A lot of this depends on the time of day and the style of your wedding. For a summer wedding, you should avoid anything too heavy, especially if the meal is to be early afternoon. When budgeting, priority should go to quality, not quantity, especially regarding the drinks. I’d rather toast the bride and groom with proper champagne and go without a starter than drink fizzy plonk and feel full.
Think about any special requirements your guests might have. Pork or ham is probably a bad choice, as if you have Muslim or Jewish guests, it will not be culturally appropriate. The most common food allergies or sensitivities are nuts, gluten and eggs. If you offer a vegetarian option and you clearly state any potential allergy hazards, you should have all your bases covered. It is wise with a sit-down meal to offer at least two choices anyway, so that everyone can choose something they like in advance.
You should also avoid messy food (even dainty mini-burgers can get messy), or food that might be tricky to eat (corn on the cob or oysters). Unless you know your guests really like it, it’s probably best to avoid shellfish.
With garnishes, crudités and salads, make sure the produce is fresh and delight your guests with innovative touches. A salad has to be more than just lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes; crudités need to be more than just carrot and celery sticks. Think of microgreens, sprouted seeds, fresh herbs and lots of seasonal variety.
Although this is a sit-down meal, it encourages guests to interact with each other if you include options that can be passed around and shared. This also allows for greater variety.
A good way to please everyone, including the children, is to serve simple classics, but do it well. Chicken wings with the right coating can be sublime, but they are still recognisable, familiar favourites. If you do serve anything that might not be recognisable, like mashed avocado, (what’s this green stuff?) label it clearly and include some positive words like “dairy-free, rich mashed avocado”.
Try to balance the menu and offer as much variety as possible. For example, if you are offering chicken wings for the starter, then offer beef or lamb for the main course.
You can discuss it with your caterer and the venue, but some elegant ideas I’ve seen for summer weddings are as follows:
Starters (all served with a basket of assorted warm bread rolls with a choice of good quality butter and mashed avocadoes, to share)
Asparagus spears with an hollandaise sauce
Hummus and crudités
Crispy chicken wings with salad
A selection of antipasti (to share)
For the main course, winter or summer, you can’t go wrong with a traditional roast. The seasonality comes from the vegetables, but also, a lighter touch with the sauce or gravy. You don’t have to offer the same old chicken or beef though. What about duck, venison or hogget? Hogget is similar enough to lamb for it not to be too unfamiliar for people, but it has a unique flavour and less fat.
The vegetarian options could include baked brie, whole goat’s cheese or camembert; curried vegetables with daal and a luxurious pilau rice or a light tofu stir-fry with rice or noodles.
In a hot, crowded room, and having already eaten two courses, dessert can be simple and small. Ice cream or sorbet and perhaps a small portion of fruit salad, will be gratefully received.