click to enlarge A personalized honey jar design from Big Delicious Planet that was used as a wedding favor. - PHOTO BY EMILY MELISSA PHOTOGRAPHY
A personalized honey jar design from Big Delicious Planet that was used as a wedding favor.
It's been an incredibly tough two years for weddings. Celebrations that weren't completely canceled had to pivot hard and fast. Thankfully, wedding caterers have always been problem-solvers at their core. Whether it's last-minute additional guests or a sudden thunderstorm at an outdoor wedding, a professional caterer is experienced at rolling with the punches and making it work. Those same skills were called upon as the industry at large shifted seemingly overnight in the wake of the pandemic. Now, nearly two years later, some lovely trends have emerged that will hopefully stick around for good.

Seated dinners

A seated dinner doesn't have to mean formal or stuffy. "We're having a lot of people asking for family-style meals right now," said Brian Reilly, chef and owner of Cured Catering in Springfield. "It's not quite plated, so it doesn't have all the steps and formality of a plated dinner, and it's fun. And often the folks sitting together and sharing the platters are together on a daily basis anyway, so it's a great way to minimize touch-points and keep 200 individuals from running through a buffet line."

Traditional menus

After two years of social distancing, couples are looking to nostalgia and comfort as they plan their event. "We've really seen people lean into traditional-type menus, classic Italian menus as well as hors d'oeuvres likes caprese skewers and stuffed dates," explained Grace Hamilton, director of weddings and events for Big Delicious Planet, a Chicago catering company that sources much of its in-season produce from an adjacent urban farm. "Honestly, this has been a wonderful shift, because it's a great way to utilize seasonal ingredients and serve food that people are familiar with but still fresh and vibrant."

Individual plates

Huge, opulent cheeseboards and appetizer displays may look nice, but they were really never a good idea from a sanitation perspective, and they often resulted in a lot of food waste. "One of the first COVID-related shifts was that our charcuterie platters became individual charcuterie plates," explained Reilly. "Giving menu items this individual attention allows for a safer experience."

Buffets still happen, he pointed out, but with servers dishing out food or grab-and-go plates set out so multiple guests aren't handling serving utensils.

Family recipes

Ask your caterer if they can incorporate an heirloom recipe into your wedding menu. It's a lovely way to personalize the event and pay homage to your roots. "I want each individual couple to put their spin on things and call it their own," said Reilly. "When we get to go off-menu and do something that's just for that couple, that's what I really love to do."

Favors are also another fun way to make your event more personal. Ask your caterer if they can bake cookies from a family recipe to give out to guests, or if they have custom items of their own.

"People been really interested in giving out small jars of our house-made jams or honey from the beehives on our farm as favors," said Hamilton from Big Delicious Planet. "They're a nice little upgrade for guests and can be a fun reflection of the individual couple."

Make your wedding specific to you

"The first thing I tell couples is that a wedding doesn't have to be two entrees and a side and a salad," said Reilly. One of his clients, Angela Speedie, is planning her June 2022 wedding in Petersburg.

"We really want this to be fun and relaxed; we're not formal people," Speedie said. "We're having a concert for the reception – music is such a huge a part of who my fiancé and I are and how we met – and Cured is going to do a fancy taco bar," she explained.

"I'm really trying to keep this on budget, so I'm focusing on spending money where it really counts," Speedie said. "For us, that's forgoing real flowers in favor of great food and music. We're going to have beer from local brewery Hand of Fate and wine for guests, as well as a signature cocktail that Brian (Reilly) and I are working on. There will be a cash bar if anyone wants mixed drinks or something different."

Ashley Meyer lives and writes in Springfield.  She was lucky to work for Big Delicious Planet when she lived in Chicago over a decade ago. During that time, in addition to catering swanky soirées and weddings, BDP provided hospitality for some of the biggest music tours to come through the Windy City, including Jimmy Buffet, Fleetwood Mac and Phish.

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