Your wedding food is an integral part of your reception. The food and drinks you choose to serve are, quite literally, the fuel that powers your reception, so a delicious wedding menu is a must. Here are some excellent tips for creating the perfect menu for your reception without going broke.

1. Set A Budget

Knowing how much you have to spend will help you decide all sorts of things, such as the style of service, what kind of appetizers to serve and whether you’ll just have a “cocktails and appetizers” reception or a full meal.

2. Plan Early

To get your caterer of choice, you may need to book them as much as a year in advance. Some venues require that you use their in-house chef for catering. For a delicious wedding menu, the right caterer is very important, but you may find yourself having to pay an additional fee or facing restrictions on using your own chef, so it’s worth it to check out the chef the venue offers. Good chefs will be excited to provide dishes that go far beyond the basics of baked chicken or fish.

3. Nail Down The Guest List

Even if you don’t know yet exactly who’s going to be attending, you should at least have a fairly good estimate on how many will need to be served. Keep in mind that the larger your guest list, the smaller your per-person budget will be. If you’re going to have a very large guest list, a delicious wedding menu option might be creative pasta bars with vegetarian offerings, rather than a more traditional carving table.

4. Identify Allergies and Dietary Requirements

A delicious wedding menu means making sure that your guests can actually eat what’s served. Whether you have guests who are sensitive to gluten, diabetic, or has a specific allergy to nuts or other foods, planning your menu carefully will ensure that everyone can enjoy your reception without having to worry about a trip to the hospital! Talk to your caterer about any specific dietary needs that exist among your guests.

5. Choose Your Style

If you want your delicious wedding menu to be the star of your reception and the main focal point of the evening, you might want to opt for a formal sit-down meal. However, if your food will not be the main star of the evening (say, if you choose to only serve appetizers), you still want to impress your guests with excellent pass-around fares such as finger foods and small hors-d’oeuvres.

6. Use Local Products

Your chef should be able to make some really outstanding fare with local, seasonal produce. For the most delicious wedding menu options, make sure you’re incorporating whatever is in season and building your dishes around locally-available choices.

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