As sure as your single bridesmaids will be scoping out the potential crush candidates at your wedding, the rest of your guests will be primed to go straight from wed to fed at your reception. After a healthy hiatus, the grazing table, in all of its delicious iterations, is a favorite that’s back en vogue. Not only does the concept work as a gorgeous greeter, allowing guests to eat first with their eyes, it also doubles as a companionable way to get them mixing and mingling.
“Surely there’s a romantic comedy that starts with two wedding guests who keep meeting back at the same shrimp cocktail spread over the course of a night,” shares Emmeline Johnston, concept director for Bonfire Events + Catering, who has seen New Orleans-esque concepts like interactive seafood and raw bars very much back into rotation. “Nothing brings people together like food — it’s a great conversation starter.”
Johnston recommends grazing tables featuring “personal bites” like blackberry and blue cheese canapés served on lavash with fig jam and pickled onion, and duck pastrami ”BLTs” as quick grabs for guests in between spins on the dance floor.
“Togetherness is back,” said Johnston, “and the return of the communal dining experience is something, in itself, to celebrate! Feasting tables at social gatherings encourage guests to mingle and linger, and keeps them feeling satisfied.”
She also encourages couples to incorporate sentimental concepts into their food selection as a way to tell their how-we-met story.
“Especially at larger weddings, some guests may not know that the couple have an affection for poboys since their first date was at Parkway Bakery. Something like a mini poboy setup allows the couple to share this fun detail with their guests in a thoughtful way.”
Katie Morris, owner of Black Pearl Catering, has seen an uptick in couples showcasing hometown favorites into their fare displays.
“In a recent wedding, the groom was from the South, the bride from the West Coast, and we had a grazing table for each style,” she recalls, noting that the Southern table was topped with fried chicken and waffle bites and sweet cornbread while the West Coast table had options like chile-grilled artichokes and petite tuna tacos. “The guests really loved the representation and juxtaposition of what was offered,” said Morris, who reveals that some of the best photos she’s received back from receptions include picturesque shots of the feasting stations.
Sarah Hall, president of Joel Catering, agrees that setups like these offer attention-grabbing visual opportunities, as well as a variety of flavor profiles.
“Displaying individual bites gives your guests a visually lush styled presentation and allows people to create their own eating experience,” said Hall, highlighting popular concepts like elaborate cheese and charcuterie displays outfitted with your wedding florals.
Not just for savory sustenance, Hall sees grazing tables as an opportunity to provide guests a multitude of dessert options. “Imagine macarons in brightly colored piles with multiple tiers of truffles and individual crème brulées,” said Hall. “These little miniatures are a great two-bite for guests and an Instagram photo ready to happen.”