Grazing tables—or a large spread of finger foods for your guests to nibble on after the ceremony—are one of 2019’s must-do wedding trends. (In fact, Pinterest reported that searches for family-style grazing tables were up 163% this year.) A grazing table will be a welcome sight to your guests and is the perfect way to keep them occupied while you wind down from the ceremony and spend time taking photos with your new spouse and families. And unlike a traditional buffet that requires chafer dishes and bowls of ice to keep seafood cool, grazing tables are more casually set up, but can look visually stunning (and, of course, delicious). Thinking of having a grazing station at your wedding reception? Here’s how to DIY one that’s unforgettable and nibble-worthy.
First, Work with Your Venue to Secure a Space
Before you start gathering recipes and start your shopping list, you should first talk to your reception venue to see when and where you can set up your grazing table. All the venue really needs to provide is a large table, or give you the option to bring your own in.
Talk to your venue coordinator about where the best spot to put one is. You’ll want to have ample room so that your guests can line up and gather around the table to socialize with their cocktails. You should also check with your venue that you’re allowed to bring your own outside food into the venue (some venues may require that you have a food license in order to serve on the premises).
Getting Your Table Essentials
If your venue is providing the table and linens, then just ask that it’s set up for you on the day of the ceremony before you arrive. If your venue isn’t providing linens, be sure to order one well ahead of time so you’re not scrambling at the last minute to throw it all together. Once you’ve secured your linens, you’ll also need to purchase trays and platters as well as serving spoons, knives, and tongs that your guests can use to scoop fruit, slice cheese, and pick up crackers.
Because not many of us have the kitchen equipment readily accessible to serve 100+ guests, ask your family and friends if they have items you can borrow. Remember, not everything has to be match—and, actually, having unique pieces throughout the grazing table will give it an eclectic vibe. To make it look more cohesive with your overall wedding theme, you can fill in empty spaces with matching vases or bouquets of flowers in your wedding colors.
Choosing the Food
While choosing platters and securing utensils to use is an important part of getting your grazing table together, the main thing you’ll need to worry about is the food. There aren’t any specific rules of what foods to choose and what to avoid at a grazing table, but it’s best to keep things as simple as possible so that you don’t have to worry about food spoiling or having things heated at a certain temperature.
Choose finger foods that hold up well, like the following:
- fruit dip
- pita bread
- chips and salsa
- cheese balls
- mini muffins
Besides choosing food that’s able to keep for a long stretch, you should also think about combining snacks that provide a lot of color and depth to the grazing table. In other words, don’t just choose a bunch of bland or brown foods to put together.
Displaying the Food
After you’ve decided what foods you’re going to have at the grazing station, you’ll need to decide how you’d like them all displayed and assembled. There are no right or wrong ways to do this, but it’s a good idea to communicate exactly what you want to the person who will be assembling them (which, hopefully, won’t be you as you’ll be busy getting ready for the ceremony).
Besides ensuring that the food is set out in a way that makes sense (putting fruits next to the fruit dip, veggies next to the veggie dip, crackers next to the cheese), you should also think about putting foods at different heights with the use of cake stands or other pedestals to create visual appeal. If there is extra food, assign someone to replenish it throughout the grazing/cocktail hour so that you don’t have leftovers.
Above all, remember that when it comes to assembling a grazing table, there are no rules. Your guests will be happy to see the snacks available to them and glad to get a chance to nibble on something while they have a cocktail and prepare for the evening ahead.