Today's weddings are all about the experience. And what could be more of a sensory feast than a hands-on, interactive eating experience, guaranteed to bring a sense of drama as well as deliciousness to your table?
From private dinners the night before the big day to breakfast banquets, weddings provide the perfect excuse to treat your guests to a gastronomy that extends beyond the traditional sit-down meal, with the likes of sharing platters, mobile catering, cook your own, themed dining and a creative smattering of sweet treats designed to sate appetites, tickle taste buds and promote a fun, intermingling vibe throughout.
Here are some of our favourite interactive dining trends and how to deliver them on your wedding day with palate-pleasing aplomb.
The penchant for platters continues to grow while taking new, innovative forms to keep guests guessing. 'For interactive food experiences, our sharing platters and dessert tables feature top,' says Louisa Beetham from Beetham Food (beethamfood.co.uk
). 'They are hugely popular and couples will consider a sharing platter for each course, or one whole dessert for each table to share.'
Sharing food is key to the ethos of Beautiful and the Feast (beautifulandthefeast.com
). 'It's all about connection to us, and ensuring your favourite humans connect with our food, with each other and with you, the happy couple, just means that's there's a happy buzz flowing through the whole love-soaked day!' says Emily Colwill from Beautiful and the Feast. 'Sharing an experience, a conversation, passing food around a table, eye-contact 'mmmms' and a whole bunch of 'have you tried this-es'™ are what we always aim for, and to hear those kind of noises as we slalom through tables make us want to high-five every single guest.'
There's endless scope for personalisation, with couples working alongside caterers to create unique and eclectic menus. Pick a theme (world tour, Cornish cuisine, your favourite book/film), dish (curries, roasts, pies) or personal preference (plant-based, locally sourced) and a select a series of supersized plates to match.
'Barbecues also help to add to the interaction,' adds Louisa, while Lucy Barber from The Good Food Catering Company (thegoodfoodcateringco.co.uk
) lists their giant paellas as a popular choice, allowing you to present a colourful, self-serve feature while customising your cuisine to both personal and crowd-pleasing effect.
Mobile and bespoke catering
Mobile catering is one of wedding world's hottest trends, providing flexibility and versatility with regards to space and dining, along with adding a showstopping centrepiece and entertaining eating/drinking intermission.
Take The Buffalo (thebuffalo.co.uk
) for example, a sleek vintage airstream bar specialising in made-to-order craft cocktails to give a live mixology performance. 'Every couple has their own personalised menu, ensuring it matches with their theme and drinks needs ' however obscure this may be,' says owner, Jo Fitch. 'From pisco sours on holiday in Argentina to JÃ¤gerbombs on a first date or specially created bloody marys using ingredients that are part of their heritage, we go the extra mile to make it a truly exceptional experience for couples and guests alike.'
'Aside from the drinks, we also offer our large customised firepits, festoon lighting, fairy light canopy and festival flags to create an awesome outdoor bar/chill-out area that allows couples and guests to take five away from the dance floor, watch the sun go down and catch up with friends and family,' she says.
Cornwall is home to a superb selection of food trucks and mobile catering options, such as woodfired pizza from Kernowforno (kernowforno.co.uk
), plant-based Indian thalis from Atta (attafood.co.uk
) and beautiful Bundt cakes and coffees from Kern (kernofkernow.co.uk)
Self-carvery and live cooking
Transform dinnertime into a spot of fun role play by appointing one person per table to act as head chef.
'We've been doing a 'guest chef's table' where one guest is nominated on each table to serve the rest of the table ' usually a roast ' and they carve wearing a chef hat,' says Louisa. 'It's fun and creates interaction and conversations.'
Take it a step further with a chef's theatre, live cooking, or involve your guests with a 'DIY dining experience' with design/make your own options such as pizzas, cooking with hot stones or Korean-style table barbecue grills, and themed buffets or banquets.
Foraging and feasting
Locally sourced produce is a top trend in wedding catering, and you could invite your guests to sample some Cornish flavours while making memories in a number of ways, from strawberry picking to incorporating a vineyard tour and wine tasting into your wedding weekend itinerary.
With an expanding number of venues growing their own and featuring veggie patches, kitchen gardens and polytunnels, you could select your wedding venue accordingly to suit and have a helping, hands-on approach to feeding your guests. Perhaps you could even host an expert-led foraging session with a cookery school such as Fat Hen (the-fat-hen.co.uk
) or Cornish Wild Food (cornishwildfood.co.uk) before sitting down with a well-deserved and uber-fresh feast.
Dessert tables and sweet treats
One of the easiest ways to create an interactive eating experience is by focusing on the sweet stuff. Dessert tables, sweetie stations and roasting marshmallows or s'mores around a firepit all add another culinary dimension to your day, while chocolate or drinks fountains (or you could go savoury and retro with fondue) always provide a talked-about feature. Absolute Chocolate's indulgent offerings include a dreamy Baileys fountain (absolutechocolatefountains.co.uk
'Our brownie bites are always a talking point while our pavlova, served as sharing dishes with roasted strawberries and flowers are a real showstopper!' says Emily.
'Last year we served an afternoon tea menu on vintage crockery from our sister company The Creative Crockery Company,' says Louisa of another lip-smacking idea (thecreativecrockerycompany.co.uk
). 'Three-tier cake stands and teapots all constantly replenishedâ€¦it created lots of interaction with guests serving each other and looked amazing!'
words Hannah May