Micro wedding menus can be simple or sensational
by Rona Gindin
You slashed the guest list to core—family and besties only. That means you’ll be free to create any type of menu you want, since you’ll have no big-bash restraints. That’s the case whether your budget is tiny or hefty.
Foodies especially embrace that flexibility, and they’re often the ones choosing to have intimate receptions, says Jamie McFadden, chef-owner of Cuisiniers Catered Cuisine & Events. Weddings of 40 guests or less tend to be for couples in their 30s or older, he says, and they’re discerning about the culinary component. “We find they’re usually foodies who want to create a memorable feast for their families and closest friends,” he says. They incorporate into the menu personal preferences based on travel, foods they ate when they got engaged, or maybe flavors from where they’ll be honeymooning.
In terms of menu, some “go a little bit higher up the menu scale,” he notes, but that doesn’t mean foie gras. While Cuisiniers might begin the wedding meal with an amuse-bouche of cauliflower panna cotta topped with Mote Marine caviar, most foods are more familiar. For the entrée, adventurous couples might choose duck confit or lamb shanks, while simpler eaters may request wild King salmon. But most tend to enjoy casually presented dishes, too, such as New England-style lobster rolls, Stilton bread pudding popovers or single-serving tuna Niçoise hors d’oeuvres served in mini tuna cans. “We try to elevate the experience to what they would have in a fine-dining restaurant,” McFadden says. Some courses are plated and served individually while others, such as side dishes, are presented family style.
Sometimes micro weddings are plainly and simply about micro budgets. “A lot of couples choose micro weddings because they’d rather not pay $65 a head for a large guest count,” says Vanity Jeffrey, who owns Vanity Jeffrey Lavish Events & Design. For one recent wedding, for instance, a couple scaled back the meal and spent funds on decor. “I’ve seen some caterers serve a less-expensive entrée, such as chicken instead of fish, but style the plates the same artistic way,” she says.
Couples willing to go a less traditional route might simply marry and celebrate soon after sunrise. Venues tend to cost less in the early hours, and breakfast foods are inherently budget-friendly—which opened a big opportunity for Trina Gregory-Propst, chef-owner of Se7enbites Bakeshop. “We’ll do a biscuit bar with scratch-made biscuits plus jam, honey butter, pimento cheese and sausage gravy,” she says, noting that the price starts at $5.75 per person. Individual quiches, morning sweets including muffins and, for larger affairs, trays of grits or mac ‘n cheese are a hit. “It’s a way to celebrate without breaking the bank,” she says. Couples choosing micro weddings might also order a simple but pretty 10-inch cake (starting at $85) for 20 to 30 guests.
If you’ll have only a few, or a few dozen, guests, the meal might become integrated with the entire reception experience. When Swine & Sons caters small events, the chefs engage with the whole group. “We just did a wedding with a whole smoked pig,” says Alexia Gawlak, who runs Swine & Sons with her husband, Rhys. “We talked guests through the story of the food, about the sourcing and techniques. Guests wanted to know where it was from, how we prepared it, info like that.”
Of course, many couples are forced to put a food focus at the bottom of the priority list, even if they care about quality. At the Hyatt Regency Orlando, micro weddings are universally for out-of-towners, often from Scotland, England and the Northern United States. They spend large amounts on international flights and area activities, “so menus are a part of their decision but not as much as all that Orlando has to offer,” says Jennifer Smith, senior event sales manager. “The smaller parties do care a little bit more about farm-to-table concepts, like where our food is sourced.”
Puff ‘n Stuff Catering caters few micro weddings, and also offers a new package approach—although individualized “couture” menus are available upon request. “We do what Apple does and offer good, better and best options that include the cocktail reception and meal, and in some cases even the venue, staff and service fee,” says owner Warren Dietl. “That makes it as easy as possible for the guests.” Still, he sees micro weddings tending toward low-budget elegance in many cases. “From what I’ve seen, the majority go simple with a celebratory cake reception, and then go out to dinner in a restaurant afterward.”