One way to plan a simple wedding reception meal is to choose a southwest style theme and get several friends and family members to help with preparation. My friend Val had chili for her wedding dinner and says she fed 80 guests for around $100. The meal was provided by one of her best friends as a wedding gift, and Val tells me this was such a great idea. The guests loved the homemade chicken salad and peanut butter sandwiches alongside their chili and soup. As Val says, you just can’t have chili without peanut butter sandwiches.
Chili would be a great wedding dish for a rustic, outdoor venue or a winter wedding. If peanut butter sandwiches aren’t your thing, you could pair it with toasted baguettes or just good, old fashioned saltines. Depending on where you live, there are a variety of other menu items you could pair with chili. For instance, in Hawaii it is common to eat chili served over rice. Some people prefer a sprinkling of shredded cheese or a dollop of sour cream on top of their chili. Many of these items could be served buffet style so your guests can choose for themselves how to prepare their meal.
There are several other routes you could take when planning a southwest themed wedding reception menu. A taco bar is one really simple option which can be prepared in advance. Either the morning of the wedding, or the day before, you (or whoever has volunteered to prepare the meal) can make up a huge batch of taco meat. You could offer just one ground beef taco filling, or also offer pulled pork and other fillings. The meats can be reheated and placed in crock pots or warming trays in time for the reception.
Chop up tons of veggies, such as onions, lettuce, tomatoes, peppers and any other items your guests may want to put in their tacos. And, be sure to offer plenty of shredded cheeses, sour cream, guacamole and other fixings. These items can all be served buffet style so that each guest can be sure to build a meal to satisfy their own individual palate.
For a more formal menu, you should choose a main course, salad, at least two side dishes and, of course, lots of chips and salsa! A few main courses you might choose include fajitas or enchiladas. You should try to offer a variety of meats, as well as meat-free options to meet the tastes of most of your guests. To determine how much you need of each item, whether it be steak, chicken or just plain cheese enchiladas, be sure to add a section for menu choice on your RSVP cards.
Serve your main course with warm flour or corn tortillas and multi-colored peppers. For side dishes, you may choose such items as Mexican rice, refried beans or seasoned black beans. Salads can range from a traditional Caesar salad to mixed greens with red onions and multi-colored tortilla strips rather than croutons. Tortilla soup is another warm, traditional comfort food that your guests will love.
Pumpkins, gourds and squash are all staples of southwest fare. Spaghetti squash is another excellent option for a side dish. You could also offer zucchini bread and slices of pumpkin pie at a dessert table, either in place of or in addition to the traditional wedding cake. Churros, flan and fried ice cream are a few other southwest favorites which your guests will love.
If your family and friends are anything like mine, they will expect some sort of cake that at least tastes like traditional cake. But, you can switch it up by adding your own southwest flare. If you can afford it, splurge on the cake and find a baker who can create artistic cakes using fondant. Ask the baker for ideas, as he or she may be able to create something you never dreamed of. What about a cake in the shape of a cowboy hat or a cactus? If you would prefer something pretty, try a traditionally shaped cake decorated in turquoise and chocolate.
No matter what your style and budget, it is possible to build a filling meal for your wedding guests that will be sure to please. Just be sure to keep the menu simple and plan, plan, plan!