Editors’ note: The print version of this article incorrectly stated that Quiet Elegance Bakery in Milford is “now closed.” The bakery is open, and located at 923 Bay Road. Delaware/Main Line Bride deeply regrets the error.
Plus, food-themed favor ideas for your guests.
by Pam George
From the bouquet flowers to the bridesmaid dresses, the choices you make for your wedding will reflect you and your future husband’s personalities. However, don’t forget the food. A menu with meaning can emphasize a theme, create a fun atmosphere and personalize the experience. Here are some tasty ways to use food and drink to tell your story.
CREATE A SIGNATURE DRINK
Serving a signature cocktail has become a flavorful way to distinguish your reception. A theme can help narrow your choices. For instance, for their tropical-themed wedding, Nicole Bailey-Ashton and Joe Ashton served rum punch—but that’s not all. The guests received margarita snow cones when they left the seaside ceremony and entered the tent at Big Chill Beach Club in Bethany Beach. Although it was an unseasonably cool day, the snow cones were still a hit.
Russ Tuckerman and Karen Miller of Trolley Square, who got engaged in Paris, chose a French country theme for their wedding. Since lavender fields are synonymous with Provence, guests sipped martinis made with fresh lavender and nibbled foie gras mousse with blackcurrant jam on brioche rounds and caviar-andcreme fraiche canapes.
A signature drink can also be quirky. David Leo Banks of Banks’ Seafood Kitchen and Raw Bar in Wilmington has served wine—rose or sangria—garnished and cooled with flavored popsicles. “Drinks like that exceed expectations,” he says.
At the Delaware beaches, an orange crush—or some fruit-forward variation—is a commonplace libation, particularly for couples who met at a hotspot such as The Starboard. The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro has set up “crush bars” for couples who want to offer a variety, says Danielle Panarello, director of operations.
You needn’t stick to cocktails. Because Lauren Bigelow and fiancé John Panasiewicz both work in the brewing industry, they plan to have a variety of local beers available at the bar when they wed later this year. A brewpub is catering their wedding.
Just don’t overthink it. Bailey-Ashton, the owner of Elevee Events, knows a couple so obsessed with margaritas that they featured them as a signature cocktail, placed lime slices in the floral arrangements and gave away margarita mix as guest favors.
For Olga Ganoudis and Billy Papili’s wedding, Papili whipped up nearly four gallons of cosmopolitans, the preferred beverage of his Delta Cosmonauts bandmates. At the start of the reception at the Blue Ball Barn, wedding guests had their choice of the cosmo or a Champagne cocktail—Ganoudis’ drink of choice.
USE YOUR HISTORY & HERITAGE FOR INSPIRATION
Papili is of Italian descent, so an antipasti platter was a natural addition to the appetizer buffet. Ganoudis honored her Greek heritage with spanakopita (spinach pie) during the dinner buffet.
Saluting your ancestry is an easy way to differentiate your reception. Panarello recalls a bride whose Italian-American aunts joined together to bake batches of Italian wedding cookies. “They brought them all wrapped in wax paper in shoeboxes,” she says. “It was a tradition.”
You can also take a cue from your upbringing. Kathleen McDonald—catering and event director for La Vida Hospitality, whose restaurants include Big Chill Beach Club and Fork + Flask at Nage—is in the midst of planning a reception that will feature vegetables and chickens grown on the family farm.
If you’re stumped, consider a dish that inspires nostalgia or something you enjoyed eating when you started dating, McDonald says. Bailey-Ashton and her husband, for instance, both grew up eating strawberry shortcake—only her mother served it with biscuits, and his family used cake. At their welcome dinner for out-of-town guests, they set up a DIY strawberry shortcake table with biscuits and cake.
Pigs-in-a-blanket are packed with nostalgia, and one of McDonald’s clients wanted them during the cocktail hour. For dinner, they asked for chicken and crab cakes from Jimmy’s Grille, a down-home diner-esque restaurant in Rehoboth.
However, the sausages were rolled in puff pastry, not refrigerated biscuit dough, and the crab cakes were plated for a formal sit-down dinner. “It was fun but served in a high-end way,” McDonald says.
HIGHLIGHT THE THEME
Miller and Tuckerman also chose a sit-down dinner for their reception, and the menu—crafted by Robert Lhulier Cuisine—continued to give guests a culinary trip to France.
The dinner included a composed salad with an herb-crusted chevrè crouton and sherry vinaigrette; lavender-honey-roasted leg of lamb; saffron-scented couscous; haricots verts and imported French cheeses, fresh fruits and nuts.
A couple who held their reception at the Hilton Wilmington-Christiana on Cinco de Mayo had a ready-made theme. In addition to a specialty margarita, they ordered a taco bar. Mini bottles of Patrón held the table numbers, and the couple’s sweetheart table had a piñata in the shape of the first letter of their last name.
Bailey-Ashton paired the rum punch and margarita snow cones with exotic cuisine. McDonald, who handled the catering, had her staff pass appetizers including satays and coconut shrimp. One food station featured fresh soba noodles. The twist: It was served in Chinese takeout cartons.
Banks of Banks’ Seafood Kitchen and Raw Bar would approve. Stations go over well when they have an exciting or active presentation, he says. McDonald has served salad in stemware. If you don’t want to have stations for your main courses, then consider them for the cocktail hour, and have plenty of options. You don’t want guests drinking on an empty stomach.
Not all the food needs to fit the theme, Bailey-Ashton says. Because she is a vegetarian, she ordered tofu satays. At the same time, she couldn’t let La Vida Hospitality cater an event without offering Nage’s famous burgers.
ADD A SWEET AND SASSY FLAIR
The dessert course gives couples a prime opportunity to play. “I think your cake has to be the best thing at the reception,” maintains Ganoudis, whose tiered wedding cake wore a drizzle of caramel and was decorated with caramel corn and edible flowers.
Pastry chef Michele Mitchell had a client who wanted a sophisticated take on the fun-fetti cake that her mother made for birthdays. “It’s a vanilla cake that has sprinkles baked into the batter,” explains Mitchell, formerly the executive pastry chef at the Hotel du Pont and now the owner of Michele Mitchell Pastry Designs. “It’s cute.”
For Miller and Tuckerman, Mitchell made the type of pastries you’d spot in a Parisian shop. “[The bride] specifically asked for Paris-Brest, which is a choux pastry, usually piped in a circle and then split in half horizontally,” says Mitchell. “It’s usually filled with strawberry preserves and Chantilly cream.”
Mitchell arranged the desserts on a table in categorized groupings—just as they would appear in a French pastry shop. For the wedding cake, she baked a croque-en-bouche, which is a cone-shaped tower of choux pastry balls.
Don’t feel you have to stick to one cake. Mitchell has also made “his-and-her” naked cakes. One was chocolate, and one was vanilla. (A naked cake has an excess of filling between the layers, which are visible. There’s a minimal outer layer of buttercream frosting or fondant.)
Bailey-Ashton had three cakes. “I happen to be best friends with three cake bakers, and we couldn’t decide what to do,” she explains. A chocolate cake by The Station on Kings in Lewes satisfied Joe Ashton’s chocoholic cravings. Carolina Sugar Fairy Custom Cakes & Sweets in Lewes made a pound cake with lemon and raspberry filling, and Quiet Elegance Bakery in Milford made a carrot cake with chunks of pineapple. All of the cakes had tropical touches.
The traditional groom’s cake is another way to demonstrate creativity. Cindy Bene, the wedding specialist at Harry’s Ballroom in Wilmington, says one bride surprised her husband, a chef, with a cake in the shape of a chef’s coat.
If creativity isn’t your forte, brainstorm your ideas with your wedding planner. “Our first questions are, ‘What do you want [your wedding] to look like? What do you want it to feel like? How do you want it to go?’” says Panarello of The Clubhouse at Baywood.
In the end, she says, it’s all about creating an experience.
When it comes to wedding favors, guests have an appetite for something sweet, savory or spicy. Don’t waste your money on a tchotchke that many will end up leaving at the table—if you have the time and talent to mix, bottle or bake something, your guests will thank you.
Ganoudis and Papili, for instance, made chocolate-cello (a twist on Limoncello), which they poured into bottles with a custom label that read: “Love is Intoxicating.” The label also included an image of two elephants whose entwined trunks formed a heart. “Elephants mate forever,” Ganoudis says.
At The Clubhouse at Baywood, couples have affixed personalized labels on small bottles of Prosecco.
Not every bottle has to contain a libation. Guests at a wedding held at Front & Palmer in Philadelphia departed with bottles of hot sauce made by the bride and groom.
Edible favors can do double-duty. At the beach, Bailey-Ashton has seen starfish-shaped cookies double as place cards.
Such treats can serve as a little snack in between cocktail hour and dinner, or as a little treat to enjoy on the ride home. Consider candy bars wrapped with a custom label. Bailey-Ashton says some of her clients give small boxes of sea salt caramels from Kilwins on Rehoboth Avenue.
If you’re feeling generous, opting for a colorful candy buffet bar is still popular. Guests can fill a to-go bag with a number of sweet treats.
Many couples who celebrate at Harry’s Ballroom in North Wilmington offer warm soft pretzels or mini cheesesteaks to departing guests, says Bene. “It’s something fun at the end of the night, and it can reflect a couple’s personality,” she says.
Soft pretzels are always fitting for a venue near Philly. At the beach, it’s all about Grotto Pizza, which will deliver pizzas as the reception winds down.
Bailey-Ashton had the pizza delivered to her own reception at the Big Chill Beach Club. “You’ve been dancing, and you just don’t care about the calories,” she says. “We loaded a whole pie into the limo before we left.”
Here are some other ideas for edible guest gifts:
- Baked goods such as brownies, cookies and cake in Mason jars.
- Colorful macarons in a variety of colors
- Warm donuts
- Infused olive oils
- Bagged flavored popcorn
- Honey or jam with the label “Love is sweet”
- Individual bags of specialty coffee beans
- Personalized cocktail mixes (tuck in an imprinted shaker)
- Homemade spice mixes
- Bottled beverages in custom koozies