Don’t let these repeat offenders sabotage your menu.
Fall is one of the most sought-after times of the year to tie the knot—in fact, in many locales it's an even more popular for a wedding than summer. From the cool, crisp weather to the leaves changing colors, the months from September to November paint a picturesque backdrop infused with coziness that’s perfect for anyone’s nuptials. Another reason why brides and grooms tend to favor the fall months for weddings? This time of the year provides a variety of fresh, colorful food options for you and your loved ones to enjoy. Apples, pomegranates, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, beets, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash are a few of the many fruits and vegetables in season in autumn that are available for you to choose from. Plus, the drop in temperatures and the change in seasons makes couples yearn for comfort foods and hearty options, whether it’s grilled cheese and tomato soup or wood-fired pizza.
While you’ll most likely work with your wedding planner and caterer to curate a menu that coordinates with the season, many couples often overlook some of the most important facets of an autumnal menu. To help you choose the right dishes for your event, we talked to a handful of experts about the most common pitfalls to steer clear of.
Sorrell Downing is the planner and designer of Events by Sorrell, an award-winning wedding planning company in New Hampshire that serves the New England area. She’s been in the industry for nine years.
Melody Ozdenak is a chef with 37 years of experience and the owner and president of Eventfull, which offers catering and event planning services in the New York City area.
Sonal J. Shah is a New York City-based wedding planner with 20 years of experience and the CEO and owner of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants.
Ahead, the most common fall wedding food mistakes couples make and how to avoid them on your big day.
Overlooking In-Season Ingredients
One of the biggest mistakes couples make is failing to take advantage of the abundance of seasonal, locally-sourced produce available in the fall. Wedding planner Sorrell Downing of Events by Sorrell finds that couples will often skimp on in-season varieties for more generic choices that are available throughout the year, which ends up being a missed flavor opportunity. A menu that features butternut squash risotto, stuffed acorn squash, and maple glazed turkey will surpass one with out-of-season options. “Utilizing the unique flavors of the season can enhance the dining experience and make the menu more memorable,” she says. Not only do in-season fruits and vegetables offer fresher and more nuanced flavors, but they’re also more affordable, so it’s a win-win.
Assuming All Seasonal Items Are Available
Although autumn is known for rich, vibrant produce, it isn’t a guarantee that the ingredient you’re after is going to be available on your wedding day. For instance, pumpkins are one item that has a finite shelf life. According to Melody Ozdenak, a chef and owner of Eventfull, this type of squash is typically limited after Halloween. “Most farms are not producing pumpkins after Halloween, so whatever you get is going to either be old or very expensive,” she notes. If you’re throwing your celebration after October 31, trade pumpkin soup for butternut squash soup or serve a medley of roasted vegetables in a hollow acorn squash instead of a carved pumpkin. No matter your wedding date, ask your caterer what types of produce are readily available when you tie the knot.
Overcomplicating the Menu
While not every in-season item is at your disposal, autumn still has an array of options to choose from. Some couples might get carried away trying to incorporate as many seasonal ingredients as possible, which may lead to complex dishes that don’t appeal to your guests. “While it’s essential to offer a variety of options, an excessively complicated menu can lead to increased prepared time, higher costs, and potential logistical challenges,” Downing explains. Instead, wedding planner Sonal J. Shah of Sonal J. Shah Event Consultants recommends choosing familiar favorites that err on the side of simplicity while adding a creative touch, so everyone will be able to enjoy the taste and marvel at the presentation.
Focusing Too Heavily on Comfort Food
Once the temperature gets cooler, it can be tempting to reach for warming comfort foods. However, if your entire menu is full of rich, heavy dishes, you and your loved ones will feel too full and lethargic to enjoy—and even partake in—the rest of the festivities. Rather than strictly serving buttermilk biscuits and creamy ravioli, mix in light bites, too. “Maybe stick with heavier appetizers and have a lighter entrée,” Ozdenak suggests. “That way, you can get up and dance without feeling like you need to take a nap, and you’ll have room left for dessert.”
Forgetting to Account for the Forecast
From September to November, autumn experiences a great deal of temperature variations. For instance, an affair in the middle of September will feel a lot warmer than one in the middle of November in one particular region. A single day in the fall can also fluctuate from sunny and warm during the day to chilly and breezy in the evening. According to Downing, many couples make the mistake of ignoring these weather changes when they plan their menu. She finds, for example, that some will continue to serve hot dishes even if the weather is balmy. To avoid this blunder, make sure you check the forecast ahead of your big day. If you’re hosting a destination wedding, ask your planner about the typical weather patterns you can expect to see during that time of the year. If you want to play it safe, Downing suggests including both warm and cold options to cover all of your bases.
Failing to Consider Guests’ Preferences
Even though serving your favorite fall dishes gives your friends and family a deeper understanding of your relationship, forgetting to take your guests’ likes and dislikes into account will ostracize them from the experience. “This oversight can result in some attendees not finding suitable food options they enjoy,” Shah shares. Supplementing your ideal autumnal meals with crowd-pleasing options will make your loved ones feel included, thereby creating a more enriching experience for the whole group.
Neglecting Dietary Restrictions
In addition to taking note of your guests’ taste preferences, Downing advises paying attention to their dietary restrictions as well. Comfort foods in the fall tend to include cream, milk, cheese, and grains, which can be problematic for those who are dairy or gluten intolerant or sensitive. To make sure everyone finds something they love, add gluten-free and dairy-free appetizers, sides, and entrées to your menu. It’s also important to ask about dietary restrictions on the RSVP cards, so you have enough time to prepare. “Leaning on your catering team to offer the foods you cherish, while also being mindful of your guests’ dietary restrictions, is crucial to making everyone feel welcome at your wedding,” Downing says.
Skimping on Beverages
Most couples spend a lot of time fine-tuning the food on their menu, but they tend to neglect their beverage lineup. Instead of solely serving the classic wine and beer options, add seasonal ingredients to your drinks to complement the season and the rest of your dishes. For instance, Ozdenak loves pomegranate ginger palomas or apple cider margaritas for your signature cocktail. You can also include a fun and interactive station that serves pumpkin spice lattes or hot apple cider. “Providing a diverse range of beverages ensures that guests have options to enjoy throughout the evening,” Downing notes.