineup.
Fried Goat Cheese Balls
What screams comfort food more than melted cheese? Crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside, fried goat cheese is an explosion of textures and tastes. Although they’re flavorful enough served on their own, you can also use these balls of ooey-gooey cheese as salad toppers.
If you want to surprise your guests with a contrast of unique flavors, serve this apricot appetizer. The dollop of greek yogurt mixed with chives provides a tangy touch, while the fruit base sweetens each bite. As a bonus, they’re easy to arrange and need minimal cleanup.
Not every dish at your winter wedding has to be super heavy. A fresh starter salad is a light option that won’t weigh you down. This mix of arugula, apple slices, and goat cheese will bring a winter flavor to your reception that isn’t overpowering. Consider accenting your salad with edible flowers for a pop of color, and use the same variation as your centerpieces for a cohesive design.
Mushrooms make a substantial and earthy side dish for any winter wedding. Topped with melted Camembert cheese and crispy pancetta, these bites will appeal to everyone’s taste buds.
At cold-weather nuptials, root vegetables are often the star ingredient. They’re versatile, colorful, and mildly flavored. Carrots are a safe bet that even your younger guests will devour. Have them coated in parsley, thyme, and oregano for a burst of seasonal spices.
Brown Butter Ravioli
If you’re looking for a no-fail meal that’s filling and satiating, ravioli will deliver. For an enhanced twist on the staple winter dish, choose a mushroom, pumpkin, or butternut squash filling. Coat in a deluxe brown-butter sauce, and voila! You’ll have a melt-in-your-mouth meal that even your meat-eating guests will adore.
There’s nothing quite as comforting and nostalgic like a warm slice of pizza. The delicious bread-and-cheese combination isn’t just for casual affairs, though. For an upgrade on the childhood classic, bring in a wood-fired oven, so each bite will bring a smoky taste and crunchy texture. Add a kick with winter herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, or oregano, and in-season toppings, like Brussels sprouts, kale, or sausage.
Sweet Potato Succotash
A hearty medley of sweet potatoes and beans makes a delicious main meal for any cold-weather celebration. Since they’re in season during the winter months, the root vegetable will add color, flavor, and texture to your plate. Not to mention, this dinner idea will be a huge hit with vegetarian or vegan guests.
Tacos are definitely a sought-after dish at spring and summer weddings, but they’re also fun for winter celebrations, especially with Mexican-inspired cuisine. This miniature version of a fan favorite will hold guests over until dinner. Play up the flavors of winter with ingredients, such as sweet potatoes, black beans, avocado, and kale, and have them arranged on lime wedges for a seasonal tang.
Figs Paired With Prosciutto
Figs are a decadent fruit that thrives during the colder months. When wrapped in prosciutto and topped with goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction, you’ll create a juxtaposition of flavors that will have your guests going back for seconds.
For a filling, protein-packed dish that your meat-eating guests will enjoy, you can’t go wrong with beef skewers. Take your appetizer to the next level with glazed onions on top.
Tartines are a well-liked hors d'oeuvre for any age group and every culinary preference. For a fancy twist on an old-school classic, serve sourdough slices with beans and cilantro. These mini toasts are a great option for rustic weddings.
Beet and Quinoa Salad
Brimming with a sweet flavor and a vibrant hue, beets are a root vegetable you need to have on your radar for your winter reception. When served over a base of quinoa, you’ll bring a nutty taste and texture to this colorful vegetable. A sprinkle of parsley will round off the dish.
Sushi is a trendy option for any celebration of love. Whether it’s a sushi bar or a passed appetizer, this roll of raw fish and rice is a lighter option that will fuel your guests for a night on the dance floor.
Of course, empanadas are a delicious option any time of year. But, when they’re filled with mushrooms, squash, or brie, they’re a perfect fit for winter. Served hot, these appetizers will keep guests warm on a cold night. Pair them with an assortment of rich dips for a sensory overload.