For a wedding guest, the food might be one of the most important parts of the wedding. Food leaves a lasting impression. Serving quality, delicious food leaves a guest feeling like they were important enough to be included in the special day.
Local catering company, Catering by the Bay in Edgewater prides itself on its delicious food and creativity when it comes to creating a wedding menu.
Co-owner Nadine Smith has been catering weddings for over eight years. She said Catering by the Bay is unique because it doesn’t have a set menu.
“When brides and grooms call and ask for a menu, I tell them I don’t have a specific menu, but I ask what can’t you live without. Is it crab, or goat cheese, what do you absolutely need, then we create the meal around the bride and groom. We look at the ‘flavor’ of their personality and what they want—and their budget,” Smith said.
Smith said that they are more of a creative caterer.
One wedding she remembers well, involved a Naval Academy officer who had traveled all over the world who wanted food and wines from South Africa, Italy and Washington state.
“We came up with three unique menus,” Smith said.
Smith said an emerging trend nowadays is people are putting more money into food and less money into a traditional wedding.
“People aren’t big on lines or waiting, they don’t want their guests waiting in a line. So a trend we are seeing is tableside service. Another trend is standing and visiting while grazing on food from lots of different locations. It’s popular because it allows for more movement around the reception,” Smith said.
Another trend is the type of food being served.
“This isn’t your grandmother’s wedding anymore. People are more health conscious. We are no longer seeing heavy sauces and mashed potatoes. Rather, its lighter, healthier meals. We are seeing a lot of salads and fruit,” Smith said.
Smith also said venues on the water fit with an upscale Caribbean feast with lots of fish. Smith said flank steak is also very trendy.
Another popular trend is brides and grooms wanting to highlight the flavor of Maryland with a garden-to-plate meal with a lot of Maryland produce. In the summer you might see corn, tomatoes, crab and that little bit of southern flare.
Julie St. Marie of Party Girls Catering in Edgewater said that Maryland is definitely a theme she sees among brides and grooms.
"People always want something with crab—as an appetizer or a main course. There are a lot of seafood lovers," St. Marie said.
Party Girls operates out of the American Legion kitchen in Mayo. "Without a storefront, we are able to keep our costs lower. More couples are paying for their own weddings these days, and they want to try to save money where they can. They are getting more involved in the decision-making on food, decor, centerpieces, cakes, everything," she said.
Party Girls said that they already have eight spring weddings for 2011. "Last year fall was busy, this year it looks like spring is going to busy," St. Marie said.
Amy Daniels of Palate Pleasers in Annapolis said a popular food for weddings is a polenta bar with assorted toppings like seared salmon or roasted wild mushrooms. Also slow-cooked items like beef. She also sees a lot of Maryland requests like, jumbo lump crab cakes, buttermilk fried chicken, Maryland ham biscuits with mustard butter and all the summer produce. She said they tend to get the Maryland requests when a bridal party has a lot of guests from out-of-town.
Daniels said Palate Pleasers works with the tastes of the bride and groom to make the meal unique.
“We prefer to meet with the bride and groom and interview each other so we can brainstorm and come up with ideas of what they want together,” Smith said.
Smith recalled a time when a bride from Trinidad wanted her family’s chicken recipe to be served. The woman taught her the recipe and how to make it. Smith said it was a lot of fun.
“Cakes are needed for a wedding. It’s really important to show the couples personality,” Smith said.
“We are seeing two trends right now with cakes. A very simple two-three tier cake with nothing to it, maybe a couple of flowers. The other trend is a theme cake, where the bride and groom get to put their personality and their flare into their cake,” Smith said.
Smith said the simpler cake is often budget-driven.
St. Marie agreed. "People don't want to spend the money they did in the past on cakes, which can be expensive, with fondant and tiers," St. Marie said. "Cake pricing is based on how many guests there are. Now people say, 'can we have a two-tiered cake and then maybe a sheet cake that we can cut to eat?'
St. Marie added that a lot of people watch shows like Food Network's Ace of Cakes, which makes specialty cakes look quick and easy.
"Duff [Goldman from Ace of Cakes] doesn't do a cake under $3,000. People think you can get cakes like that for the price of a Sam's Club cake, and you can't. It is very labor-intensive," St. Marie said.
“A lot of people don’t want to pay more for a cake and they don’t want it to look like they are over spending. They are more conscientious,” Smith said.
“We have a cake right now that is a three tier cake with a triathlon theme. Each tier has something to do with the race. And it’s because that is what the bride and groom do. Another cake we did was all white with tiny red crabs crawling up the four tiers,” Smith said.
Whether a wedding reception is stand-up or sit-down, caterers recommend making sure that the venue allows outside catering—some only allow catering from a limited list of service providers. In addition, make sure to get with the caterer early in the planning stages, especially during spring and fall wedding seasons when venues get booked early. Most caterers offer private tastings for those in the market for a wedding or large party.