Eat, Drink and Be Married: Top 10 New Wedding Catering Trends

Top 10 new catering trends that will wow your guests—and tempt their taste buds.
From: Fall/Winter 2013 edition

On their wedding day, couples want their guests to have a wonderful and effortless dining experience. With food carts, one-bite wonders and butler-passed cocktails, caterers find ways to deliver food and drink so your conversation doesn’t skip a beat. And the food keeps coming all night long, from pre-ceremony to late night. The newest catering trends not only add a couple’s signature to their big day, but keep friends and family guessing, with unexpected pleasures throughout the event. 

Food Carts
We know how much you hate to break away from an old friend during cocktail hour just to figure out how to get a bite. Cart service is putting a new spin on hors d’oeuvres and late-night snacks; it’s like a food station on wheels. “A cart comes to the people, like butler-passing, but on a smaller scale,” says Rachel Bruzek, senior event planner at D’Amico Catering in Minneapolis. They’re so new that she’s only beginning to see what couples might do, but the offerings so far let creativity reign, from an Asian station with dim sum-like offerings to popcorn and desserts.

His-and-Hers Drinks
Philip Dorwart of Create Catering in Minneapolis, known for its well-established craft cocktail program, says almost every wedding has at least one signature drink. But when the bride and groom can’t agree on just one, the answer is his-and-hers drinks. Brides often choose a Champagne-based classic like the French 75, while the guys choose a Manhattan or old fashioned. When the couple does happily agree, Create’s team will work with them to create their own signature drinks.

One-Bite Wonders
When a lady is dressed to the nines, the last thing she wants to fret about is spilling food on her outfit (or her face). That’s why “not even two bites, but one bite, is what people want,” says Nicolle Sellers, owner of Mother of the Bride Weddings in Excelsior. She sees less and less of the big, bountiful trays, and more of smaller quantities of one-bite items, like mini chicken tacos served with three-sip pomegranate margaritas, or bite-sized burgers paired with mini mugs of beer. At dessert, people still love a gooey chocolate cake—just not very much of it, so they’ll take one served in a shot glass rather than with a plate and fork.

Raw Bars
The raw bar, an East Coast tradition, has carried over to the wedding arena, much to the delight of Midwestern seafood lovers. Typically an interactive station, you’ll find servers cutting sides of tuna and hamachi, cracking lobsters, shucking oysters, and steaming mussels and clams, says Sellers. Seafood can be divided among different tables to keep it cold and workable. Sushi is a natural fit for Crave Catering, with a sushi chef available on site; guests can even create their own rolls. “We’ve seen people looking for lean, natural elements recently in choosing their menu,” says Crave catering director Dawnette Meadows, and sushi fits the bill perfectly.

Pre-Ceremony Nosh
Served in the 30- to 40-minute period before the ceremony, pre-ceremony nosh welcomes guests with a little something to tide them over until dinner. A small bite may be passed with a signature drink or glass of vino, like a one-bite caprese salad in a cone, served with “pink prosecco” (prosecco with a splash of pomegranate juice), says Nicole Aronson of Mintáhoe Catering & Events in Minneapolis. Even non-alcoholic choices, like strawberry and basil soda with a blue cheese-stuffed strawberry, can add a wow factor. The concept works well when the ceremony and reception will be held at the same site or when the ceremony falls close to the dinner hour.
 
Retro Fare
Country club fare is back for weddings, with updates suited to modern tastes. Create Catering has been doing meat-carving stations, but this time around the meats are dressed with truffle sauce, porcini jus or a hollandaise made right at the station. At Mintáhoe, vegetable crudités are served in mini silver pails instead of baskets. Comfort food remains popular, says Aronson, like miniature servings of shepherd’s pie or short ribs braised with mustard and served with tri-colored fingerling potatoes.

Late-Night Snacks
As drinking and dancing spill over into the late evening, and hours have passed since dinner, a late-night snack will keep the crowd happy. Options range from “breakfast at midnight” to sandwiches, says Aronson. Robin Martin at Gateaux Inc. in Plymouth has seen an enthusiastic response to the popcorn bars she started creating as a late-night option for weddings. Custom popcorn flavors from java to Champagne to habañero can be scooped into Chinese takeout containers, doubling as a snack and party favor.

Miniature Vessels
When it comes to little bites, “the spoon has been the only vehicle for so long,” says Dorwart, who was more than happy to discover a whole new crop of little vessels this year, like tagines and cast-iron skillets. And the throwback mini Coke bottles paired with a fried chicken appetizer never fails to prompt oohs and aahs, says Aronson.

Color Themes
Wedding colors aren’t just for invitations and attire—now they’ve carried over into menu planning. One of Bruzek’s clients tied in eggplant and lime theme colors with blackberry mojitos and lime sodas. “Monochromatic dessert buffets also add an interesting element,” she says, citing the example of a green dessert buffet lined with wedding cake in green fondant, and candies, mini macarons and mini desserts in shades of green.

Pairings
The interest in food and drink pairings still holds, from wines paired by dinner course to something a little more playful during the cocktail hour, like Create Catering’s Hopeful Spinster, made with Aperol and gin, paired with salmon tartare on cucumber. Bruzek throws out a few other matches made in heaven, from margaritas served with pulled chicken tacos to the classic Champagne with oysters.