While Southern style is evident in recent wedding trends like burlap and mason jars, it’s Southern food that is really making a mark. From rehearsal dinners to the main course during the reception, Southern staples are being utilized and upgraded. There’s no denying that Southern food is reminiscent of comfort and family, which makes it perfect for a celebration that brings people together.
“I think especially when people are from out of town and they come here, they come here expecting Southern food. Some people just want a touch of Southern,” said Kerri Sommer, caterer with Floyd’s 1921, which specializes in Southern food with flair.
Southern food has been transformed to fit a variety of reception formats, from plated dinners to buffets to heavy hors d’oeuvres. The type of format you choose depends on how much Southern food you want, whether it takes up the entire menu or just a sampling mixed with other favorites.
Stations at the reception are a great way to include a few Southern dishes without alienating guests that don’t share your love for it. Stations make the reception more like a big, long cocktail hour where the stations are spread out across the room, allowing for more mingling. Include just one Southern station, and give varying options in the other dishes. If Southern food doesn’t fit with the theme or tone of the wedding, consider including it in the rehearsal dinner.
If you want to include some Eastern North Carolina favorites on your wedding menu, talk to your caterer about options. Sommer said she’s made shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and coastal favorites like seafood, oysters, gumbo and jambalaya. For a more community feel to a reception, try a clam bake or low country boil. Seafood lovers have many menu choices and using local seafood may actually help save money. Area restaurants and caterers often specialize in fresh seafood dishes, so ask for seasonal menu options. It’s common for a couple to want to include some family or hometown tradition in the food. Talk to your caterer and come up with the best menu to suit you and your guests.
When looking for the right caterer, start the search early. Book around a year in advance, especially if the wedding falls during the busy summer months. Make plans for the bridal luncheon or bridal shower early if you plan on having a caterer or a private event at a restaurant. Sommer said that brides should know what she wants from a caterer and a price point to go on when meeting vendors. Feel free to bring your bridal or planning book that you have used throughout the process. Helpful information to have on hand is a headcount, colors and any other little detail that could contribute to food or presentation at the reception.
While interviewing caterers, gather information about the company’s service, quality of the food and ask if the caterer has experience cooking without a kitchen, which is often the case with weddings. Ask for pictures of previous events on a similar scale and be sure to ask about their prices. Private tastings are a great way to judge the food quality and presentation. Make sure you know when a final head count is required, how much of a deposit is needed and when it must be paid. Be clear on when the final bill needs to be settled. When the caterer does give you a quote, ask what’s included. Most caterers have vendor to vendor relationships that can pay off for you in the long run. The quote may include linens and utensils from a separate vendor, but they work together to get you what you need on your wedding day.