How to Create a Heat-Proof Summer Wedding Menu

A table at a summer wedding reception with a cake decorated with food.

Having your wedding in the summer means you have to worry less about the unpredictable weather—but with warmer weather comes more planning for the menu. Warm or scorching temperatures can really do a number on food, especially if you’re serving anything outdoors. In order to keep your food safe and weather-appropriate, summer wedding menus are all about keeping things light, crisp, and refreshing. Here are some tips on creating a heat-proof summer wedding menu that your guests will love.

First Things First: Talk Timing With Your Caterer

A caterer holding a tray of appetizers at a summer wedding reception.

Before you even write down a menu item on the books, you want to have a plan for the timing of all the food with your caterer. In the summer when the weather is warmer, it’s important that the food be served in a timely manner so that nothing sits out too long and gets wilted, melted, or becomes unsafe to eat.

If you’re planning a cocktail hour outside, for example, it’s best to implement the use of servers who can go around and offer hors d’ouevres to your guests. This ensures that all of the food will be passed out and consumed within a certain amount of time so that nothing will spoil.

Although this is less of a concern when you’re serving food indoors, it’s still a good idea to talk to your caterer about how the food will be transported, when it will be served, and how long they will keep the food out if you’re having a buffet.

Hors D’oeuvres with a Hint of Chill

If you plan on serving hors d’ouevres during cocktail hour, the name of the game is to keep it chill—especially if your ceremony and cocktail hour are being held outdoors. Some ideas for cooler appetizers include shrimp cocktail, stuffed cherry tomatoes, bruschetta, and shrimp tartlets. Feeling fancy and want to extend your food budget? Consider a raw bar at your wedding, which would feature oysters, shrimp, crab, lobster claws, and ceviche. Not feeling any of those ideas? At the very least, you should avoid anything with egg, cheese (if you’re outside), or heavy or thick food items like soups or heavy pastries.

Keep the Drinks Flowing—with Ice

A man grabbing a beer from an icy container at an outdoor summer wedding.

One of the most important rules of a summer wedding menu is to keep the drinks flowing, and make sure that you have plenty of ice. Besides ice cold beer and chilled wine, some refreshing summer cocktails you should consider are anything with an element of herbs or fruit like a mojito, margarita, Negroni, gimlet, or Moscow mule. You also want to have plenty of non-alcoholic drinks available, such as ice cold lemonade, iced tea, or a non-alcoholic sangria.

Summer Salads Galore

The best way to start out your summer wedding menu is with a crisp, fresh salad. Talk to your caterer about which types of lettuce and veggies hold up the best when exposed to outdoor temps, and avoid putting on a heavy amount of cheese or a cream-based dressing. Stick with light and refreshing vinaigrettes that can be easily tossed on and won’t feel too heavy on the plate. Also be sure to add vegetables to the salad that will hydrate your guests, like cucumbers or radishes.

Keep it Casual with Desserts

A groom in a blue suit holding an icecream cone at the wedding reception.

Picturing an intricate dessert table for your summer wedding? Instead of pastries and cakes galore, you might want to switch it up for something a little more casual and summer-friendly. Opt for something different like a sundae bar, gourmet popsicles, or even a s’mores bar for a throwback to summer camp and backyard barbecues.

For your wedding cake—the ultimate wedding dessert—don’t be afraid to shy away from the traditional chocolate or vanilla and do something daring with the flavor, such as lemon, bananas foster, or key lime.

Lean into the Summer Barbecuing Season

When you think summer, you can almost automatically picture a family gathered around the grill. Why not incorporate that summer grilling season into your main courses? As you plan out your main dishes with your caterer, think about the types of meats and vegetables you enjoy over the summer, like grilled chicken, corn on the cob, pulled pork, kabobs, or smoked brisket. As for the sides, consider barbecue classics like coleslaw, potato or pasta salads, grits, lobster mac and cheese, or a fresh fruit salad.

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