Sweet Somethings

CAKES & CATERING

Wedding catering once had the reputation for being staid and uninspiring. Thankfully, those days are long gone, and contemporary couples are choosing more adventurous menus as well as mixing and matching food and drink from different cultures, or particular dishes that are of special significance to them.

With in-house catering, the typical choices are either a buffet or a plated meal. Using an independent caterer tends to give you greater flexibility. Food stations have become more popular as they allow guests to sample an assortment of party food and make the dining experience more interactive and hands-on. Consider Italian, Greek and Middle Eastern delicacies, as well as spicy Korean and Mexican cuisine.

Pairing food with beverages is also a nice touch. Think oysters and champagne, chicken sliders with beer, tacos and margaritas, smoked salmon and vodka, or prawn cocktails with juniper-infused gin. Or what about serving a multi-course meal, with each course having its own specially selected wine, and finishing off with a glass of dessert wine?

A trend that looks set to stay is the move towards locally-sourced, organic produce. This includes not just the food (cheeses, preserves, meats, fish and vegetables) but the drinks too, from craft beers to gin and wine. Family-style food is also very big news right now.

Whatever you decide on, try to ensure that the menu features a wide range of different tastes, satisfying your personal preferences as well as providing guests with something they will be able to enjoy. Look for menus that work well with the time of year; for example, light, fresh dishes in spring and summer, and heartier, more robust meals in autumn and winter.

Catering cues

The chief factors to bear in mind when looking for a caterer are: quality of food, level of service, and ability to deliver on the finer details. You need to find someone who listens to you and understands what you consider to be most important. At the same time, you want someone with the experience to build on your ideas to create a winning wedding day formula!

Start looking for a caterer at least nine months prior to your wedding. Ask whether your venue has a list of preferred suppliers, and find out who’s available on your chosen date. Look at their portfolio and find out whether they have adequate facilities and are backed by a professional team. Ask where they source their produce and if they are able to meet specific menu requirements, such as Halaal, Kosher or vegan.

Let your caterer know your budget up front so they’re able to work out a package to suit your needs. Check whether things like VAT, tableware and linen are included in the price, and when the deposit and final payment is required. Organising a tasting is also a good idea as this lets you sample the food and assess presentation first-hand.

The wedding cake

The traditional wedding cake is a large, multi-layered or tiered affair made from a heavy fruit mix and decorated with icing (often over a layer of marzipan) or fondant. In addition to the classic fruit cake, timeless flavours like vanilla and chocolate are in vogue once more, as are multi-tiered marble cakes, and ‘naked’ cakes dusted with icing sugar and topped with berries.

While popular for a number of years, the likes of mini-cakes, tarts, macaroons and brownies have left centre-stage, and the spotlight has once more come to rest on one focal wedding cake. The emphasis has also shifted to the cake icing and décor, with elements such as rose gold foil, edible pearls, rhinestones and hand-sculpted sugar flowers. Vintage jewellery is another interesting decorative element.

Bright and bold floral motifs are very contemporary, with organic floral designs comprising climbing vines and flowers. For a less formal take on the wedding cake, try a blend of two styles with an almost-naked cake, lightly iced in buttercream and adorned with seasonal fruits or flowers. The textured look is also very on-trend, and includes cakes patterned with lace, pleats and ruffles, as well as feather or flower details.

Liquid refreshments

There should be both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available at the wedding reception. Guests are traditionally given a drink or arrival, and at the table it is standard to provide white and red wine, as well as still and sparkling water, and a bottle of champagne or sparkling wine for toasts. Prosecco or pink champagne is a favourite, as are champagne cocktails infused with fruit purées or liqueurs such as Aperol or crème de cassis.

Classic cocktails (or mocktails) have staged a welcome return, and make the perfect welcome drink at an evening wedding in place of the ubiquitous mimosa or punch. Instead of a signature cocktail for the couple, choose his and hers favourites, like a gin fizz for the bride and a negroni for the groom.

While an open bar will take up approximately 15 percent of the total wedding budget, this figure could drop to as little as 5 percent if you’re limiting drinks to beer and wine, or supplying alcohol and other beverages yourself. If opting for a cash bar, it’s still a good idea to put a set amount towards wine and beer, and include a complimentary welcome drink. Two bartenders and three servers are recommended for every 120 guests.