From holidays to birthdays to graduation parties – it’s not a celebration without food. And your wedding shouldn’t be an exception.

However, creating a menu for an event as important as a wedding is different than your standard dinner party. It’s about providing an experience for your guests as much as it is about serving something that tastes good. Plus, catering is often one of the most expensive parts of the wedding (costing an average of $27-$40 per person), so you want to get it right.

To help ensure your reception dinner is unforgettable in all the best ways, here are a few expert tips for planning a wedding menu. 

1. Find some tasty inspiration 

Rather than looking at cookbooks or food blog trends for inspiration, first look at yourself, suggests Ken Upton, founder of Ken’s Creative Kitchen.

“I always tell them this is going to be the biggest party you’re going to throw until your child gets married,” he says. “Think about who you are. What do you eat? Where do you go to dinner? What do you like? That’s where we ought to start.”

2. Keep it cohesive 

When creating your menu, it’s also important to have a “clarity of thought,” says Upton. In other words, just because you love tacos and sushi doesn’t mean you should have both at your wedding. Choose one main source of inspiration and stick to it instead of muddling it by trying to do too much at once. 

3. Be (a little) selfish

According to Upton, one of the biggest mistakes that most couples make is putting too much emphasis on what they think their guests will want. 

“It’s a day to be selfish, in a way. You’re being generous by throwing a party for everybody, that’s your gift to them,” he says. 

While you should still be conscientious of things like dietary restrictions and allergies, it’s ultimately your wedding. So, serve a meal that has significance for you as a couple and makes you both excited.

4. Avoid potential pitfalls

The risk of food-related problems is low with an experienced and reputable caterer, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. So, consider skipping ingredients like exotic animal products or unpasteurized dairy and dishes that include raw meat. 

5. Consider the logistics

In addition to the food itself, couples also need to consider how it’s being served when crafting their reception meal. This includes details like: Will the dinner be seated or a buffet? Will you assign seats? What kind of tables will you use? Will there be entertainment? How long will it last? How many helpings can guests take? 

6. Encourage mingling

When crafting the structure of your dinner, Upton advises couples to find ways to facilitate conversation between guests. 

“Guests are going to stick with people they know. They’re going to drive with them; they’re going to sit in the same pew; they’re going to stand together at the cocktail hour. If you let them, they will all sit together,” he explains.

Instead, mix it up with your seating arrangement so everyone can meet someone new; choose round tales over long rectangles so the entire table can converse, and keep the music low, so no one has to shout to be heard. 

“Most of the expense of weddings is going to be the rentals – the tables, the china, the flatware, the glassware, flowers and then the food that’s served on those tables, and then the delivery system and the servers,” Upton adds. “We need to let people focus and let them enjoy that dinner and the conversation.”

7. Trust your caterer

While you probably haven’t planned many wedding menus, your caterer has probably done hundreds – if not thousands like Upton. So, when in doubt, defer to their expertise on what works best to keep a large and hungry crowd happy.

©CTW Features