Your wedding reception is not just any party. After all, you’re the hostess, the guest of honor and everything has to be perfect. There’s a lot to think about and your decisions can be the difference between a so-so event and the social event of the year. Allow ChicagoStyle Weddings to help guide your way through this season’s catering trends.
“Food has always been at the center of hospitality,” explains Wendy Pashman, President of Entertaining Company in Chicago. “Sharing your bounty with your guests is how every culture makes those who they love in their lives feel special and welcome. It’s in our DNA. No matter how humble the surroundings, if the food and drink at your event are bold, vibrant and plentiful, then your guests will feel welcome and the festive vibes will flow with ease!”
Indeed, food is an important part of any celebration. And while there once was a day when wedding guests walked into the reception expecting a plate consisting of a chicken breast and a funny looking vegetable, area caterers are coming up with some amazing delicacies that will keep your guests talking long after the last dance. “I find that couples are becoming much more food focused because they are seeing the true value in it,” says Corey Marchetti, Director of Weddings at Galleria Marchetti. “Couples have a picture of how they want their wedding to turn out and are paying the most attention to the parts of the wedding that people will talk about the next day. Many caterers have had to step up and become savvier, updating their menus to stay up to date with the times.”
DINNER IS SERVED
Chicago couples enjoy offering a wide array of cuisine during the reception. The popularity of food buffets continues, although caterers say the cost is often similar to a sit down, plated dinner. Nevertheless, food stations and buffets serve as a wonderful way for couples to get creative with cuisine and tell a bit of their own story at the same time. “We have had a lot of customers come to us looking for a classy carnival theme or stir fry stations,” explains Marchetti. “Basically they want to serve food that tells their story or more about their personalities.” “We have even worked with clients who have given us a family recipe that they would like as part of the menu,” adds Mary Bauer, Catering Director of Bauer’s Catering in Libertyville. Action stations are currently a hot trend and certainly a unique approach to reception party design. More interactive than a seated dinner, action stations encourage guests to move around the venue and enjoy different types of foods while having the freedom to socialize at the same time. Action stations are the perfect way to serve an array of international street foods, polished up for the big day. “In the States, street food customs are limited to the ice cream man in the summer time, or the hot dog on the corner in the big city,” remarks Pashman of Entertaining Company. “But globally, foods served in carts on the street are much more of a cultural centerpiece. As food and tastes in the States become more sophisticated, so do the opportunities to serve global flavors at an event. It’s exciting and festive with a little bit of education thrown in for good measure. And, when a hors d’oeuvre is interesting and different, it gives party goers a conversation piece, perhaps recalling your last vacation abroad, or your favorite little hole in the wall on Devon Street. Moreover, street food is traditionally inexpensive to make and serve, using starch and inexpensive proteins as their foundation.” And in terms of the sheer amount of food, these days less is more. “Light delicate portions of “pretty” foods are incredibly popular for weddings, such as an antipasto plate,” explains Pashman. “Guests don’t want to see excessive amounts of food, because these days it represents a certain amount of waste.” Even the setup of the reception area is affected by current catering trends. “Brides and grooms are getting away from round tables and looking for a more unique room setting with long rectangular or square tables,” says Kerry Craig, Director of Catering at the Hotel Palomar Chicago. “It’s all about getting away from tradition and finding ways in which more guests can sit with one another and enjoy not only the food, but the entire evening.”
WINES AND DESSERTS
It’s often difficult to enjoy good food, without the company of a good wine. “There has been a continuing interest in wine pairings through the courses, starting with salads and lighter wines and going toward heavier wines with the main course,” says Pashman. “We have seen many Tuscan wine pairings with Tuscan foods.” When it comes to dessert, Chicagoland catering companies are seeing a little bit of everything. Inspired by cable television shows such as Food Network’s Ace of Cakes or TLC’s Cake Boss, the sky is the limit for elaborately designed wedding cakes, both big and small. For those couples deciding against a traditional wedding cake, they are instead offering guests dessert tables and coffee stations with small treats. No matter what, the focus is not on how much dessert is offered, but how good it tastes. “If they are doing a wedding cake at all, most of our clients are going in favor of smaller cakes, paying more attention to making sure that the cake tastes good rather than how big the cake is,’” says Marchetti.
LATE NIGHT SNACKS
As the evening winds down to a close, many couples are offering guests “late night” snack tables, often set up an hour before the end of the event. “We have seen growing popularity in offering what we call the Late Night Snack Table, which is usually filled with comfort or bar type food,” says Bauer. “Grilled cheese sandwiches, mini burgers or sliders, French fries in cones, Mac n/cheese and hot dogs are just some of our most requested items.” “Over the past decade, what is referred to as “comfort food,” has been a major food trend that some think is reflective of the challenging and stressful times that we live in,” adds Pashman.
If you’re like the average bride, you’ll probably spend half of your wedding budget on the catering expenses. You’re paying for everything from cheese and fruit appetizers to filet mignon dinners and desserts like cake and coffee. Know your options. Plated dinners are sophisticated and timeless, but can be pricey. Buffet stations can be expensive because of food costs and the need for staffing at each station, but a few stations can be comparably priced to a plated dinner. Cocktail receptions can be budget-friendly. Standup cocktail tables allow guests to move around and mingle. Plus it’s ideal for a buffet reception where guests graze on a variety of foods. Choose a style and food that suits your budget and your personality and you’ll please yourselves and your guests.