Wedding menus used to be boring and very predictable. But that's changing! You can order whatever you want, from comfort foods to locally grown organics.
"In general, people have a sense of style as to how they want the food served," says Eric Michael of Occasions Caterers, a certified green caterer that serves plated meals the majority of the time.
"The chef has control to make the plates look spectacular," Michael says. "It's restaurant-quality when you have a chef to plate the meal."
Royal Fig Catering serves meals "family-style," says the company's co-owner Kristen Stacy. "We bring platters to the table so people can feel as if they're at home."
With family-style service, each table receives two or three proteins and vegetables, as well as bread. "I think family-style is the best way to offer variety," Stacy says.
Buffets -- which often have two or three meats, including server-attended carving stations -- are another food service option.
Some of Royal Fig's buffet stations include a french fry bar and customizable guacamole stations, featuring add-ons such as garlic, red onions, limes, cilantro and pico de gallo.
"The cocktail hour buffet idea is becoming more popular," says caterer Nadege Fleurimond. She says these buffets are more cost-effective than sit-down dinners, which require more staff and supplies.
"Beef is the most popular," says Michael, whose company often serves meat cuts such as tenderloin, short ribs or rib-eye steaks cooked to order.
Typically, wedding menus feature dual entrees, such as red meat and fish, or one type of entree, such as a chicken dish, is served to all the guests.
"We're doing a lot more fish these days -- and sustainable, too," says Michael, noting that popular catches include black cod and halibut.
Entrees may be the main event, but couples and their guests love yummy side dishes, too.
"People are much more knowledgeable about the food they eat," says Fluerimond, who knows that modern clients watch cooking TV shows and want more interesting menu choices, for example, squash and zucchini instead of green beans.
At Occasions Caterers, the corn souffl? is the signature dish, says Michael. "It's a creamy corn pudding."
Royal Fig serves pork belly sliders with macaroni and cheese, which can be customized, too, with 10 different toppings, including roasted garlic shallots and toasted breadcrumbs. Stacy says her favorite is the Brie and date macaroni and cheese.
*Fresh and Local
"Everything we do is made from scratch," says Stacy, a caterer who works with local farmers. "Because we work with the farms, it's seasonal."
The fresh-and-local approach to wedding menus is catching on.
"We're doing a lot more local and organic," Michael says. "As far as vegetables, we're a certified green caterer, so we work with local farmers. We really try to keep things fresh."
Farmers market vegetables can include heirloom tomatoes, corn, squash, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, heirloom beets and mushrooms.
"Creativity and thoughtfulness go further than quantity without quality," says Chrissann Gasparro of Maritime Parc, whose catering team has organized Korean barbecue stations for one wedding and fresh taco stations for another. "It's different, creative and unexpected."
From comfort foods to high-end cuisine, wedding menus are going from standard to special.
"Every bride puts a personal touch on her menu," Gasparro says. One bride she worked with loved tater tots, so Maritime Parc "made homemade tater tots and put them on a slider station."
These days, many caterers can meet guests' needs for dietary concerns, for example, providing vegetarian and gluten-free meals. Forget prepackaged foods and preservatives, too.
"We make everything from scratch," Gasparro says. "We have menus as a starting point, but we really can do anything."
That can-do attitude is inspiring lots of brides, grooms and caterers to create memorable menus.
"Because we don't have a set menu, we can make it as personal as possible," Michael says. "We can craft something that's one of a kind."
No matter what dishes you decide to serve, prepare your appetite for a wedding meal to relish.