When it comes to choosing the food for your wedding reception, the concept of a simple chicken or fish menu is becoming a thing of the past. These days, a guest list can translate into a lengthy amount of individual dietary preferences. Pescatarian. Gluten-free. Paleolithic. Vegan. With the tendency towards particular food preferences at an all-time high, a seated dinner is not always the most crowd-pleasing of options. With this in mind, many couples are gravitating toward the small plate trend.
Aaron Shaffer of 12 Seasons Catering & Events has noticed an upswing in small plated receptions to create a more layered approach to the celebration in a vibrant city like New Orleans.
“I think it lends itself to added variety at the event,” says Shaffer. “It also packs a more visual punch and is a great option in our food-centric town.”
He and his staff have been known to create high-impact event elements like a steak house station and a grits bar for guests to rotate to and from, filling their small plates. He said he’s noticed that allowing guests to roam about the venue encourages conversations to develop.
“I think that as guests are mingling, people are noticing items they may not have seen and discussions ensue,” says Shaffer. “Everyone loves to talk about what they liked or disliked from the menu at a wedding.”
Leah Berhanu, Director of Sales and Marketing for Pigeon Catering and Events, says the small plates option often encourages seamless transitions throughout the party.
“It allows the reception to organically flow,” says Berhanu. “Many times there are multiple things going on at a reception: artist painting the action, cigar rollers, a great band playing, etcetera. Having small plates that are passed allows you to enjoy everything without stopping.”
Berhanu suggests using the small plate option as a way for couples to infuse some personal touches in their menu choices and to celebrate their family roots.
“We had a couple where the bride was from Nicaragua and the groom from New York,” she said. “We had some infused dishes and some traditional, all labeled with sweet notes for guests so they know why the dish was chosen.”
Ana Ordaz, Manager of Catering Sales at The Westin New Orleans Canal Place has seen this trend popping up at her hotel as a way of showcasing the personality of the bride and groom, and sees many of her foodie-enthusiastic couples embracing the small plate concept.
“I can never decide what to order on a menu because I always want everything,” says Ordaz. “And I know there are a lot of people who feel the same way.”
Ordaz has seen couples incorporate dishes like roasted Brussels sprouts, boudin, dumplings, falafel, stuffed grape leaves, empanadas and bruschetta.
“If you are extremely passionate about food or have a super adventurous palate, eating small plates can offer you a wider variety,’ says Ordaz. “It’s also an excellent way to experiment with ingredients you would like to try but wouldn’t order an entire entrée of.”
With customization playing a popular role in today’s receptions, Ashley Wright, the Senior Catering Sales Manager who handles on-site weddings at Windsor Court, thinks that petite plates complement the idea of a highly personalized reception and is a great way to introduce out-of-town guests to a variety of food that speaks to the flavor of New Orleans.
“When you’re doing smaller tapas-style options, there’s a lot more freedom on what you can have included in your menu and it can all be customized,” says Wright.
Wright has helped couples embrace the Crescent City culture by way of small plate action stations featuring a raw seafood bar, seafood martinis, different types of risotto and mac and cheese. She’s also observed the small plate theme extending to the dessert menu with mini beignets, frozen shots of cafe au lait and snoball stations.
“Reception style or small plate service is more of a New Orleans tradition in regards to weddings,” says Wright. “You don’t offer seating for all of your guests — it’s more relaxed — but it doesn’t take away from the formality. It just gives guests the opportunity to mingle and be on the dance floor more.”