10 Twists to Take Your Wedding Menu to the Next Level

Want to up the wow factor at your wedding? Start with the food.
by The Knot
Unique wedding menu ideas
photo by David Lynn Photography

No doubt about it: Your wedding guests are looking forward to the food at your cocktail hour and reception. And while the response card may have simply offered chicken, fish or beef as the entrée choices, they'll likely be hoping for something a bit more exciting for dinner. To help you really wow your guests, we talked to catering pros about their favorite creative twists, from unique presentation ideas to elegant new takes on casual comfort food.

  1. 1. Macaroni and Cheese Lollipops

    photo by Spilled Milk Catering

    Who doesn't love mac 'n' cheese? It's a childhood favorite that we never really outgrew (and likely never will), but a big old dish of it at your wedding doesn't exactly scream "sophistication." We love how Washington, DC-area caterer Spilled Milk gave the dish a wedding-friendly spin, making bite-size fried “lollipops” topped with a decadent dose of lobster. This portable version is sure to be a huge hit at your cocktail hour.

  2. 2. Buffalo Chicken Sliders

    Mike Staff Productions

    Fact: Buffalo wings are delicious. Also fact: They're extremely messy to eat. But that doesn't mean you need to totally ditch the idea if wings are one of your fave dishes. Chicago-based Catered by Design dreamed up a version with the same flavors, minus the mess: buffalo chicken sliders with blue-cheese-celery slaw. Your guests (and their wedding day outfits) will definitely thank you.

  3. 3. Shrimp and Grits Bites

    photo by Spilled Milk Catering

    This Southern-comfort-food classic gets even more wedding worthy with an elegant presentation. Spilled Milk serves it on single white spoons, so guests can enjoy the delicious down-home dish without overdosing on a big, carb-loaded portion.

  4. 4. Charcuterie Clipboards

    photo by David Lynn Photography

    Want to stir up some conversation at your cocktail hour? We're thinking this edible display might do the trick. Denver-based Footers Catering created a wall of charcuterie, with clipboards—yes, clipboards!—featuring prosciutto, chorizo, manchego and whipped lemon goat cheese for guests to take and enjoy with a cocktail. They're almost too pretty to eat. (We said almost.)

  5. 5. A Fresh Take on Crab Cakes

    photo by Robin Selden

    The crab cake is a staple at summer and nautical-themed weddings, and for good reason—it's light enough to be served on its own as an app during cocktail hour, but add a side or two and it becomes a perfectly filling main course. Stamford, Connecticut–based Marcia Selden Catering & Event Planning is turning the crab cake on its side (literally!) by playing with unexpected presentation and flavors. Instead of traditional accompaniments like risotto and remoulade, which can be heavy, the cakes are creatively plated with fresh, locally sourced salad and bright sweet pea puree, as well as a grilled corn mole sauce.

  6. 6. Exotic Fish Dish

    photo by Heather Phelps Lipton

    To be honest, the typical fish entrée at a wedding can seem like an afterthought. (We're looking at you, lemon-dill salmon.) Instead of the same-old steamed or roasted citrus variety, Fig & Pig Catering of Brooklyn, New York, suggests going for something bolder, like miso black cod. A little bit sweet and a little bit savory, "it's a great way to expose your guests to some new flavors and ingredients they may have never tried before," says Caroline Sheahan, event manager at Fig & Pig.

  7. 7. A Seven-Course Tasting Menu

    photo by Erika DuFour

    All the rage in high-end restaurants, tasting menus are ideal for the serious foodie couple. Three courses? Try a seven-course experience, complete with wine pairings. Limelight Catering in Chicago recently presented the lucky guests at this wedding with a wide range of small tastes of some seriously upscale dishes. Think: oysters on the half shell with crème fraîche and caviar, house-made pasta with truffles, and wagyu ribeye with foie gras butter. An über-elegant menu like this will definitely have your guests talking (and gramming).

  8. 8. Tapas-Style Entrées

    photo by Richard Bell Photography, Aaron and Jillian Photography, Dana Cubbage Weddings

    In Spain, it's all about small portions, big flavors and lots of variety—aka tapas. B. Gourmet Catering out of Charleston, South Carolina, is totally on board with that approach for weddings. It presents assorted mini-entrées fully plated, garnished and ready for guests to take back to their seats or eat while standing and mingling. With a mix of dishes like grilled chicken and orzo with basil cream, petite filet with mashed potatoes and cabernet demi-glace, and fried chicken with truffle mac and cheese, your guests won't have to choose between the chicken or the steak—they can have both!

  9. 9. Black Rice Pudding

    photo by Mike Staff Productions

    Wedding cake used to be the only dessert option, take it or leave it. These days newlyweds are breaking tradition by skipping the cake altogether or serving sweet treats in addition to it, like Catered by Design's elevated take on rice pudding. Made with black rice, flavored with blueberry soda and topped with a berry compote, no one would ever call this dessert plain vanilla.

  10. 10. Caramel Corn Parfait

    photo by Mike Staff Productions

    Let's be honest: We'll eat caramel corn in pretty much any form, but this sweet parfait is a definite upgrade over bags of the stuff. Catered by Design created this "Chicago dessert" featuring local favorite Garrett Popcorn. Served in mini shot glasses, the parfaits pack big flavor by combining corn sponge cake, salted caramel mousse, cream cheese mousse and caramel corn brittle—definitely an inventive way to infuse some local flavor into your wedding.


    For other fresh takes on local favorites, read this.

    Find caterers near you here.

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