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Savor the Moment!

Fish with Greens

Saratoga Today Newspaper
Enchanted Wedding Expo
Story by Daniel Schechtman

There's a lot to keep in mind when designing the perfect rehearsal and reception dinner menus for your guests, from choosing food that will appeal to everyone, avoiding complications with allergies or dietary restrictions, to crafting an event that fits your desired theme and tone. We spoke with Kim Klopstock, owner of Lily and the Rose, as well as Brian Palazzolo and Jeremy Kane, president and executive chef (respectively) of Classé Catering, to get their advice on how to create a memorable menu for your once-in-a-lifetime celebration.

Tasty tips for menu planning

Create an experience.

When designing a reception or rehearsal dinner menu, talk with your caterer about the venue, tone and theme you desire for your celebration. With a little bit of forethought and planning, food, location and feel will come together to create a memorable evening that guests will be talking about for years to come.

No one should go hungry.

Design a menu from which all guests can find something to enjoy for the main course. For large parties with a wide spectrum of different tastes and preferences, the safest bet when selecting entreé menu items typically includes a beef dish, fish dish and a vegetable-based dish.

Make it personal.

While it's usually best to play it safe with the main course, the salad, desserts, cocktails and appetizers are a great place to be a bit more creative with your selection. Include an ethnic dish made just the way mom used to, a raw bar loaded with vegetarian food, special pastries, desserts and more. The sky's the limit!

Pear Salad

Your venue sets the tone.

Use it to your advantage! For those who enjoy dancing, consider doing away with the traditional sit-down dinner. Instead, Klopstock suggests designing food stations strategically placed throughout the venue to encourage guests to move around the space and dance more. For those who have chosen a more formal venue where dancing isn't as much of a priority, a sit-down dinner may be more comfortable.

Savor the moment.

Make sure you give yourself time to eat. Between greeting guests, hitting the dance floor, giving and receiving toasts, and, of course, stealing away for a private moment together, it is easy to forget about the wonderful menu you have planned.

Plan for the season.

"Seasonality greatly affects how food for a wedding is planned," said Kane. For a spring or summertime wedding, keep it light! Think mangos, local berries, asparagus and chutneys — no heavy sauces. For a fall or winter celebration, squashes and pumpkins are right at home on the menu, adding a warm splash of color to a table that can dare to be a bit heartier.

Keep in mind allergies and dietary restrictions.

If one of your guests is allergic to peanuts, it's important to speak with your caterer to avoid any potential conflicts. Special precautions can also be taken ahead of time to avoid any cross contamination, which will allow guests to find an item that safely fits within their needs.

Variety is the spice of life.

The rehearsal and reception dinners are very different events — keep the menus different and exciting too! "Create different vibes for each event," said Palazzolo. "Rehearsal dinners in many cases are casual-fun events where the family wants to host an interactive social event." For the less formal rehearsal dinner, consider small plate barbeque, gourmet street food or your favorite comfort foods. Guests will appreciate the contrasting menus when they get to the reception dinner, which traditionally tends to feature a richer, more robust and formal selection.

Get your families in on the action!

Have an aunt, cousin or grandparent who makes special homemade cookies or a unique dessert that they wouldn't mind sharing with your guests? Ask if they would like to make a special batch for your wedding celebration, adding that one-of-a-kind personal touch to your evening. Add a name card in front of their thoughtful addition to let everyone know who made the goods when compliments start flying.

Don't forget about breakfast.

"Breakfast the morning after is my favorite time, because now that you're saying goodbye, you get to rehash and recap all the wonderful experiences you've had over your wedding weekend," said Klopstock. For breakfast, keep it casual. After all the fun from the late night reception celebration, the breakfast meal is a great time to relax, reflect and wish all your guests well before they go. Keep the menu light — and make sure to include plenty of coffee!

• Contact Kim Klopstock at (518) 885-8588.