Wedding Tips for Eco-Friendly Food!

September 25, 2014
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of Great Performances

Couples wishing to create not only a beautiful, but eco-friendly destination wedding are quickly growing in numbers. Thankfully, we have a high-end catering company which specializes in not only throwing some of the biggest soirées in NYC, but also in delicious, sustainable food. The company’s CEO and Founder, Liz Neumark, broke ground – literally and figuratively – back in 2006, by purchasing a sprawling farm in the Hudson Valley from which Great Performances sources all of its fresh, seasonal produce. After several successful years in the industry, Liz has shared with us some of her top tips for planning and executing a successful – and sustainable – wedding menu!

Passion is something that speaks to every bride and groom – from the first kiss to the moment you say “I do.”  So it is no surprise that the process of planning the wedding is infused with the same intensity and desire to create a meaningful and unique celebration. 

A most wonderful expression of this creativity can be reflected in the deep interest of crafting a wedding celebration that is both eco-friendly and in tune with seasonal, local and organic food.

Great Performances’ core values include a commitment to supporting good earth practices and celebrating local flavors; this mission carries through every menu and is reflected in décor and styling. To highlight local food, we created the 100 Mile Menu, which features ingredients sourced within 100 miles of New York City.

I am pleased to share some of the best tips and ideas that Great Performances can offer.  After being a part of hundreds of weddings, and working with so many wonderful brides, grooms and their families, here are some of my top recommendations for those looking to have an eco-friendly celebration. 

  • When planning a wedding menu, the most important initial step is to outline your vision and share it with your planner and vendors. Successful collaborations begin with clear communication!
  • If you are considering bringing sustainable elements into your wedding, choose your wedding planner, venue and vendors accordingly. Not everyone understands these values, though more event planners are beginning to place value on sustainable sourcing and seasonal menus.
  • It’s also helpful to hire a planner with ties to their community. Those individuals will have a breadth of local vendor relationships and experience working with them in different capacities.
  • When you have chosen your destination wedding venue, research what is in season and local to that location. A southern winter wedding will have different produce than one up north.
  • Preserving the season is a big trend – and given that many weddings are planned a year in advance, what can be preserved from peak harvest and served at the table? (For example – pickled bar snacks and jams/preserves in desserts.)
  • Seasonal produce doesn’t need to stay on your plate – incorporate it into your specialty cocktail too! A lemon, raspberry & thyme fizz is a refreshing and tangy cocktail for summer. You can also infuse vodka or other clear liquor with herbs like rosemary and dill (perfect for a post-wedding Bloody Mary!).
  • To organize your reception, you have many different options. Don’t feel limited by the seated dinner. Many brides are opting for family-style meals which encourage sharing and increased interaction and allow guests to taste more dishes than can fit on one plate. If this spirit appeals to you, you can also offer stations of small plates. One of our most popular “after party” bites is a slider station!
  • For meat and fish, there are online education tools to learn what is sustainable and in season (for example, Seafood Watch Program). Look for seafood watch lists. Meat choices that include humanely raised, antibiotic-free poultry and beef are gaining in popularity. 
  • While there is fluctuation in seasonal vegetables and fruits; dairy, meat, fish and grains are available year-round in most regions. This allows for wonderful balance in menu planning. You want your caterer to be as passionate as you are and help guide the creation of a seasonal menu – or have conversations about food philosophies from the beginning.
  • To accompany your menu, choose eco-friendly elements and décor.
    • Biodegradable products such as bamboo plates are a great alternative to ceramic.  
    • Menu cards can be made of eco-friendly materials. You can even print on plantable paper – and then turn your menu into flowers post nuptials!
    • Decorate your tables with edible design. For a winter wedding, there is so much gorgeous produce that can be placed in a basket on a table – persimmons, clementines, lemons, pomegranates, kumquats. For a summer wedding, herbs are a beautiful décor embellishment. Invite your guests to take them home and plant them.
    • If you want to have small potted herbs on the table, add small scissors and encourage guests to cut their choice of fresh herb onto their plate.
  • And last, but not least—consider your waste! Inevitably, at most events, there is food waste. Discuss how the culinary staff will handle this. Perfectly edible leftovers can be packed up and delivered to a local food pantry. We separate our food scraps and then compost what is appropriate.

Nothing is more wonderful than starting out your lives together with the memories of a wedding day which embodies meaningful values in a creative, delicious and celebratory style that is a reflection of you.

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