Eat, Drink and Be Married

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You’ll know it’s a good party when palates are pleased and plates are empty. Make sure your menu’s a winner with some careful planning. 

Forget flowers and favors for just a moment: The one component you won’t want to skimp on at your wedding is the food. Aside from the music (which often translated to “how the party was”) and how the bride looked, the food is one of the most talked about elements of a wedding. Ever been to a wedding with bad food? Don’t let sub-par selections or flat flavors steal the spotlight on your big day. Here are Hilton Head Monthly’s biggest tips to ensure guests leave the table sated and impressed — no matter your budget.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

Choose crowd-pleasing favorites like crab cakes, oyster shooters, baby lamb chops, tomatoes and mozzarella skewers, peanut satay chicken, or shrimp and grits in martini glasses. Make sure to offer at least one vegetarian option for your guests. If passed hors d’oeuvres are not within the budget, choose an antipasto platter or artful presentation of cheeses and meats. The signature cocktail continues to be a strong trend, too, so pick a mixed drink that fits your theme or season, and let the signature sipping begin.

Dinner menu

Plated dinner menus are still popular, with many brides choosing to serve a three- or four-course meal. Local chefs and caterers generally source local foods and work within season to bring fresh food to the table, so consider the time of year you are getting married when planning your menu. Consider fresh and innovative salads like watermelon and feta in the summer, and surf-and-turf combinations for the main course.

Food stations/buffet

Chef stations and buffets are back with a bang and are fancier than ever.  Searing, sautéing and carving presented with nice surrounding items, vegetables, sauces and garnish components — sometimes in miniature form like tapas-style — are very popular. Try a sautéed foie gras station, presented with toasted fig brioche, caramelized onion jam, marinated frisse and black currant jus. Shellfish presentations, with mounds of oysters, mid-Atlantic clams, Alaskan king crab, and split lobsters on the half shell are also popular.

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Progressive dining

Why not serve your guests all night long? Instead of a cocktail hour followed by a multi-course dinner, set up stations that are open all night so you can partake in one big feast. Guests can graze on foods that can follow a variety of themes, or offer a little bit of everything. This dining option is becoming very popular with brides.

The cake

Of course, the real star of the menu is the wedding cake. All kinds of designs are available, and regional bakers are experimenting with new techniques like handmade sugar flowers. Natural flowers die quickly when not in water, so using handmade sugar flowers are an edible and practical solution. Other wedding cake trend is the ‘naked’ cake, a multi-tiered cake that’s unfrosted, revealing the layers of cream and cake in a supremely understated yet decadent style. You also can have a separate groom’s cake that is a little more fun and reflective of his interests.

Sweets table

Many top-notch local venues will create an incredible sweets display that goes beyond the traditional cake. Handmade macaroons, éclairs, puff pastries, cookies, milkshake shooters, donuts, cake pops, mini cupcakes, cronuts, or a candy bar are popular with today’s couples.

Late-night food for the after-party

The party doesn’t have to end as the reception winds down. End the evening by serving comfort food with a classy twist, like truffle French fries, mini sandwiches, sliders, cheeseburgers and even hot dogs. Or offer a bonfire and S’mores with creative toppings that go beyond just marshmallows and chocolate. These party foods will give your guests one final snack after the last dance.

Work with your local professionals to find the menu that’s right for you on your wedding day.