Grazing tables at weddings are no longer just a trend… they’re a bona fide dietary staple on the culinary reception scene, and we don’t think that’s set to change anytime soon!
The delicious catering movement began with grazing platters being served as appetisers (in lieu of canapes) but has since moved into ‘main fare’ territory, and the edible works-of-art just keep growing in popularity.
However, while the ‘graze craze’ shows no sign of losing momentum, if you’re thinking about serving grazing platters or grazing tables as part of your wedding catering service, there are a few things you absolutely must think about. If you are working with a professional events catering team, they will work through most of these issues with you, but these are tips you should also consider before you make your dietary decision.
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Can you Really Cater an Entire Wedding Day with a Grazing Table..?
The short answer is “Yes”! The longer answer is yes, but you must do so with a lot of thought, planning and preparation, if not the help of a professional service.
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I have personally seen grazing tables done incredibly well, providing ample delicious food for a number of smaller, less formal weddings, as well as engagement parties and PR events. However, they can also be done not-so-well… you need to be very aware of the possible pitfalls of relying exclusively on a grazing platter or table to provide food for a large event such , especially when they are all-day events.
Serving Drinks with Grazing Tables
As a grazing table is generally a ‘serve yourself’ catering option, you may wish to also have self-serve drinks. Set up a couple of non-alcoholic dispensers, and underneath the grazing table, fill large cooler tubs with ice and RTD pre-mixes like Sundown Gin & cucumber soda or Hint watermelon vodka with sparkling water – perfect for a garden wedding.
The Pitfalls of Platters: What Can Go Wrong?
The most obvious one, is that you under-cater, and run out of food, but there’s plenty more pitfalls to keep in mind:
- How will the platter look after 10-100 people have started picking at it? Who will be responsible for replenishing the platter as the afternoon/evening goes on, continuing to style the food so that it’s still appetising? Will your catering team just set up the platter, or remain to keep it looking good.
- Food safety and health requirements, will meat cuts, pates and cheeses be safe for guests to consume after a few hours on a hot day? How will you prevent flies, ants or other creepy-crawlies from grazing alongside your guests?
- Dietary issues: are you catering to vegetarians, vegans, or even pregnant women? If so, many won’t want to touch any food which has been in contact with deli-meats, pates or soft cheeses (all a no-no in pregnancy).
This will also limit what they can eat from your platter, and possibly leave a few hungry if your grazing table is largely charcuterie-driven or dairy-heavy. Those with gluten intolerance too, will need to be advised of which breads and crackers are gluten-friendly, and possibly be careful of dips and spreads too, and if anyone has a serious nut allergy, steer clear of sprinkling nuts around the food!
- How many guests will be gathering to graze, at any one time? Will 20, 40, 60, or 100 people be able to feast simultaneously, popping to and from the grazing table? Will the table be accessible (and styled) from both sides?
- Will it be finger-food, walk and fork, or more substantial servings which guests can take a seat with? If your feast might leave your guests with sticky fingers, consider offering plates and cutlery, as well as suitable seating nearby.
To answer these, and more FAQs, I’ve compiled a how-to guide to creating the perfect wedding grazing tables. If you’re still considering all options, head to the Wedding Catering Guide.
How to Cut Costs (While being Considerate of your Wedding Guests)
Are you using grazing platters to cut down on the cost of your wedding day catering? They can certainly be easier on the wallet, but in your haste to cut costs, don’t be too frugal either – you still want your guests to enjoy your catering, have plenty to eat (and stay sober-ish) and plenty of choice too. There are many ways to elevate a simple platter into an elaborate offering to really wow your friends and family and make it a feast for the tastebuds, while still being conscious of cost. I do recommend using a catering company to ensure quality food and attention to detail.
Whether you are providing a formal sit-down dinner or a casual feasting table, you still need to provide a substantial amount of food for your guests, especially if they’re drinking, but the cost savings will be evident in other areas, such as wait-staff and other hireage (if you’re doing a DIY wedding).
One of the major wedding budget benefits of having grazing table catering is that you cut down on the cost of wait staff in handing out canapés and serving meals, though it’s still worth hiring at least one professional to replenish the grazing table, if not add to it through the course of the day.
For instance, if you are planning on catering the event exclusively with grazing platters, consider having hot, fresh options as part of the offering. You could combine barbecued or spit-roasted meat with a grazing table of fresh crudités, breads and dips, allowing your guests to make delicious sandwiches which will fill them up and line their stomachs.
Rather than serving just the expected options, a wedding caterer can include more substantial hors d’oeuvre: filled vol-au-vents, blinis, club sandwiches, toasted garlic breads or bruschetta, for example, making it easier and tidier for guests too.
The wedding I attended over the weekend provided a grazing table as well as having canapés served by catering staff, which provided an excellent option for all, including some of the older guests who didn’t have to keep coming to the table to fill up.
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Expert Tips for Great Grazing Tables
- Reduce wastage and be mindful of food health safety by having a smaller grazing table replenished throughout the day with fresh cheese and meats, rather than putting them all out together and just leaving them.
- Utilise height for styling, and to keep some foods separate from others. Depending on your wedding styling, using cake-stands or stacked crates, you could keep vegetarian or gluten free options separate from the main grazing table by using different levels of height.
- Include edible greenery. While you may be considering a floral arrangement for the table, edible decorations can also add colour and actually complement the food too. Sprigs of rosemary, bunches of grapes or even fresh, edible flowers can really elevate a simple platter look.
- Have a “Cheese Cake” centrepiece. If you’re going to be serving cheese as part of your grazing table, have a look at the incredible Kapiti layered cheese cakes (photo below).
- Be mindful of the temperature, and the grazing table’s exposure to other weather. If the table is to be served outdoors, some foods may quickly spoil, while others will attract insects. Always choose a shady position for your grazing table, and consider using something like the Shoo Away Fly Repeller.
- Label your foods! Your guests will appreciate knowing what they are eating, and it’s the best way to ensure guests’ dietary requirements are met too.
- Consider leftovers. Before you even choose your foods, keep in mind what you could do with any potential leftovers, and how you will store them. You could donate to a homeless shelter, save for yourselves or serve them as part of your next-day brunch.
- Source a wide range and variety of foods, fresh and seasonal produce where possible, and piece together a table of vibrant colours, textures and flavours that is art for the eyes and indulges the tastebuds – Platter & Graze, Auckland
- Support local! Our grazing tables include but are not limited to Andreas kitchen’s Crackers, a selection of Canterbury Cheese Monger Cheeses, Le Panier Breads, a selection of meats from Cashmere Cuisine, Volcano Dips and Canterbury Olives – Bespoke Platters, Canterbury
- Choose a registered food business. Imagine choosing an unlicensed caterer for your wedding without knowing and your guests got sick? Horrible to think about I know, but these are the sort of situations you could be faced with if you choose the wrong caterer – The Honest Platter, Bay of Plenty & Coromandel
- Eat dessert first! If you’re having all your food displayed on a grazing table, why not include sugarry treats for the sweet-toothed among us: donuts, cupcakes and personalised cookies add a cute touch.
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Main photo: The Honest Platter