The Ultimate Wedding Menu Checklist

There is no doubt that your wedding decor and entertainment are really important elements in your wedding, but if you think about it, your wedding menu is the one aspect of your wedding that your guests will interact with the most!

The best conversation is often done over a good meal, so the food and drink that you serve on your wedding day should be seen not just as nourishment for your guests, but also as a way for them to connect with each other.

Good food with good company will make a lasting impression on your guests, and keep them happy (and well-fueled for dancing) all night long!

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Your Wedding Menu Checklist

We’ve prepared this wedding menu checklist for you to look over as you plan your wedding. Use it to make key decisions as you build your wedding menu, so that you and your caterer can work together with clear goals for your big day.


The timing of your meal and drink services should be one of the very first things you decide on! It’s important to strike a balance in your timing so that your guests are never left hungry, or wondering when they’ll get fed. Pro tip: a hungry guest is usually not a happy guest, so make sure guests are fed well through the day.

The main events to most weddings is the ceremony, followed by the reception. Give your guests a chance to sip on some drinks or munch on some food before the ceremony, between the ceremony and reception, and of course, at the reception itself.

Here’s one example of how to schedule food and drinks service during a wedding:

  • Drinks and hor d’oeuvres should be served as soon as guests arrive at the venue, or right after the ceremony finishes. You could also split the two, and serve drinks when guests arrive, and then finger foods after the ceremony is over.
  • If your reception dinner is happening right after the ceremony, usher your guests into the venue and make sure everyone is comfortably seated before the meal service begins.
  • Will there be a cake-cutting ceremony? Be sure to schedule that around the time that dessert is served.
  • Don’t forget after-dinner drinks!

Your wedding will have its own unique schedule, but this gives you a rough idea of when to serve your guests to make sure there’s a good flow throughout your wedding day.

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Discuss drink options with your caterer beforehand so you have an idea of the different options available to you. Generally, you should decide on a signature cocktail, and one type of wine for the pre-reception drinks. We recommend choosing wine that pairs well with your canapes or hor d’oeuvres. For the reception, you’ll need to decide on the array of drinks you’ll have at your wedding bar, including wine and beer.

Remember, there’s no need to have a full bar at your wedding – a signature cocktail; a couple of different beers; red, white, and sparkling wine; and a few basic liqueurs should be enough. That being said, if you think your guests would love a full bar, go ahead with that! If you go down that route, it’s probably a good idea to hire a professional bartender.

Will you be hosting an open bar or pay bar? Most couples opt for an open bar for cocktail hour, but then make it a pay bar for the reception. Some opt for an open bar all night long! Whichever one you decide on, you should make sure that it suits your budget. If you’re opting for a pay bar at your reception, you also need to ask the caterer or venue whether they prefer to take orders and payments at the table or the bar.

Don’t forget to also provide non-alcoholic options! A mocktail is always a good choice, and there should always be water available at guests’ tables. Some guests also appreciate having hot drink options to wind down at the end of the night, so that can be something to consider as well.

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Dining style

Now you’ve nailed down the timing of your food and drink service, and you know exactly which drinks you’re serving your guests. Next thing on the list: your wedding reception!

At this point, your guests will already have had an array of wonderful finger foods and selection of drinks, and everyone’s feeling joyful and happy after an emotional wedding ceremony. You’ll make sure to get your guests seated while this celebratory mood is still in the air.  How do you imagine they’ll be seated?

Will they be at round tables that seat 10 people each? Or will you opt for long tables with bench seating? Think of how you want your guests seated, and which style most accurately reflects the energy you want on your special day!

You should also think deeply about the style of dining for the party. Will it be a buffet style? If so, are you planning to have the different food platters on the table itself or will guests have to help themselves to a buffet at a dedicated area of the venue and bring their own food back to the table?

Alternatively, are you opting for a more formal sit-down dinner? Then you need to figure out exactly which course of the meal comes out at which time.

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Your food choices on the day should reflect you as a couple in some way. It also makes it so much easier to choose a menu when you’re clear on the theme of the wedding, or have some things that mean something special to you. For example, if you met in a foreign country, then maybe include food from that country in your menu!

When it comes to food, think of the cocktail hour and the reception as two parts of a whole. There should be some connection between the food served at both events. For example, if you choose to serve Asian dim sims as finger foods during cocktail hour, then consider having a fusion of Asian and Western food at the reception.

Another thing to consider is the type of aesthetic you’re after with your food presentation. If you’re having a sit-down dinner, would you like to have your guests’ meals plated in a gourmet style or do you prefer something more casual? If your guests will be choosing from a buffet spread, are there ways for you to decorate around the food to make things look more aesthetically pleasing?

You should also confirm any dietary requirements early on. If special meals need to be made, make sure to plan ahead with your caterer to provide delicious food that is appropriate for the guest’s requirements.

Should there be any children at the reception, it may be a good idea to prepare food options especially for them. We recommend serving their meals along with adult guests’ appetisers so they do not have to wait too long for food.

Lastly, do any of your vendors – including photographers and entertainers – need to be fed on the day? Set aside meals for them as well, or ask your caterer if they have affordable options for this purpose.

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Eat, drink, and be merry!

Make a menu worth remembering, and your guests will build incredible memories of your big day, one bite at a time. Food and drink are a wonderful way for your guests to make connections and spark conversations with each other, so give them something to talk about!

Need help with your wedding catering? We are passionate about supporting you as you plan your perfect day, which is why The National Wedding Directory includes wedding vendors to help you plan every aspect of your wedding, including wedding caterers!

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