Wedding Menu Ideas & Planning FAQs
with Brianna Alcorn
of Terrain Events
Choosing a wedding caterer and designing your menu are some of your biggest decisions during the planning process. After all, how often do you host a dinner party for all of your closest friends? To make menu planning easier, we asked an expert: Brianna Alcorn of Terrain Events. As Director of Events for Terrain’s gorgeous wedding venues, Brianna has worked with countless couples to plan the perfect day. Now, with at-home weddings on the rise, she and her team are taking celebratory cuisine on the road with Terrain in the Field, offering on-site catering in the Philadelphia area. Below, she weighs in on common questions about food and drink for your I do’s.
On Menu Planning
Q: How can couples plan for catering expenses? Are there any costs that often get overlooked?
A: Food and beverage will account for most of your wedding spend, so investing in a trustworthy, capable, and equipped caterer is like a life insurance policy! Your caterer should be upfront about any extra costs associated with your booking, but make sure you ask the right questions. Do they include dinnerware and glassware? Do they have set minimums? Do they include servers? Be thorough!
Q: What should you look for when choosing a wedding caterer?
A: After a wedding, the first thing people rave about (or criticize!) is the food. When selecting a caterer, choose one who you’re confident will provide your guests with something they haven’t experienced before. That said, references are key! It’s so easy to find reviews on social media, vendor listing sites, and review sites, so do your research as you narrow down your list of caterers. It’s also a great idea to ask your other vendors for recommendations—they’ve likely tried a LOT of wedding food and have some great insights. Finally, consider asking your favorite restaurant if they offer catering. At Terrain Events, our food is created in the same style as our Cafe, so couples can enjoy their favorite dishes at their wedding, too.
Q: How long before the wedding should you schedule a tasting and finalize your wedding menu ideas?
A: Each venue and caterer has their own tasting process, so it’s best to establish guidelines and timing when you book. At your tasting, soak in the full experience: focus on the food and beverage while taking note of seasonings, flavors, and your favorite items. After that, rely on your catering contacts. They’re experts on how to choose a wedding menu that feels balanced while still representing you as a couple.
Q: How can you accommodate guests with dietary restrictions?
A: Almost every food and beverage establishment is well-versed in allergies and dietary restrictions. To keep your event flow seamless, ask for dietary restrictions on your RSVP cards. In most cases, those with severe restrictions will take that extra step, and you can pass the information along to the caterer.
Q: How can you make your wedding menu unique?
A: For a unique culinary experience, it’s important to pick a caterer who has a vision for their signature fare. At Terrain venues, for example, we feature local and sustainable ingredients for a true farm-to-fork experience. For our events team, it’s also exciting to create twists on classic event fare for a menu that’s forward-thinking without being too trend driven. One of our recent favorites is a moules frites station with mussels, white wine sauce, marinara, Thai coconut broth, and house made fries.
On At-Home Weddings
Q: Can you tell us a bit about Terrain in the Field?
A: For years, we’ve celebrated life’s moments at our two Pennsylvania-based venues. Terrain in the Field allows us to take our expertise and experience to someone’s home, office, or quite literally in the field. Our culinary team creates seasonal menus that merge on-site cooking, open-fire dining experiences, the freshest ingredients, and elevated tastes.
Q: How have you seen couples change their wedding plans in the past year?
A: We’ve adapted to new ways of serving this year, with more couples moving to plated entrees and skipping grazing stations. Our most notable change is to Terrain’s signature flower pot bread. Traditionally served in a sharable terracotta pot, it’s now served in miniature individual versions. We’ve also adapted some of our stationary displays to be individualized—like mini cheese boards!
Q: Are there challenges unique to catering a backyard/at-home wedding that couples should keep in mind?
A: An at-home wedding requires planning that otherwise may be done in-house at a venue. Having a planner who’s experienced in off-site logistics is key to making your day smooth and stress free. Your caterer will need space to set up a mobile kitchen (most likely under a tent unless sufficient indoor kitchen space is accessible), power, a water source, and an area for loading in equipment and rentals.
Q: Are there any unexpected benefits to hosting an event at home rather than in a traditional venue?
A: These events create an unexpected level of intimacy. For many couples, hosting an event at a relative’s home, barn, or yard allows them to express their connection to family. For guests, it offers a glimpse into a familiar setting regardless of the event size.
Q: It can be tough to know how much alcohol to serve at a wedding. How should couples choose their bar format?
A: This is wholly dependent on the couple and their guests—you know best what will make sense for your group. First and foremost, understand the options that your venue offers. This can vary widely; one of our Terrain venues is BYO, while the other offers a full-service bar package. BYO allows you to calculate your needs and tailor the bar to your crowd, which could save you money. However, it also means extra planning and potentially the need for a cocktail caterer to elevate your experience. While potentially a more expensive option, venues with alcohol packages offer more variety so you can find the perfect beverages for your event.
Q: Signature cocktails: yea or nay?
A: Cocktails are always a yes, but don’t overthink signature drinks. Instead, showcase something seasonal—no one will turn down a hot toddy on a winter day, or a fruity libation in the heat of summer. Your signature cocktail doesn’t need to be too complicated; I recommend a twist on a classic crowd-pleaser. (Plus, who doesn’t want to serve a cocktail that they get to name themselves?!)
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