Move over, mashed potato bar and cake pops! There are new delicious catering trends in the wedding world to sink your teeth into (think: wine slushies, bite-sized desserts, and raw bars with all the fruits de mer).
According to The Knot's 2017 Real Weddings Study, couples are spending an average of $70 per guest for food and drink. And "high-spenders" (guests spending an average of $60,000 or more on their wedding) are shelling out an average of $154 per guest.
With that said, couples aren't afraid to spend money on catering and are looking for ways to personalize their day and excite guests through food and drink. Here's what's on the menu this wedding season.
1. Make the menu personal.
"Couples are choosing menu items that trace the journey of their relationship," says Chappall Gage with Washington, D.C.-area catering company Susan Gage Caterers. "More and more people are trying to really personalize their menu in ways that are unique."
For instance, if the couple vacations in Colorado and loves craft beer, they might serve brewskis from the Rocky Mountains. Or if the lovebirds met in Virginia, they'd showcase seafood from the Chesapeake Bay. Also, more couples are embracing their cultural heritage.
2. Keep hors d'oeuvres light with a raw bar.
For cocktail hour, the raw bar reigns supreme. Showcase a mix of oysters, along with shrimp cocktail and smoked fish with all the accoutrements. Or if you are looking to spice things up, add a yummy blue fish dip or tuna tartare.
"Keep things light during cocktail hour," says Gage. "You don't want people to eat too much. You want to have enough food so people aren't drinking on an empty stomach. But at the same time, you don't want them getting weighed down."
3. Get guests talking with fun cocktails.
Forgo the boring signature cocktail like a Manhattan or martini, and instead opt for a more interactive drink and that will get guests talking. "It's a great conversation-starter to serve an interesting cocktail," says Gage.
For spring and summer, let guests cool off with a frozen beverage. Refreshing and effervescent, the sgroppino is an Italian cocktail of Prosecco and lemon sorbet that Gage says is a crowd-pleaser. Or consider something pre-made that guests can easily refill their glasses with, like a fruity red wine slushy or frosé (frozen rose).
"Try to incorporate seasonality into cocktails with simple syrups and fruit," says Gage. "In spring consider herbs or even a pea-based cocktail that catches people off guard." For Gage's wedding, he and his wife served Greyhounds with muddled arugula, which were a huge hit with guests.
4. Embrace the local with beer, wine, and hard stuff.
Since most weddings are planned far in advance, it's a challenge for caterers to know what local produce will be available in six to 12 months. While hearty vegetables like potatoes and onions are readily available to buy local, it's hard to say what other local produce will be available on the big day.
Couples that are conscious of their wedding's carbon footprint are going local with beer and wine. And, with the rise of craft distilleries, small-batch local liquors are more readily available too. To personalize a signature cocktail that includes a local spirit, Gage recommends a riff on the classic that includes your destination, like the D.C. Gin Rickey.
5. Break bread at a seated, plated dinner.
While receptions with a focus on heavy hors d'oeuvres, action stations, and buffets have been all the rage for the past few years, currently there is a move back to the good old-fashioned plated dinner.
"The concept of breaking bread together is still very palpable, and the tradition of sitting down to celebrate with a meal goes back a millennia," says Gage.
Tradition doesn't have to be boring. And your plated dinner doesn't have to be the meat and potatoes of your parent's generation. "Try to keep simple, fresh flavors and avoid over-complicating the menu," recommends Gage.
6. Take small bites with dessert.
Treat dessert like a second cocktail hour to get guests up mixing and mingling after dinner.
In lieu of large slices of cakes and pies, Gage likes to serve an array of bite-sized desserts like mini ice cream sandwiches, fudge cakes, s'mores bars, and strawberry shortcakes.
"This way people can sample many things," says Gage. "They don't have to commit to one dessert and can come back after dancing to have another bite later. And, they don't have to worry about eating too much."
7. Keep the party going with a coffee bar.
Keep the party going all night long by giving guests a little caffeine pick-me-up. Gage recommends a European-style coffee bar with whipped cream, chocolate shavings, and rock candy stirrers. And don't forget about the Cognac and Baileys Irish Cream for spiking!
What do you think of the 2018 trends?