The Wedding Menu Guide: Reception Choices
By Lydia Martin

09 February 2017

Wedding menus come in all shapes and sizes! Some venues offer several options, while others offer only one.

Since the style of menu you choose for your wedding will have an effect on the overall feel and impression of your reception, this week, we asked Auckland's Waitakere Estate to give their expert advice on how to choose the correct reception menu style for your wedding.

Image by Kiss the Cook Catering

When you begin searching for that special place to get married, it's important to always look at the information pack a venue sends you. This will outline all the details of the venue, including the styles and prices of the reception menus on offer. These choices may include:

The Buffet Menu

The biggest advantage of a buffet is variety. Buffets can be beautifully presented and provide a variety of fresh, delicious dishes. However, there is a major disadvantage to this option - everyone who has just found their seats and gotten comfortable now has to get up and queue for dinner. There is also the tendency for guests to put far too much food on their plates (it’s natural to want to try a bit of everything!). Often the dishes are beautiful on their own, but may not be all that complimentary of each other, such as a lamb curry and a Mediterranean fish choice. They are not designed to be combined.

However, if you do choose to have a buffet, we would recommend that you choose dishes that naturally complement one another. Try a variety of salads and vegetables with a balance of meats. Always stick to the classics and keep it simple. Add dressings and sauces on the side so people can season to their individual tastes.

Image by The Scottish Sun

The Set Menu

Set menus come in various forms. The advantages of plated meals are that once your guests have taken their seats they can settle in and be waited on. Like any good restaurant dish, set menu meals are designed. The flavours and textures are carefully selected by a chef to go together on the plate, to complement and balance one another.

○ Pre-selected Menu

The simplest form of a set menu involves no choice for the guests as it has been pre-selected by you. The food arrives, and it is what it is. This form of menu is a little bit like going to a friend’s house for dinner. You get what you’re given, and like it. Not many venues will offer this as an option however, as it’s just too limited.

○ Degustation

If you are having a smaller, more intimate wedding, a degustation menu could be a good option. This style of menu involves several small courses designed by a chef to follow one after the other. The courses usually start off light and delicate before moving to richer and more robust as the meal progresses. There is usually the option of a wine to match each course as well. The wines are small pours also, starting off light and progressing to match the style of each dish throughout the evening.

This is a real “foodie’s” choice of menu and may not be for everyone. The disadvantage with this option is that if you have a fussy eater, they may not be as excited about the ostrich carparcio with that delicate Hawkes Bay Syrah as you are!

○ Alternate Drop

Alternate drop menus usually comprise of two options for each course, or perhaps just one option for entree and dessert, but certainly two options for the main course - for example, beef and fish. Service is swift and hassle free and leaves more time for speeches or dancing at the end of the night.

No one asks you which option you would like, instead the meals are simply placed on the table alternately and if you don’t like your option - you have to find someone to swap with if you. This can add an entertaining and fun element to the dining experience!

○ Table d’hote

A table d'hôte menu is comprised of multi-course meals with only a few choices. You would generally select two or three options for each course, and your guests then order their meal from the options you have selected. It’s a bit like taking everybody out for dinner at your favourite restaurant.

Image by Petrossian

Make sure when selecting your options that you try to keep it balanced. For example, don’t pick three seafood entrees! Be sure to choose different options and make sure you have both white and red meats in the main course selections. Another tip when organising a Table d’hote menu is to ensure sure not all of your dessert options are dairy based. If you have a large number of vegetarians you may wish to make one of the main options a vegetarian one. However, if there are only one or two vegetarians, most venues will happily cater to them separately.

If you have a three course menu the servings are designed so that you can eat three courses and not feel uncomfortably full. Your guests should feel satisfied and still have enough room for the wedding cake! The same goes with the degustation menu, whether it’s six courses or ten, you should be able to enjoy the entire meal.

Image by Elephants Delicatessen

The Cocktail Menu

Cocktail weddings can be wonderfully sociable as people are free to mix and mingle all evening. And they are kept happy with something to nibble on on a fairly regular basis. This is a usually a relaxed, casual option. But it can be beautifully done and feel very sophisticated and classy if you are wearing the right attire and are in a venue with stunning decor.

The drawbacks of the cocktail option are that people often feel as if they have not had a proper meal. However, if you put everything they have eaten over the course of the evening on one plate, it would amount to a very reasonably sized portion. And just be aware of those guests who do want a little bit more and tend to pounce on the server, selecting several items each time they walk past. Cocktail menus are usually based on one of each item for each person in each round. i.e if you have paid for 20 people there will be 20 prawns.

Once again, when selecting your menu items think balance. Something for everyone.

Whichever option you decide upon, make sure you ask your guests to provide you with any dietary requirements when they RSVP. It is good for venues to be aware of gluten free, vegetarians and diabetics, but particularly important are allergies. Every ingredient in a dish is not listed on a menu. Anaphylaxis is not usually a welcome guest at your wedding reception! Also, if you have children attending, ask your venue how they cater for the younger clientele.

Image by Inside Weddings

Auckland's Waitakere Estate

Auckland’s Waitakere Estate is a Boutique Hotel located on a ridge top set in 70 acres of pristine native forest. The Estate’s stunning position provides remarkable views of the surrounding forest and with magnificent city and harbour views, a very unique setting for your Wedding.  The Hotel and grounds have been developed over the years to provide a range of options for your ceremony and reception.

Auckland’s Waitakere Estate offers the complete package for your Wedding Day, including accommodation.  Check-in is from 1.00pm, so you, and any of your guests that choose to stay can take your time in a relaxed environment to get ready and arrive on time for your ceremony in our beautiful gardens or in the quaint on-site Chapel.

After the ceremony, wait staff circle with canapés and refreshments and you have the full use of our extensive grounds and facilities for photos, while your guests take in the peace and tranquillity of the gardens.

In time you progress to your reception in the allocated function room.  Enjoy fine cuisine prepared by our expert chefs and continue into the night with your every need catered for.  Once you have dined and danced the night away, retreat to your hotel room or suite and take in the romantic views of the city lights.  In the morning a fully cooked breakfast can be delivered to your room or you can join your guests in the restaurant knowing that there is no rush to leave as check-out is a leisurely 11.00am.

Here at Auckland’s Waitakere Estate we offer all the set menu options listed above 7 days a week, and cocktail menus are available Sunday to Friday. We have a maximum capacity of 70, so we cater to the smaller more intimate weddings. When it comes to food our focus is definitely on quality no matter what the quantity!

If you are a food focused person with a smaller wedding on the cards, you can always visit the Estate for a romantic dinner one evening! This will give you a great feel for the ambiance at night (most venue viewing is done during the day) and the quality of the food. Be sure to contact our Weddings Co-ordinator, perhaps you can meet with her first.

Bon appetite!