Wedding Catering Trends: 5 Fresh Ideas for Your Food

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

The latest trend in wedding catering can be summed up in one word: personalization. From late-night bites to signature cocktails, couples are looking for fun, creative ways to incorporate their own tastes into the food they serve. "Anything goes right now," says Jenny James, catering sales manager for Cameron Mitchell Premier Events. "As people get more creative, it's also a way to see themselves [in the event]. The expectation of having a three-course dinner on a Saturday night is out the window." Looking for some out-of-the-box ideas? This roundup of the new and fresh ways couples are feeding their guests will help you get inspired.

Hyper-Local

Highlighting local ingredients has become an enduring trend-and for good reason. "Fresh, local, vegetarian food has taken a different spin," says Regina Carmody Prange, co-owner of artisan catering company Bleu & Fig. "It's more than just a pasta dish. Instead we see things like vegetarian spring rolls and caprese cups." And if you're sourcing vegetables locally, then why not feature local booze as well? "I see tons of craft beer at weddings now," says Stacy Terman, director of special events at Milo's Catering. "People are working with the local breweries and the local distilleries. The past few years, there's been a lot of focus on local produce, and now I think it's merging into all other areas." Going local can also mean creating a menu inspired by your favorite Columbus restaurant, James says, recalling one couple that choose an entree from The Pearl and then decided to take that theme into the cocktail hour with appetizers inspired by other local restaurants.

Family-Style

Atmosphere is as important as the actual cuisine, and brides and grooms seeking a more intimate and homey feel should consider a family-style dinner. With this service, large platters of food are delivered to guests, who then pick and choose what they want on their plate. "Family-style menus are becoming more popular," says Sarah Selhorst, director of catering and sales at Bosc & Brie. "They are more formal because you still have china on the table, but also more interactive because platters are passed around from guest to guest." Foodies in particular will love this idea because it puts the food in the spotlight. In terms of cost, family-style is comparable to a more traditional served dinner, but it gives your guests more options and works well with Tuscan-style tables, which continue to trend.

Late-Night Bites

After drinking and dancing for hours, there's nothing better-or more appreciated-than a late-night snack. Serving up sweet or savory foods has become a popular guest send-off and is an opportunity to add another personal element to your wedding. Selhorst has done soft pretzels in the shape of the couple's initials, while another couple gave away Buckeye Donuts as a nod to their alma mater. Renting a food truck is also a great option for end-of-the-night nibbles. Two Caterers recently rolled out its own food truck, Sweet Carrot, and catering specialist Carly Ziemer says they often customize the truck's menu for weddings. "One thing we've done is a french fry bar," she says. "We had tater tots, regular fries and sweet-potato fries. Everyone got a boat of fries, and then we had different toppings set out on a table nearby." Whatever you choose, plan on having it set up an hour or two before the end of the wedding and ask the DJ to alert your guests.

A Selection of Sweets

If you have a sweet tooth, now is a good time to be planning a wedding. Cake no longer reigns supreme, and couples are embracing many types of desserts. This might mean serving a few sweets in addition to a traditional wedding cake. "A big trend now is small stations with candy and sweets," says John Hoyt, Carfagna's director of catering. Or, ditch the cake all together in favor of a different dessert-pies, cupcakes, cookies, doughnuts, parfaits or even funnel cake are all possibilities. "It seems like maybe only about half of our weddings actually have formal wedding cakes anymore," Terman says. "I see lots of things that are more exciting than a traditional wedding cake." If you love dessert too much to narrow it down to one option, arrange a large table with all your favorites.

Signature Drinks

Custom cocktails serve as a great alternative to the full bar. Featuring a signature drink is a fun way to complement the overall theme of your wedding and, as a bonus, it saves on alcohol costs. "When you're thinking of signature drinks, think of things that are going to appeal to everyone," Ziemer advises. "A lot of people pick drinks based on color and not taste, but you're wasting money if you buy a bunch of stuff for a drink that nobody likes." One way to make your selection appeal to guests is to pick a classic drink and spice it up with a unique garnish. Another option is to offer two signature drinks; the bride and groom can each pick their favorite libation to share. Offer the drink during the cocktail hour or throughout the wedding. When it runs out, have beer and wine for guests to enjoy.

This newfound sense of "anything goes" is exciting, but if you start to get overwhelmed, keep things simple by choosing just a few areas for personalization. And remember: The day is about you, not just the food. "I always tell couples that the wedding always starts and ends with them," Hoyt says. "As long as the quality is good, guests won't remember the food; they'll remember the look on the bride and groom's face."