A growing number of couples getting married want a wedding with a difference and that includes selecting more non-traditional wedding catering options. Kerry Faulkner reports
Expert wedding caterers across Australia agree—the old-fashioned wedding package is on its way out in favour of finely personalised services that let couples choose precisely what they want across each aspect of their wedding. That’s certainly the experience of Supper Road caterers based in Vasse, WA, servicing the wedding mecca of the state, the Margaret River region. Couples are drawn by the pretty forests, stunning beaches and world-renowned vineyards.
Supper Road is a mobile catering operation and at its core is a top-grade commercial kitchen in an 18-metre articulated semitrailer built by a qualified chef and shipped to WA from Queensland. Supplementing that are two more mobile kitchens, the upshot being Supper Road can cater for everything from an intimate 80-guest affair to an extravagant 300-strong guest list.
Events manager Jess Tanguy says that to ensure they stay on trend, the team sits down mid-year and goes through its menus; pulling out what’s not popular and drawing on their chefs’ expert knowledge of local produce and suppliers to ensure each event is sumptuous and up to the minute.
She says once winery wedding packages were the great go-to for couples tying the knot, with the marquee, food, drinks and props all part of the package. However, there’s been a noticeable drop-off in this type of wedding over the past couple of years, as couples strive to put their own stamp on celebrations.
“Many clients we have want a blank canvas, a do-it-yourself, where they get to choose every aspect down to the smallest details, including food furniture and beverages,” she says.
And catering has had to evolve hand-in-hand to keep pace. Even cornerstones of tradition, like the tiered wedding cake, are fading. In fact, Tanguy says some of the biggest trends recently have been around the sweets.
“Certainly, when it comes to dessert courses we’ve seen a big change. In the past it’s been served as a plated dessert but what we found in the past year to 18 months is that people are stepping right away from that because there is a lot of wastage. By the time we get to the dessert, everyone’s well and truly had enough to eat and often it just sits there. The solution has been to bring in things like the dessert table or dessert bar and that’s a big change recently that we’ve tapped into.”
Margaret River wedding planner Jody Parry explains that couples often extend their wedding day to include two or three days packed with pre-wedding activities and dining. And for the big day itself, they are steering away from the traditional evening sit-down, three-course affair, in favour of more interactive dining with grazing tables, food stations and even food trucks, with tapas-style dining a more strongly emerging trend.
Sydney- and Brisbane-based Together with Solotel manages more than 200 wedding-associated events annually, tapping into a range of different-style venues to fit all types of wedding festivities from the engagement party right through to the post-wedding family wind-down. Venues include the super-stylish Barangaroo House and playful Newtown pub, The Marlborough Hotel.
Sales director Holly Orsman Smith has had a hand in more than a thousand weddings in her career and welcomes the spike in the number of marriages since the legalisation of same sex marriage. She agrees that regardless of who’s walking down the aisle, the traditional evening three-course sit-down celebration is heading toward extinction.
“Weddings now are quite diverse and that’s what’s been fabulous for me; people are willing to shake it up a bit, loosen up, have a bit of fun.”—Holly Orsman Smith, sales director, Together with Solotel
Instead, lunch weddings are on the rise, especially in spring when guests can enjoy the sunshine on the lawn shaded by an elegant marquee. Here guests can be greeted with a fruity herbed spritzer instead of champagne and between the ceremony and reception graze long tables of gourmet nibbles, enjoying the chance to mingle while literally breaking bread with family and friends.
“It’s a way people can be more casual and perhaps then move to an after-party or reception-type arrangement at a hotel, and from a budget perspective this can be a lot more competitive. You get two things rather than one so it’s more bang for your buck,” she says.
“Weddings now are quite diverse and that’s what’s been fabulous for me; people are willing to shake it up a bit, loosen up, have a bit of fun and not make it so formal.”
And it’s not just weddings that’ve loosened up—catered pre- and post-wedding events are more common and adventurous too, particularly the ‘hens’ get-together.
“The ‘sit down and eat and have a couple of courses’ is not exactly how it rolls anymore,” Orsman Smith says.
“It’s more about having an experience with my friends like a cocktail-making or chef-hosted cooking class.
“We cater a lot of these things, so they may have a lovely long lunch and then go and do something together.”
At the University Club of Western Australia, conference and events manager Julie Harrison says Perth brides quite like a private high tea with their bridesmaids as their ‘kitchen tea’.
And while they get the odd enquiry for a lunch, cocktail and event tapas wedding, 95 per cent of their weddings “are quite traditional still. People tend to stick with the tried and tested—they are reluctant to go too wild for their wedding reception, so tend to stick with the three-course.
“Our most popular option by far is the entree tasting plate with three miniature entrees chosen from [a selection of six] by the bride and groom and again for dessert, three tasters. Seventy to 80 per cent of our couples go with that option.”
Caterers agree that whatever form a wedding takes, one thing holds true —the importance of fresh seasonal produce can’t be overstated.