Haute Dishes: 7 Wedding Food Trends

Seven wedding food trends, served up by top Wisconsin caterers.
From: Spring/Summer 2016 edition
Who needs a big white wedding cake when statement desserts, like this glamorous tower of French macarons, look so good?

Move over, chicken cordon bleu. Stand down, beef Wellington. From reception to late night, today’s couples want to spice up their wedding day with unique fare.

“There will always be couples who want something more traditional, but more and more couples are staying away from that,” says Maria Miller, owner and head chef of Milwaukee’s Ball’n Biscuit Catering. “They are going with what they want, what they love and what represents them as a couple and their personalities.” Here, five caterers share the food trends that Wisconsin brides and grooms are clamoring for.

Satisfy with Stations

A trend that has returned after a hiatus over the past few years, says David Porto, owner and event planner with Middleton’s Blue Plate Catering, is food stations. While carving stations have long been a mainstay, coming back are stations featuring salad bars, hors d’oeuvres, pasta and more.

“My favorite event of the entire summer last year was 250 guests with a build-your-own salad bar, carving stations with three different meats, and a big, long table with a pasta sauté,” says Porto. “When dinner was finished, we flipped the salad bar into a dessert bar.”

One way to theme your stations is with globally inspired or ethnic foods. Theming your food in this way, says Miller, is an especially good option for couples who love to travel, as well as couples who want to showcase their cultural heritage. Stations are a great way to offer more customary food options while also incorporating your family’s traditional foods, says Gaylord Catering business manager Connie Ziegler, and you can have something for everyone.

Porto, Miller and Ziegler all encourage limiting your options to three to five stations, with three or four different items at each station.

Something Special from Home

Offering something uniquely Wisconsin continues to be a big trend, says Ziegler, “especially for couples who live in other states and are planning a wedding here. They want to give their guests a true Wisconsin experience.” Wisconsin natives love this trend as well.

For dinner, incorporating some of Wisconsin’s many culinary mainstays—cranberries, cheese and potatoes, to name a few—is always a good move. While mashed potato bars have made a comeback, Gaylord Catering offers its own version with its Mashtini bar: two types of Wisconsin-grown mashed potatoes served in a martini glass, with an array of toppings for guests to choose from, such as sour cream, chives, onions, cheddar cheese and bacon.

It’s also easy to incorporate Wisco-style fare into your smaller bites.

“It’s a big trend to have appetizers or late-night foods reflect Wisconsin,” says Miller, including mini brats, cheese curds, pretzels and beer cheese, as well as cheese and sausage platters.

photo courtesy of: Chef Jack’s

Fresh Fare

With a growing interest in sustainable, ethical food choices, more couples are asking caterers to use local, organic and seasonal fare in their menus. For some couples, this may require some education.

“Part of our job is explaining that certain produce is better at certain times of the year—that it’s more abundant and will taste better,” says Miller. “That can be a difficult thing to think about, especially if you’re planning pretty far in advance.”

So what’s in-season and when? For spring, think asparagus, greens and rhubarb. For summer, it’s fresh berries, beans, corn and summer squashes, while autumn brings apples, brussels sprouts, fall squashes and potatoes.

Signature Drinks

An easy way to personalize your reception is to offer a signature cocktail. “The signature drinks are huge,” says Betty Brueske of River Valley Catering of River Falls, “and what we usually see is a his-and-hers type thing for variety.”

These signature cocktails, she adds, are usually complimentary so guests can enjoy them while keeping their wallets tucked away.

Cocktails should reflect the couple’s tastes, whether that means a Maker’s Mark Manhattan, floral St. Germain cocktail or a touch of “something blue” with aqua-hued sparkling wine Blanc de Bleu.

Comfort Foods

With more farm and barn wedding venues opening their doors in Wisconsin, Tony Rossi, sales manager with Chef Jack’s in Waukesha, has seen more demand for comfort foods to match these venues’ feel.

One of Chef Jack’s customer favorites: mini grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup shooters, which works well as an appetizer. They also pair well with other items on this caterer’s farmhouse menu, such as mac and cheese with white cheddar and truffle oil, and sliced pork tenderloin with cranberry chutney and apple brandy sauce. They’ve even developed a Mason jar dessert station with mini s’mores, and peach and cherry cobblers.

“Brides really want to keep with the theme of the barn, and comfort foods complement that,” says Rossi.

photo courtesy of: Chef Jack’s

Feeding Family-Style

Hand in hand with comfort food, family-style dining is back.

“Family style, like comfort food, adds to that social aspect and calls to the classic dinner table, something we all remember as kids,” say Rossi.

“It’s the whole philosophy of the breaking of bread,” Brueske adds. “A wedding is about joining two families—families that might not even know each other—and serving family-style is an opportunity to share food, create a connection and foster conversation.”

There are a variety of ways to do family-style dining. You might opt to serve a family-style salad, followed by a buffet (or vice versa), or keep your guests seated and serve the whole meal family-style.

Statement Desserts

Dessert, says Brueske, “is really where couples are trying to make their mark.” This includes buffets with bite-sized desserts like petit fours, cookies and chocolate-dipped strawberries; build-your-own dessert and ice cream sundae bars; and non-cake options like pies, doughnuts, candy and more.

One playful option River Valley offers is a s’mores bar. They provide the chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers (and skewers); in lieu of a campfire, they use polished rocks heated by Sterno so guests can roast their own gooey treats. “It’s a really fun thing to do,” says Brueske.

While many couples may forgo the traditional multi-tiered wedding cake, many still opt for a small bride-and-groom cutting cake—ensuring you can still get that perfect photo opp.