Is there anything wrong with that? Not really. It’s all edible, it’s all reasonably safe. Done well it can even be quite delicious. But is it truly what you want to serve?
I think that’s a question that just doesn’t get asked enough in bridal circles. You go to have a tasting with the caterer, and chances are you’ll be offered a red meat option, a chicken or fish option, and – if you ask for one – a vegetarian option. The meat will have sauce. The vegetables will be the currently popular ones. The veggie option will almost inevitably be pasta based.
Again, nothing wrong with that. I’ve eaten dozens of such meals and lived to tell the tale. But what if it doesn’t meet your needs or your tastes?
Before you accept the expected, sit down and think about how you want to feed your guests. Really consider whether you want to serve standard options or whether you want to do something else. After all, if you’re committed vegetarians, do you really want to serve meat at your wedding? Are you a carnivore who believes your vegetarian friends deserve more than a stuffed mushroom and some tomato-sauced penne for dinner? Is there nothing you hate more in life than steaks and chicken breasts, but nothing you love more than cheeseburgers? Do you fear losing your foodie rep if you serve the same old, same old? Do you hail from a cultural background where the old standards of USAian wedding food would cause nothing but confusion and consternation from your family and guests?
And if you decide the standard is not for you… what the heck do you do next?
First off, don’t panic. This isn’t the end of the world and you’re not the first couple to opt out of the average.
Next, discuss together how you’re going to explain your needs and desires to prospective caterers. You should ideally figure this out before you have a caterer or are locked into a particular vendor by your choice of reception venue. Be ready with specifics when interviewing caterers. Don’t just say ‘we want something different for vegetarians.’ Give a direction you’re thinking about. Make sure you’ve done enough research – if you’re not already conversant with food/cooking terms – to be able to express your thoughts in terms they’ll understand. If you want a traditional ethnic dish the caterer may not be familiar with, it wouldn’t hurt to bring a sample recipe from Grandma or Epicurious.com.
Keep your ears and mind open. After all, just because it’s what you want doesn’t necessarily mean it can be done. Some foods just can’t be successfully done on a large scale, and some foods are possible but not the most practical. You may hear no more often than you wish. But the right caterer will not only be able to tell you what doesn’t work, they’ll be able to tell you why. They’ll also do their best to come up with something that will work that takes your desires into consideration. One who says he doesn’t see his way to keeping sushi platters safe for the buffet you want, but can suggest a couple rolls that can be taken around as passed appetizers is a caterer who is trying to work with you. One who says ‘nobody eats sushi at weddings, but I make a great meatball’ isn’t listening to you. Be ready to make reasonable compromises, but don’t compromise your entire vision without a really good reason. Be ready to hear when your catering candidate has a great idea you hadn’t thought of.
Think about your guests’ comfort. In a recent episode of Four Weddings, one bride had an Afghan heritage. She served mostly Afghan food in the buffet. All well and good, but the groom’s side of the guest list did not have an Afghan heritage and none of the guest brides had ever eaten Afghan food, either. Me? I love the Afghan food I’ve eaten. But not everyone is familiar, not everyone is adventurous, and not everyone is willing to risk anything from allergic reaction to simply disliking the food. If you’re serving food your guests probably haven’t eaten before, make sure to give them fair warning of what it is and seriously consider offering an option they’re more likely to be comfortable with.
Recognize that no matter how hard you try, someone won’t care for the food at your wedding. It’s true. You can come up with the most thoughtful menu, the most inspired caterer to prepare it, the absolute perfect conditions for the food to be prepared in, and the ideal day to serve it all… and someone won’t like something. Try not to take it personally. I went to a wedding once where the bride was a professional chef. The food was amazing, but I still didn’t even try the mushroom risotto. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust that it would be top quality. It wasn’t that I had any health concerns. It’s just that I’ve tried enough mushrooms in my life prepared in enough different ways to know that I never want to put another mushroom in my mouth ever again. I stuck with the things I liked, and I tried a couple things I hadn’t eaten before. Everyone said the risotto was fantastic, and I absolutely believe them. But I still didn’t eat it. And I’m sure someone passed on the roast suckling pig because they were vegetarian, or because they aren’t pork fans, or because looking at a whole roast piggie freaked them out. You do your best, and then you let people decide what they will and won’t eat on their own.
Most of all, relax and have fun with this. Keep a sense of humor and look on it as an adventure. Coming up with a good menu that makes you truly happy can be one of the best parts of planning a wedding, if you let it.
Play with your food!