More than likely, you've already made hundreds of decisions for your wedding day. From choosing a wedding theme to scoping new locations, trying on wedding dresses, and designing wedding invitations, each minute detail has a significant impact on the overall aesthetic of your special day.
Your decisions don't end with "I do," though. After you've made your way back down the aisle, it's time to celebrate with music, drinks, and an impressive wedding menu. As any bride will tell you, creating a wedding menu isn't easy. Your dream rustic Italian feast may not suit your casual garden wedding–or your budget. On the other hand, your elegant wedding may call for a formal sit-down dinner with multiple courses that require careful planning and coordination.
Our team at The Bouqs Co. created this wedding menu guide to help you find all the last-minute details every bride needs to know, plus tips on how to plan the ultimate reception menu. To make the process even easier, we included plenty of wedding menu examples so you can find the perfect dishes for your big day.
What to Consider When Choosing a Wedding Menu
Choosing your wedding food depends on much more than your taste. You've got to think about countless factors, such as availability, the number of staff needed to serve the meals, and how well the food will withstand the elements.
Before you start calling local restaurants and caterers, consider the following factors that could impact your catering and food options.
Your Venue's Policies
Self-catering your wedding or hiring your own vendors can help slash your expenses, especially if you've splurged on your dream venue. However, you first need to make sure that your venue allows third-party vendors to cater events. Some locations have guidelines in place that limit or prohibit other vendors from providing food and drinks at your reception.
At The Bouqs Co., we know how tempting it is to blow your budget on an elegant meal, an elaborate cake, and an open bar. That said, we highly recommend avoiding going into debt for a single day. Instead, work closely with your venue and the catering team to choose a delicious meal that works with your budget.
Guests' Dietary Restrictions & Preferences
Selecting a wedding menu is hard enough. When you consider the dietary restrictions, allergies, and preferences of a few dozen – or a few hundred – guests, it almost seems impossible to plan the first course, much less an entire wedding menu.
As overwhelming as it may feel, do a bit of preliminary research to find inspiration for gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian meals. Then, provide meal options when you invite your guests and encourage them to tick a box next to their preferred meal while RSVPing.
Most importantly, do your best to include your guests with additional dietary needs. Many catering teams will provide vegetarian or vegan options free of charge. Additionally, you can easily pick up or order a few gluten-free or vegan desserts. In doing so, you'll guarantee that your loved ones with special diets can enjoy a treat along with the rest of your guests.
Your wedding cake is one of the most memorable parts of your wedding, even if you and your spouse decide to forego the cake-smashing tradition. It should look beautiful, taste great, and pair well with your wedding menu. Sounds simple, right?
If you're struggling to choose your wedding cake, you're not alone. Our wedding cake guide details the ins and outs of popular wedding cakes and how to select the best style and flavor for your big day. After you've chosen your cake, you can construct your menu around it to guarantee a cohesive and delicious celebration.
Self-Catered Wedding Menu vs. Catered Wedding Menu
At some point, every budget-minded DIY bride considers the idea of a self-catered wedding. Self-catered events help reduce costs and can create an even more intimate experience. You and your family members get to prepare each dish, serve your favorite food at your reception, and share a homemade meal with the ones you love most.
Still, self-catering has its limitations. For instance, self-catered receptions are only realistic if you plan to limit your guest list. Attempting to cook and serve a meal to 200 guests on your own will likely take your focus away from your special day and result in added stress for you or your family and closest friends helping you.
On the other hand, a catered wedding provides you with the flexibility to choose between sit-down and buffet-style meals while limiting the workload for you and your loved ones. When you hire a team to cater your wedding, they will prepare, deliver, and set up your meal. The staff will also serve your guests at the table if you've opted for a sit-down reception.
To ensure that you don't blow your budget on a catered wedding, shop around to get quotes from a few vendors. If needed, you can slash costs without changing your wedding menu by opting for a self-serve reception catered by a third-party vendor. Your guests will need to leave the table to fix their plates, but the vendor's staff will make sure the food stays hot and fresh throughout your wedding.
Using Wedding Menu Cards
Menu cards are one of the most important but overlooked aspects of your reception. Customized wedding menu cards add an extra touch of style to your reception while helping guests navigate your food table with ease.
You can choose between metal, wooden, and paper options to suit your taste or coordinate the design with your wedding stationery and invitations for a creative nod to your theme. No matter which style you choose, place a clearly labeled menu card in front of each serving platter and tray to let your friends and family know what's inside.
If you have guests with specific dietary needs, you can use a menu card to clearly label vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free food, too.
How to Curate Wedding Drink Menus
Finished selecting dishes for your wedding feat? Then it's time to move on to one of the most exciting parts of the wedding menu planning process: choosing a few exciting drinks to share with friends and family.
Fortunately, you don't have to add dozens of wines, beers, and liquors to your wedding menu. Instead, focus on a few mainstays that match your theme, such as:
- A red, white, and sparkling wine
- Craft beer
- Mini margaritas
- Hard seltzer
- Customized cocktails
- Alcohol-free refreshments, including soda, tea, sparkling ciders, lemonade, and water
Sample Wedding Menu Ideas
Sample Rustic Wedding Menu
When it comes to rustic wedding menu ideas, choose seasonal dishes as often as possible. Seasonal meals have two benefits: first, they're typically less expensive because they're readily available. Secondly, a seasonal dinner allows you to experiment with jaw-dropping, customized meals perfect for a family-style occasion or an elegant sit-down dinner.
Consider the following foods for a seasonal rustic wedding menu perfect for an autumn wedding.
- Candied sweet potato rounds with toasted walnuts
- Filo tarts filled with butternut squash, kale, and feta
- Cranberry and brie charcuterie board
- Seared pork loin with root vegetables and apples
- Grilled filet mignon with roasted parsnips and rainbow carrots
- Mushroom risotto
- Miniature pumpkin and apple tartlets
- Carrot cake
- Pumpkin macarons
- DIY S'mores
- Warm spiked apple cider
- Moscow Mules
- Cinnamon Old Fashioneds
Sample Vintage Wedding Menu
Capture the elegance and charm of years past with a vintage wedding menu featuring elevated but appealing dishes. For an immersive experience, design vintage-inspired menus and menu cards that match the throwback theme of your wedding. Finally, highlight your favorite vintage meals by serving them on antique trays and stands.
- Crab cakes
- Oysters Rockefeller
- Garden salads with basil and tomato
- Roasted cranberry-orange duck with Brussels sprouts and roasted beet salad
- Beef tenderloin with whipped baked potatoes
- Vegetarian Ratatoille
- White chocolate, almond, and vanilla mousse
- Chocolate sponge cake
- Divinity candies
- Hot spiced punch
- Whiskey sours
- Orange peel and bourbon Manhattans
Sample Summer Wedding Menu Ideas
Embrace the vibrant warmth of June and July with a laid-back, effortless summer wedding menu. Rather than creating a formal affair with place cards and courses, opt for casual wedding menu ideas, fan favorites, and DIY additions for a night you'll never forget.
- Crab mango salad
- Caprese salad skewers
- Snack table with frozen watermelon, an antipasto spread, and a charcuterie board
- Barbecue brisket with grilled corn and potatoes
- Grilled vegetable skewers with wild rice
- DIY taco bar
- Berry cobbler
- Lemon blueberry sponge cake
- Strawberry shortcake
- White wine
- Basil Gimlets
- Soda and sweet tea
Sample Classic Wedding Menu
Delight your guests with classic, American-style wedding menu ideas that will appeal to every palette. While you can mix in a few elevated foods or customized dishes, aim for crowd-pleasers sure to fuel your friends and family for a night on the dance floor, such as an easily transportable first course and a self-serve main course.
- Shrimp cocktail
- Grilled cheese and tomato soup shooters
- Cheese station
- Prime rib with mashed potatoes
- Grilled chicken and veggie kabobs
- Seared seasonal vegetables
- Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting
- Dessert truck with ice cream, gelato, and sorbet
- Beer and wine
- Classic cocktails
Sample Modern Wedding Menu
Modern ceremonies offer unmatched flexibility when it comes to choosing food for your wedding menu. Unlike a garden wedding or an elegant, formal affair, you can choose mini versions of popular meals, mix and match your desserts to suit your taste, and personalize your drink menu for an added celebratory touch.
For an even more creative wedding menu, break from the mold and serve classic breakfast meals for dinner, then watch as your guests' photos fill your Instagram feed. Finally, include a cocktail-style reception that replaces the hassle of fussy foods, seating charts, or an individual place setting with delicious bites.
- Crab cakes
- Shrimp cocktail
- Flatbread and hummus
- Seafood or sushi stations
- Mini tacos, chips, and salsa
- Handheld bao buns
- Chocolate and vanilla cupcakes
- Almond, lemon, and raspberry macarons
- Mini mousse cups
- Customized cocktails named after you and your soon-to-be spouse
- Canned cocktails, sparkling wine, and hard seltzer
- Gin-spiked lemonade punch
Family-Style Wedding Menu Ideas
Family-style menus guarantee a relaxed yet elegant event. Rather than waiting to be served, guests can take their seats and choose from a variety of options labeled with a menu card, making mealtime a breeze for picky eaters.
Your loved ones will appreciate the intimate atmosphere while you enjoy the cost-effective solution to your reception food. You can even transform the collection of serving platters into decor that ties into the theme of your wedding, then bring the plates, trays, and cake stands home for future events.
Aim for foods that make serving simple when planning a family-style menu. Your guests will be passing plates and sharing serving spoons, so minimize the risk of a mess by filling your menu with simple, sharable foods.
- Prosciutto and goat cheese crostini
- Roasted rainbow tomato salad
- Pulled pork sliders
- Barbecue brisket with roasted potatoes
- Grilled pork chops with seasonal veggies and grilled corn
- Vegetable lasagna with breadsticks
- Chocolate sheet cake
- Mixed-berry hand pies
- Miniature banana pudding shooters
- Beer and wine
- Cold sodas
- Canned cocktails for easy serving
Buffet Menus for Weddings
Wedding buffet menus may not be for everyone, but the vast spread and varied collection of dishes and desserts will have your guests coming back for more.
Opting for a buffet-style wedding reception allows your guests to serve themselves quickly. Your reception meal will typically cost less, too, since buffet meals require less catering staff. Buffet menus also ensure that you'll please every guest, no matter how adventurous or picky the palette.
When designing a buffet menu, start with the main dish. Most buffets offer two or three options, such as a chicken, beef, and pasta dish. However, if you or your soon-to-be spouse have a favorite food, get creative and swap one of the traditional options for a fun addition, like fried chicken, curry, or crab legs.
Next, think about your sides. Many couples choose a potato recipe and a vegetable dish to ensure that their wedding guests have plenty of choices. If you opted for a unique addition to your menu–like curry, for example–you might choose to add a third side, such as flatbread or samosas.
After choosing your main courses, select one or two salads and a type of bread to round out your wedding menu. Finally, wrap up your night with a sugary spread of fruit tarts, cupcakes, cookies, and coffee for grab-and-go snacking.
Budget-Friendly Reception Menu Ideas
Choosing your wedding menu can feel challenging, especially when you're working within a tight budget. Fortunately, you can create a delicious menu without breaking the bank or leaving your wedding guests hungry after a night on the dance floor.
When it comes to budget-friendly wedding food, aim for easily shareable options such as:
- Wood-fired pizzas
- Lasagna or pasta
- Thai or Indian curry
- DIY stations with burgers or tacos
- Cookies and mousse cups
- Beer and wine
Wedding Menu FAQs
What's the average cost per person for a wedding dinner party?
On average, you can expect to pay $28 for a buffet and up to $40 for plated meals, though adding an open bar and serving staff will raise the cost per person.
How can I save money on my reception food?
You can cut costs while hosting the reception of your dreams by simplifying your menu and serving inexpensive options, like pasta, barbecue, tacos, or pizza. Depending on your venue, you may also be able to hire third-party vendors for more competitive pricing.
What kind of food should I serve at my wedding reception?
You can serve any type of food that you want at your wedding reception. It is your big day, after all! Some of the most popular wedding menu items include:
- Spring rolls
- Vegetable skewers
- Grazing tables
- Breakfast bars with waffles, pancakes, and bacon
The Ultimate Guide to Creating Your Wedding Menu
At The Bouqs Co., we know how many details go into your special day. With this in mind, we created an in-depth guide to developing your wedding meals, pairing favorite food items, and sharing a celebratory dinner with the ones you love most. The only thing missing? Stunning floral arrangements handcrafted by our artisan designers at The Bouqs Co.
Pair your wedding menu picks with bouquets, centerpieces, and garlands filled with your favorite flowers. To order your arrangements today, browse our wedding decor selections or contact our team for customized pieces and further assistance.