Highlight your Favorite Foods

How-To: Pick a Perfect Menu

November 10, 2014
Words by Chef Nisa Burns
Photos courtesy of L. Lompero Photography

There are so many things to take into consideration when planning a wedding. From the DJ, to the dress, to the flowers and more, things can get overwhelming quickly. As a bride-to-be and chef, I wanted to share some of my secret tips to make your menu planning go more smoothly. Here is what I recommend you keep in mind so you can plan your wedding menu like a chef.

  1. Hire a wedding coordinator. Though not just menu-based advice, he or she can help you through the process and allow you to focus on the aspects you want to dedicate your time to, such as the menu!
  2. Highlight your favorite foods. Choosing your favorite foods can be tough, but the key is to pick a few to highlight in a unique way. Love candy? Add a candy bar to the dessert options. Do you absolutely love French fries? Have a spread with different condiment options!
  3. Accent your theme with foods. Even if your theme is rustic, modern, vintage or something entirely different, you can accent it with foods. For example, a vintage wedding menu could include fancy, spiced-up versions of 1950 diner dishes, such as grilled cheese bites.
  4. Use the menu to reflect your personality. Do you like to take risks in life? Don’t be afraid to choose dishes that are out of the ordinary or a little unusual. If you like to play things on the safe side, choose a traditional menu.
  5. Keep your budget in mind. Even if you have a small budget, you can still have a wonderful menu. Choosing items like chicken and pasta are great. Both are diverse and can hold flavor well.
  6. Take the season into consideration. The time of year plays a role in what foods are in season. Being aware of this can help keep costs low and will let you know what is best to incorporate when it comes to fruits and vegetables.
  7. Choose a number of options. When it comes to planning a menu, I recommend three dinner options and five hors d’oeuvres. Also, make sure to have two proteins available to guests so everyone leaves satisfied and full.
  8. Don’t be afraid to try something different. A trend I have seen popping up is couples choosing to serve 11 p.m. hors d’oeuvres. By that time, some guests may be winding down their drinking and a little snack could be perfect. Ideas include cookies, soft pretzels and popcorn.
  9. Know the right questions to ask your caterer. Do they have a set menu or flexible menu? Can they incorporate a family dish or your favorite foods? Can they accommodate dietary restrictions?
  10. It’s not all about the cake anymore. There are so many unique options that you can use if you don’t want a cake. If you want to show off your personality, you can try items like single mini pies, a French cream puff tower or even doughnuts.

Nisa Burns is the chef of a new generation, appealing to novice cooks who want to make easy, healthy and delicious food. She is a chef, culinary graduate, author and speaker. Cooking since she was a child, Nisa is a graduate of the Art Institute of Virginia Beach. Her recipes have gained fans on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube nationwide. She lives in Virginia Beach and is currently planning her wedding, set for November.

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