Weddings that last late into the night leave guests hankering for a midnight snack because it may have been two or more hours since dessert was served. And as famished guests keep drinking on empty stomachs, getting home safely can quickly become a big concern. To contend with guests' growling stomachs, a new trend is to keep the food coming, with another round of snacks served during the last hour of the festivities.
"I am a huge fan of late-night snacks and cocktail-style receptions, as I think they keep everyone mingling and having a great time," says Heather Walrath, editor-in-chief of Weddzilla's blog and creator of the blog "Bicoastal Bride." "Right now, I'm working with a bride planning a wedding with a vintage Mardi Gras theme, and we've been considering menu possibilities, including Creole pulled pork sliders and blackened chicken and blue cheese empanadas. Late-night snacks and appetizers are a fabulous way to continue tying in your theme throughout the reception."
It's not a matter of pulling those cocktail hour platters from the refrigerator and giving everyone a chance to revisit those goat cheese-filled endive leaves and sushi rolls. The new wave of menu items often consists of "bar food bites," including the following popular choices:
--Sliders: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, mini Philly cheesesteaks, pulled pork sandwiches, veggie burgers.
--Mini grilled cheese sandwiches made with a variety of cheeses.
--Cones of french fries seasoned with Cajun spices, Old Bay seasoning or sea salt.
--Cones of flavored popcorn or kettle corn.
--Pigs in blankets.
--Full-size hot dogs.
--Mini pizzas with a variety of toppings.
--Cups of macaroni and cheese.
--Mini Reuben sandwiches.
--Chicken wings or chicken fingers with dipping sauces, such as honey mustard, barbecue sauce and sweet-and-sour sauce.
These bar foods may be hand-passed by servers or displayed on a snack bar or at stations that guests can visit and enjoy. Another station for late-night snacking could be a Belgian waffle bar, with mini waffles served with homemade ice cream or gelato.
"We met during our post-college clubbing years, and after a night on the town, we'd always go to a diner and have waffles," says recent bride Lyla Weingarden of her first encounter with her new husband. "So to have a little bit of our past become a part of our reception was so much fun. And our friends who were part of our clubbing days also loved revisiting our past through the surprise waffles."
Brides and grooms also hark back to their college days, when their partying evenings often ended with pizza delivery. Only now the pizzas are more gourmet, often topped with feta and spinach or with barbecue chicken, as well as the standard flavors of three-cheese pizzas or pepperoni toppings. Pies are cut into squares for easy pop-in-your-mouth servings, not drippy, messy full-size slices, or thick squares of Sicilian pizza are served at the station. In addition to pizza, mozzarella sticks and garlic bread and dipping sauces are served in this style of late-night bites.
The late-night snack inspiration also carries through to breakfast foods served as the evening bites. Caterers are setting up breakfast food stations, serving pork roll and cheese sandwiches, bagels with cheese toppings, silver dollar pancakes, mini sausages, hash browns and other diner fare to the joy of the remaining late-night wedding guests.
Bread is a welcome treat, especially for those who have imbibed plenty of alcohol, so a warm bread and spreads station is a top choice, as is a focaccia bar where guests can choose from ready-made or made-to-order creations.
"We know from our partying days that greasy foods don't always agree with a night of heavy drinking, so we went with the bread bar," says Andrea Zale, a friend of the bride's who arranged for the late-night menu at a recent wedding.
The late-night menu also provides an opportunity to serve cultural favorite foods that might not have fit into a more formal wedding reception menu. Pirogi are just one of the cultural favorite bites in this category.
And finally, a celebrity-inspired trend is to have a taco truck, burger stand or soft pretzel vendor outside the party location, hired for an hour and set up as a surprise for departing guests to grab their late-night snack.
Sharon Naylor has written more than three dozen wedding books.