The party and the afterparty

As soon as that glass smashes we have trays of canapes ready to go out


No one but the grinchiest of guests is going to gripe over a wedding ceremony. However, bonhomie may wear thin in the period between glass smashing and the wedding breakfast.

Even at the best-structured simchah, a reception can extend as long as a guest-unfriendly 90 minutes.

So how do you avoid grumpy guest syndrome? The simple answer would be to keep your reception short, but that may not be possible. “The room in which the chupah took place may need setting up for a sit-down meal, which can take over an hour and the photos also take time,” says Matt Rickard, of kosher caterer Food Story.

Every caterer (and common sense) recommends feeding and watering your waiting guests. Keep those canapés coming and they will happily hang on until you have said cheese so many times your cheeks hurt.

“As soon as that glass smashes, we have trays ready to go out,” says Rickard.

Celia Clyne, of kosher caterer Celia Clyne Banqueting, agrees: “This is an important part of a wedding, when the guests are standing around, so I advise my clients to put their money into the reception. It sets the tone for the entire evening.”

Having your guests all present in one room can be a positive. “The good thing about a wedding reception is that everyone is there the whole time and not arriving gradually. You can offer a bigger selection of canapés for the entire time, which is not always the case for a barmitzvah, when you may need to hold back hot canapés for the guests yet to arrive. It’s easier to gauge,” says Adam Nathan, of Adam Nathan Catering.

But what to serve? Your food choices may come down to budget, or simple service style — is your wedding a formal affair, or do you prefer a more rustic, romantic feel?

“The whole core of a Jewish marriage and home is food,” says Simone Krieger of Krieger’s Kitchen. “The Jewish wedding is almost the starting point of it all, so in my view the food should be about introducing the love and not necessarily putting on an extravagant spread.” When planning a couple’s big day, Krieger sits down with them to get a feel for their likes and dislikes, so the menu can be tailored to them.

Adam Zeitlin, of kosher caterer Zeitlin & Co, agrees: “The more direction we get from a client, the more tailored we can make it to their tastes.”

The general view is that canapés tend to suit more formal functions, while food stands and trolleys work better for a more relaxed party — particularly an outdoor affair. Some couples prefer to do a bit of both. If you are having a combination of canapés on trays and food stands, Zeitlin suggests having just one food station. “One ticks the box and keeps prices within reason. With too much choice, people get confused and food gets wasted.” He says food stations need to be decorative and colourful, with easy-to-grab food to avoid queues.

“For summer, guests will want light, clean and healthy food. Mexican is popular, with foods such as chipotle chicken tortillas; roasted corn; black bean tacos and guacamole with plenty of tequila shots,” he says.

Nathan says other cuisines are also in vogue. “Our Middle Eastern tasting bar is very popular, as is our East End-style bar, on which we offer sliced and cured fish, cornichons, tartare sauce etc. It looks very classy.”

Clyne also provides grown-up food stations for weddings. “We do a pâté bar, which has various pâtés like chicken liver, duck, foie gras (if the client wants it) and vegetarian pâtés like wild mushroom, on huge slates. Next to them are baskets of toasts and jars of relishes — our fig jam is very popular — and guests can help themselves and we encourage our clients to offer small glasses of sweet, dessert wine with the pâtés.”

Another Clyne favourite is a sausage bar, complete with sausage machine that cooks a range of flavoured sausages and keeps them warm.

Rickard prefers canapés for a wedding. “Food stands have traditionally been the thing, but I personally don’t love them. Queueing up for canapés is not much fun, so we try not to do that. Also, we prefer to serve lots of amazing canapés, as opposed to repeating six of the same one.” He says a menu should have a variety of cuisines and flavours, to keep all the guests happy.

“Canapés are a great place to be creative,” says Rickard. “When we suggest a menu, we make sure there is a balance of hot and cold, vegetarian, meat, fish and enough that do not contain gluten, as so many intolerances are coming up nowadays.”

The balance of hot and cold and different flavours is also key. “I recommend no more than two fried and two carb-based canapés in the summer. I don’t tell clients what to eat, but don’t think you’d want more than three heavy canapés in the summer.

“I sometimes switch bases in the summer, so serve Cajun sea bass Caesar salad in a taco base in the winter, but in a lettuce cup in the warmer months,” says Nathan.

Advice on the number of pieces of food per head varies, but ranges from ten to 20 per person — fewer if also offering a food stand.

Budget will obviously have a bearing on your choices, but if you go big on canapés, you may want to forego your starter, as many of Nathan’s clients choose to do.

“If you drop a starter for canapés, you can save 40 minutes of partying time,” he says, explaining many young couples are keen to get to the dancing as quickly as they can.

Zeitlin says this is a popular option for winter Saturday weddings with a post-Shabbat start time.

Cocktails have become increasingly popular. “We offer a choice of three — one short, one long and one with sparkling wine, like a Bellini,” says Rickard. Logistics play a part, as the bartenders will not want to deal with too many cocktails requiring last-minute shaking. “Clients are becoming more adventurous with their cocktails — it’s not all lychee martinis any more.”

You may want to make a decorative feature of the drinks. “The punch bowl is back,” says Charlie Grant Peterkin, of caterer Rocket. His company creates bespoke punch recipes for couples. “Ingredients may be seasonal to the month of the wedding and we can call the cocktail whatever the couple likes,” he says. “It sits on the bar and looks stunning.”

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