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Wedding Catering: 10 Ways to Make Your Wedding Reception Menu Memorable

Photo: Dorie Hagler & Guy Ambrosino

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food," said George Bernard Shaw. While you and your sweetie may disagree, your wedding guests will most likely be eager to fill their bellies with tasty treats. A little menu planning can easily woo the crowd. Here are ten tantalizing tips to make your wedding meal memorable -- and have your guests licking their lips:

1. Dream Up a Theme

One of the most fun (and often easiest) parts of developing a theme wedding is deciding the menu. From a traditional New England clambake to a spicy Southern barbecue, theme-wedding menus create a fun, exciting, and memorable event. It might even be the way you eat the food that stays in your guests' minds -- cracking crabs at a Maryland riverside wedding, nibbling satay at a Thai-inspired city garden reception, or roasting marshmallows over the flaming bonfire at a wedding "campsite." See real casual, elegant weddings.

2. Go Regional

There are many people who take culinary vacations, traveling through countries in search of the local fare. Turn your wedding reception into its own culinary vacation by creating a menu featuring regional specialties. It may be foie gras from the Hudson Valley, spicy chicken wings in Buffalo, or even the largest cheese spread ever seen in Wisconsin.

3. That's Entertainment

Who said that food only pleases the palate? You can devise a wedding menu where the food preparation is as flavorful as the food itself. Consider a sushi bar complete with professional sushi chef -- the performance of slicing and rolling turns simple ingredients into works of art right before your guests' eyes. Or perhaps French chefs donned in aprons and hats will create flaming crepes tableside. Find a wedding caterer who can pull it off!

4. All in the Family

Something in between a sit-down meal and a buffet, family style offers a natural way to get tables of guests talking while creating a very festive and homey atmosphere. Each dish is delivered to the center of the table and guests pass them politely (or grab and hoard, depending on your family). Italian food might be an obvious choice, but Asian, Mexican, and Indian cuisines work well here too.

5. That's So You!

The wedding day is all about the bride and the groom, so why not plan a menu that has special meaning to the two of you? Perhaps your first date was at a baseball game -- why not serve hot dogs? Or maybe the two of you love to fly fish -- highlight freshwater fish on the menu. Or he proposed over a romantic picnic lunch -- recreate the magic by recreating the meal. When your guests think about what they ate, they will automatically think about the couple of honor.

6. Presenting...

The eyes have it -- when it comes to remembering things, that is. Your guests will very likely recall a fabulous-looking buffet table before they remember what foods it featured. Be creative -- instead of serving soup in a bowl, have it ladled into a hollowed-out acorn squash. Or have asparagus tied up like a present with leek leaves. You could even serve coconut shrimp inside a coconut and garnish with a tropical flower.

7. Less is More

Sometimes the simplest foods presented in an elegant, bountiful manner have a more memorable effect than a wide variety of offerings. Colin Cowie offers this advice in his book For The Bride: "You can make a statement of style with one or two spectacular dishes. For example, instead of having ten different tray-passed appetizers during the cocktail hour, serve mountains of jumbo shrimp or sliced smoked salmon." Remember, KISS -- keep it simple, sweetie.

8. Ride with a Trend

Trends come and go and if you can jump on one before it's passé, all the more power to you. Ask your caterer what's up and coming. Perhaps she's got some unusual idea that will make the kind of memorable statement you're looking for. It might be something as homey/funky as a mashed potato bar, complete with your choice of spuds and toppings, presented in a martini glass. Or maybe a true Belgian treat -- pomme frittes served with the traditional mayonnaise in paper cones. Just remember -- they're trends, so plan accordingly if you're setting up your wedding menu a year in advance.

9. A Honeymoon Preview

Don't worry-we're not suggesting anything X-rated here! Just that you consider planning a menu based on your honeymoon spot. If you're off to Venice, serve a spread one could imagine eating in a gondola. Or if Hawaii's your destination, feature luau fare (without the flame-eaters) -- perhaps even the spit-roasted pig. Maybe it's Japan where you'll be spending the week -- how about a Tepanyaki station (Japanese barbecue), where guests choose raw meats, shrimp, veggies, noodles, and sauces and watch it get stir-fried. Get honeymoon ideas, if you're not sure where you're off to.


10. Five-Star Elegance

If dining out in the fanciest of restaurants is your idea of luxury and you happen to have a lot of dough, treat you and your guests to gourmet, white-glove-service dinner. Plan a multi-course meal, complete with a refreshing intermezzo (with hot lemon-scented towels after the fish course, of course). You can choose from French or Russian service: With French, the waiters prepare food on stands set up next to the table and then serve individual plates; Russian service features white-gloved waiters who carry each course on a large tray and serve guests directly from it. For that added touch, offer a different complementary wine with each course.

-- Amy Gordon

See More: Wedding Reception Ideas