Outdoor Casual Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Create a wedding menu that fits the outdoors

By Danita Fausek

Outdoor food on a barrel
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With the cost of weddings and receptions skyrocketing, many people are opting for smaller and more casual weddings. An outdoor wedding and reception is an excellent chance to relax and enjoy family and friends and offers a variety of foods and activities choices to fit any budget.

Barbeques Aren't Just for Picnics Anymore

What could be better than a good, old-fashioned barbeque? Whether you are inclined to put a "shrimp on the barbie" or grill brats and burgers, a barbeque gives your reception a family-friendly and casual feel that will be appreciated by all. Hamburgers and hot dogs can be made in advance and heated on grills manned by the fathers of the bride and groom, while traditional fare for your area is warming in a chafing dish or slow cooker.

Pot Luck Brings Good Luck

Planning a casual wedding reception often takes much of the stress associated with the day off the shoulders of the bride and groom. Having your family and friends participate in the celebration by bringing their favorite dish to pass creates a festive air, while providing great food for your guests. Send a note in advance -- or include one in your invitation -- asking your guests to bring a dish to pass. Keep a list of food and get the recipes (if they'll divulge the secrets). Then you will be able to put a little recipe book together to give as a gift to each guest, and you'll know what additional foods are needed to round out the meal.

Catered Food Comes and Goes

Even the most casual wedding will have its stressful times. Avoid all such stress for your wedding reception by choosing a caterer that will provide food suitable for serving outdoors. Many caterers have menus specifically geared for outdoor events and will bring the food, set it up at your location and then leave, allowing you and your guests to serve yourselves. Using a caterer can expand your menu choices to include steak, grilled chicken and seafood, as well as salads, various side dishes and desserts. A caterer can also coordinate the food to any theme you might choose. For example, an outdoor reception is perfect for a carnival theme and could include corn dogs, cotton candy and turkey legs.

Mexican Fiesta

Outdoor receptions offer a great opportunity for a themed party. Consider a Mexican fiesta, complete with frozen margarita machines, catered fajitas and enchiladas and, of course, fresh-made guacamole. Commission an artist to create customized pinatas of the bride and groom. Be sure to stock plenty of tequila!

On the Water

If your reception is taking place on a beachfront, you can make things a little more formal -- while still saving money -- with a seafood menu. Reflect the reception's surroundings with cold items, like ceviche and crab legs, that can be prepared beforehand. Hot food, like crabcakes, fresh fish, and lobster, can be made on site.

About the Author

For more than 15 years, Danita Fausek ran her own business doing weddings and event planning.

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Planning Reminder:

set menu on table setting

Finalize menu

It's time to make a decision. Is it eggplant for everyone? Three courses or four? Or maybe you simply need to decide between broccoli rabe or asparagus for the buffet. Whatever the final details are, figure them out and finalize them. You'll get peace of mind -- and eventually, a delicious meal -- in return.

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Wedding Glossary


A large serving dish that sits over a low flame to keep its contents warm. Popular at buffets.

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