One of the most important tasks involved when planning a wedding is determining the menu. You not only want your guests to enjoy the beauty of the ceremonies, but you also want to ensure that you dine them with a delicious meal. Planning a menu for a wedding may seem overwhelming, but if you follow these guidelines, the task can be simplified greatly.
Since you will be spending a great deal of money on food, it is important to decide on a budget before proceeding. Keep in mind the number of guests that will be attending the reception as this will affect not only the costs, but also menu selection.
CHOOSING A CATERER
After deciding on a budget, you can think about choosing a caterer. Ask family and friends for recommendations on menu selections, local restaurants, and caterers. Once you have a few caterers in mind, you should schedule an appointment to meet with each of them to discuss your options and perhaps to sample a few dishes to determine if the food and service meets your expectations.
Before you begin visiting caterers, decide if you would like to have the meal served at lunch or dinner time. Usually meals served during lunch cost less than those served at dinner time. Think about what type of mood you want to create. Do you want to have a beautiful ceremony under the blue sky? If so, why not complement it with an al fresco lunch. Or, if you’re looking to create that romantic ambiance, serve your guests a candlelit dinner.
CHOOSING YOUR MENU
Once the caterer has provided some recommendations and sample menus, there are several questions to ask. Carefully look over the list of foods they provide and select the items you would like to include. “Choose a balanced menu and keep in mind the eating habits and preferences of your guests,” recommends Pramod Dube, owner of India’s Restaurant in Houston. Be sure to inquire about any regional specialties that the caterer may offer. Some restaurants, such as Madras Pavilion, also in Houston, offer a wide range of regional dishes including North and South Indian, as well as Chinese and Italian. It is best to incorporate both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes in your menu so that you can accomodate all of your guests.
Some popular non-vegetarian dishes are: tandoori chicken; chicken tikka masala; chicken, lamb, or goat curry; and chicken makhani. Dube says that seafood is not very common or typically selected because it is more expensive. However, you may choose to incorporate one seafood dish into your menu depending on your budget and guests. Fish curry is a popular seafood dish among Bengalis. Most caterers will be able to prepare halal meat dishes, if you prefer, with a cost increase of about $1.00 per person. A vegetarian menu usually consists of more appetizers such as: idli, vadai, samosas, and pakorae. Dishes such as saag paneer, aloo gobhi, and dal or channae are popular items to include in a vegetarian menu.
When choosing the dishes, it is important to create a well-balanced meal for your guests as well as a variety of options. However, Prabhakarrao Draksharam, manager of Houston’s Taj Mahal Restaurant warns that you should not go overboard, keeping the maximum number to ten dishes. Don’t forget to include salads, breads, rice, and condiments such as chutney, tamarind sauce, and raita. Before making a final decision you should sample all the dishes. Most caterers will gladly provide you with samples. When you take advantage of the free tasting, instead of just going by taste, be sure to observe other aspects such as the presentation of the food and whether the dish is attractive and colorful.
Additional services will vary among caterers and the facility in which the wedding will take place. Some caterers may be able to provide additional services such as wait staff, wedding cake, and table settings, including place cards and favors. Be sure to ask if your table linens and flatware are provided by the caterer. If not, you will have to rent them from another company. If you choose any additional or special services, be aware that extra costs may apply. The caterer should be able to suggest how many wait staff will be required and specify what uniforms the wait staff will wear. Finally, ask to see any items that will be provided by the caterer and make sure they are acceptable.
Be sure to finalize all the details with the caterer before your wedding and and the terms of the contract carefully. Don’t forget to inquire about any base costs and discount breaks. Some caterers will provide discounts depending on the number of guests and type of menu you have chosen. The caterer should be familiar with the facility where you will be hosting your wedding. If you decide to choose a buffet-style meal, inform the caterer of any preferences you have regarding the arrangement of the buffet and make sure in advance that they will be able to provide the services you need to support the buffet. If available, take a look at photos of their previous work.
YOU CAN DO IT
Feeding a few hundred guests may appear to be a large task, but it is not insurmountable. Planning the menu for your wedding involves collaboration and communication between you and the caterer. Most importantly, be sure that your preferences are clearly outlined to the caterer as you do not want any last minute surprises. All of these guidelines will make your task that much simpler. Just think, once you have finished planning the menu, you can breathe a little easier knowing that you have just crossed of one major “To Do” item on your list!
[As seen in Fall/Winter 2004 of Shaadi Style]
[photo credits: bolocurry.com, indiakhaana.com, indianfoodforever.com, sugarandspices.info, mingleitup.com]
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