How to Plan a Fall Wedding Menu

A fall wedding buffet.

There’s a lot to love about fall—the changing leaves, the brisk air, and (most importantly) the switch from summer to fall foods. As the temperatures dip, the foods get heartier and warmer, as opposed to the light and fresh salads and entrées that are served during the warmer months. Plus, who can resist an autumn-themed dessert with irresistible flavors like pumpkin, cinnamon, apple, and caramel?

Serving an autumnal-inspired menu at a fall wedding is a chance to get creative and fully embrace all of the tastes and smells that we love about this season. Here are some ideas to get your tastebuds inspired for the flavors of autumn.

Create a Budget

Of course, before you even think about what’s going on the menu, it’s a necessity to establish a reception dinner budget. The way you typically do this is by counting the number of guests you’ve invited and calculating a cost per person. This number will give your caterer or chef an idea of what ingredients they will be able to use and in what way the food will be served (plated, buffet, family style, heavy appetizers).

Work with Your Caterer or Chef

You may have no idea what you’d like to have on your fall wedding menu, but your caterer has done this about 1,000 times before—so they’re sure to be full of good ideas. Ask to look at past menus they’ve made for fall weddings and talk to them about what some of your favorite foods and flavors are. Brainstorming together will help you come up with the perfect fall meal for all of your wedding guests.

Swap out Lighter Entrées for Heavier and Heartier Foods

A plate of fall-inspired food and a glass of white wine.

During the summer, it’s a necessity to keep things light because otherwise your guests will feel too full and too hot (which is not a recipe for a fun and lively reception dance party). In the fall, however, feel free to serve heartier and heavier entrees like roasted pork tenderloin, cornish game hen, wild mushroom risotto, or a creamy butternut squash ravioli. Whatever is on the menu, talk to your caterer about making sure it’s served piping hot.

Replace the Salad with a Soup

Salads are great any time of the year, but why not take advantage of the brisk temperatures and serve your guests a savory and warm soup for the appetizer course? Some fall favorites include butternut squash, pumpkin soup, clam chowder, or creamy roasted mushroom.

Embrace the Fall-Themed Drinks

Even if you’re not a fan of the pumpkin spice latte, we can all get behind cozy fall cocktails or seasonal beers that are available this time of year. Stock your wedding bar with dark lagers, pumpkin beers, and flavorful cocktails like spiked apple cider, apple sangria, or a good old fashioned mulled cider. Your guests will appreciate having something warm to sip on if part of your reception takes place in the chilly fall air, so don’t forget to ask your caterer about providing cozy mugs if you plan on serving something hot.

Incorporate Fall Flavors at the Dessert Table

A fall-inspired dessert table at a wedding reception.

If there’s one thing everyone enjoys, it’s a good autumn dessert. It’s the season for pumpkin and apple pie, sweet loaves, and maple cookies—so embrace them to their fullest at your fall wedding. Your guests are sure to line up for dessert right after dinner is served.

Embrace the Farm-to-Table Movement

The farm-to-table movement has been huge the last few years in restaurants, so why not bring the same concept to your wedding? Fall is one of the busiest harvest seasons of the year, and incorporating local autumn veggies and meats will be a fun way to get good flavor and high-quality ingredients into your menu. Going farm-to-table is also an especially good way to introduce out-of-town guests to the flavors of your hometown. Work with your caterer on sourcing all of your vegetables and meat from area farmers and merchants to keep the flavors and food as local as possible.

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