As we’ve been saying for a while now, COVID-19 has changed the wedding world. Many changes have affected the industry as a whole, and catering is no exception. Gone are the days of family-style tables filled with shareable food, and mini wedding cakes are all the rage. So don’t even think about pitching the idea of a self-serve buffet.
It’s a sentiment shared by many in the wedding planning industry. It just makes sense in this day and age. But what does this lingering trend really mean? We’ve got comments from industry leaders, and all you really need to know about how individual services are taking over weddings.
Single-serve Weddings: Here to Stay
Individual portions of main dishes, desserts, drinks, and appetizers were initially established for sanitary purposes. Buffets, by contrast, have always been breeding grounds for illness, especially when it comes to an airborne virus like COVID-19. Giving guests individual portions, often covered or wrapped, ensures that fewer people interact with the food.
“We’ll continue with individually plated, elegantly served meals rather than communally shared food in the center of dining tables,” ” explains David Stark, the chief creative officer of David Stark Design and Production in Brooklyn, New York. “The fewer hands touching serving spoons, the better!”
Wedding food trends come and go and tend to be somewhat cyclical. Remember the heyday of shrimp cocktails? However, one new direction born out of the pandemic doesn’t seem to be fading away even two years later.
According to Amy Shey Jacobs, owner and creative director of Chandelier Events in New York, single portions for food and drink are not going anywhere. In fact, they are turning out to be one of the biggest trends for 2022.
“Individual servings will remain a mainstay as 2022 weddings and events strive to serve guests safely,” she told The Knot.
Regardless of what is being served, being in its own vessel or handed specifically to guests is a trend that will remain a mainstay for 2022, even if this tends to be a bit more expensive.
Wedding Trend: Dinner in Domes
In place of buffets and food service stations, COVID-era wedding dinners have been served in a variety ways. Individual plates for a sit-down dinner are standard, but one very prevalent thing is the dome. A glass cloche offers not only safety but sophistication.
Each guest is served their plate covered with the cloche, then that dome is lifted by the guest themselves or by the waiter. This keeps the food protected, as well as everyone else. Besides, it also looks very stylish. For less formal weddings, many couples are offering dinner inboxes.
In general, single servings for dinner can be served in various ways, but the key is safety. It also allows chefs to concentrate on the quality. They’re not mass-producing food for a buffet. Instead, it’s more like a restaurant where each individual plate is important.
Rebecca Marín Shepherd, owner of The Wildflowers in Dallas, Texas, believes it is simply more practical to have single servings.
“I’ve never found food stations to be elegant,” she told Brides.Com. “Due to COVID-19, all dinners have had to be plated, and appetizers individually plated and then passed. I believe individual servings are more convenient and here to stay—no fumbling in line with your evening clutch and a glass of champagne.”
Another great reason that individual servings are popular is that they make accommodating dietary restrictions much easier. If chefs are going plate by plate, it’s much easier on their end to change things up than it is if there were buffet trays full of food.
Wedding Trend: Canned Cocktails and Bottled Beer
According to the International Wines and Spirits Record, the number of canned cocktails will grow 35.5 percent over the next four years. That’s a pretty extraordinary surge and rather accurately shows how popular they’ve become throughout the pandemic.
Canned cocktails were a “thing” before COVID, but COVID weddings have seen them as a practical solution to the health and safety concerns of an open bar. They also offer easy clean-up, elimination of broken glass, and a wide variety of flavors and mixes.
Appetizer Trends for Single Serve Weddings
If clients are looking for large trays of little meatballs on toothpicks to be offered during cocktail hour, chances are caterers these days are going to say no. However, if those little meatballs are on a tiny plate or in a small bowl and handed out to guests individually, then sure.
“Passed hors d’oeuvres in their own ‘vessels’ is probably a sanitary measure that’s here to stay,” anticipates Stefanie Cove, owner and creative director of Stefanie Cove and Company based in Los Angeles and New York.
A lot of couples are using single-serve appetizers in vessels to reflect their own style or story. For example, say a couple loves movies. Using a plastic or paper popcorn bag as a vessel is a fun and whimsical touch.
“The way a host feeds their guests has transformed given the pandemic’s restrictions. Serving boxed hors d’oeuvres and wedding cake has been a great way to present individual COVID-friendly courses, and I believe this personalized catering trend will remain relevant well after the pandemic has ended,” suggests Nicole-Natassha Goulding, the lead creative and designer of Chic by Nicole Wedding and Events in Montreal and Quebec, Canada.
Wedding Trend: Mini Wedding Cakes
There is perhaps no more popular individual serving item in a pandemic-laden world than mini wedding cakes. These personal confections are miniature replicas of the more traditional wedding cake but can be individually wrapped and portioned, and are great for keeping people safe and well-fed.
Whether it is because it is a micro wedding or the couple is just conscientious of social distancing and health concerns, mini wedding cakes are all the rage. They can come as full-on cakes with layers, an individual slice from a large cake, or even more intricate with tiers of their own. At their core, these are single servings but don’t skimp on flavor or experience.
Mini wedding cakes can follow general wedding cake trends as well. For example, naked or frosting-free cakes are in vogue and you can easily shrink these down to a smaller level. As can cakes with hand-painted decorations.
Having Fun With Themed Mini Wedding Cakes
One reason why mini wedding cakes are so much fun for single-serve weddings, or really any wedding, is that the possibilities are endless. For example, say the couple loves nature. You could shape each mini wedding cake like a planter with a frosting flower or plant on top.
They can be themed to the wedding’s colors, with each cake having one of those colors, but when all displayed together, showcase the entire palette. Or why not layer in a mason jar for a vintage or boho aesthetic or be petit fours for a more formal or glamorous wedding.
Fresh flowers on small cakes give off a dainty vibe, while tall, sleek, and smoothly frosted cakes are a more modern touch. Of course, any way that you decorate a regular cake can be done with a mini wedding cake. Too many decorations on them makes them look crowded and clunky. With mini cakes, you have the advantage of more surface area.
What we mean is that each mini wedding cake could, in theory, be individually themed. Each one can be different. Will that cost more? Sure. But it does make way for a lot of creativity and imagination from the baker and couple alike.
The personalization options are limitless.
Keeping People Safe and Well Fed With Individual Servings
At their core, the trends of appetizers in vessels, mini wedding cakes, and dome-covered dinner plates come down to safety. These trends came to prominence during COVID but are evolving into fun and unique ways to keep weddings going in a world still going through a pandemic.
While trends do come and go, these are going to be sticking around for the foreseeable future. So, when planning a wedding within the next year or two, look to individual servings to not only keep people safe and healthy but to have some fun with the wedding.
Individual servings allow for tons of personalization opportunities to really lean into themes, color palettes, and lots of fun.