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Menu Planning: Point of a View from a Wedding Planner

I have been sitting and thinking about how weddings have changed over the last eleven years that I have been a Wedding Planner.  One thing that stands out to me concerns food.  Hosts have continued to want delicious, beautifully presented food for their guests, and there is considerable planning for this. 

“The Tasting” is the opportunity for the couple and, often, their parents- and their planner- to see how food is served, how it looks on the plate, and how it tastes.  It is a time when a venue/caterer can really showcase their work, and, in my experience, it turns into a lovely, happy afternoon (ok, except for the one time that the mother of the bride hated everything- the beef was too well-done, she didn't like the fish with a nut crust- but that's another story for another blog.  And, I will say, the venue listened and gave her a wedding meal that she loved!)

The Tasting makes the wedding seem so real, and there are usually lots of full stomachs, big smiles, and appreciation at the end.  It gives the planner a perfect time to work with the venue/caterer and the couple and their families on the timing of the food service, and I am always so happy to have this input to add to our working timeline.  Everyone is really on the same page by the time we depart.

Having said this, here's the difference over time.  Years ago, the hosts decided what THEY wanted to serve.  They often had a few options that they thought would please all of their guests.  And that was that.  But now?  
I received an email from a couple, and I share it because this is the “new” issue about food:  

The bride is trying to figure out food allergies as we write this. She may or may not be allergic to: eggs, nuts, carrots, certain not-yet-identified oils. Meat and chicken are usually safe, as are egg-free pastas. If we don't get this sorted out, she may need a separate meal from the guests. She also does not like fish, eggplant, or foods she considers slimy.  We would like to have a nut-free wedding, since nuts are a likely source of her allergies and we will also have other guests who don't eat nuts. We will also need a vegetarian main course for some guests.

Five years ago, there might have been a guest with a peanut allergy, and one with a shellfish allergy, and maybe one more with specific food requirements.  I am working on the details for a tasting/meeting coming up, and I noticed that on the chef's notes, it says, "no alcohol in any preparations.  No pork products.  Allergies to strawberries, bleu cheese, scallops, bananas and blackberries.


And at present, to the above list, you can add those who are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, glatt kosher, allergic to shellfish or other fish, cow's milk, eggs, wheat, tree nuts, soy and those who have other specific food requirements and needs.  I hear it all the time, and we always discuss it at the finalization meeting with the caterer and venue. At one recent wedding, there were two guests who were vegetarians, one who needed a special diet with unseasoned chicken, one who had major food allergies and would have a place setting but NO food, one who was gluten-free and lactose intolerant, another who was gluten-free and a pescatarian, and another with a severe carrot allergy!

The challenges for the kitchen are certainly substantial.  But what I have seen consistently?  Total consideration and responsiveness from every single kitchen I have worked with under these conditions.  I suspect there may be grumbling behind the scenes, but in front, it looks like everyone has adapted well.  As long as the needs are known ahead of time- and The Tasting is the perfect opportunity to share the news- everyone actually ends up eating SOMETHING delicious for dinner!  

Lynda Barness
I DO Wedding Consulting
P.O. Box 22450
Philadelphia, PA 19110
(215) 262-8188
http://www.idoplan.com 

 
Master Wedding Planner
Association of Bridal Consultants