Wedding Food: From Formal Sit-Down Dinners to Food Truck Fun

Thinking of having cupcakes, donuts or pies at your wedding reception? It’s a trend that appears to be on the way out as a substitute for a wedding cake — but some of those fun foods are making appearances at other times over the wedding weekend.

Janet Daniels, who handles events at the popular River Farm, located on the banks of the Potomac River, said “we seem to be past the smaller individual desserts. I also find couples to be more interested in good-tasting food rather than ‘interesting’ or ‘foodie’ food.”

Many couples are looking to reflect parts of their culture on their wedding day menus, serving a variety of ethnic foods or hometown favorites, said David Magsumbol, Catering Sales Manager at The Westin Alexandria Old Town.

But before you even contact a caterer, Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company advises having your confirmed date, time and location, as well as your budget and number of guests before setting up a meeting. It can’t hurt, they note, to also give caterers an idea of the wedding reception style you’re going for — peruse Pinterest and bring photos of some styles you like.

If you’re hosting a crowd with multiple diet needs, a menu with variety is the key, Daniels said. “Think about your guest list and any food requirements that may be necessary (gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, halal, etc.) and, while it is difficult to make everyone happy, try to select a menu that hits a number of those points but is still something that you enjoy.”

If you’re trying to make your reception unique, many couples personalize their bar choices, she noted, by choosing local providers for beer, cider, wine and spirits (think Lost Boy Cider, Aslin Beer Company or Port City Brewing).

Couples can also get creative when it comes to the traditional wedding cake by adding a splash of color to white cake/ white icing with adornments — “be it flowers, ribbons or lacework…” And pastry chefs and cake designers are getting creative, Daniels noted, using gum paste and sugar to add color to cakes.

It comes down to personal preference on whether to offer a sit-down meal or buffet for your guests, she said. “Buffets let your guests choose what and how much they want, but plated meals offer the elegance of wait staff service. Both have the same issue of timing if you have a larger event. Some guests are finished with their meal as other guests are just being served or going to the buffet.”

Wedding expert Monte Durham of “Say Yes to the Dress – Atlanta,” said that formality is in these days. “Tablescapes are low, without the tall candelabra, so everyone can see each other, but formal with scattered candles.” And details make the difference, he said. “I love a double-padded table, it’s such a gracious thing. I’m all about those details.” The waterfall napkin fold, for example, “is still important,” he said.

Another popular trend with many brides and grooms is adding some fun and informality to a pre-dinner reception or late-night dancing by offering noshes from a favorite food truck. A popular one in Alexandria is Meggrolls, which offers a variety of tastes wrapped in bitesize egg rolls in flavors from Buffalo wing to chicken parm.

Feeling frazzled by all the choices? Daniels’ reception tips for brides include hiring a wedding planner. “I tell all my couples to get a planner of some sort,” she said. “Either full planning, partial planning, or month-of coordinating.”

By hiring a planner, she said, “it lets you release all the details at the rehearsal and lets you and your family and friends enjoy the day and being together. There is so much that won’t go according to plan on the big day but everything will come out fine anyway and you don’t need to concern yourself with the problem or the solution. You just need to end the day married, and let someone else sweat the small stuff.”