A wedding is a beautiful, once-in-a-lifetime event that encapsulates all a bride and grooms’ hopes and dreams of a wonderful future together. It should capture your imagination and your happiness, and infuse your guests with it all. It’s a wonderful, meaningful moment in time, and you want every single little detail to be perfect.

A huge aspect of every wedding that adds to everyone’s emotional fulfillment is the food on the wedding menu. Food is traditionally an important way to bring people together to celebrate. A meal shared with those you love is an intimate experience, and great tasting food can ignite an even deeper happiness and will add two-fold to your special time.

Here are some tips on how to create a unique wedding menu that will wow your guests and adds to the joy they share with you on your beautiful day.

1. Coordinate the Menu with the Theme

Every wedding has a particular color scheme and theme that fits the bride and grooms’ design taste and speaks to their combined imaginations and dreams. It is important the details of the wedding, from the location and atmosphere down to the decorations and music, all flow together in a way that makes sense. Choose a menu that adds to the wedding theme, fits the venue, and plays on some aspects of the color scheme. If it’s a casual outdoor wedding with a rustic country theme, you want food that plays into that.

Think of delicious down-home comfort foods that everyone loves and find a way to present it that puts a fun twist on it and makes it unique. Maybe a picnic-style wedding would be charming with seating areas draped in classic American checkered tablecloths and mason jar glasses with sweet tea and lemonade, alongside a meal with a home cooked feel.

If you end up hiring a professional caterer or designer for your wedding, you can work with them on what foods would go best with everything. They can also help you make sure you don’t miss any details.

2. Provide Refreshments in Addition to the Main Meal

Another sure way to wow your guests and make sure their time at your special event is enjoyable the entire time is to provide refreshments for them all throughout the wedding period, before and after the main meal.

Serving drinks can look like a light, an exciting cocktail hour with a variety of cold and room temperature drinks, served with complimentary finger foods at the very beginning for everyone that arrives early and has a period of waiting before the ceremony starts. This gives the immediate impression of class and is an ultimate consideration that shows the ones you love that you care about their comfort and refreshment and that you are thankful for their attendance.

It is also a clever idea to provide another cocktail hour right after the main ceremony for all your guests that may have arrived just in time or late, and who may have missed the earlier period of refreshments. You must keep in mind that some of them will have traveled a long way to join in your special day. You don’t want them to miss out on some time to relax and decompress so they can better focus on you and your betrothed during your important moments.

During the cocktail hour right after the main ceremony, you can dismiss them to a beautifully decorated area separated from the main event and the seating area, where they will later have their meal. There, allow them to mingle and enjoy themselves while you and your wedding entourage take pictures and get ready for the rest of the evening. This relaxed experience is a bonus to having refreshments in the middle of everything, as well as at the beginning and end. Depending on your theme, a table of delicious bread, fruits and cheeses would go well with the alcohol. Servers with trays of unique and exciting finger foods can meet your guests where they are standing and mingling.

If you want to be more exotic, you can have each cocktail hour branch a bit outside of your theme and wow your guests with different styles of finger foods from different countries. Your finger foods can look like French and Italian snacks during one slot and mini tacos that you can create yourself during another slot. You can have these items served to your guests where they stand or provide them with unique themed-food stations where they can serve themselves.

3. Have a Three-Course Meal Planned

It’s also a great idea to wow your guests with a fancy restaurant-feeling experience. Here are some tips on how to plan and serve it.

Use Your Guest’s Input

Before your wedding day even begins, it is good to have an idea of the main meal you are going to serve. Inform your guests what they are being treated to on their invitations and inquire if any of them have a specific food allergy.

Doing this lets you ensure everyone has the very best experience and can partake in something they like, without the discomfort of an allergic reaction. You can then coordinate your entrée sides to fit in with the feedback you receive from them.

Start Light

Begin their meals with a tasty appetizer and something fresh. A classy go-to would be fresh bread with a dipping sauce and something healthy, such as a crisp spinach salad covered in feta cheese and fruit. You want the first course to be light and fresh and tease your guest’s palates with what is to come.

This is also an excellent way to satisfy them while they wait on your servers to prep the main entrée plates. During this time, you can either provide entertainment or simply have music playing in the background while your guests socialize with the other people at their tables.

Make the Entrée the Most Enjoyable Part

Serve up the entrée in a timely fashion after each guest has had a sufficient amount of time to finish their first course. You want this entrée to be the very best part of the food experience for your special night, so what you are serving and the presentation matters.

Again, it is essential to think of your theme, location and what season you are in. If your wedding looks and feels like Italy, a fantastic go-to is a delicious pasta decorated with cheese and bright green herbs or chicken marsala with a contrasting vegetable side. You want the colors on the plate to pop as much as the flavors do in your guest’s mouths.

How the food is served also matters. Use name cards on the tables to help your servers bring each guest the meal they chose on the RSVP to your wedding invitations. Doing this helps you coordinate and makes them feel like you had each one of them individually in mind when you planned everything. It’s also a smart way to ensure everything goes quickly and efficiently.

End Light

In addition to the themed wedding cake or cupcakes, you may find it good to provide a variety of light desserts. These desserts should be either easily accessible to your guests after their main meal or quickly served to them during speeches and things like the first dance.

The desserts you serve might look like several mini-desserts served in small cups that are easy to serve and eat, which helps to avoid the mess. Try fancy puddings with cookies and small pieces of cake as toppings or tiny tarts. These look classy and are not so filling that they could overwhelm the guests like the main cake or cupcakes might. Alternatives are always important.

4. Finish with a Bang

After all the dancing, speeches and precious moments are done, you are probably going to have several guests that want to linger and wish you well. For an extra-special touch during this time, provide one more cocktail hour with fun drinks and maybe a few additional finger foods to snack on to add enjoyment for ending the night. This will allow your guests to have something fun to preoccupy themselves with while they wait for their turn to greet you, or while they mingle with other guests they haven’t seen in years.

Ronnie is the content manager for The American Wedding. When she’s not scouring Pinterest and Instagram for the most adorable weddings, you can find her on her paddleboard with her pugs, Max and Charlie.

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