GONE ARE THE DAYS of wedding goers choosing meat or fish for their meal and waiting for the dancing to begin–today’s couples are more culinary conscious and want to dazzle their guests with fabulous and memorable food and drink. Kathy Costello, director of catering sales at Russo’s Catering, has noticed how our foodie culture had effected couples’ changing tastes and expectations when it comes to choosing their menus. “Couples are now better educated about food options and possibilities,” Costello said. “They are attentive to specific ingredients and want to customize their menu to make it unique to their wedding and them as a couple.” How are couples, now and in the near future, making sure they throw not a great party, but the ultimate dinner party? Following are five trends that local caterers have spotted and/or already implemented with their events:
1. The late night breakfast station Rob Schaefer, vice president of catering and design for Steven Becker Fine Dining, sees the late night breakfast station as a top trend for 2014. “Offering guests a late night snack has been big for several years, but the breakfast station is going to be very popular,” Schaefer said. “It will bring the pancake house to the reception, rather than people going to one after.” Schaefer envisions bringing out the breakfast station at about 10:30 or 11:30 at night. But this won’t be like a trip to I-Hop. “Some possibilities are miniature Belgian waffles and French toast bites, in addition to homemade biscuits, bacon, sausage and eggs,” said Schaefer. “It’s taking a street trend and bringing it to a high-end wedding.” One breakfast-loving couple already jumped on this trend. Natalie Kaczmarczyk, marketing and design coordinator for Ces & Judy’s Catering, said one couple they worked with requested a midnight breakfast buffet at their home after the wedding, for the couple and their wedding party. “We offered breakfast sandwiches, such as egg, ham and cheese paninis, along with other breakfast staples,” Kaczmarczyk said.
2. Family style service Russo’s has seen an increase in couples interested in having the meal served family style, in which the food is passed from guest to guest around the table. “People like that it is a little less formal and that it promotes interaction among the guests,” Costello said. But even for experienced caterers, it requires a lot of planning to make sure service goes smoothly and that the guests feel comfortable. “It’s important to choose foods that are easily portioned out and easy to serve yourself while you are seated,” said Costello. The caterers also have to use vessels that hold these foods properly, are not cumbersome to pass and utensils that are simple to use. Costello says family style service also requires training the servers to interact with the guests and to gauge the dynamics of those sitting at each table. “Our staff need to be instructive with the guests, and servers should be sensitive to the individuals and the vibe of the table, to assess their comfort level in passing food,” Costello said. She suggests perhaps doing a family style service for a portion of the meal, such as passing the main course around after the salads have been served. It can get your guests talking and getting to know each other, even turning a bigger affair into an intimate feast.
3. The wedding brunch And no, not the day-after-the-wedding brunch, but actually having brunch following the ceremony instead of a nighttime reception. Schaefer says wedding brunches are very popular on the East and West coasts now and will be here soon, as well. “If having a bar is not a priority for you, the brunch opens you up to a wealth of possibilities,” Schaefer said. “You can have a beautiful event well within your budget.” In fact, Schaefer himself is getting married in March and has chosen a luncheon wedding (look for his wedding to be featured in the next issue of St. Louis Bride)!
4. Personalize, personalize, personalize Perhaps the biggest overall trend is how brides and their beloveds are incorporating the culinary aspect of the wedding into the theme of their day and into their taste, style and personal history. Couples can represent themselves by offering food stations, rather than having one long buffet. Costello said, “Food stations offer more variety than the typical buffet. And each can be its own mini-meal—you can keep going back to one, or try all of them.” Kaczmarczyk recalls a bride and groom that offered food stations serving dishes from each of the places the couple had lived together: Scotland, New York City and St. Louis. Schaefer and his team at Steven Becker Fine Dining created a mini rib station for a groom from Texas and a vodka bar for a bride with a Russian heritage. Food stations are an easy way to offer foods from the different cultures or heritages of the two families. A couple may be hesitant to serve Indian food exclusively at their reception, for instance, but a food station giving the guests a chance to try Indian specialties could be ideal. Personalization can also work with a sit-down dinner, choosing one dish to be region-specific or a culture represented with appetizers during cocktail hour. We have probably all been to a reception that offered a “signature” cocktail. But sometimes the drink was just something pretty that the couple slapped their name on, with no real story behind it. But signature drinks are now becoming more personal. “People are realizing the drink does not have to be a martini,” Schaefer said. “They really want it to be an expression of them as a couple.” The drink can be something they enjoyed on their first date or something that includes an ingredient they both love. Costello says the bar can even be customized with beers from the groom’s favorite hometown microbrewery or with wines from wineries they’ve visited.
5. Something Blue….Cobalt Blue For the “something blue” in the “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” tradition, it will be cobalt blue for 2014, says Schaefer. “Cobalt blue is liked and worn by both men and women and will be the color for weddings throughout the year,” he said. Including food? “Yes, it will be a challenge creatively,” said Schaefer. “Blue is the least occurring color in the culinary world. Look for unique blue garnishes, wrappings, cocktails, candy stations, and of course, blueberries.”