Menus: Hitting the spot

Whether you're having an intimate gathering or an extravagant event, make the day unforgettable by marrying your menu to your venue.

  • Story by Photo Shine Studios

Whether you're having an intimate gathering or an extravagant event, make the day unforgettable by marrying your menu to your venue. The food served up on the day is an important decision, and it is often shaped by your venue and amount of space. For the next seven days we will look at different venue options, and how this guides the type of menu decisions you can make.

There was a time when you knew exactly what to expect from the food at a wedding: a champagne ham, a couple of salads, a creamy chicken dish quietly congealing in a water bath. But in recent years, New Zealand has become a nation of foodies. We travel overseas, eat out at restaurants, watch cooking shows on TV. And when we get married, a baked ham simply doesn’t cut it anymore. ‘Even people on low budgets have high expectations of flavours and the way food is presented,’ says Christchurch event planner Emma Newman . What you eat at a wedding nowadays is just as much a reflection of personal taste as your venue or gown. The current food trend is towards simplicity, and matching your menu to the location so that the event has a cohesive style.

The type of garden you choose as your venue greatly determines the style of the menu. ‘A native garden up north might dictate a Kiwiana theme, for example, versus the colonial gardens in Christchurch that lend themselves perfectly to a traditional high tea,’ Emma says. High tea is an elegant option if you are accommodating a large number of guests or for couples on a budget. Hire vintage tea sets and tiered cake stands from T he Vintage Table or The China Cabinet and serve the foods Nanna used to make, such as cucumber sandwiches, asparagus rolls and home baking. ‘People also love mini lamingtons, shortbread, scones with jam and cream, or mini-pikelets,’ says Anne Holman from RSVP Special Events . A cookie bar can add a special touch to a garden celebration. ‘It’s an American trend that’s been making its way into New Zealand,’ explains Jan Vernon of Waiheke Island Weddings . ‘Display them in old-fashioned cookie jars and brown paper bags, so guests can take a selection home.’
Alternatively, you could set up a lolly bar, hire an ice cream van, or serve a variety of sweet and savoury pies – always a hit with all ages. A picnic-style arrangement is another stylish choice for a garden party. Supply guests with baskets full of beautifully wrapped gourmet treats and a blanket to sit on. And don’t forget the drinks – offer a selection of gourmet teas and chilled Pimms cocktails garnished with cucumber and mint for a refreshing twist.‘It’s also important to provide shade,’ advises Nicky Gomes-Luis of Lavish Events . ‘To keep your guests cool, set up mini marquees and low furniture for older guests to sit on,’ Nicky advises. ‘Picnics are ideal if children are part of the party. And you can entertain both kids and adults with games like croquet or petanque while the bride and groom are having their photos taken.’
A wet weather option is a must for an outdoor event. Put up a marquee in a private garden or hire a venue where you have an indoor space available such as the historic Otahuna Lodge in Christchurch. Apart from picnic-perfect grand gardens and a lake, this Victorian homestead also features a number of other authentic matrimonial backdrops, including an old apple house, stables and formal areas. If you’re looking for something with character, then check out another Christchurch gem, Pemberton Gardens ( ) with its Indian-style teahouse, lawns and fire-lit courtyard.

Tomorrow we look at vineyards, and what options they allow for your wedding menu.

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