We spent several months preparing for our daughter’s outdoor wedding. Pinterest was invaluable for decoration inspiration. But the menu for 50 guests eluded us. Having attended6 weddings in the past year, we knew we would serve one entree and we didn’t want to serve chicken. Even catered chicken breasts were a bit overcooked, and it was doubtful we could do better. Because we were catering it ourselves, we wanted an entree that wasn’t “high maintenance” and didn’t require a lot of supervision to ensure it wasn’t overcooked.
For menu inspiration, we visited catering sites. Then we visited catering forums for “insider” tips on food choices, preparation, and storage.
Here is the menu. Detailed notes are included afterward.
Glazed Meatballs, with Apricot Thai Chili Dip (huge hit)
Mini Quiche, with Creme Fraishe
Parmesan Spinach Cheese Bites, with Marinara Dip
Fruit Tray, with Pineapple Fruit Dip
Vegetable Tray, with Mustard Honey Dip (not as popular as the fruit tray)
Salad Bar with Creamy Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing (only needed 50% recommended amount)
Moscota Beef Tips Stroganoff over Penne (huge hit)
Potatoes Au Gratin with Aged White Cheddar (ran out almost immediately; needed 30% more than recommended amount)
Butter Glazed Sweet Peas (only needed 75% recommended amount)
2 tier 8″ Wedding Cake
5 Cookie options (250)
Mini Cheesecakes (60)
If I Had To Do It Over Again….
With the exception of the fruit and veggie trays and dips, which were assembled the morning of the wedding, all the other appetizers were made 2 weeks in advance and frozen. The frozen appetizers were defrosted the evening before, and reheated two hours prior to serving.
Guests decended upon the appetizer table the second the cocktail hour was announced. We planned on 5-6 appetizers per person, not including the fruit and vegetable trays. All the appetizers and dips were a big hit, and we would have run out had the cocktail hour run any longer. We assigned dips to each appetizer, but guests mixed and matched based on their preferences.I would keep the selection of appetizersand dips, but would offer 2/3 fruits and 1/3 veggies, instead of 50/50.
Our goal was for guests to visit the salad bar while we set up the dinner buffet. But the DJ skipped the salad bar announcement and went straight to announcingdinner, and there was no turning back. Had the salad bar been served separately, we may have needed the full recommended amount of greens. But when served with the meal, only 50% of the salad and optional ingredients were eaten. Although, the dressing was definitely a hit and we should have doubled the amount prepared. The salad ingredients (sliced onions, raw veggies, cucumbers, tomatoes, grated cheese, eggs, etc) were prepared the evening before and the greens were chopped the morning of the wedding.
Using Moscato wine to deglaze the onions and createthe sauce definitely gave the stroganoff a more refined flavor profile. We’ll use Moscato in our stroganoff from now on! Flat noodles are typically used with stroganoff, but they tend to get too soft so we used the advice on catering forums and selected penne noodles, which held their shape and texture throughout the dinner. The entree was prepared and frozen one week in advance. The noodles were prepared an hour before dinner. Next time, I would prepare the noodles earlier and then just flash reheat them in boiling water prior to serving to save 20+ minutes. Guests went back for seconds and even thirds. We estimated 6 oz of beef per person and doubled the amount of sauce, which worked out perfectly. The only thing we would change is to cut the beef larger than the standard1/2 x 1 inch slices for stroganoff. The beef was extremely tender and fell apart slightly during the defrosting/reheating process, resulting in smaller pieces.
We prepared the Potatoes Au Gratin the morning of the wedding. We “cheated” and used boxes of ready-to-cook Au Gratin instead of making it from scratch, which saved a tremendous amount of time without compromising the quality. We increased the recommended amount of water by 25% and mixed in 2 pounds of aged white cheddar before baking. The potatoes were rich, creamy and cheesy; they were a huge hit and gone almost immediately. We relied on the serving size indicated on the boxes. In the future, I’d increase the amount by 30%.
The buttery peas were delicious, but we probably had 4+ cups left over. It may be due to salad being served at the same time, guest preferences, etc. But I’d probably reduced the veggie side dish by 15% in the future. The peas and sauce were prepared the morning of the wedding.
We initially intended to serve dinner rolls. But after attending 6 other weddings and witnessing the amount of waste and half-eaten rolls on all the guests’ plates, we opted for sliced sesame-topped italian bread loaves. We alloted 2+ slices per guest and it worked out perfectly with very little leftover bread and virtually no waste on guests’ plates. We provided butter but very few guests used any.
We started baking and decorating the 5 different types of cookies 3 weeks before the wedding. They were layered on parchment paper in air tight containers and frozen. The mini cheesecakes were baked and frozen 2 weeks prior to the wedding. The cupcakes and wedding cake were baked 2 days before the wedding, and decorated the day prior.
In summary, the menu worked out perfectly and received countless compliments from guests and even a few requests for the name of our “caterer”. There are minor tweaks I’d make if we had to do it over again, but that’s it. Otherwise, I’d keep everything the same. It was the one wedding element that took the longest to plan and execute. Hopefully by sharing this information and our experience, it will be beneficial to others in preparing their menu for a big event.