Wedding food doesn't have to be formulaic; this proves especially true during the fall, when you can choose from a wealth of fresh ingredients and menu ideas. Event planners, chefs, and food-fanatical brides and grooms alike are coming up with unique, palate-pleasing ways to satisfy their guests' appetites. Since the weather has started to cool, your guests will be craving rich, intensely flavored meals, so think beyond the salad-and-meat entree combo. Check out these ideas from top event planning pros for ways to get creative with your catering.
Experts say that cutting-edge couples are moving away from the standard salad as a first course. One popular alternative is soups -- their warmth and heartiness make them a natural fit for fall. Consider squash bisque served in little pumpkins, or butternut squash soup ladled over crumbled blue cheese. Seafood-based starters are also very popular, but you can bypass the standard crab cakes in favor of smoked salmon or fish mousse.
If you do opt for a salad appetizer, add a hearty, seasonal element to your greens with aged cheddar, roasted walnuts, pumpkin seeds, grapes, or figs. If you want to have your salad and eat your soup too, serve each guest mini-portions of both. Put the salad on one end of a rectangular plate and a small tureen of soup on the other.
Memorable Main Events
For entrees, you can't go wrong with the classics -- filet, roasted chicken, and salmon will always be crowd pleasers. But couples who want to set their wedding meals apart are looking beyond these standbys. Consider a less typical red meat offering, like a rack of lamb or a cut of veal. Cornish hens are a stylish, unexpected alternative to chicken. An option that's more homely but still hearty and surprising: potpies filled with chicken and fall vegetables like carrots, turnips, onions, and leeks.
The Sweet Stuff
Although over-the-top dessert bars with more sweet selections than most stomachs can handle have been popular over the last few years, wedding desserts are moving in a more subtle direction. Simple, beloved American-style desserts like apple tarts, pie a la mode, and gooey brownies smothered in coffee ice cream will fit the bill. If you crave a more elegant option, serve "dessert trios," so each guest is presented with three miniature sweets on a single platter. One selection that fits the fall season perfectly: caramel-coated lady apples on cinnamon sticks, a fresh little doughnut suspended on a demitasse spoon over a shot glass of milk, and small-scale apple pie a la mode.
Finally, for the wedding cake itself, the hottest flavor continues to be chocolate -- especially in the fall, couples are ordering up decadent dark chocolate cakes. If that doesn't entice you, consider another trend: Eschew a traditional wedding cake entirely and try a carrot cake or cheesecake big enough to serve a crowd.
Special thanks to Jennifer Brisman Weddings, New York; Robyn Goldberg Weddings & Special Events, Los Angeles; Debi Lilly from A Perfect Event, Chicago