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Divine Dining

When it comes to catering, the food you serve at your wedding may be one of the most memorable parts of your big day. To find the flavor that fits your taste buds, choose a menu and serving setup that matches your budget and your style.

Couples usually have three choices for dinner design: a formal sit-down dinner, a buffet or a multi-themed station style dinner.

"The most popular [setup] is the buffet style as it offers the best price and more food options for your guests," says Mike Orlando, general manager of Orlando's Catering and Event Design in St. Louis. Sit-down dinners most often require establishing a set menu and require additional staffing needs to serve and clear all the courses. So check your budget to see what's feasible.

Christina Cerri, a wedding designer at Taste Catering in San Francisco, says individual stations offer a great mix of meal choices for your guests. "Stations can have different themes, like Moroccan or Asian. They offer some really fun options with décor to match," she says. While buffets typically are one style of food, stations allow couples to include a variety of food themes for their reception. Stations especially are great if some of your guests are picky eaters. You can do really bold choices like Indian, then do a more traditional station for guests with a milder palette, she says.

"We have some great interactive stations that include a smashed martini bar where the guests create their own style and flavor of mashed potatoes with several ingredient choices," Orlando says. "We also have our Gourmet Grilled Cheese bar that offers a wide array of breads and cheeses." For a party of 200, Cerri will usually do two to three different types of themes; for a smaller party of 100, two themes with fewer items at each station.

To add personal flavor to your party, consider creating a specialty drink to be served during cocktail hour. "We'll create a fresh-fruit margarita if a couple likes tequila," Cerri says. To save some dough on drinks, choose a smaller bar with only beer, wine and champagne. If you have a family member or friend with ties to a vineyard, some caterers may allow you to serve that wine without a corkage fee.

While a classic Italian-inspired dinner may be the standard for most couples, other popular choices include Asian and Mediterranean. "Because couples are trying to please everyone, they should try to pick foods that people get when they eat out," Cerri says. Couples also should consider their out-of-town guests, as palates change from region to region. Taste Catering has done Southern-themed food for wedding receptions with lots of guests from the South.

At bride-to-be Cerri's wedding in June 2009, a chef will be making individual pizzas for her Italian-themed reception. The meal also will include specially made pesto and meat sauces, created by her father, over rigatoni.

For the sweetest part of the meal, Cerri recommends considering your entrée in your decision. If you have a heavier dinner, like steak, choose a lighter dessert sans the heavy chocolate, she says. Taste Catering offers an Americano list of desserts from cheesecake mini-tarts to banana crème and pecan pies. "Look for different textures - something cakey, crunchy and smooth," Cerri says. And with your cake, don't be afraid to do something nontraditional. Cerri will be cutting her cake at the rehearsal dinner and doing dessert only on the big day.

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