When Mark and I got married, the food was extremely important to us. We both we grew up in households of what we would now call “Foodies.” Back then, we called them “Italian.”
Believe it or not, the food is the thing people will talk about the most and for the longest after your wedding. Dinner is the one part of the wedding where it becomes interactive for the guests. They get to dine with you, your first meal as man and wife. That’s a big honor for them. This makes them remember dinner.
We’ve been to a wedding where the food was a disaster, and people are still talking about it four years later. Mark and I got married fourteen years ago, and people are still talking about the rustic Italian feast we served them. (Seafood stuffed manicotti, grilled chicken, salad with rose petals in it, veggies, long-stemmed strawberries…) Believe me when I say that if you skimp on dinner, people will remember it. Wouldn’t you rather people talk for years about how wonderful your food was?
Don’t worry, a delicious reception meal doesn’t have to be expensive! Here are our fave places we’ve eaten while working weddings, along with our review of each, and they’re not all pricey. Enjoy!
The 411: Emily and Tom’s wedding introduced us to this awesome venue in the teeny tiny town of Port Costa, California.
Ambiance: It’s hip, rustic, boho, and unique. It’s just cool in every way. My fave thing about this reception was that the meal was served family-style. We got to talk with the people at our table while we ate, and it was really fun. It made the reception much more intimate and social, and their guests had a fabulous time.
What we ate: Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, salmon, greens
What we thought: AMAZING everything! The fried chicken was as good as what I’ve had at Sweetie Pie’s in St Louis. The buttermilk biscuits were to die for, literally. I’m not supposed to have gluten and I ate one anyone. I could’ve died.
The 411: We’re Vintage Gardens’s preferred photographers, so we get to work there all the time, and we feel spoiled.
The ambiance: This is a lush garden venue with lawns and a gazebo. Their reception space is under a tent, which has open walls during nice weather and closed walls and heat in the cool months. You can see their entire venue on our Vintage Gardens venue page.
What we ate: We’ve had almost everything at this place, from steak to pasta. The only thing they don’t really do is Mexican food.
What we thought: Our absolute fave is when they do fillet mignon. Close seconds are their chicken Alfredo pasta and chicken cordon bleu.
The 411: Wine & Roses is a winery venue in Lodi, California. We don’t get to work there very often, but when we do, we’re super duper excited to be there.
The ambiance: This venue is absolutely gorgeous, with a large property and lots of variety. They hold several weddings per weekend (usually two per day). It’s very romantic and elegant, with options for brides on different budgets. They have a large ballroom, a smaller reception room with a stone veranda, several grassy areas, a large fountain, and beautiful guest rooms. It’s a photographer’s dream.
What we ate: We’ve had fillet mignon, steak, chicken, salmon, veggies and potatoes cooked every way, etc
What we thought: We love working there, and the food is some of the best we’ve ever had. One of the best meals we’ve ever had at a wedding was the fillet mignon and salmon. Yes, they were served together! AMAZING. I’ll never forget that meal.
The 411: Amanda & Eric were our first clients to have a taco truck at their wedding, a small party in the bride’s parents’ backyard.
The ambiance: This is perfect for a casual laid-back wedding, especially a backyard wedding. They drive the whole kitchen to you, so you don’t have to worry about caterers coming into your personal kitchen, or a kitchen you’ve rented.
What we ate: I had a huge burrito, Mark had a burrito and a few tacos because he’s fat.
What we thought: LOVED IT! So delicious and fun. The portions were huge and the cost was very affordable for the couple. The guests also loved it!
The 411: Michelle & Dean introduced us to Leal Vineyards in Hollister, near San Jose, California.
The ambiance: This vineyard winery venue is GORGEOUS. I fell in love with the whole place. The grounds were stunning for photos and had tons of variety, and the ballroom is… well, just look! It’s romantic and amazing, and a great option year-round because of the indoor reception and covered options for the ceremony space. This wedding was in the winter time on a beautiful, freezing day.
What we ate: Steak Lorraine. I only know the name of this dish because I watch Three’s Company and it’s one of Jack’s specialties. It’s tender steak with mushrooms, covered by the most delicious red wine reduction sauce.
What we thought: First off, if you’ve never had Steak Lorraine, you’re missing out. I’m bummed I didn’t get a photo of my plate but I ate it too fast. It was succulent, refined, impressive. The chef at Leal is truly a genius. Their staff was also fantastic. I highly recommend this venue.
The 411: Chanda & Nate had their amazing multi-cultural destination wedding at Camp Blue in Pinecrest, California. It’s run by UC Berkeley and its alums. In the beautiful Sierra Mountains, it’s a camp for adults!
The ambiance: When you stay there, you get two meals a day in the dining hall, and we heard it was pretty good. The kitchen also catered the wedding! You have to check out Chanda & Nate’s wedding blog to see how cool this place is. They did a destination wedding and brought their families and closest friends (only a couple hundred people or so). It’s a very fun and unique venue. There are tons of activities for families and a multitude of places for beautiful wedding photos. The meal part of the reception was in the dining hall at long tables, served family style.
What we ate: Salmon, grilled veggies, brown rice, greens
What we thought: We were beyond impressed that a camp kitchen could produce something that tastes like it came from a white-tablecloth restaurant. It was delicious and elegant, and you know I love when food is served family-style!