Menu Planning

So I’m in the process of moving, and let me tell you – it’s for the birds. It’s overwhelming, stressful and getting everything in order is nearly impossible. It actually reminds me a lot of wedding planning. Not to scare you soon-to-be planners – but its work, hard work!

There are some elements of planning that can be neither here nor there, while other elements are a must. Alcohol, optional. A full-length gown, optional. Real flowers, optional. Food, not optional.

You pretty much HAVE TO feed your guests.

Whether your menu is simple and chic, inexpensive but hearty or lavish and extravagant, remember the lighter the meal the more energy and dancing there will be post dinner. You don’t want to starve your guests, but you don’t want to place them in  a food coma either.

Be sure to take note of the alcohol behind the bar. While you don’t want to send your friends and family into napping mode with a Thanksgiving-like dinner, but you want to be sure there is enough food in their stomachs to absorb their alcohol intake.


When it comes to appetizers, Thrillist said it best; Factors that need to be considered when deciding on what hor d’oeuvres should be served: “Ease of consumption, consistency of execution, ability to remain appealing in the face of cooling temperatures, and flavor.”

During the cocktail/appetizer hour(s), guests are mingling, walking around, taking photos – you want to serve them something with ease. Foods that can go on a skewer, in a shot or be eaten in a bite are best. Be wary of sauces, dips or things that will leave grease on their hands. Likely, they have a drink in one hand – they don’t need to be holding their hands up, like a child covered in mud, searching for an extra napkin.

You may even want to pass on apps like bruschetta – it tastes amazing, but if the bread cannot be consumed in a bite, you have to worry about diced tomatoes all over the floor. Then there are the people who try to save themselves the mess and shove it in their mouths… Not attractive.

Have a place to place the skewers that have been eaten off of and shots that are empty. No one wants to be the fatty with 6 empty skewers, 2 shots, 3 napkins and a drink in their hands. Finally, consider the servers – be sure your servers can speak to what is on the tray they are serving and know the ingredients.

Caprese Skewers A great vegetarian option. Just make sure there isn’t too much oil or vinegar dripping. Oil can ruin a stunning dress in seconds.
Stuffed Mushrooms They are pop-able and can be stuffed with just about anything. Seafood, sausage, spinach or something else extraordinary.
Crab cakes They’re considered seafood, but most likely won’t have you smelling like a bait shop after consuming a few.
Meatballs You can stick them on a skewer or a toothpick – and who doesn’t love a flavor-filled meatball?
Soup Shots You most likely don’t want your guest doing alcoholic shots, but nothing is wrong with a soup shot topped with a mini-sandwich.

Tabled appetizers are traditionally cheaper than passed, and guests don’t have to track down a server to get seconds of their favorites. Stationary apps are also beneficial because guests can put a few items on a small plate rather than balancing items on a cocktail napkin.

Since this selection is stationary – many times the venue or caterer with create something appealing to the eye, which can easily be a conversation starter or a nice picture.

Stationary apps can be anything really; an assortment of cheeses, crackers, breads, fruits, vegetables, dips, olives… the list could go on and on.

When making your selection take into consideration if anything is missing from your meal – if you’re serving green beans and roasted red potatoes, consider incorporating fruit in the appetizer menu. Also consider your cocktails – if you’re serving a small selection of wines – make sure the cheese display has a few good pairings.


Weddings meals are typically served in two forms: plated (also known as seated) or buffet (and stations, which are currently on-trend). Both have pros. Both have cons.

Your venue or caterer may be able to help you with this decision too. For example, your venue may do better with a buffet style dinner because of the available kitchen size. Ask the right questions to find out what is popular or best in your venue with your caterer.

This is definitely the more formal, traditional of the two. It requires more planning before the actual reception. Guests are offered meal options on the RSVP card, including things such as: Chicken, beef, fish or pasta. (Usually three options cover all guests’ tastes.) Since meals are preselected, a seating assignment is a must, so servers know what guest gets what meal.

Pros: You won’t have to worry about running out of food. The number of plates is prefixed with the attendance count and guest’s RSVPS you provided your vendor. Guest will get served within a short amount of time, which ensures ample time for dancing.

Cons: This choice is often times more expensive. It also requires additional wait staff which can increase your costs. It requires extra planning and limits the options you can offer your guests.

While a buffet is considered the more casual serving option, it can still be pulled off at a formal event with grand presentation and top-of the line food. Typically, this option has a less expensive price, however – it’s not always the cost efficient option if you are serving expensive food.

Pros: Instead of your guest choosing one option and looking at their spouse and saying, “I should of ordered [insert other entrée].” It provides options. Guests can try a little bit of everything available. Caterers also have options like “action stations” (where chefs hand-roll sushi or create a custom stir-fry), “carving stations” (where a buffet attendance carves various meats) and “theme/cultural stations” (In one corner is Italian in the other is Thai).

Cons: You can easily run out of food if guests are serving themselves and not being spooned out green beans by a buffet attendant. A large guest count = long lines, long lines = long wait time, long wait time = people getting antsy. If the catering team isn’t on its toes, food can run out quickly or get cold. And it can be a little tricky trying to balance plates, silverware and a drink. Not to mention, if children are in attendance, parents will have to balance both their plates and the child’s.


Each wedding is unique, a sit should be. Appetizers and meals may vary for the season, culture, venue or time of day you get married. If you’re having a Sunday morning brunch wedding, your appetizers may be lighter and less involved and your meal may be a very simple spread. You even have the option to match your food to your venue or overall theme. Selecting your menu can be frustrating, trying to appeal to all tastes. However, remember it is YOUR day. Have fun and be sure to go to your menu tasting – it’s a really enjoyable pre-wedding planning event. If all else fails a glass of red & to-do list should can your through.


Action station, carving station and theme excerpt from Paper Muse Press 

One thought on “Menu Planning

  1. I really enjoyed how you laid out the different options, definitely keeps people from sticking to the traditional sit down 4 course meal.

    We have gone back and forth on what would be the best for our style while also keeping our guests happily fed – avoiding a “hangry” bride and relatives is the goal. We knew right away that a buffet would be out of the running, and we think we’ve found a perfect solution. Our caterer, and good friend owns one of our favorite restaurants. His style is what we want – fresh bites that are both savory, refreshing, healthy, and created with local fare. You’d be surprised how quickly passed hors d’oeuvres can fill you up! This way, our friends and family can easily mingle and feel as if they are able to explore the venue and different food options (while having enough room for donuts and cake after some dancing).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s