The third question I ask all my new wedding clients, after I ask them where they met and how they got engaged, is the one related to their wedding priorities. Everyone has their own – for some it is décor and flowers, for some it is cars in which the bride will come, for some it is music and for others it is lighting. I remember exactly when I got married and made a list of priorities for our wedding, food and wine automatically took first place unquestionably, a couple of spears ahead of everything else. For my wedding bouquet, for example, the florist was horrified when I told her to just grab everything from that bucket with the rest of the daisies and wrap it with rope. And the bouquet was perfect!
But for food, eh it was already another pair of sleeves. The owner of the restaurant in a rural household where our wedding dinner was held, said that only after our wedding he can take his vacation! And he took our wedding menu extremely seriously 😊, which we tried four times! Yes, you read that right, four times, and we don’t even live in the city where we got married. Even today, many years after that very happy day, when I remember food, there’s not the slightest detail I would change.
Given that my two passions are weddings and food, today we’re going to chat about a few tips on how to create an ideal wedding menu. So, let’s go!
1. TIMING – It is never too early to start organizing a wedding. Do you have a date? Make sure that even your most important suppliers, those at the top of your wedding priorities list, are booked a maximum of one month after the engagement, even if you plan to have a wedding in the next two years. The location and catering company must be determined at this stage. As well as (of course) a photographer, band / DJ and decorator and definitely additional locations if you are planning to have a day before and/or day after the wedding. It didn’t happen once that we changed the wedding date because the priority supplier was busy. Therefore, get to work – the sooner the better! When vendors are confirmed, then you have some time to relax. 😊
2. LOCATION – with the location, things get complicated immediately, but still at solvable levels. You love a restaurant but not their food, or vice versa – a place with your favorite food also looks like a slightly better fire station? There is a possibility to have the best of both worlds and it is to have a wedding in a location where you’ll be allowed to bring your own catering or at least, chef per your choice. In Croatia, these concepts are still in their infancy, but they are developing slowly and safely. Good chefs are more and more willing to work with restaurants where they are not employed and restaurants are flexible to bring a part of the team, so they together make a menu from your vision. And if none of that is really feasible and the location is fixed with your team, do it like me – try the menu until you bring it to perfection, but always stay realistic! Don’t expect or force a team of chefs in a rural household to make emulsions and foams. The wedding should be harmonious, and here the balance of food and location is extremely important.
3. BUDGET– a good old, ever-present issue of money. Do your homework and gather as many offers as possible from various locations to have a clear picture of the market and the prices of wedding menus. Be realistic, how much can you set aside from the wedding budget for food? And calculate that you will spend on average at least 10% more on everything related to weddings, including food. Almost never less. If food is your priority, and the menu you like costs more than you can afford with the current guest list, reduce the number of guests! The perfect excuse for your wedding to be exactly as you have always dreamed of it – with really your loved ones (ok, and mother-in-law, you can’t help but invite her to the wedding 😉 ).
4. SERVICE STYLE– everyone has a ready answer to this question- served menu or buffet option? What is your choice? Why not a combination? People love dynamics in food. For example, a buffet with homemade prosciutto, Pag cheese, vegetable fritters and a lot of condiments such as olives, spreads and sauces, various cakes and crackers while guests mingle and enjoy the evening in front of the restaurant, then 2 served courses (ideally warm) and finally dessert at the buffet. Midnight buffet with mini burgers and barbecue sausages with warm bread also at a couple of stations. And you covered everything! Unless, of course, you have imagined a wedding very formal, without too much dancing, then treat your guests with seven course menu . This is ideal for smaller weddings, say up to 30 people, when the emphasis is on hanging out at the table rather than having fun. There is a solution for everyone 😊
5. SIMPLICITY IS THE KEY – even if your chosen menu is one with a few buffet stations or with seven courses, believe me when I tell you that simplicity is the key and for a very simple reason- people are very sensitive when it comes to food. So, shoot to the simple, universal and diverse. Don’t complicate but also don’t repeat the foods on the menu. Choose the battles that matter to you! If you really want the most perfect macaron cake in seventy-three colors instead of the standard chocolate with whipped cream, then compromise with your parents and let it be prosciutto and cheese as an appetizer. After all, it is both simple and universal and very acceptable to most. Just let the food be top quality and you’ve scored!
6. YOU WILL NEVER PLEASE EVERYONE WITH YOUR CHOICE – related to item number 5, know that you will never, but never, delight everyone. You may think you would, but it is simply impossible. Unless you’re just the two of you at dinner (which, now that you’re reading all this, you probably think it’s not a bad option 😀 ), there will always be someone who won’t be pleased, and that’s just fine! Accept it from the beginning as something that goes “by default” and don’t get provoked.
7. KEEP VEGETARIANS AND OTHER ‘TEAMS’ IN MIND – good old saying says- everyone knows best for themselves! Don’t judge, be those cool friends who will make sure that people with special dietary requirements are well taken care of, so much so that (and believe me when I tell you this!), after your wedding, they will walk around and talk about how well you have taken care of them. And that’s such a cool thing.
8. CHOOSE LOCALLY AND SEASONALLY– especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables- you don’t want to be served a Caprese salad at your January wedding, do you? Talk to the chef of your catering company or restaurant and don’t be afraid to ask where they get fresh groceries from, including meat. After all, it’s about your wedding, which is very likely only once in a lifetime and you absolutely want to know not only what you will pay for, but exactly what you and your guests will eat. To the last detail. And then include that in the written menu on the tables – for example Drniš prosciutto, Pag cheese or Baranja kulen – people love such things and at the same time you promote the most delicious delicacies of Croatia. Food experience guaranteed!
9. HEALTH IN FRONT OF EVERYTHING– yes, we know that sushi station with a Japanese master who throws knives is a big hit at events, but are you sure you want to serve raw fish at your summer wedding? Leave those extravagances for a hen or stag party, and for your wedding menu think carefully about food preparation techniques and whether there is any and the slightest possibility of poisoning. Remember that wedding when two hundred people became infected with salmonella? You remember. Me too. And everyone else probably. You don’t want to be a part of that statistic.
10. TRY YOUR MENU until you are completely satisfied. And don’t settle for mediocrity or excuses that something is now unavailable or out of season- there are ways to make things right if you try, we all know that. You are their clients and you have the right to try your wedding menu to the last detail. If you choose the buffet option, have them show you pictures of their previous performances and ask them to make the presentation as authentic as possible to what you liked about the pictures. Also if you have chosen the served menu, there is absolutely no reason why the presentation of each of the plates would be any different from the one at the wedding itself. Make sure that the menu tasting setup is identical to the one that will be set up for you and your guests at the wedding reception itself. And don’t be afraid to try more things – that’s what tastings are for- to find the best option that you will be satisfied with, the guests will be delighted and the restaurant is sure that it can execute with perfection.