Almost every decision in the run up to one’s wedding seems colossal. This became apparent while standing in the local hardware store with a bale of twine in each hand wondering if ‘hemp string’ or ‘jute cord’ would do the best job in binding my ‘cosmic latte’ white, 150gsm paper mass-scrolls. Ten minutes dwelling on the pros and cons and after sending a handful of photos off to Jeff, my groom-to-be, for his input, I was fortunately interrupted by a member of staff who assisted me in my choice. Perhaps I had reached the stage of exhaustion?!
Luckily choosing our wedding cuisine was a much less onerous task. In fact, this is one decision I relished. Without further ado, here is a guide to choosing your wedding menu, from the tasting to the cake, with lots of tips included to make sure your day is a seamlessly delicious success.
Personally speaking, the most important decision in the food planning is actually made long before your tasting. It lies in your choice of venue. If you are yet to choose the setting for your reception, the quality and standard of the food offered should be cornerstone to your decision. Clonabreany House, a beautiful and historic country house located in Crossakiel, Co. Meath, was the perfect backdrop to our wonderful day. And the food – exceptional.
Do your homework. Read reviews online and take a peak at any photos on Instagram – does the food look appealing? Check when the open days are and sign up. You will get a very good feel for the venue and the food and have an opportunity to ask questions about the various menus on offer. Where do they source the food? Is the head-chef a member of Euro-toques, or a similar association, and how long have they been with the hotel/venue? Do they consider seasonality when compiling a menu? Does this place suit you as a couple? Can you visualise yourselves here? And so on.
Once the location is decided the tasting will be your next big affair at the venue and for me was a highlight of the planning! This is a special occasion. Make a point of it. Get dressed up. Put on your heels, spray your favourite scent. Prepare to be wined and dined. We were fortunate to be able to bring our folks (not all venues allow this) as it was important for us to include them in what we felt was ultimately a family event. We made the final decision but it was helpful to get everyone’s input and we had fun critiquing and tasting all the plates.
Take on board the advice of the chef. He has experience and has likely been cooking at weddings and events for along time. Also, I urge you to really savour every bite at ‘The Tasting’ – on the day of the wedding you might find that you are so preoccupied it is merely a case of ingestion!
When planning your menu you should always have the ABC’s of the wedding menu in mind; not quite the Anything but Chardonnay club but rather Adventure, Balance and Courtesy.
It is important to have some fun with your menu planning but proceed with caution people. If you want to include some less classic options, take this chance with your appetisers or starters and play it safe with the main courses.
Avoid a narrow, meat-focused menu and refrain from offering consecutive courses where seafood takes centre-stage, for example. Consider colour in each dish, after all, we do eat with our eyes. There is nothing less appetising than a series of bland and beige courses.
Be fair to your guests – just because you have a hankering for oysters be mindful of those who may not favour a slithering mollusk on their plates, or down their throats for that matter. Save your adventurous palate for the starter, if you are so inclined.
After much discussion and debate we settle on a caramelised onion and goats cheese starter, followed by a pea and mint soup. For the main course we offered a choice of beef or hake. These were accompanied by a creamy potato gratin and honey-roasted vegetables. Divine.
Where possible advise your venue in advance of dietary requirements so special attention will be given to these guests on the day.
There is an opportunity to put your own stamp on the meal by getting creative with your menu design and graphics. Fair play to all those who are so organised! Clonabreany printed the menus for us but we did request them to include a couple of quotes that I like. For example, as a foreword to the desserts, we borrowed a line from Julia Child; ‘A party without cake is just a meeting’.
Hopefully the venue already do this, but it is also great to name the chef, list the suppliers and title your menu.
If you remember, ask one of your bridesmaids to take a menu with them – I completely forgot and would love to have it as a keepsake.
If you are as indecisive (or as greedy) as me, ask if your venue will provide a ‘His n’Hers’ dessert option. Clonabreany were very accommodating and served up our choice of profiteroles and warm lemon tart to each guest, alternately, so they could all share to their heart’s content.
Are any of your guests celebrating a birthday or anniversary on your wedding day? We requested that our friend Jennifer’s birthday was marked with a candle in her dessert, and were thrilled with Clonabreany’s attention to detail.
Ever been to an ‘icing party’?! Well if not, this is just one reason to make your own wedding cake. We had a homemade three-tiered cake; my Mum made her fabulous chocolate biscuit layer; my mother-in-law, a delicious fruit cake; and I made the top layer, a carrot cake.
A word of warning, if you are going to have an icing party make sure you recruit someone talented. In our case this was my wonderful cousin Elaine, who is more knowledgeable and has a much more skillful eye than us, particularly after copious amounts of fizz. Her help allowed for a fuss-free champagne gathering. This family get-together on the week of the wedding, baking and decorating cakes together and making some great memories, was the real icing on the cake. Ba-dum-dum….!
If you can bake, a DIY job is a worthwhile cash-saver. Some tips would be to check if the venue offer a cake stand and a knife. Also check if they will store the cake for you in a cool, dark room the week of your big day. Otherwise, decide in advance how you will transport it on the morning of the wedding.
If it is up to you to decorate the cake display table consider putting the bridal bouquets around the cake and some simple bunting for example. One of my bridesmaids had given me a gorgeous framed ‘Wedding Cake Recipe’ which I brought a long. This special recipe required the likes of a dash of wit, a spoonful of laughter and 4lbs of love. A very sweet addition to my cake table.
So to close, I ask do the smaller things matter? No. Did anyone notice I had twine on my scrolls? No. Do I remember if I chose hemp or jute cord twine? Absolutely not. Did they remember the food, the people and the craic? I hope so.Don’t sweat the small stuff. Just chill out and enjoy every minute of your celebration. Embrace this rare and special time when so many of the people you love are sharing a meal with you in the one room. Pretty epic!
Dubliner, Catherine Allen, is a Ballymaloe-trained chef and food blogger. Following a number of years in the finance industry, she decided to follow her true passion and is now pursuing a career in the culinary world as a freelance cook, writer, walker and talker, and she hasn’t looked back!
With a new-found love for gardening, she hopes to someday forage for her lunch in her own back garden. Follow her culinary adventures on her blog elbowsoffthetableblog.wordpress.com.