Food and drink are aspects of weddings and events that, deservedly, receive a lot of attention (and often budget), with the food experience being a key consideration for many couples. The wedding breakfast can actually be one of the most anticipated aspects of your celebration, and with this importance and investment comes a great opportunity to add your personality and sustainable values into your day too. Hannah from Green Soul Weddings has joined us to help you make your food choices for sustainable.
As with my previous two sustainable wedding features here on Engage Weddings (7 ways to make your wedding favours sustainable and 10 ways to think ethically about your wedding attire), I am thrilled to be providing you with a pick and mix of suggestions and tips for ways in which you can make your catering and bar more sustainable within your own constraints, preferences and budget.
Local and Seasonal
If you choose to do just one from this list, I would personally recommend this as the most powerful and sustainable choice! Shopping locally is a win win in so many ways … your carbon footprint is heavily reduced, it’s easier to assess the quality and journey your food has taken from farm to fork, and you are supporting your local economy and community too. If you’ve chosen your favourite time of year to get married, chances are some of your favourite foods that you associate with that time of year are in season too, so why not incorporate them into your wedding breakfast or evening food!
Firstly, if you have the flexibility of choosing your own caterer, consider using one who is local to your event and employs a local team to ensure that everyone’s travel is minimised. This also increases the likelihood that they will have worked at your chosen venue previously, a helpful reassurance when it comes to them knowing the kitchen and serving space available to them and a smoother running on the day.
Next, look out for caterers who pride themselves on using the best local and seasonal produce. Not only will this keep the carbon footprint of your day nicely in check, but it’s also when flavours are at their best and the ingredients won’t have required ‘forcing’ to grow out of season, a method that often uses high volumes of electricity and chemicals.
Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask the questions! Even when caterers don’t actively discuss seasonality or the source of their ingredients, it can be enlightening to have this conversation with them and they might relish the opportunity to get creative with fresh seasonal flavour combinations at your request.
Fairtrade and/or Organic
Another step you can take towards an ethical wedding is the use of Fairtrade and/or organic ingredients. By checking with your caterer and cake maker whether they use Fairtrade ingredients such as sugar, coffee, chocolate, fruit, veg, and spices, or organically source their meat, veg and fruit, you can be confident of a more sustainable process from source to plate that has seen the growers paid a fair price for their produce and the environmental impact of the process considered.
Did you know there are also Fairtrade and organic wines, beers and spirits? As part of your research for the perfect wedding breakfast wine accompaniment or the perfect stock for your evening bar, why not try a few options and select your favourites to serve to your guests!
Along the same lines, vegan and plant-based diets are a popular choice for a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and your wedding catering need not differ. Maybe you’re both vegans, maybe you know a large proportion of your guests are, or maybe you just fancy adding one or two courses that are meat free to give your catering an interesting and eco-conscious twist.
To whatever extent this appeals to you, why not check out the vegan or plant-based options increasingly on offer by various local caterers when you attend your menu tasting. There’s even bakers who specialise in vegan wedding cakes, such as this delicious beauty by The Iced Vegan.
Have your cake and eat it!
Whilst we’re on the topic of wedding cakes, how many times have you realised as you stumble to bed after a delightful wedding that you never tried any of that beautiful cake you watched the couple cut? Indeed, I’ve heard so many couples say they never got the chance to have any of their own cake either!
Wedding cakes are a tradition that most couples choose to stick to in some shape or form, whether it be a more traditional tiered cake or layered truckles of cheese for those who prefer a more savoury twist! However, no matter how delicious it may look, when served late in the evening many couples and guests are often too busy partying to notice and really enjoy it. From experience, one of the best ways of ensuring your cake is actually enjoyed by all and doesn’t make its way to the bin at the end of the night is to serve it as your dessert.
Now, let’s move away from thinking about the ingredients, and instead consider how the food will be served. Wedding catering has come a long way in recent years, with a surge in demand for grazing tables, food trucks, pizza ovens and other more interactive ways of catering. Indeed, formal sat down meals aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, however it is worth considering that often this approach to catering can be easier to plan for and typically produces less waste. Set menus can lead to more accurate quantities of ingredient sourcing and removes the guesswork from assessing which buffet dish will be the most popular on the day.
In contrast however, many people worry that their chosen set menu won’t appeal to all of their guests and therefore will end up wasted and with some guests going hungry. In reality, once dietary requirements are accounted for, it’s unusual for large amounts of wedding food to go untouched as typically guests respect your choice and will eat what has been lovingly prepared for them.
Nevertheless, no one knows your guests better than you, so if you feel a set menu just won’t work then buffets and grazing tables can be approached in a more sustainable way too. By letting your caterer know that food waste is a concern of yours, together the team will be able to best manage how much food is out and respond to observing which are the most popular choices. By carefully controlling quantities on the buffet/grazing table this also means that more of the untouched food is still in a sufficient food-safe condition (i.e. refrigerated or still in its original container unhandled) to then be able to be used at a later date or safely donated to a food bank or other organisation after your event.
Additionally, have you considered providing brown paper bags or boxes (biodegradable of course!) so that guests and yourselves can take buffet/grazing produce away after the event? We all know how much the desire for a nibble suddenly hits when you stop dancing and head to bed, so make the most of this and have your buffet distributed so it’s to hand when your guests really need it.
Cooking to order is another ideal way of minimising waste whilst maximising guest choice and preference. If you choose to have food trucks for your wedding, or have an intimate restaurant-based reception with small guests numbers, discuss the possibility of making meals to order. With food trucks especially they will be able to prep the meals as much possible ahead of time, then keep the ingredients safely stored ready to quickly prepare to order and safely store any unused food for future use or donation. There really is no downside to this option, but just make sure you also discuss the serve ware too …
Single-use serve ware
Whilst the ingredients and meal itself is a great area for introducing your ethical values, ensuring that the serve ware respects this too can make a huge difference to your day. Removing the use of any single use plastics or disposables when serving your food and drink throughout your day is an easy and effective step to make. Whether you’re in the middle of a field, a stately home, a barn, or a hotel, and whether you’re having a BBQ or 7 course dinner, ‘proper’ crockery, cutlery and glassware is the ideal choice. With so much gorgeous choice out there to hire, you don’t have to stick to plain white plates with silver cutlery and clear glass either, this can be a fun way to inject colour and style into your wedding breakfast.
One caveat to this however, is to please check any stipulations your specific venue and caterer may have, or leave these details to your planner to sort. We all know how many arms can go flying once you get into the groove on the dancefloor, so some venues do request either non-glassware for the evening or restrictions on where glassware can be taken. Through a mindful discussion with your team regarding this, compromises can often be made that ensure both safety and ethical practices are respected.
Stocking the bar
Last, but certainly not least, have you considered supporting local when it comes to keeping your thirst quenched at your celebration? Not only could you try to source a local bar provider if this is not something included with your venue, but to take it a step further why not also support local brewers, orchards and artisan distillers!
If you’re in Cambridgeshire the local gin options are spectacular, from Ely Gin, to Pinkster, Roundwood and Cambridge Distillery, most of which offer tasting experiences too for that perfect pre-wedding date night idea. If a microbrewery is more your thing and you’re Bedfordshire based, what about checking out the Potton Brewing Company, Ampthill Brewhouse, or the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company amongst others. The local options are plentiful when you take the time to think instead of just opting for the standard drinks packages that might immediately be on offer.
Hannah will be joining us for more great sustainable wedding day tips in the future,
feel free to chat with Hannah from Green Soul Weddings for more advice for your big day.