Farm-to-table menus are now incredibly popular at restaurants, so it should come as no surprise that they've made their way into the wedding sphere, too. The all-around organic feel—from the meal's ingredients themselves to the venue's décor and table settings—provides couples with the natural, fresh atmosphere they crave. If you happen to be passionate about sustainably, locally sourced food and want to showcase a menu that's regional to your destination itself, then a farm-to-table (also known as farm-to-fork) style reception just might be for you. "It's nice for out-of-town guests to be able to experience a locally focused menu inspired by the couple's hometown or wedding destination—plus, they will know the meal was made from scratch," says Teri Lands, general manager of the Inn at Fernbrook Farms, a wedding venue in Chesterfield, New Jersey.
Also, because the menu is being sourced from the surrounding farms (or from the venue's grounds itself, as is the case with the Inn at Fernbrook Farms), seasonality is a driving force. "When we think of the seasonality, most of us think four seasons, but in New Jersey, we really experience six seasons: spring, early summer, mid-summer, late summer, fall and winter," says Lands. "It's important to consider whether or not the time of year for your wedding date is in sync with your preferred style of foods—for example, if you love squash and pumpkin, fall is the best choice, but if you can't wait for that local sweet corn and tomato, then summer is more ideal." To help you plan the perfect farm-to-table wedding menu, we asked Lands and other industry experts to share their top tips.
Work with a local caterer.
If you're hoping to serve a meal that's all local, it's important that the caterer you hire is from the area itself. "Many caterers will source from their go-to farms, but if you're planning a destination wedding in a secluded area, we suggest bringing in a caterer who can liaison with local restaurants," says Bryan Rafanelli, celebrity event planner at Rafanelli Events. "They will know who the top purveyors are, making the food as delicious as possible."
Incorporate locally-sourced beverages into your bar options.
Farm-to-table dining extends to drinks, too. In addition to featuring the wines, ciders, and beers from local vineyards and breweries, Lands suggests also serving farm-to-table cocktails. You can welcome guests to the ceremony with a botanical spritz beverage or choose something like a lemon rosemary gin fizz as your signature drink. This adds yet another element to the "fresh ingredient" theme, Lands says.
Educate your guests on the local food.
While the food may be celebrated for its taste, guests may not be aware of their origin. For this reason, Rafanelli suggests including a note on the menu card that highlights the name of the farm or grower that supplied for each item. "The gesture spotlights the quality of food and elevates the guests' overall experience of community," he adds.
Have a family-style setting.
A family-style dinner lends itself beautifully to a farm-to-table menu. "The food alone enhances the table design, but also pay close attention to the materials the dishes are served, along with the presentation," says Oletta Collins, owner and lead event producer at Flourishing Art. She loves seeing large vintage plates and platters as well as a table of mix-and-match dishes rather than all the same. "It gives your guests the feel as if they are eating at someone's house which evokes the farm to table experience," she adds.