If you'd like to push past the standard steak-and-potatoes menu well-known to weddings and let local cuisine shine on your big day, know that you can—perhaps more easily than you think. "Incorporating local cuisine into a wedding menu amplifies the experience for your guests, and sets you apart from the typical wedding," says Kayla Bishar, catering manager at Green Acre in San Diego. "Chicken marsala could literally happen at any venue, in any state—so unless that is your absolute favorite dish, we encourage the couple to go in a direction that is more indicative of their lives and story." Here's how, with six easy-to-emulate ideas.
Serve a food that originated in your city.
Adding your city's signature food or drink—think: toasted ravioli in St. Louis, Dungeness crab in Seattle, po' boys in New Orleans, Wellfleet oysters in Cape Cod, and deep-dish pizza in Chicago—to your menu is an easy way to incorporate local fare, says Sandi Zigan, catering sales manager for Kimpton Hotel Monaco Denver. For example, "Colorado claims the invention of the root beer float," she says. "For an outdoor ceremony in the summer, wouldn't it be fun to greet guests with a root beer float to sip on while you exchange vows?"
Add hyper-local ingredients to traditional dishes.
You don't have to get too creative to add local food to your menu, though: Zigan says that adding local fare can be as simple as swapping a single ingredient for a hyper-local option. If you have a favorite local cheese or spice shop, "partner with your caterer to find a way to incorporate these ingredients either in the main dish or as an appetizer." Pasta dishes can be sprinkled with local cheeses or salmon cooked or crusted with local spices, for example.
Incorporate local favorites into your welcome bag or favors.
Your favorite local sweet and savory treats can make great additions to welcome bags, says Zigan. (They can also make great favors.) "You can also create a curated card to include the history and details about each local product," she adds. In Colorado, Zigan might slip a craft beer into a bag, while in San Francisco, a Ghirardelli chocolate bar could make a good favor.
Set up a local buffet station.
If you're serving your meal buffet-style, consider dedicating a table or station to local-only fare, suggests Bishar. "At our venue, we have a buffet menu named 'California' that draws inspiration from the best of what California offers," she says. "Most venues can incorporate a sampling of menu items unique to your region or state." You can label the table so that guests can easily see it offers up local options, and even add sourcing information on cards.
Swap a wedding cake with local desserts.
Rather than serve a traditional wedding cake—or in addition to a cake—you can offer your guests sweet, local treats. "I recommend checking with your venue about their capabilities to create a custom dessert bar, which allows you to offer a variety of your favorites," Bishar says. "Plus, most venues will also let you supplement their sections with an outside dessert vendor. For instance, we often have requests for a couple's favorite donut shop here in San Diego to be added to their dessert menu, which we are more than happy to accommodate."
Offer a late-night snack.
If you can't find the right place for local cuisine on your menu, considering offering up your favorite local foods as a late-night snack to guests. "Every city or state has a known late-night food, which guests will appreciate after a night of dancing," says Bishar. "Here in San Diego we are known for our California burritos, made with carne asada, guacamole, pico de gallo, cheese, and French fries, and the look on guests' faces when you introduce them to their first California burrito is priceless, and makes for a memorable finale to a great event."