Keep in mind that "simple" doesn't necessarily mean "easy": homemade food for a simple wedding can be lovely, but consider the time involved in making it and space considerations for storage. Seek out caterers of smaller or informal establishments and find out what types of trays they offer. Ask them to include the tip when giving you a quote. Or have family members help you make trays well in advance of the wedding--this will be too much of a job to do alone. If you go this route, you'll need a little help with storage, too.
Get the Party Started
What's the difference between an appetizer and a dessert? The price, of course!
Actually, hors d'ourves are usually eaten while standing and mingling, but the premise is the same: you are serving your guests something small to whet the appetite. For your scaled-down affair, put some delicious puff pastries (asparagus, mushroom or seafood can be delectable) on pretty trays. Shrimp is more expensive, but if you buy in the larger quantity required for even a small wedding, you can probably get a more reasonable deal. Serve this come-and-get-it style around a frosty bowl of homemade or catered cocktail sauce.
Ethnic hors d'ourves are another great idea. How about tiny latkes served with silver toothpicks? Or pastry-wrapped deli slices for a jazzed-up antipasto offering? Use your imagination and scour Grandma's old cookbook for ideas. Then either get some help in making them, or ask your caterer if he or she is willing to give one of your favorite recipes a try.
Dinner is Served
If you're planning an informal wedding, you can keep the main meal light by having your ceremony in the morning and reception in the afternoon. Dainty finger sandwiches or elegant soups, such as squash soup served in pumpkins for an autumn affair, will do nicely for an afternoon wedding and are far more reasonable than duck or salmon.
If your heart is absolutely set on tying the knot at night, you will need a heartier main dish. As always when planning food for a simple wedding, look for ideas that will be eye-appealing and appetizing but not too fancy. Try these on for size:
- individual-serving quiches (mushroom, three-cheese or sausage)
- poultry (like roast chicken or turkey) rather than beef (which is more expensive)
- seafood: use as a garnish rather than a main dish
- French spring stew (elegant, but easy to put together)
- rosemary New potatoes
- garlic mashed potatoes
- spruced-up pasta dishes
- anything "parmigiana": chicken, veal or eggplant
Your wedding dessert can be the centerpiece to your simple wedding reception. Even if all the other foods are basic, the dessert will usually look fancier; most confections do by their nature alone. This is a great opportunity to put a picture-perfect, tasty finish to your simplified wedding menu.
You can go the traditional white-cake route; find a baker who is reasonable, but test-taste his wares before sealing the deal. Handmade decorations, such as white and pink confection flowers, will always be more expensive than factory-produced edible ones, but are not necessarily any more tasty. See if you can supply your own decorations, including, of course, the wedding cake topper.
You can also forgo the cake entirely for another type of dessert. How about delicious warmed peaches and cream, drizzled with fresh raspberry sauce? Or plates of delicate petit fours, laced with homemade whipped cream? Fancy bakery cookies atop fresh-made ice cream also make for a delicate dessert. Serve with a wonderful apres-dinner espresso.
It's considered gauche to charge your guests for their own wedding drinks--ever. If you're worried about the cost and inconvenience of stocking a full cabinet for the reception, offer just red and white wine (as well as a selection of sodas and bottled water).
Have a simply fabulous wedding reception!