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Posted by Cayla Capri
Buffet, The Appetizer Slayer
Buffet cover full
Firing up your wedding celebration with an unconventional cocktail hour is a great way to establish theme and mood for the remainder of your reception. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase your personality, chat with guests and, of course, sip, slurp and swing back yummy drinks. But whether you serve flirty cocktails or fine wines, inviting friends and family to an open bar invites the potential for disaster.
The easiest way to deter intoxication is by serving up an array of delicious foods, and whether you choose to hire waiters to weave about with trays of finger food or to go the way of the buffet, it’s up to you. Remember that this choice will help to create the ambiance you desire, but that neither need be restricted by wallet size. Below are suggestions for how to serve up heavenly appetizers or set up a banging buffet on any budget. Don’t forget that the former will always be slightly pricier than the latter, but that doesn’t mean either one has to be limited by a tight wallet or a taste for the ornate.
the bargain bride
Buffet 1
If you’re creative, a wannabe-culinary artist, or simply strapped for cash, catering your own buffet is a great way to save. You will need to enlist the most willing well-wishers on your guest list for help, but if you stick to simple spreads, fruit and veggie platters, and exotic salads, not only will you be able to pull it off, but you’ll have fun too.
Yes, your guests are aware that you’re no professional, but don’t think that means anything goes. Make sure to coordinate the drinks with the menu by serving homemade guacamole and tortilla chips with margaritas, fruit skewers with a sparkling cider, or marinated antipasto with red wine. Don’t feel any pressure to keep the same theme going throughout dinner though – this is just a way to keep things straightforward.
Further suggestions:
Make and/or purchase an assortment of spreads: pesto, humus, jam, bruschetta. Leave out a basket of crackers, toasted pita triangles and/or sliced baguette rounds cooked with garlic and butter.
Lay out a deli tray, complete with meat, cheese and fruit.
Purchase frozen mushroom caps, puff pastries and chicken wings from a local wholesale store.
A little something for your sweet tooth
Another option is to nix the appetizers altogether and go for a trendy but reasonably priced candy bar. Serve chocolate-covered nuts and candied hearts in crystal bowls for a touch of elegance while indulging guests in your sweet tooth. This is an especially good idea if you choose to place cocktail hour at the end of the night, and if you’re opting for dessert drinks.
Further suggestions:
Roast your own butter pecans. Three simple ingredients (pecans, butter, salt); one luxe desert.
Invest in a portable fondue kit, melt a Toblerone or two and serve with strawberries, pineapples, marshmallows etc.
Make a large tray of nougat, cut into small rectangles, and leave a pot of honey out for guests to drizzle over their fabulous treat.
Buffet 2
You have a couple of options when it comes to serving appetizers on a budget. Once again, you can tackle the catering on your own, employing a more finger-friendly approach by spreading the humus, cream cheese etc. onto the crackers beforehand and adding either a bit of salmon, halved cherry tomatoes and/or some garnish. However, you will need to hire a wait staff, as you can only exploit eager friends and relatives so far.
Further suggestions:
Instead of a fresh veggie platter, barbeque an assortment of colorful, in-season vegetables in soya or BBQ sauce. Place on a stick.
Forget the fruit plate – skewer and grill an array of your favorite fruits in brown sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Wrap melon balls in prosciutto, and serve with a toothpick.
You may also want to hire a small, local restaurant to cater both your appetizers and your meal. As a neighborhood establishment they’ll be eager to please, and if you choose a cozy eatery you and your fiancé are familiar with, not only will the food be a guaranteed success; you’ll be incorporating an intimate part of your relationship into your wedding.
the neutral newlywed
Buffet 3
If you’ve put aside a fair amount of money for the big day, but aren’t looking to burn a hole in your pocket, a buffet is a great way to feed a larger wedding party on a more moderate budget.
Take Advantage – You’re not restricted to finger-foods, so for a winter wedding serve comforting, heart-warming pies: fruit tarts, mini pizzas, and quiche. For a summer wedding, put out an assortment of fresh, fun salads with unexpected ingredients like strawberries, candied walnuts, feta or roasted red pepper.
Further suggestions:
apple and stilton tartlets
bacon and leek quiche
tangerine coleslaw
pine nut and sun-dried tomato couscous salad
mango, shrimp and avocado salad
Drop dinner – well, maybe not entirely. But you may want to serve dinner exclusively to those who attended the ceremony immediately after the fact, and have the bulk of your guests arrive later for the reception. Break with convention and have cocktail hour at the end of the night. With the money you saved on dinner, you can feel freer to splurge on pricey late-night snacks (lobster rolls, twice-baked potatoes, bacon-wrapped scallops), or fancy desserts (chocolate-covered strawberries, chocolate-raspberry torte) to go along with some festive champagne.
Buffet 6
When hiring caterers and a wait staff for your cocktail hour, a good way to make the most of a reasonable budget is to go local. Search for modestly-sized catering companies in your area and you’re bound to find a more modestly-priced selection of appetizers. By employing servers you’re adding a little extra class to your affair, so don’t be afraid to order fun finger-foods like spicy wings, jalapeño poppers or pigs-in-a-blanket. This way, you can eat what you love and create a relaxed atmosphere while still retaining a sense of ritual.
Further suggestions:
mini burgers
mini quiche
teriyaki chicken or beef skewers
bacon-wrapped water chestnuts
the swank spender
Buffet 5
Going all out? A buffet doesn’t have to cramp your style. Even if price isn’t an issue, the absence of a wait staff will free up some cash. Be sure to use that extra money to your advantage by decking out the buffet table. Below are some suggestions as to how you can go about creating a memorable, elegant and striking buffet table.
Further suggestions:
Have a fountain centerpiece: either real or chocolate.
Place silver plated champagne buckets at either end.
Place floating candles and/or flowers on small, decorated mirrors.
Order long, dramatic, flower arrangements.
Add lights (regular or colored) to glass centerpieces containing flowers, colored rocks, seashells or candles.
Add dainty fairy lights to the outside of the table, or string lights underneath a white linen cloth for an ethereal effect.
Get creative with colorful ribbons, tulle and flower petals.
Use a decorative bird cage as a centerpiece.
As for the food, plenty of upscale catering companies contain a buffet option. Of course, you’re also free to pick and choose appetizers at your will, creating a decadent array of gourmet goodies with a personal touch. With top caterers at your disposal, be sure to enlist the help of these experts not only when constructing the menu, but also when deciding which cocktails would best suit the food and the mood.
Create the ultimate in lavish candy bars by filling glass bowls or crystal vases with m&ms and jellybeans. If you can, try and match the color of the candies to the color scheme of your wedding. For example, if pink is your color, order strawberry jelly bellies, pink rock candy, sour watermelon candies, and light pink Jordan almonds. Set up tiers of cupcakes, layers of pastries and, if you can, a cotton candy machine. Serve dessert cocktails such as chocolate martinis, Irish coffee with heavy cream, or caramel appletinis.
Buffet 4
Good servers and bartenders are just as important as good chefs, so be sure to interview all three. Once you’ve found your dream team, don’t neglect to treat all three with equal respect, as wait staffs are so often disregarded, despite playing a vital role in the wedding.
As for fancy finger-food options, the list is endless. Keep old favorites like lobster rolls and mushroom caps on the menu if they’re the main reason you yourself typically attend weddings, but try and spice things up too so you can surprise both your guests and your palate. Make sure desserts are bite-size: truffles, cream puffs and individual cheesecakes.
With a vast array of catering companies at your unlimited disposal, you can arrange a menu that suits your tastes to a tee. Just a few examples include Malibu Gourmet, offering such lovely treats as bloody Caesar oyster shots, potato Rösti with crème fraîche & caviar and spicy tuna tartar on sweet potato chips, and Maitre & Chef Traiteurs, offering such innovative creations as ice cider foie gras terrine on gingerbread with crab apple compote and St. Jacques scallop ceviche with a drop of Jose Cuervo Gold lemon tequila.