One of the biggest decisions you’ll make while planning your wedding is about the food. After all, catering costs can eat up a sizable portion of your budget (hey, feeding 150 people ain’t cheap). But, if you tackle this big ticket item right, your guests will walk away with a good taste in their mouths and remember how delicious everything was for years to come. So, will you embrace the latest food trends or follow your heart (and stomach) to a meal that’s completely you? Either way, you’re going to spend a lot of time discussing the merits of fish, chicken, and steak as you create your menu. Here are 8 things to keep in mind as you make those big decisions.

1. All meat, all the time. If you’re a meat lover, it might be tempting to serve nothing but meat at your reception. Same thing goes for chocolate lovers, cheese lovers, and fish lovers. It’s important to remember that you’re hosting an event, and just because you’re overly keen on something doesn’t mean your friends and family feel the same way. Be sure to offer a variety of dishes to accommodate the most people possible, including a vegetarian option for anyone who doesn’t eat meat! Also, ask your guests to let you know about allergies so you can talk to your caterer ahead of time to make any necessary adjustments. Inviting children? Make sure to have at least two kid-friendly options available. Of course not everyone will be able to get exactly what they want, but if you put in the effort to provide a balance, there will be less disgruntled guests to deal with at your wedding.

2. Food that requires a big to-do. The main attraction at your reception should be you and your new spouse…NOT your food. A Caesar alad made table side might sounds like a great way to set your wedding apart from your friends’ affairs, but it’s not. Unless you’re having a very intimate wedding, it’s going to be extremely challenging to get each dish made and made properly for each guest. Let your guests eat their food and be blown-away by your perfectly choreographed first dance (you’ve only been practicing for six months).

3. Raw food. Serving raw food can be risky business. Yes, steak tartare is delicious when done right, but given its two main ingredients are raw meat and a runny egg, it’s best to leave it off the menu to avoid a potential food poisoning disaster. If oysters are your absolute favorite food and you can’t imagine your wedding without them, find a caterer who is an oyster connoisseur; it takes a true expert to be able to pull off a raw bar without a hitch. Find out if the caterer has assembled a raw bar before and ask to talk to past couples for references. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

4. Mini versions of everything. The first rule of weddings? Have enough food to feed your guests. Mini grilled cheese sandwiches and bite-sized burgers are a fun idea for cocktail hour, but when it comes to the main meal, make sure to serve something more substantial. Consider serving crab cakes or a seasonal soup as a first course instead of a salad to help make sure everyone gets enough to eat. With all the drinking and dancing that will likely be going down at the reception, people are going to need to fuel up!

5. An eight-course meal. On the other hand, however, your guests probably aren’t coming to your wedding for a fine-dining experience. They’re not looking to sit at their table all night filling up on culinary delights…they want to dance and catch up with friends and family! Plus, there’s nothing worse than trying to bust a move after taking down a massive meal (you might just bust a seam instead). Try to keep your menu to about three courses to allow for a good dining-to-dancing ratio.

6. Overly complex dishes. Keep it simple! The more complicated a dish is, the longer it will take your caterer to assemble each plate and get the food out to your guests. While spacing out your courses isn’t a bad idea, room-temperature fish and limp asparagus is. Plus, if you’re having a large wedding and your food requires a lot of intricate steps, your caterer will most likely need to prep the plates ahead of time, which can seriously impact the quality of your food. Stick to the basics so your guests can actually enjoy their food!

7. Only exotic eats. While you and your partner may be hardcore foodies up for trying anything, your guests may play it a little safer when it comes to their food choices. You may love uni (sea urchin), but there are plenty of more universally appealing options that are better fit for a wedding. Make sure what’s on your menu is accessible to the majority of your guests. Your guests might not want to feel like they’re on an episode of “Survivor” as they watch your BFF give her Maid of Honor toast.

8. Typical wedding foods. Your wedding is a time to HAVE FUN. Don’t feel like you have to serve all the traditional foods that you see at every wedding. The shrimp cocktail may be a wedding staple, but they may not be your style. Put your own spin on the tradition with a panko-breaded shrimp and mildly spicy dipping sauce instead. If you have a thing for cupcakes or doughnuts, serve those for dessert instead of a traditional three-tiered cake. Did you and your partner fall in love over mac and cheese? Make sure your caterer will come up with a fun option for cocktail hour. The options truly are endless, so embrace your likes and dislikes, but keep your guests in mind as well.

-By Claire Aven

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