Top wedding catering trends for 2016

dessert table, wedding
Brides are seeking out creative alternatives to the traditional wedding cake by choosing signature desserts or dessert tables.

The caterer is often the initial contact for wedding planning, and couples trust their caterer for referrals and suggestions. Beyond the dinner entree, caterers are big influencers in purchases of products and outside services like wedding venue, food and beverage, rentals, florals, cakes and dessert, entertainment, gifts and favors.

Specific to dessert trends, according to a report in Brides magazine, brides are saying "no" to the traditional wedding cake and are using creative options to stretch their dollar when it comes to dishing out dessert. This means tiered cheesecake, or an abundance of flavorful pies and even gourmet donuts, which serve as a less costly replacement.

As for color themes that will be popular for 2016, metallic is definitely in. The elevated version of sparkle and bling has brought numerous amounts of gold, silver, and metallic color palettes to every aspect of the embellishing process, according to Brides magazine. Brides are using foil printing and stamped lettering to incorporate modern sparkle elements into their invitations and stationery. Rose gold and copper are already expected to be two of the most requested shades for 2016.

As for the wedding cake, think affordable elegance. According to TheKnot.com, the average cost of a wedding reached a five-year high of $31,213 for 2014, the latest figures available. Yet the average wedding cake represents a small part of the budget at $555 average cost, while the average cost of the catered meal is $68 per person and $275 for favors. Creative favor ideas include mini cupcakes or mini donuts that guests can take home.

According to Weddingwire.com, food tends to be one of the most remembered details of a wedding. Here are some tips about what brides are looking for with a catering vendor:

  • Buffet dinners can help accommodate varying food tastes.

  • Caterers are expected to provide elegant linens and decorations.

  • Brides will want to schedule a tasting, so be prepared with options.

  • For brides who want to save some money, consider the wedding cake as the dessert.

  • For savvy affairs, offering blended wines will satisfy a wider range of pallets.

  • Don’t forget the champagne toast.

Plotting Your Strategy as a Caterer

As the group of wedding shoppers moves from one caterer to another in their search, the bride often is not the person in charge of leading that shopping effort. Nevertheless, she is extremely important in casting her vote for which caterer will be used. Make sure that she understands that the salesperson is squarely in her court and will pick up on what she thinks is important, even though the rest of the shoppers might not think the same way, according to Michael Roman, founder of Catersource.

No matter who the decision-maker is, a salesperson must bond with everyone in the wedding party. Larger shopping groups should be seated at a round table so everyone seems equal. During the sales presentation, direct scripts to everyone in the group, to make sure that everyone who wants to participate has the opportunity.

For outdoor weddings, a site-by-site game plan, with equipment needed at each place, is a great starting point. It helps to have, on paper, a list of everything needed in the catering tent, the cocktail area, at a buffet, and so on.

You may start with a tent, but there are a host of other pieces of equipment that are important to making an outdoor wedding reception a success, including:

  • Grills. “You can do a real elegant meal with a grill,” says Ken Vix, owner of An Affair to Remember in San Rafael, CA. “I’m always surprised when we get a kitchen.”

  • Lighting, if it’s going to be a late afternoon or evening event.

  • Heaters, if it gets cool.

  • Fans or even air conditioners, if it’s going to be hot.

  • Generators to run the heaters, fans and other equipment.

  • Hot boxes. Not just to keep food hot, but even to cook.

  • Mobile sinks.

  • Tarps to cover things, if needed.

  • A mobile barbeque or a smoker may be perfect for some receptions.

  • Propane stoves for sautéing and cooking on-site.