Wedding Menu Planning Tips From an Industry Insider

An expert offers candid advice on catering, party rentals, and more.

Photo by Stephen Danelian, compliments of William Morrow

Creating a memorable event is no small feat. Lulu Powers, chef and wedding planner, shares advice on how to craft a menu, choose party rentals, and stay within budget.

How many appetizers do you suggest serving?
At least four, but I like to have as many as seven, and a huge variety: meatball sliders, mini-grilled cheese sandwiches, bruschetta, sushi, tuna tartare on spoons. There are so many picky eaters, but if you have plenty of options people are bound to find something they’ll enjoy. Also, I prefer not to serve the same hors d’oeuvre over and over—it’s boring. I went to an event recently where these two appetizers were passed around for three hours. It wasn’t long before the guests stopped eating them and the servers looked like they wanted to give up.

What are your thoughts on a sit-down dinner versus a buffet?
I’m not a big fan of buffets. They’re fine for casual backyard or beach events, but, in general, I don’t like the idea of making guests wait in line for food at a wedding. Beyond that, people end up eating at different times, and getting back in line because they forgot things or want seconds—the whole setup is messy and disrupts the flow of the party.

What is your favorite way to serve a meal?
One of my favorite ways to serve a meal is family style, where you put a bunch of different entrees and sides on each table for guests to share. It’s less fussy than having plated courses and passing around great food is a wonderful way to get people talking.

What’s one of your all-time favorite wedding meals?
For a small wedding, I once did a sit-down dinner of lobster rolls, grilled corn, potato and chopped vegetable salad, and coleslaw made from the groom’s grandmother’s recipe. For dessert we served ice cream cake and shot glasses of butterscotch pudding with rum sauce; other shot glasses were filled with berries garnished with mint. On the tables, we had jars of peanut butter pretzel cookies, along with tongs, so people could help themselves, and we served shot glasses of milk. This meal was amazing because it was so true to the couple and everything they loved—they didn’t care about doing what was expected of them.