Ask the Expert: Owner of Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts Renee Schuler

She gives us the dish on what’s yummy, what’s crummy, and how to make your guests feel like VIPs.

Illustration by Jacqui Oakley

Renee Schuler, owner of Eat Well Celebrations and Feasts, knows her way around a kitchen. She gives us the dish on what’s yummy, what’s crummy, and how to make your guests feel like VIPs.

What role does the food play in the overall wedding experience? Having good food is really critical to having a good wedding reception. I truly believe that when people have good food, then they are able to relax and be more comfortable because it’s meeting a basic need.

What are the current wedding food trends? Stations are great because they offer a lot of variety and choices. We’re also seeing a lot of dessert-scapes. And we definitely still see a lot of Southern foods and brunch. There are so many fun things you can do with brunch—Bloody Mary bars, biscuit and gravy stations, waffle bars. Another thing I’m seeing a lot of is more mixology trends, with more elaborate garnishes for cocktails, things like full sprigs of herbs, large pieces of fruit, whole lobster claws, and edible flowers.

In your opinion, is it necessary to offer vegetarian and/or gluten-free options on the dinner menu? It’s critical to offer a vegetarian option. Most of our entrées are gluten-free because we don’t use a lot of flour-based sauces, but we do have more gluten-free requests. We have a policy now to indicate if something is vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free. You don’t want someone to feel uncomfortable or not be able to eat because of a dietary restriction. All of your guests should be treated like VIPs.

What are the most crowd-friendly dishes? Beef is definitely the most popular. Steer away from more unusual proteins like lamb or veal.

Any tips for having a more budget-conscious menu without looking cheap? We have done some great appetizer and dessert wedding receptions. That said, don’t start the reception at 5:30. That reception should start at 8.

If a couple really wants to splurge on the food for their guests, what are some ideas? I truly love when we have a budget that expands to fit fun things. I love incorporating decadent foods like lobster or a raw oyster bar. Also, I love the late-night stations. Whether it’s our mini burger bar or a s’mores bar, when you need to take a break from dancing, it’s nice to have another little activity.

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