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6 Foods You Shouldn’t Serve at a Wedding

A bride and groom eating a wedding dinner.

There are a few unspoken rules in the wedding world, some of which you might not think about when planning your menu. Here are a few factors you might want to consider when planning your meal for the big day, and a few types of foods you might want to avoid.

There are some risks associated with serving certain foods at your wedding, so it’s best to have an understanding of what those are before the big day. This guide will help you make the best decision for you, your fiancé, and your guests.

Serving Styles, and Why They Matter

When choosing food for your wedding, the serving style plays a significant role. The two most popular serving styles are:

  • Traditional: This style is a plated sit-down dinner where guests are seated and served the dinner they’ve preselected when returning the RSVP. The choices are typically a meat or fish option. Some invitations offer a vegetarian or vegan option, but you might also call for additional dietary restriction requirements.
  • Buffet: This serving style offers a wide variety of food choices for guests and is less formal than a traditional plated style. Buffets are an excellent option for guests because they can choose what they want and how much they want to eat.

Like buffet-style, you can also choose to organize foods in a self-serve manner that offers plated foods in a help-yourself presentation. While it’s visually appealing, this related style is difficult to achieve with many guests, as these types of foods are harder to keep warm, and they take up a lot of space.

What to Consider Before Selecting Your Menu

A waiter serving dishes at a wedding.
David Tadevosian/Shutterstock.com

Now that you know about the most popular wedding serving styles, you’ll need to consider a few other factors. The number of guests, the reception setting, and wedding formality should all mesh with the mood and décor.

Here are some other things to consider:

  • The number of people attending: For the sake of the quality, appearance, and temperature of food, the amount of guests you plan to feed makes all the difference. You’ll want to serve everyone in a timely fashion, but having hundreds of mouths to feed takes extra time. Plated dinners work best for smaller weddings. Larger groups are easier to provide buffet-style as all the food can be prepped into large chafing dishes and set on warmers to keep the food hot.
  • Indoor or outdoor: Select meals and appetizers that will work safely with the location of your wedding. An indoor wedding is predictable and temperature-controlled, whereas an outdoor wedding under the sun (or rain) might create risks for certain foods like raw bars. Buttercream frostings and whipped creams also melt in the sun, so keep that in mind when thinking cake.
  • Formality: Most couples want their food to match the formality of their big day. That means serving fancier foods at a formal wedding and casual options at a casual-style wedding.

These guidelines should help with the selection process, but bending the rules is fun, too, as long as it’s safe for everyone.

In fact, it’s becoming more common today to avoid some of the traditional style wedding customs and opt for a more modern take on the big day. Think pie and donuts instead of cake or food trucks instead of caterers.

Types of Foods to Avoid and Why

A plate of spaghetti.

There are certain foods that simply don’t mesh well with weddings. When selecting a menu to feed multiple guests, think about how people plan to dress and what foods most people like eating.

Overall, you want to accommodate something your and your soon-to-be spouse love but also provide a lovely dinner most people will enjoy. After all, the meal is a way of thanking your guests for coming to celebrating one of the biggest days of your life.

From messy sauces that stain to foods that cause stinky breath, there are a few no-no’s to think about.

Common Food Allergens

Avoid serving common food allergens (especially ones that can be disguised into dishes) when designing a menu for the wedding, especially when alcohol consumption is involved.

These types of foods include peanuts or tree nuts like pine nuts or pecans. Sauces made with fish or seafood stock can also cause problems if not properly labeled.

If these ingredients are a must, be sure that the caterer or chef you are working with labels meals that use these tricky ingredients, so guests are aware. Printed menus clearly labeled with these ingredients are a great way to ensure folks know what they are eating beforehand.

Overly Saucy Foods

Any messy foods that include loads of sauce are typically considered a faux pas. While most people love spaghetti doused in sauce, the splatter factor is just too high, which results in mean messes and stained dresses.

Whether casual or formal, guests tend to dress nice and doll up, so avoiding these splashy foods is in everyone’s best interest.

Aside from red sauces, cream-based causes that contain cheese, butter, and loads of dairy tend to be filling. If you want your guests to dance freely without feeling overly stuffed, turn to something a little lighter.

Raw or Overly Exotic Foods

A plate of opened oysters.

Even if you and your soon-to-be spouse love raw foods, like sushi, tartare, and oysters, the majority of your guests might not. Save these risky foods for a night that doesn’t involve plates of raw foods left out for lengthy periods.

When raw foods sit at room temperature for more than two hours, the bacteria will start to grow at unsafe levels. If no one monitors that, or a plate is left somewhere without service staff knowledge, it becomes too easy for an intoxicated (or sober) person to eat without thinking it through.

Foods That Require Two Hands

Finger foods are common during cocktail hour, and some couples choose to serve their entire night’s worth of food this way to encourage engagement among guests and to save on money.

While these dainty bite-sized foods are super popular at weddings, anything larger that requires both hands becomes a bit risky.

Triple- decker sandwiches, barbecue-loaded burgers, and tacos are all fun in retrospect, but these overloaded and complicated foods are challenging to eat.

Foods That Cause Bad Breath

Plate of tuna steak with salad.

Foods that cause bad breath aren’t exactly your best choice either. For many guests, especially couples, weddings are a celebration of love and marriage.

When slow songs come on, you’ll want fresh breath. Avoid foods like tuna fish, raw onions and garlic, and maybe even high-dairy foods.

Foods That Don’t Keep

There’s something to be said about foods that taste better over time because the longer they sit, the longer the flavor marries. However, some foods literally melt and or break when they sit too long.

This is particularly true for desserts that have whipped cream or buttercream frosting. These ingredients will melt over time and lose structure, especially if out in the sun.

Keep in mind cakes will sit on display for several hours before being served, so make sure the ingredients are safe for that.

Serving dressed salad is another no-no as the greens quickly become soggy when they sit. A safe alternative is to serve the dressing on the side to save your guests from mushy lettuce.

There’s so much to think about when planning your wedding, and the menu is only part of it. Hopefully, though, now that you know what foods to avoid, it’ll make it easier to choose what to serve on your big day.

If you want an easier way to work through your ideas, pick up a wedding planner. They also make an excellent piece of memorabilia.

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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