I never really realized the extent to which seasonal food enhances the entire experience of a wedding until my good friend got married last summer. She and her fiance’s decision to have a summer wedding was based solely on their food choices. They met in the summertime and their very first date was a picnic, which they enjoyed in the late July sunshine on the beach in Aptos. While their inaugural shared meal of chilled prawns, sweet cherry tomatoes, and juicy nectarines wasn’t really wedding fare, they wanted to enjoy the bright, summery, simple flavors at their wedding like they had on that magical day when the spark was first lit.

The seasonality of food isn’t something we often consider when initially planning a wedding meal, but it’s an important factor in the overall elegance and enjoyment of a meal. Certain foods are at their freshest and tastiest at different times of the year, and generally, our bodies crave different foods in different seasons. Summer can be an especially tricky season to choose a menu for, as appetites are typically not as robust in the warmer months and traditional wedding mains like beef wellington and chicken kiev are too weighty. Let’s explore some ideas for selecting light, refreshing dishes for your wedding that will showcase the bounty of Northern California’s summer season and satisfy summer appetites.

Buffet-Style Meals Suit Summer Months Best

The style of meal you choose will greatly determine your menu choices. Buffet-style and plated meals are both excellent options to keep in mind when you are planning your wedding, but buffets will offer you greater variety, which can be especially appealing in the summer. As stated before, appetites are weaker and more selective in the heat, which means that guests will likely appreciate getting to pick and choose what they feel like. Guests will also have the option of only taking as much food as they want, which means less waste than there may be with a plated meal.

Most wedding buffets include a selection of hot or cold hors d’oeuvre, a few choices of protein, a variety of salads and sides, and a wedding cake. The options for each are typically quite extensive, so it can be a bit overwhelming to make your selections. Keep California’s summer at the forefront of your mind when making decisions, and opt for cooling, refreshing, light foods with bright, herby, and clean flavors. This way, all of your menu items will compliment each other to create a harmonized plate, rather than being a mishmash of random foods.

Keep Hors D’oeuvres Cool and Refreshing

Hors d’oeuvres are the first bites you and your guests will have at your reception. For a summer wedding, you’ll want to keep these little nibbles light and refreshing. Venues usually offer options for hot and cold hors d’oeuvres, but it’s best to avoid the hot ones and opt instead for those served chilled or at room temperature.

Look for hors d’oeuvres that feature California’s local summer fruit and vegetables, like cantaloupe, tomatoes, and eggplant. Small, simple bites like prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe or roasted tomato and garlic crostini are perfect, as they showcase the season’s bounty while not being too heavy. Chilled seafood is also a perfect option for a summery hors d’oeuvre. Prawn cocktail is always an elegant choice, but don’t be afraid of more innovative, California-inspired options like prawns with avocado salsa.

Choose Light, Neutral Mains

When it comes to summertime mains you’ll certainly want to avoid overly hearty, slow-cooked proteins like braised beef short ribs and crispy duck breast. When combined with the sun and warm summer air, these dishes can make you and your guests feel too weighed down to dance. Although red meat isn’t completely out of the question, opt for grilled or seared preparations rather than braised or roasted, as they tend to have fresher notes.

If you’re not set on red meat, lighter proteins like chicken and fish are crowd-pleasing options. Look for bright, lemony, herbaceous sauces, as these tend to please the summertime palate. Simple, clean flavors like poached fish with lemon-dill sauce or chicken with garlic, olive oil, and fresh herbs are classics for this season and pair well with a variety of sides.

Many couples will opt for a vegetarian main option as well. Pasta is always a safe bet, but be sure to keep it light. Look for pasta dishes with loads of summer veggies, like orzo with pesto, cherry tomatoes, olives, pinenuts, and feta, rather than creamy, cheese-heavy dishes.

Colorful, Seasonal Sides

The options for side dishes can sometimes be overwhelming, but if you stick with simple, neutral mains you can take advantage of the abundance of colorful, fresh, sides featuring California’s brightest summer vegetables. Often you will have a choice or three or more sides for your buffet, so be sure to choose at least one salad, one cooked vegetable side, and one starchy side.

In summertime, you can’t go wrong with salads of assorted tender greens decorated with raw veggies like cucumbers, carrots, and sweet cherry tomatoes. Cooked vegetable sides with lots of color and variety are not only visually stunning, they also pair up effortlessly with any main. Look for mixed summer veggies, like eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers adorned with garlic, fresh herbs, and olive oil. When it comes to starchy summer sides, pasta and grain salads that can be served at room temperature are perfect. Potatoes are also a crowd-pleasing starchy option, but be sure to avoid heavy, wintery mashed potatoes and opt for something more seasonal like roasted baby potatoes with fresh herbs.

Wedding Cakes Featuring Summer Fruits

Summer wedding cakes are the best because you can take advantage of all the gorgeous summer fruits California produces at this time of year. For the cake itself, opt for a light sponge like a chiffon or dacquoise. These cakes are extra airy, thanks to the lift from whipped eggs in the batter.

For flavor profiles, keep the cake and the icing simple with classic vanilla or lemon, as chocolate tends to be too heavy and rich for this time of year. Compliment the cake with brightly-flavored summer fruits like sweet apricots, luscious cherries, and ripe berries to add freshness and a pop of color.

Personal Preference Takes Precedent

Ultimately, any catering company or all-inclusive venue will be happy to work with you to strike a balance between seasonality and personal preferences. Your wedding planner can also help you with decisions regarding your meal. But by selecting simple, fresh and light menu items that showcase the bounty of California’s summer growing season, you will create a cohesive, elegant, and enjoyable meal for you and your wedding guests. After all, the season in which you choose to celebrate your wedding will forever have a special place in your heart, so it only makes sense to celebrate the wonderful food it inspires.

Kennolyn offers all-inclusive wedding packages that feature an array of delicious buffet or plated meal options. Our executive chef is also happy to work with you to design a delicious, custom menu to your taste. To find out if our gorgeous Hilltop Hacienda Estate or our stunning Stone Creek Village venues are right for you, please contact us. Together, we can make all of your wedding dreams a reality.

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