Food is the key element of almost any party, whether it’s a wedding or any other social occasion. For Pakistani weddings, guests often judge the success or failure of a wedding by the quality of the food. There are a couple of things to consider here:
1. Start planning well in advance
You may think food is something that should only take a couple of days or weeks to plan. Not so.
You will need to book catering services or make arrangements for food at least a couple of months in advance if you want things to work out in an efficient and organized way. There are a lot of details involved, so don’t wait until the last minute to do this!
2. Write down all the things involved in food preparation
This includes cooking the food, getting waiters and waitresses to serve the food, deciding what kind of menu you want, how you want the food to look, etc.
Write down all of the tasks involved so you can get a clear picture of exactly what needs to be done.
3. Select a wedding food committee
This committee is responsible for taking care of all food arrangements for the wedding. It must work in consultation with you. You will make the main decisions, but they will take care of the details including booking caterers, getting servers, etc. Get a friend with experience in this field to be in charge of this committee. A note of warning though: make sure that once the caterer has been booked, the food committee doesn’t meddle unnecessarily in the arrangements.
Let the professionals handle their territory in the way they know best. The wedding committee should just take care of booking the caterers, providing them with the right guidelines for food preparation, and occasionally checking up on them.
4. Establish a budget
How much should you really spend on wedding food?
This can only be determined after careful research. If you’ve started planning on time and you’ve got your food committee in place, give them a deadline to get this information to you by (i.e. the cost of catering, servers, etc.).
Then once you have the options in front of you, you can decide how much you’re willing to spend on food for the wedding.
It’s important to remember that weddings should be simple. Consider this Hadith of Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings be upon him): ‘The best wedding is that upon which the least trouble and expense is bestowed”. (Mishkat)
5. Decide if you want to cook the meal yourself or cater
There are advantages and disadvantages to each option.
a. Cooking your own food:
– you offer exactly the kind of food you know your guests will like
– you could save more money
– you can offer your own personal touch to the menu
– you will be taking on a lot of work with no professional staff to help you
– you must remember that cooking involves not just making the food, but ensuring that all utensils and wedding table paraphernalia are set up properly
– you will have to work out how the food is going to be served
– you have one less burden to worry about-caterers usually take care of all details related to preparing the meal, utensils, etc. but confirm this with them
– catering can lend a more professional look to your wedding
– they may have special arrangements to keep food warm until it is served to guests.
– it can be expensive
– you could be restricted to the menus the caterers are offering
6. “Fats, oils & sweets USE SPARINGLY!”
This was the title of a section of the food pyramid guide which is used to teach about good nutrition.
If you can cut back on these things in the wedding menu for the benefit of ALL guests (those with heart conditions, diabetes, etc. and those who don’t have these problems) you will be doing everyone a favor. Of course, when it comes to Pakistani food, it’s hard, but it’s not impossible.
For instance, for meat, try using lean meat in dishes. You can reduce oil in rice and other foods.
For dessert, instead of serving the traditional ones which may be dripping with syrupy sweet goo or are full of fattening cream (i.e. Gulabjamun) consider servings of fresh fruit. This is a really good option in summer, especially.
7. If you’re catering make sure they will allow you to use your own meat
This is important if you and your guests are conscious about eating Zabiha meat. Make sure that you have the option of providing meat to the caterers for you meal. If not, consider switching to another caterer.
8. Ensure the food will be warm when it is served
What could be more disappointing than cold, unappetizing wedding food?
There are different ways of getting around this problem. If you decide to get the wedding food catered, discuss this issue with the caterers and see what solution they propose. Some places may arrange for burners to keep the food warm throughout the wedding.
If you are cooking yourself, you can also look into renting burners for this purpose, but check with the wedding hall administrators to ensure they don’t have any restrictions about this (they may say no to burners if they feel it is a fire hazard to have them there).
If burners are not an option, another way of getting around this dilemma is to ensure the hall you book has an oven and microwave, preferably more than one. That way food can be warmed in time for the meal. The drawback of this approach though is that it will require a number of people to efficiently warm the food in time for serving.
9. Diversify your menu
Should you serve a traditional Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Malaysian, or American menu?
Living in a country that’s a “melting pot” gives you the advantage of serving guests food of different ethno-cutural backgrounds.
Even if the bride and the groom are both Pakistani, it should be remembered that not all of the guests may be. Also, kids today may be of different cultural backgrounds, but when it comes to food, hamburgers, pizza and french fries, for instance, are favorites across the board.
You don’t have to have an entirely Pakistani menu. You can have the main meal of one ethnic background and the dessert of another.
Also, don’t forget to take into account the needs of those with certain dietary restrictions. Can you offer a sugar-free dessert for the benefit of guests who have diabetes? Can you cut back on lots of rich, fatty food for the benefit of everyone, especially the heart patients among your guests?
10. Decide how the food is going to be served
There are different ways caterers serve food at weddings and other such occasions. These include the following:
American service: individual plates are prepared and hand-delivered to guests. You will need lots of organized servers for this to work properly and efficiently.
Buffet style: long tables of food are set up and guests serve themselves. This is actually an option that can save you money because fewer servers are necessary. Also, less food is wasted, since guests take only as much as they want, instead of being stuck with a specific portion.
Family style: in this setup, large platters of food are brought to each table and people help themselves. This can be helpful if you have families coming, but it will obviously require servers, which will cost more money
11. Take into account clean up