Catering has come a long way, baby. A lot of people association “function” food with lukewarm appetizers, suspect meat salads and a manic run through the drive-thru on the way home lest you begin to chew your steering wheel. I think this generation of brides, and caterers are putting way more thought into a menu of please and fun foods. What is one of the biggest fan favorites? Why, the assembly required food bars are getting the high marks from guests and brides alike. The options for build-your-own stations are endless. No longer are assembly stations merely a brunch omelet in a crowded Marriott. There has been an explosion of fun food ideas that guests just can’t get enough of.
Here are nine of my personal favorites, and I’m sorry if any of this makes you hungry. Except that I’m not really that sorry because I’m also torturing myself.
I’ve never met a carbohydrate that I didn’t like. This goes quadruple for pasta. There is nothing like a piping hot bowl of buttery pasta with the perfect sauce to give you that comfort feel. Letting your guests choose their pasta shape and ladle on a variety of sauces. By providing sauces like marinara, pesto or olive oil and sun-dried tomatoes, you will be revered by your guests as a goddess. Okay, well, they will just really, really appreciate you. The best part is that serving is quite simple.
Mashed Potato/Baked Potato Bar
Another member of the elite carb family, a potato is very accommodating of all the wonderful toppings that exist on the planet. With a mashed potato bar, you can have martini glasses filled with the potatoes ready for the guests to grab and pile on their favorites. Butter, bacon, cheese and chives are just a few classics. Baked potatoes can be placed on a plate using tongs, ready to be filled. For a nod to your southern roots, don’t forget the sweet potato option! Delight your guests with brown sugar, butter, marshmallows and pecans to enjoy their classic southern treat.
Grilled Cheese Bar
I wish they had a make-your-own grilled cheese station at the dentist instead of that arcade game that never works. My children would be getting their teeth cleaned monthly. This is just a straight-up fun station to have. People will have so much fun making fancy grilled cheese sandwiches with a variety of bread, cheeses and toppings like avocado, bacon and tomato. Let them be a kid again. Much like an omelet station, a grilled cheese station requires a bit of heat applied, so make sure you have someone there to press the sandwiches and keep the line moving.
You had me at cupcake. Now I know that you are going to have wedding cake at some point, so you may not want the extra sugar station, but this is a great idea, particularly if you have a lot of kids at your wedding. This is a fun way to keep them occupied during the reception. Adults will love it too, with different types of cupcake flavors, a few icing options and some toppings. Bam, Cupcakes.
When I think of weddings, Mexican food does not come to mind. This is what is so great about current wedding trends. We have bucked the tradition. There are no rules that say wedding food has to be formal. A lot of people use it to reflect their preferences, and for some that means a taco bar. I want to go on record saying I fully support their right to a taco bar. I’ll go one better and tell you to add a salsa/guacamole bar next to it and people will eat, then lay down and take a siesta so they can wake up and eat again. Imagine long tables with corn and flour tortillas, steaming hot chicken and beef, with all the toppings you love without anyone screaming, “Welcome to Moe’s.” You pile your plate high, head over to the salsa bar and you, my friend, are one margarita away from the perfect wedding.
“Y’all” is all I have to say. Well, not ALL I have to say. I love seeing indicatively southern things incorporated into a wedding day celebration. It shows the pride the bride and groom have in where they’re from…plus, everyone wins because…BISCUIT BAR. Get your warm biscuit on a plate and pry that sucker open. Are you a butter and jelly gal? Do you go the honey route? Or maybe your bride and groom love you so much that they’ve included sausage gravy. I just sent myself over the edge with “sausage gravy.”
As we stay in the southern cuisine genre (yes it’s a genre), let’s talk about how fun a grits bar would be. If for no other reason than to sit back and watch those distant cousins from Jersey try to figure out how to unlock the secret of the grit. Fiddlesticks! Meanwhile, those of us who were raised knowing what kudzu is will be enjoying our cheese and butter mixed in the official cereal of the south. I declare!
As we waddle out of the grits coma we just got ourselves into, here is an appetizer I love. Bruschetta is versatile and light and a ver easy and guest pleasing addition to your wedding. Add bowls of hummus and tapenade as well as different types of toasts, wafers and crackers. This will be a sure-fire hit!
Build your own Picnic Box
I recently saw this idea and loved it. You can turn the bulk of your catering into a make your own meal, by doing picnic lunches. Let your guests fill their individual boxes with gourmet sandwiches, homemade chips, pasta salad and giant pickles. Then they can head over to the lemonade station to pick-their-poison. Place a menu at the front of your table so your guests know what is offered and let them “pack” their food and go grab their seats.
You have so many options when it comes to wedding catering. The make-your-own bars are a great way to provide your guests with choices and a fun activity during your wedding reception. They’ll love the variety and you won’t have to worry about people not eating the food.