So you've got the venue, the dress and the key players in your groomsmen and bridal party. Now it's time to plan the menu! Don't be fooled, this is no small task – you need to provide food, drinks and wedding cake for all of your guests, while keeping it in tone with your theme and ensuring attendees have enough variety of choice. For self-proclaimed foodies, this step can be especially daunting, as they want to provide a delectable array of dishes to represent themselves as a couple. Worry not! We've done some of the hard work for you. Brides asked some of our favourite cooks, chefs and caterers for their best wedding catering and food ideas, so you don't have to. Get ready to be inspired!
"Ayurveda is all about your digestion, so creating a wedding meal with your digestion in mind means you (and your guests!) will build and maintain stamina to last you through the day’s festivities. Very traditional get-togethers and feasts (think Italian family lunches of multiple courses) always include aperitifs and digestifs to prepare the appetite for food, as well as helping it digest any richer foods afterwards. I love serving my Dosha spice powders on a teaspoon, alongside warm ginger and apple juice in a shot glass, as a little aperitif. Not only is it a good talking point while getting everyone charged with energy, but it also looks really pretty. Perfect for a wedding table! Similarly, ending the meal with a digestif is always a good idea, so that you can hit the dance floor running. Try the Ginger and fennel anise chews from my book East by West for a post-dinner/pre-dance stomach soother."
"Two British weddings I attended recently were very different from one another. One was traditional and the other rather wacky. However, one similarity came in the form of their menus, which were both very seasonal. Asparagus in May and strawberries in June. This is something we’re seeing on the restaurant scene too. I call it a 'return to our roots'. This is more akin to how our ancestors would have eaten and it’s really how we should all be eating – because food tastes better this way.
Sharing style is something else that is becoming more popular. The quirky wedding I went to in Norfolk had large platters of shell fish going round instead of a first course. It was a wonderful way to get everyone chatting. The main course was locally caught bream on Italian-style roast vegetables, before homemade blackberry ice cream for dessert. Overarchingly, I'd say that all this amounts to a rise in what I call the ‘rustic wedding’. Think floaty organic linen as opposed to starched white tablecloths; jam jars of wild flowers – and not a lily in site.
Wedding cakes are getting more exciting too. The recent royal wedding is testament to the fact that the stiff fruit cake and royal icing is set to become a thing of the past with Harry and Meghan opting for a rustic lemon and elderflower cake by East London baker Claire Ptak. I do like the tradition of a top layer of rich fruit cake being reserved at your first child's christening, but go wild with the other layers! A couple I know served carrot and coffee walnut cakes and, at 2am, this was exactly what their guests wanted."
Pick up Alexandra's book, Land & Sea, for more seasonal, sustainable food ideas
"Big crowd pleasers this summer have been Espresso Martinis, burrata starters and seasonal vegetables presented in vibrant and beautiful ways. A lot of our clients have also been opting for high-end comfort food, such as tacos, truffled Mac n’cheese or lobster rolls and rosemary fries. It’s the kind of food that guests are actually excited to eat, rather than the boring, old-fashioned Meat, potato & jus combo. And after all that deliciousness, those Espresso Martinis are just the ticket to get your boogie on!
Millennials may have made wedding hashtags the norm, but they also seem more aware of how frivolous a big party can be and are therefore more conscious of the environmental impact of it. Many couples ask us to source meat 'from the down the road', to avoid plastic and/or to create a menu that wastes as little as possible. Sustainability is cool."
Rosie Lloyd Owen, Director, Peardrop London
"Bowl foods and buffets are currently proving a much more relaxed way to cater for your wedding. Buffets are an easy way to serve lots of guests - and they can look really beautiful if you include the right mix of dishes. Our delis are famous for their bright and vibrant displays. Buffets are also a great way to offer your guests more variety, while we've also found that bowl foods are becoming increasingly popular with clients. Serving the latter will ensure none of your guests get stuck on a table for hours, as they're instead free to move around – food in hand, talking to whomever they like and getting stuck into the party. Our Chicken and preserved lemon meatballs with couscous salad is a great option which always goes down a storm.
It’s also important to have a good selection of delicious vegetarian and vegan options at your wedding – making sure vegetarians don't feel like they’re an afterthought, as well as catering to those who are wanting to cut down their meat consumption. Dishes with a bit of protein will also appeal to meat eaters. Our Sweetcorn and tofu fritters with avocado always prove an incredibly popular canapé with everyone, no matter their preference."
Calvin von Niebel, Group Development Chef, Ottolenghi.co.uk
"At the moment, I’m seeing that a lot of couples can’t get enough of the ‘naked wedding cake’. It’s simple, classic and means that you can admire all the beautiful layers inside and fillings spilling out. I’m passionate about bakes looking ‘normal’ – without crazy embellishments – and I always encourage my clients to repurpose flowers from the bridal party’s bouquets to decorate the wedding cake. This deconstructed style is absolutely stunning in any season!
I also think that Italian food (with lots of Amalfi lemons) is having a real moment, especially during this year’s English country wedding season. Everything from blue-and-white ceramics to tiles as name places, to opera singers and, of course, the food! Burrata starters and tiramisu desserts are always a hit with everyone."
"More than ever, people are looking to break away from tradition when it comes to their big day. Bowl food or mini dishes are a great way to provide a variety of choice for your guests, without the formality of a sit-down meal. This casual style of service will help keep you and your guests relaxed by letting the food circulate the room with ease. One of our clients’ most popular dishes is the Salt Cod Scotch Egg with Chorizo, Red Pepper and Saffron. It’s simple yet striking. But you can also be playful with your bowl food, as we have been in creating our Tonka Bean Panna Cotta, which injects a bit of colour and flamboyance to the day’s menu.
We also offer all our couples the option of serving a midnight snack. After all that booze, guests need something to soak it up! A personal fave is our Ultimate Cheese on Toast, which never fails to go down a storm. We use gruyere, proper English mustard and Worcestershire sauce and serve it hot and bubbling from the grill, topped with chives. Appreciation levels are always very high!"
"Vegetarian food seems to be all the rage. In fact, we have noticed many of our clients are requesting menus that are entirely vegetarian, even for parties and special occasions. I think this is because lighter options suit these types of events, which are often more about socialising than the food (though, of course, the latter needs to be tasty, too). Vegetarian dishes are also eye catching and colourful, and they often contain many different tastes and textures, making them stimulating and visual. Our menu at Moro – and, indeed, at Casa Moro – has always created an abundance of appetising meat-free dishes.
Tapas and mezze are also perfectly suited for groups, in place of canapés and/or in place of a starter. Instead, plates of delicious morsels are handed around and shared. At Casa Moro, many of our main dishes are also served in sharing bowls or on large plates at the centres of tables, so guests can help themselves. This is ideal for a more casual event, as people are able to get stuck in together. This style of dining, along with buffets, are also a handy way to cut down on staffing costs. Some of our best and most colourful dishes work brilliantly on buffets, like paellas, large pilavs with chicken or fish or slow-cooked tagines."
Sam Clark of Moro