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Fresh takes on traditional wedding reception foods

Planning a wedding and need some fresh ideas on what to serve at your reception? Look no further – we found delicious treats that go above and beyond your traditional wedding reception food.

Buffet bbq wedding food

Though you and your new husband may not have time to actually sit down and savor the meal, your guests certainly will! Let’s face it — for guests, one of the most memorable aspects of the wedding will be the dinner. Whether you choose to serve an elegant, formal meal or prefer buffet-style, there are plenty of affordable options and ways to spice up traditional wedding reception foods to make yours a little more unique and fun.

Cocktail hour

Typically, the cocktail hour is a reserved time for guests to wine and dine while you and your new husband, bridal party and family take photos. Cocktail hours can vary — with some being relatively simple and others more elaborate. Traditional foods served during the cocktail hour include veggies, meats, cheeses and fruits. To kick it up a notch, we recommend serving:

  • Strawberries dipped in yogurt and frozen
  • A yogurt bar with an array of fresh fruits and granolas
  • Shrimp wontons (make your own here)
  • Bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers (try these simple jalapeño cheese poppers)
  • Meat and cheese kabobs (we’re thinking apple meatball kabobs)
  • Individual servings of veggies and dip
spiked lemonade

Whether your wedding is fancy or laid-back, a signature wedding cocktail bar is the perfect addition!

Sit-down dinner

Formal dinners are the norm for traditional wedding receptions. Guests have a choice of what type of meat they’d prefer (think roasted chicken, sirloin or salmon), and it’s served with one side, a house salad and fresh bread with butter. While this can be delicious, consider adding a fun twist to your meal — and saving some money — by serving one of these nontraditional dinner items:

  • Pizza with garlic bread and Caesar salad (gourmet pizza for fancy weddings)
  • Chinese or Thai food
  • Barbecue — ribs, hamburgers, pasta salad, potato salad, corn on the cob, coleslaw and cornbread
  • Southern comfort foods — fried chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans
  • Tropical-themed — ham, pineapple and plenty of shish kabobs


Though sit-down meals are classy and formal, foodies will agree that nothing beats a good, well-crafted buffet. Buffets allow guests to eat as much or as little of any item they choose — and they can go back for seconds! It’s time to look further than serving traditional chickens and potatoes with these wildly unique buffet ideas:

  • An Italian feast — pastas, spaghetti and meatballs, bruschetta, salads and bread
  • A Mexican fiesta — build-your-own tacos, enchiladas, burritos, fajitas and rice and beans
  • A sushi bar — and no, not just sushi sitting on platters — we’re talking hiring a sushi chef to slice and dice creations right before your very eyes
  • Buffet stations — set up multiple stations featuring different foods of your choice (wine and cheese, ethnic food, meats and veggies and desserts)

Throw in some extra creativity and add a buffet station featuring the bride and groom’s favorite dishes and family recipes. This is a fun way for everyone to get a little taste of where you both came from and what you grew up eating.

A few other food-inspired tips

  • Go with a theme — it’s easy, fun and memorable
  • Presentation matters — while what you eat is important, how you serve it can be equally — if not more — important
  • Have fun! Don’t be ashamed to serve the bride and the groom’s favorite foods or something memorable to just the two of you — after all, it’s your wedding!

More on wedding food

5 Ways to save on your wedding catering budget
4 Wedding trends we love
8 Wedding cake myths

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