Opting for a small wedding certainly doesn't mean downsizing on the other elements of your day. If you’re thinking of planning an intimate celebration, you'll need to firstly narrow down your guest list and find a small wedding venue cosy enough for intimate gatherings. After that, you can get down to planning the details – our favourite part!
A key detail you can really go to town on when it comes to small weddings is your menu. Without hundreds of mouths to feed, you’re free to serve up a wider selection of goodies to your guests. Plus, you can up the service game and create a dining experience unlike any other your guests are likely to have experienced at a wedding.
To give you the low down on how to achieve small wedding menu success – while keeping things safe – we chatted to some of our favourite wedding caterers. From what to serve to how to take your wedding breakfast to the next level, we challenge you to come away from reading this without feeling totally inspired (and at least a little bit hungry!) by the idea of a small wedding menu.
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Small Wedding, Big Menu
Large weddings usually mean limited menus, after all it’s pretty tricky for a chef to make individual meals for 100 or more guests. Couples hosting a big do usually select a main dish along with a veggie or vegan alternative plus a starter and a dessert.
Small weddings mean you can throw the traditional wedding breakfast rule book out of the window. With a limited guest list, you can easily serve each guest a dish of their choice, a selection of courses or a luxury dish you’d never be able to afford 100 servings of. it really is your opportunity to go big and create a culinary treat for yourselves and your guests.
Ronke Adewa-Faboro, Event Management Consultant at King Solomon’s Catering, agrees: “A smaller wedding does not mean a smaller menu. In fact, we encourage our couples to think outside of the box of what they were going to offer their guests prior and think bigger. For example, instead of the traditional three-course meal, why not have a six or eight-course tasting menu especially curated for you?”
Clare Smith, Owner of Touchays Event Catering, recommends introducing additional dishes, too: “Why not add something extra special between courses like an amuse-bouche or palette cleansers? And to conclude, an artisan cheese wedding cake served with homemade chutneys and a good port?”
Additions like these will add a sophisticated touch to proceedings and allow guests to try even more of what your carefully chosen caterer has to offer.
First Class Service
If you're planning a small wedding during Covid, guests may be required to sit in their own bubbles and remain seated, meaning buffets and self-serve meals involving lots of plate passing and mingling is off the table. However, what’s firmly on the table is a dedicated and attentive service from waiting staff.
“With a smaller guest number, you can afford to have a dedicated waiter or bartender assigned to each table to ensure your guests’ needs and requirements are met,” says Ronke, “From getting their meals served to their favourite drink, this type of personal service enhances the overall guest experience. This level of service also ensures that the wedding is COVID-19 compliant and prevents household mixing.”
With the extra attention from staff, guests will feel completely looked after from the comfort of their seats and won’t be tempted to head to the bar, reducing the risk of spreading germs and increasing the feeling of luxury on the day – your guests will feel totally spoilt! Speaking of which…
Large numbers of mouths to feed usually means having to compromise on luxury ingredients but a drastically reduced guest list opens up a wealth of delicious options. Ronke reckons you should start by switching your main dish to something a little more refined: “If you’re going to stick to a traditional three-course meal, instead of chicken, perhaps switch it up to duck or guinea fowl, or choose a lobster dish instead of pan seared salmon.”
Clare suggests her clients make the most of local ingredients: “We recommend including locally caught and foraged scallops, lobster or Dover Sole for starters or Romney Marsh lamb for mains.”
For dessert, Clare says that creating an "exciting grand finale" is the best way to end your small wedding breakfast strong. Think miniature favourites such as crème brûlée, panna cotta, cheesecake or brownies served as an assiette of desserts or something a little more quirky like churros served with hot caramel and chocolate dipping sauces.
Another way to add luxury is by working alongside your caterer and deciding on a menu for your guests to choose from. Being able to choose a dish is a luxury few will expect from a wedding breakfast and gives guests the opportunity to sample, within their individual bubbles, the different dishes they have each selected. Once you've selected the dishes you'd like to offer, have them printed on individual menu cards and set them at each place.
Finally, pair each course with the perfect drink. An aperitif is a great way to start the meal and get guests in the mood to celebrate, while asking your caterer to select wines that complement each dish will add an extra surprise for guests as well as give the meal a sophisticated twist. Be sure to include Champagne – or a sparkling non-alcoholic alternative – for the toast too.
Keep Family-Style Within Families
If you're not keen on the idea of serving up a formal three-course meal, you can still create a relaxed dining experience by choosing a family-style sharing menu for guests to enjoy within their own bubbles. As long as plates, serving spoons and trays are not passed between tables, your guests will still be able to enjoy a home-style meal including sides and starters to share.
Nominate a guest at each table to take the lead and carve the main course. Having one person cutting and handing out food reduces the amount of hands plates are passed through, plus it will also give them a fun role at the wedding breakfast.
If safety is your first concern, start by discussing your worries with your caterer. “Be sure to ask your catering company about their COVID-19 assessments/certification to give an added layer of assurance that the staff are adequately trained and food is prepared and served safely” advises Ronke.
Ronke also suggests rethinking the serving format, particularly if self-service dining was your preferred choice: “Buffet serving style is a thing of the past thanks to COVID. This is particularly hard hitting for African and Caribbean weddings where this style of service is often the preferred option because of the vast choices and options available to the guests. Now we are seeing an increase in fine dining and the bento box style of service.
“The boxes are often personalised with the couple's name, wedding colour or monogram and it also doubles up as a wedding favour/keepsake for guests. These boxes can be filled with an array of different kinds of food from canapés right through to desserts to represent the traditional sit down meal or even an assortment of sandwiches, cakes and scones for an afternoon tea inspired wedding breakfast.”
Placing hand sanitiser on each of the tables and using social distancing signs to remind guests to stay seated will also help to ensure your wedding breakfast runs smoothly and safely.
Make sure your small wedding hits all the right notes with this handy guide: Covid-19 Wedding Ideas: How to Ensure Guests Have the Best Time on Your Wedding Day.