What Your Wedding Guests Want to Eat, and When

Written by Jade Beer, Tythe
Image by Igor Demba.
It is the single most memorable part of your wedding day, as far as your guests are concerned. How was the food? Was there plenty of it? Did it arrive often enough? And did it entertain as well as satisfy them?

‘Planning what to feed your guests is one of the most fun aspects of wedding planning,’ says Emma Deeley, owner of Tythe in Oxfordshire, who has been hosting weddings for over twenty years. ‘And getting it right is one of the most important things. Anyone who has ever been hungry at a wedding knows how hard it is to enjoy the day when you’re left wondering when the next bite to eat is coming. Communicating your plans to guests is key, whether from the get-go on the invitations or with clever signage throughout the day that informs them there will be canapés at 2pm, dinner at 4pm and pizzas at 9pm.

Here is Emma’s fool-proof plan, from first tasting to nighttime treats.

First things first

If you can, attend an open day to sample the food at your venue and meet some of the people who will be serving it. At Tythe, we host open days every season (our next one is in January), and it’s a great way to show couples what our kitchen is capable of. We usually serve a selection of our sharing plates so you can sample many different dishes. During our open evenings, we often throw open the barn doors, fire up the pizza oven and serve house cocktails on The Farmhouse lawns. Once you’ve booked, it’s time to drill down on the details of your own menu choices and the timings of your food service.

The first bite

I always advise couples that it might be a good idea on their invitations to highlight when food will be served throughout the day so guests can plan accordingly. That way, they can work out if they’ll need a really hearty breakfast or even a light lunch beforehand if the ceremony is timed to start later than usual. They can plan ahead if you let them know that it will be ‘canapés and Pimm’s’ at 3pm.

For a standard 1.5-hour drinks reception, I recommend four canapés per guest (chorizo scotch quail egg, rare roast beef taco, and Cornish seabass ceviche are always our most popular.) Earlier ceremonies, particularly those occurring over the usual lunchtime period, could mean you need to increase the number to six – enough to keep them satisfied but not full ahead of the wedding breakfast. There must be enough canapé choices to cater to various dietary requirements, so we suggest striking a balance of one meat, one gluten-free, and two vegan choices.

When your invitations go out, communicating your specific catering plans for children and infants is also a great idea. You can spell out the specifics there if you have a ‘wedsite’. Things like menu choices and, of course, an opportunity for guests to share their specific dietary needs.

As this is the very beginning, keep the alcoholic choices lighter – you want your guests to last the distance! If guests are outside on a hot day, we suggest serving Pimm’s with lots of ice and fresh fruit; if it’s cold and they’re cosy in the barn, then bubbles are always popular. But don’t neglect the non-alcoholic options. We’ve seen a clear increase in the number of guests wanting this, so keep it interesting for them. We suggest our Elderflower Presse, homemade lemonade or mocktails from our kitchen garden.

The Main Event

Decide the style of dining you would like to offer, which will steer your menu choices in a clear direction. Would you like a more formal, four-course approach (starter, main, dessert followed by Espresso Martinis or tea and coffee) where food is plated and served to guests at the table? This can often help the wedding meal feel more like an ‘event’; it’s more traditional and works well if you plan to host your speeches between courses. Some of our most popular dishes are the indulgent, comforting ones – short rib of beef, crispy pork belly, and Gruyere crusted cod but we are always happy to look ‘off menu’ if there is something, in particular, you’d like. Expect guests to be seated for around two and a half hours, including speeches.

If, on the other hand, you prefer a more relaxed approach, family-style Barn Feasts, where guests are given hearty sharing dishes and invited to serve themselves, may be a better choice. In this case, expect the dining time to increase to three hours as guests help themselves to second and third helpings. This approach is often more sociable as guests naturally interact more with each other as they pass dishes around. Our guests always love our Roast Sirloin of Beef with mini Yorkshires and Fisherman’s Pie served with a huge range of potatoes, vegetables and salads – and the fact they can dive back in for more or skip something that doesn’t appeal to them. Remember that this option requires more space on the table, so you may need to pare back your décor ideas or have items removed when the food arrives.

Calculate how much wine you’ll need based on half a bottle per guest. For your champagne toast, allow enough for a glass each. Unlike many other venues, Tythe does not charge a corkage fee on wine or fizz, and you are very welcome to bring your own for the pre-ceremony drinks, drinks reception and for the duration of your wedding breakfast.

Another option on an estate like Tythe is to eat outside, weather permitting! We have hosted spectacular dinners under our avenue of birch trees overlooking our fields and smaller gatherings for resident guests on The Farmhouse lawns, under the giant willow tree dotted with twinkling lanterns. What better way to celebrate than with a menu packed with fresh, seasonal, local ingredients? Alternatively, host your drinks on the walled garden lawns with the backdrop of our wisteria arch and the beautiful double-height barn doors. But think carefully about the weather and its impact on your menu. A scorching hot summer day will mean salads wilt quicker, and guests will naturally gravitate towards lighter dishes. You’ll need extra supplies of ice and to consider shade cover. This is when our BBQ option, served from our converted Sheep Feeder, is super popular.

A word about cake!

Nearly every couple will have a wedding cake of some form; the tricky thing is when to serve it. You’ll probably want it on display during the wedding breakfast (most couples choose to do this in our ‘cake window’ on our rustic tree log stand), ready for your cake-cutting moment. But, unless you are serving it as your pudding, our advice is to hold off offering it until later in the day when the appetite is there to eat it – and when your evening guests can also share in the treat. You want to avoid it becoming merely an expensive photo opportunity.

Time to refuel

Assuming typical wedding day timings (ceremony at 2pm, wedding breakfast at 4.15pm), your guests will likely start to feel hungry again around 9.30pm. This is when we bring out the bacon baps and late-night toasties. Guests also love a display of fine British charcuterie, where slices can be cut to order, and they can choose their own accompaniments. This is also the time to make your menu work even harder for you with food that doubles as entertainment.

Watching our pizza chefs knock out a selection from our oven always livens up a hungry crowd. We are also happy for our couples to source crowd-pleasing doughnut walls, dessert stations, and cheese towers and don’t forget there’s still that wedding cake to circulate! When it comes to evening food, we suggest catering to 75% of the ‘day’ wedding guests and 100% of your ‘evening’ guest list. That way, there will be plenty of everything to go around but no unnecessary wastage.

Late night munchies

If you’re staying in The Farmhouse, the partying stops when you decide, so chances are some extra energy will be needed. The house will be yours exclusively so that you can stock the snack cupboard with all your favourites. Don’t forget our clever champagne station, handily positioned adjacent to the bridal suite and our nightcap station, where you can tie a spirit of your choice to the nightcaps provided, sending your guests off to bed very happy. Anyone booking a two-night stay with us can look forward to a gorgeous homemade cake and a farmhouse supper for sixteen guests, so there is no chance of anyone going into the wedding feeling undernourished!

The morning after

Don’t let the hangover be the thing your overnight guests remember. Catering for the morning after is just as important. At Tythe, that means waking up to a super generous continental breakfast, including granola, yoghurts, farmhouse bread, pastries, plenty of fresh juice and piping hot tea and coffee. Guests won’t all want to jump out of bed simultaneously; the beauty of this set-up is they can help themselves whenever they are ready to emerge.

Take a taste of Tythe with you!

Saying goodbye will be hard, we know. So, take a little slice of Tythe with you. When you return home, reliving all the highlights, do it with a box of our famous Farmhouse brownies. Just let us know if you’d like them, and we’ll ensure they’re baked, wrapped and ready to go with you.

Absolute Taste

Award-winning Absolute Taste is the sole caterer at Tythe, and their passion for promoting fresh, local and seasonal produce is a perfect match for the venue. Food is at the heart of every celebration, and a wedding calls for an extra special dining experience. Gathering together for a fun-filled feast with family and friends is what wedding receptions at Tythe are all about. Whether your vision is five courses of fine dining or a hearty, home-cooked dish for sharing, Absolute Taste will create a menu tailored to your tastes.

Tythe and Absolute Taste have formed a dynamic partnership, working closely together on every event to bring you the most perfect and memorable day.

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