Let’s be totally honest here for a second — wedding food does not have the reputation of knocking people’s socks off. And even though we have had some amazing meals at weddings, it is not one of the places where couples take risks. Catering and menu design is one of those wedding elements that truly takes an artful hand to plan so we sat down with our fabulous friends Courtney Issac and Terri Wedell at Waters Fine Catering to talk all things yummy, bubbly, and delicious.
What types of elements do you like to draw inspiration from when planning a wedding menu?
I LOVE to start with their proposal story, memorable meals, favorite local restaurants and travel destinations. That truly shares so much about a couple and their food style. From their we chat about “likes and dislikes” and things that they consider to be “must have’s.” Then we look to the season, setting and budget. Combining all those elements is the perfect recipe for a unique wedding menu that is more about the couple than just food on a plate — it allows us to tell a story.
How much does the personality of the couple play into the menu design?
A ton! How conservative or playful are they? She is a carnivourous Texan and he is a vegan from Portland. Do they like to cook at home? Are the risk takers or need to play by rules? I love a challenge, so combining different visions and tastes are so much fun for me when writing menus.
What are the biggest mistakes that couples make when they are conceptualizing what is possible and what isn’t?
Overlooking their budget restrictions. I always encourage my clients to focus on the things that REALLY matter and to set aside a portion of their budget to cover what it is they absolutely must have. I am currently working with an uber artsy, fun, creative couple from Chicago (groom is a chef) and they want to really blow guests away. We are doing some super edgy appetizers and salad but the dinner is family style with a comfort classic feel. We combined elements of modern with familiar flavors that kept within the budget but still will be jaw-dropping.
Catering costs are usually the biggest expense at a wedding. Any suggestions on how to incorporate luxury or signature elements into a more modest budget?
Our favorite feedback is when clients and guests comment “its not typical wedding fare” or “its so fun to be at a wedding where the food isn’t just something you have to sit through until the dance floor opens.” With that said we target the ‘do or die’ elements first so those are included in the grand scheme and then fill in with more affordable items for the other parts to keep the budget balanced.
What is the Waters signature?
Our clients are our friends and we grow so close with so many of them during the planning process. As a couple planning a wedding or large event you spend LOTS of time with your vendors and the team here is always excited to be on this journey with our couples. The equal to that is our creative approach to our menu writing — so much time and research goes into each one. Clients love to see how their little comments and ideas were integrated into their entire wedding menu
How should couples handle feeding vegetarian or vegan guests without making them feel like they are sitting at the kids table?
Personally, I would love to sit at the kids table! In all sincerity we treat guests with special dietary needs with as much time and respect as the other menu portions. We like to have a great mix of color, texture, garnish and presentation. And people always need to plan on having some sort of vegetarian protein on the plate (think beans, high protein grains, or tofu).
What should couples consider when choosing a beverage menu?
Trust the experts instead of trying to do it yourself! So many couples think they are going to save money by providing their own alcohol. However, when it comes down to buying all the spirits, wine, beer, mixers, juices, garnishes, ice, etc. you end up spending more money than if you had hired someone to take care of it. (Not to mention, the added stress that comes along with the logistics of a bar.) Working with a beverage company will save you time, energy and even money. Plus, you get all the creative ideas! We can help you create custom craft cocktails and wine/beer pairings for your menu. It’s the perfect day to customize everything and even step outside the box a little bit.
What’s the best part of your job?
Working with our amazing clients! It sounds cheesy but it’s so true. We have so many clients that have become friends. When you work with someone for so long planning their special day, you get to know them so well, you can’t help but become friends.
What are you most excited about for next wedding season?
Seeing new trends! We were in the rustic/deconstructed look for so long that it’s exciting to see the trend go back towards a more polished and even edgier look! I think brides are stepping outside of their comfort zone and trying new things much more than they used to. It’s also really fun to see couples mix up the format for the evening. Very traditional weddings are of course always nice but it’s fun to see couples getting creative with the evening and really changing things up!
Rapid fire questions:
One thing you should never include on a wedding menu?
Tenderloin and Caesar Salad! So 1996!
The best thing you’ve ever eaten at a wedding?
A fabulous seafood raw bar during the cocktail hour, pure heaven!
What food trend are you most excited about?
Still loving family style and working it into formal black-tie weddings is the best!
What food trend are you tired of?
Food in Mason Jars – no thank you.
Your favorite thing on the Waters Catering menu?
We just did some killer grass fed bison shortribs from a farm in Montana, loving alternative cuts of meat raised with love and served with respect.