Wedding food’s gone way beyond chicken, beef, or fish
As couples look for creative menus to match their style, chefs and caterers offer up a host of options from ultra casual to refined.
Sharing good food with the person you love is one of life’s great pleasures, and some couples are taking that a step further by sharing the tastes they enjoy most with their nearest and dearest on their wedding day.
According to Sarah Basch, owner of Without a Hitch, a day-of event coordination service in Boston, weddings where the food is front and center are on the rise. “We are seeing craft beers and custom cocktails as well as menus that are reflective of the couple’s relationship, lifestyle, and ethnicity,” says Basch, who has worked with more than 40 couples in the past year, some of whom included a favorite childhood dish or a meal they shared on their first date as part of the wedding fare. While wedding budgets haven’t necessarily increased, Basch has seen clients inviting fewer guests in order to serve special food with personal meaning.
“People don’t always realize how food helps to create the whole guest experience,” says Jodi Raphael of Jodi Raphael Events, who has planned weddings in everything from warehouses to high-end hotels. For venues without on-site catering, Raphael makes suggestions from a list of favorite vendors that have impressed her with both versatility and service. Food possibilities are limitless, though. Couples can even hire their favorite restaurant to cater a dinner at home, she says, or they can arrange to say “I do” and “Let’s eat” in their neighborhood pub. “If a couple is attracted to a space,” says Raphael, “then there’s a way to work with it.”
Whether you’re dreaming of a clambake on the beach or formally plated perfection, here is a small sampling of New England venues that can make what you and your guests eat and drink at your wedding just as memorable as the day itself.
The Clark Art Institute
225 South Street, Williamstown, 413-458-2303, clarkart.edu
This beloved art museum in the Berkshires began hosting weddings last fall, offering brides and grooms a chance to blend nature and art on their big day. The outdoor terrace overlooking a three-tiered reflecting pool has been the most popular spot for a ceremony and cocktail reception, followed by dinner in an architecturally spectacular, all-glass pavilion. Chef Dan Hardy, who runs the museum’s cafe under the auspices of the Starr Catering Group, sources much of his food from local farms to create healthy, seasonal menus. In 2015, the Zagat guide named the food at Clark’s cafe one of the “Eight Reasons to Drive to the Berkshires.”
Kimpton Marlowe Hotel
25 Edwin H. Land Boulevard, Cambridge, 617-868-8000, hotelmarlowe.com
After saying “I do,” either in the Serrano Ballroom or at the romantic waterside site along the Charles River Canal, couples love to pose with Celeste, the movable, steampunk-inspired sculpture that graces the courtyard reception space. They and guests sit down to Mediterranean-inspired cuisine with an emphasis on local, courtesy of new executive chef David Bazirgan, who also runs the hotel’s Bambara Kitchen & Bar. With the Eat. Love. Wed. program, available to those who book by March 2017, Bazirgan will create a personalized hors d’oeuvre for the couple. (Think bite-size fish tacos for the pair who met in Baja.) The hotel will also deliver a midnight snack to overnighting newlyweds who might have spent more time socializing than eating.
10 Bosworth Street, Boston, 617-422-0004, marliave.com
With the original pressed-tin ceilings and mosaic tile floors from the 1920s, the fourth-oldest restaurant in Boston boasts French-Italian cuisine with a twist and an inviting list of libations to augment the jazzy Prohibition-era atmosphere. Couples can buy out the restaurant for a reception of up to 200 guests or, for parties of up to 120, rent the upstairs event space with a separate bar area and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the recently revitalized Downtown Crossing. Guests choose from a scaled-down menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Marliave’s box of four handcrafted chocolate truffles makes for a sweet take-home party favor.
Oceanview of Nahant
Zero Willow Road, Nahant, 781-581-1301, oceanviewofnahant.com
As guests sip signature cocktails on a wooden deck overlooking the Atlantic, they can smell the wood fire from the clambake on the beach below. For sea-loving couples who relish the New England experience of fresh shellfish cooked over coals, this is a perfect venue to enjoy the food without getting sand in their shoes. The wedding feast, whether a clambake or traditional menu prepared in the kitchen, is served in the Oceanaire Ballroom with its floor-to-ceiling views of the water. When the dancing’s done, treat guests to a “Firepit Finale” with late-night bites of comfort food and, of course, toasted marshmallows.
Peirce Farm at Witch Hill
116 Boston Street, Topsfield, 978-867-1355, www.peircefarm.com
After holding her own September 2016 nuptials at this estate 30 minutes north of Boston, wedding planner Sarah Basch is a believer. With a recently restored terrace and a great lawn surrounded by gardens and old-growth trees, the 13-acre site that opened for weddings in May 2016 dates to the 1680s. Couples rent the entire property, including the grounds, the well-appointed mansion, and the recently renovated timber-frame barn that accommodates 150 guests for dinner. Owner Sean Ward has flexible catering policies and allows couples to bring their own alcohol — which can significantly reduce the bar bill. For her big day, Basch worked with Deja Blu Catering and Events (508-533-9973, dejablucatering.com) in Natick to do a taco bar, grilled cheese and soup station, and freshly tossed salads, followed by ice cream sundaes for dessert.
11 Sanborn Court, Somerville, 617-448-849, wxi.space
DIYers get creative with florals, candles, and party lights to transform this industrial-chic Union Square space, with its white brick walls and cement floors, into a magically modern wedding venue. With no kitchen on-site, couples can choose their own catering, including hiring a food truck to pull up out front. Weather permitting, the meal can be handled at the truck window; otherwise, banquet-style service works well inside. Mei Mei Street Kitchen (857-250-4959, meimeiboston.com) gets raves for its Chinese-American cuisine, while Stoked Pizza Company (800-568-9370, roaminghunger.com/stoked-pizza-co/) offers wood-fired slices. On the higher end, Forklift Catering (617-776-7600, forkliftcatering.com) next door prepares delicious food, including vegetarian or gluten-free options, relying, when possible, on local sources and artisanal products. As a playful ending to the meal, sub in Union Square Donuts (617-209-2257, unionsquaredonuts.com) for wedding cake. Just steps away, Stone Place Park provides an urban oasis for an outdoor ceremony.
Jonathan Edwards Winery
74 Chester Main Road, North Stonington, 860-535-0202, jedwardswinery.com
Featuring reliably spectacular scenery spring through fall, this East Coast vineyard (it also produces wine from grapes grown in Napa Valley) draws food lovers from around New England and beyond. For an outdoor ceremony and cocktail reception, a stone patio faces west for sunset views while the newly covered deck overlooks the 20-acre vineyard. The barrel and tasting rooms provide two inside options for the cocktail hour, which typically highlights bright, dry estate-grown whites. For a signature drink, couples may choose to serve sangria in summer or a warm mulled cider in the fall. The staff works with three caterers, all known for making locally sourced, seasonal food personal to a couple’s tastes. While black-tie weddings with wine pairings offer one possibility for a sophisticated event, couples often favor long rustic tables with the meal served harvest-style, matching the relaxed ambience of this coastal winery.
Saybrook Point Inn, Marina, and Spa
Two Bridge Street, Old Saybrook, 860-316-2102, saybrook.com
The impressive list of environmental initiatives (including solar panels and excellent recycling policies) is one of many reasons to consider holding your wedding at the Saybrook Point Inn, the first Green Lodging Certified hotel in Connecticut. Located on the water in a quintessential coastal Connecticut town, the inn hosts one wedding at a time, giving couples its undivided attention for the day. The kitchen creates customized menus with an emphasis on organic produce and, when possible, local seafood, such as Stonington scallops and Block Island swordfish. In addition to the main house with 81 rooms, there are two freestanding guesthouses for groups and a lighthouse suite — perfect for newlyweds — with 360-degree views of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River.
15 Chestnut Street, Portland, 207-828-4422, restaurantgrace.com
If your spirits aren’t sufficiently raised by the vaulted ceilings and magnificent stained-glass windows in this historic Methodist church-turned-restaurant in the foodie-friendly city of Portland, then the circular bar and its many hallowed offerings — such as the Holier Than Thou made with St. Germain or Diablo with Vida mezcal — ought to do the trick. Couples can rent out the entire restaurant or wed in the great room on the ground floor, then use the two-floor sanctuary/dining room for cocktails before transitioning back downstairs for dinner and dancing. Focusing on local flavors and using every part of the animal when cooking, chef Adam Flood creates modern American food with an emphasis on French technique and a playful touch that perfectly translates to weddings.
9 Cody Road, Freedom, 603-539-4997, yoursummercampwedding.com
Throwing a three-day wedding at this summer camp in New Hampshire guarantees couples plenty of face time with their guests and lots of outdoor fun, to boot, from water sports to hiking, at a private lakefront resort on the edge of the White Mountains. Add meals cooked from scratch by a Cordon Bleu-trained chef, and you’ve got the makings for a memorable weekend. While some couples like to play up the summer camp theme with their menu, others opt for rustic chic, which could mean anything from lobster pouches to beef satay. Whatever the choice, this is not your typical camp food, at least until the evening, when you gather around the fire for singing and s’mores.
4 Richmond Square, Providence, 888-759-5557, watermangrille.com
This onetime historic 19th-century gatehouse, now a riverside restaurant with private, ground-floor event space, appeals to couples who love the bustle and foodie-ness of Providence but prefer a natural setting for their wedding celebration. Ceremonies can be staged on the covered stone patio overlooking the Seekonk River, with cocktails timed for twilight. Inside, the Riverview Room and adjoining lounge can accommodate 150 guests for a cocktail reception or 100 for a sit-down dinner featuring seasonal fish, meat, and produce from Waterman’s signature wood-fired grill. The extensive beer list has a range of offerings, from local craft brews to European favorites.
Bliss Ridge Farm
Moretown, 802-496-6009, blissridge.com
No need to limit your guest list when you host a wedding at this organic working Vermont farm offering pristine views of the surrounding mountains. The rustic dairy barn with 30-foot doors that open onto the field seats 225 for dinner; add a tent to accommodate more. Although there are several open and wooded sites to choose from, the “Ceremony Meadow” offers unmatched scenery for the vows, while the flat “Cocktail Green” works well for drinks and lawn games after. You can hire a caterer or DIY the food, but for intimate events of 30 or less, owner Jordan von Trapp can set up tables in the meadow and serve an organic feast, including grass-fed beef raised on her farm.
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the area code for the Clark Art Institute’s phone number.