Is It a Good Idea to Ask My Caterers to Create a Wedding Menu That's Different Than Their Signature Style?
In a word, yes.
Everyone always talks about a dream wedding dress or their ideal big-day destination, but you rarely hear couples talking about the dishes that would make up their ultimate wedding menu. And yet, most brides and grooms do have a pretty good idea of what they'd like to serve their guests during the reception. Maybe you have your heart set on the entrée that you enjoyed on your first date or the desserts your late grandmother was known for making, but if the catering company you booked is known for a certain kind of cuisine, is it wise or acceptable to ask them to make a menu that's outside their wheelhouse?
According to the pros, the answer is almost always yes. "A full-service catering company typically has a wide variety of menus," says Sarah Kuhlberg, creative director of Colette's Catering and Events. "It is completely acceptable to ask for specific cuisines or a dish that is something the caterer doesn't seem to be an expert at." Here's how to navigate this situation and get delicious results.
Remember that their priority is to please you.
Yes, caterers are essentially artists, and food is their medium. Ultimately, though, it's not about hors d'oeuvres but rather about two people celebrating their love for each other. In other words: you! So, the selections should suit your tastes as a couple. "We customize based on catering needs and get a lot of requests for dishes outside of our menus we present," Kuhlberg says. "Our executive chef and her team are very well-versed in all different types of cuisines, and we do not mind working one-on-one with the client to create their dream menu."
Communicate your vision.
This will likely happen naturally, as caterers usually inquire about culinary preferences in the first meeting, or even when generating a quote for the event. But if they don't—or if they offer only limited options—speak up. "It's important to communicate that you would like to customize your wedding menu," Kuhlberg advises. "Collaboration can then take place, so all parties know the expectations and can truly come together in a wonderful way. Be specific on what you need and can't live without, according to your budget." With that said, remember that you picked these particular caterers for a reason. And even if you didn't (perhaps they're partners with the venue you chose), they are still professionals and deserve some element of trust. It might be worth compromising certain parts of the menu so that their skills can truly shine.
Be prepared to pay.
Of course, keep in mind that a customized menu can mean additional charges. "The menu pricing would and should just reflect food cost variances," Kuhlberg notes. "That could happen, let's say, if the proteins needed cost more, or if there are other ingredients that are rare, expensive, or out of season. Labor should remain the same, and menu planning and execution is all a part of the contract fees." At the end of the day, look at creating the menu as a collaboration, not a transaction. Your vendor will have a clear idea of how to give you what you want—and the results may just be better than what you originally envisioned.