Catering chef Connor FitzGerald has plenty of experience planning a wedding menu. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

5 tips from a caterer about how to plan the menu at your reception

While a wedding is a special ceremony in which two people are bound by love for eternity (in theory, at least), often what most people remember after the specific vows have faded from memory is the party that follows. The reception can be as lovely to everyone else as the ceremony is to you and your spouse. With that in mind, if any element of your wedding does not align with your vision, there is one key component in which you absolutely cannot afford to slip up: the food. Yes, of course your friends and family are happy for you and your spouse and grateful that you invited them to celebrate your special day, but let’s be real — we’re all looking forward to an open bar and a memorable spread.

Accordingly, choosing a caterer can be as crucial of a decision as finding the right venue, the right gown or the right color palette. It is essential that with your caterer, you have that same camaraderie that you have with your maid of honor or your best man.

Out chef Connor FitzGerald, co-founder of Sprig of Thyme Catering & Co., is a proponent of establishing good relationships with his clients. He strongly advocates newlyweds should be selective with which caterer they hire. Having studied under the tutelage of James Beard-awarded chef Lorenzo Polegri in Orvieto, Italy, as well as having experience as a sous chef at the Hotel St. Germain, FitzGerald is a master of his craft with lots of experience… and an equal knowledge of dos and don’ts.

FitzGerald sat down with us to offer his top five tips when taking the step of preparing a menu for your special day.

1. Make sure you and your caterer have similar styles. Whatever your preference, from Tex-Mex to nouvelle cuisine, interview caterers with a goal of ensuring their skills dovetail with your desires. “If you’re more of a Southern bride or groom, you need to make sure your caterer’s style matches yours; otherwise, y’all won’t mesh well,” FitzGerald says.

2. Knowing exactly what you want goes a long way. Buffet, sit-down dinner or passed bites? Finger food or gourmet? Conveying your ideas is essential to getting what you want. “Your caterer is the professional, and they’ll be able to execute your ideas, but you have to be clear on what you have in mind.”

3. Be prepared to shell out some money to achieve your vision. “A big mistake people make is just booking someone because their food is cheaper than everyone else’s,” FitzGerald says. “But I think food is one of the most important parts of the wedding, so you need to spend a good amount to assure quality, as opposed to cutting costs and getting less.”

4. Be conscious of health codes. It’s not glamorous… just important. “This is huge. One small mess up can send your 250 guests to the nearest hospital from food poisoning. We make sure everything is the right temperature and prepared to local health codes. Yes, you may love your family’s cooking, but they might not know the proper food storage procedures and temperatures. Let them enjoy the wedding with you.”

5. Trust your caterer to have your back. “If your caterer doesn’t show up on your wedding day, your entire wedding will be ruined,” he says. Work with someone you can trust, let them do their job, and everything will run smoothly.”

— Alex Gonzalez

Let them eat cake

North Texas has probably already had its biggest gay wedding of the year… without any gay people getting married. LeeAnne Locken, who appears on The Real Housewives of Dallas, wed her longtime boyfriend Rich Emberlin in a gay church (the Cathedral of Hope) with a gay pastor (Neil G. Cazares-Thomas) surrounded by more than 100 guests… most of them, by my count, gay men. But the gayest thing of all? Probably the huge cake, pictured, created by gay baker Shane Morgan of Posh Cakes. Ah, the sweet life!

— Arnold Wayne Jones