3 Very Practical Things to Consider When Planning Your Wedding Menu

July 10, 2018

Wedding season is upon us, and that might mean your summer weekends are dotted with plans to celebrate loved ones' nuptials, near and far. Delicious food, dancing, merriment—who doesn't love a good wedding? And as a guest, you reap the benefits of months-long planning behind the scenes: The happy couple likely thought long and hard about every last detail, from the flower arrangements draped just-so to the sauce accompanying that lip-smacking canapé you're trying hard not to gobble up the whole tray of (true story).

From the planning perspective, there is seemingly no end to the number of details that go into organizing a wedding menu, no matter the party size. It can be overwhelming, sure, but it can also be fun and downright gratifying when you see your guests taking down the shrimp cocktail with gusto.

A Cake Fit for Any Occasion

We had a chance to pick the brain of professional event planner Susan Hong, the special events manager at The New York Public Library, to see what barebones advice she'd recommend to couples just starting to navigate their wedding menus. She shares three helpful (and practical) tips with us:

  • Collect your guests’ dietary restrictions when they RSVP: It’s ultimately your day, but you want to ensure that all of your guests are well-fed. While you don’t have to alter your entire menu to accommodate one person, it is gracious to make sure that there are some options they can eat. There’s always a handful of gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or pescatarian guests who forget to alert you to their allergies or preferences, so it’s thoughtful to include some hors d’oeuvres or a silent entrée option that checks off all of these boxes (i.e. a gluten-free and vegan dish).

  • When selecting hors d’oeuvres, think about how simple (or complicated!) it will be to eat them while standing: As delicious as a mini sloppy joe slider may sound, imagine one of your guests trying to bite into that as chili spills down their tuxedo or beautiful silk dress. Keep in mind that the guest’s other hand will be holding a drink. One-bite (maximum, two-bite) hors d’oeuvres are the way to go.

  • If your budget and venue allow, consider serving some bubbly or a specialty cocktail as guests arrive for the ceremony: Often at the Library we see quite a bit of downtime between guest arrivals and when the ceremony commences. Your guests will appreciate a nice refreshing beverage to pass the time.

Do you have any wedding menu guidance? Share your tips with us below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • M
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • Emma Laperruque
    Emma Laperruque
  • Hana Asbrink
    Hana Asbrink
Hana is a food writer/editor based in New York.


M July 11, 2018
There are 2 issues that happen at almost every wedding I've attended or heard stories about.

1. Be mindful of timing.

a)If the wedding festivities will take up the whole day, make sure everyone is fed properly. If it's a one-site deal, have food available throughout the day, and not just dinner, whether it's an on-site restaurant guests can use, or bites on your own dime. If travel between venues is involved, include snack/lunch recommendations to guests, especially those from out of town. Also make sure you and your wedding party have food throughout the day.

(Too many stories about wedding parties who weren't fed all day, or couples who didn't get to eat their own carefully selected meals because they were pulled away for something and the servers took their food away, or guests digging through bags for snacks while waiting, or everyone getting tanked at open bars on empty stomachs.)

b)Choose foods that can stand up to delays, especially for large weddings. If you *must* have that steak or time-sensitive dish, plan the event to minimize the potential for delays (traffic issues, rain delays, long-winded speeches) that lead to heat lamp-killed or cold food.

2. If you want a stocked bar for great (or even okay) cocktails, you *must* request skilled bartenders. Requesting a well-stocked bar doesn't mean the bartender the venue will hire will know how to use it. Wedding bartenders can do the very basics of spirit+soda, but are easily stopped by any classic cocktail.

(A conversation that actually happened at a wedding that planned a well-stocked open bar: 'Hi! Could I have a gin martini?' 'What?' 'Gin martini.' 'I don't know what that is.' 'It's gin and dry vermouth.' 'We don't have that.' 'Yes, you do.' 'No.' 'Yes. It's right there.' 'Where?' 'Right there.' 'Oh. I don't know this drink. How do you make it?')

Eric K. July 10, 2018
Great tips! Yup, the best wedding I've ever been to was the one where I was greeted with a cocktail. Needless to say, the ceremony was very bearable.
Emma L. July 10, 2018
Thanks for sharing these fab tips with us, Hana!
Hana A. July 10, 2018
Thanks for reading, miss-to-almost-missus Emma! ;)