After the solemnity of the wedding ceremony and exchange of vows — revelry and feasting are in order! The modern wedding reception is open to a wide range of interpretations from a formal dinner to a rustic buffet. Make fresh herbs and edible flowers your focal point.
Tie a couple of sprigs of fresh blooming thyme (or rosemary) onto linen napkins for a fragrant introduction to your herbal wedding.
An herbal wedding relies largely on visual impact as well as culinary appeal. This is where you can really offer a lot as fresh herbal garnishes are easy to apply, even for an novice cook. If you have access to an herb garden, you can be generous when adding fresh herbs to the buffet table, platters, place settings, and centerpieces. Fresh and crystallized flowers add drama to salads and desserts.
Using Herbs to Create A Savory Wedding Menu
Fresh herbs are the perfect partner in the kitchen. Where once a recipe might have called for a minuscule amount of a dried herb which was barely recognizable, today fresh herbs have found their rightful place at the table. Whether the impact is subtle, or bold and assertive, there is no question that entertaining with fresh herbs is one of the easiest ways to spark culinary creativity.
If you are hiring a caterer, it should be a pleasure to introduce herbs into the menu — most professional chefs are well aware of their importance in creating a savory menu and should welcome your suggestions. If not, shop around. Some caterers will even allow the client to augment the menu with selections made at home. This is an ideal way to save money and also introduce your great aunt Edna’s Rose Geranium Cake or the zippy herb garden salad your dad whips up. Ask members of the family if they have any secret recipes they can share. They will be delighted to have the opportunity to participate in the wedding festivities.
The simplest (and probably the least expensive) reception to host is the afternoon tea. Because this event is scheduled between lunch and dinner, guests do not expect an elaborate menu. Offer finger sandwiches filled with salmon and dill, pastries such as muffins and scones augmented with lemon thyme or sage, hot or cold canapés with edible flower garnishes, and sweets including wedding cake. Coffee and punch should be served in addition to a variety of teas. If you don’t own them, renting a pretty tea service and a set of china will add a wonderful air of dignity to the occasion.
A buffet can be served for brunch, lunch, or dinner. Setting up a buffet is much easier than trying to manage a seated reception and it also gives others a chance to contribute. Plan the buffet in advance and be clear on what each person is to do. Shopping, cooking, decorating, serving, rentals, and cleanup duties should all be considered.
For a wedding brunch, offer herb-crusted pork tenderloin, savory breakfast meats, an herbed omelet or scrambled eggs, a minted fruit compote or fresh fruit kebobs, muffins and pastries, and beverages. The menu might also include hot or cold pasta dishes, crepes, salads and breads, marinated vegetables, poached salmon, or grilled chicken. An evening buffet should offer heartier fare such as savory pastries, rosemary roast beef, and ethnic specialties. These days, it’s wise to include several vegetarian dishes on the menu, using herbs to create both flavor and visual appeal.
Fresh Herbs and Flowers Can Make Your Menu Special
It is a joy to pick fresh herbs from your own herb garden where treasures like lemon thyme and pineapple mint can make their home. Culinary classics like parsley, sage, oregano, chives, and thyme are very easy to grow and will provide the essential seasoning for a wide variety of cuisines. Look for plants at your local nursery or home center. For convenience, many of these same herbs are also available at markets year-round. Edible flowers are often offered by the same growers, though you may have to get them by request.
When cooking with herbs, remember that the flavor of an herb is more intense when it is dried. (An exception would be tarragon which has a more intense flavor when it is fresh.) Generally speaking, 1 teaspoon of dried herb can be substituted for 1 tablespoon of the fresh. A little experimentation will reveal what works best for individual recipes and tastes.
Fresh herbs with soft stems such as cilantro or parsley, can be chopped and used whole, or you may remove and chop the leaves only, as you prefer. However, woody-stemmed herbs such as rosemary and thyme require the leaves to be separated from the stem before use. To do this, run your fingers down along the stem against the leaves. After the leaves have been removed, some cooks like to place the branches on the barbecue to add flavor to grilled foods.
A little experimentation ahead of time would be advisable. A wedding is probably not the time to stray too far from beloved classic such as parsley, sage, thyme, and basil, but you can always allow your guests the pleasure of discovering a new twist such as lemon thyme instead of regular thyme, or what about a chocolate mint infusion? Sharing your favorite recipes (they make wonderful favors) will draw your guests into the herbal experience even more.
Don’t Forget Dessert!
Individual rosewater cakes are served at an afternoon tea reception.
The wedding cake is always the highlight of the reception. Herbs can make it memorable, not only in the decorations but by adding flavor and texture to the cake itself. Experiment with any of the sweet herbs such as lavender, lemon balm, and rose geranium. Mint has long been a favorite addition to baked goods, custards, and whipping cream. A subtle herb sorbet is another exciting way to highlight the taste of herbs such as rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon balm, or pineapple mint.
A favorite herbal recipe also makes a wonderful favor for guests to keep. Print the recipe on a piece of parchment paper, roll it into a scroll and add ribbon and a sprig or two of herbs. Tiny jars of herb jam or jelly look festive capped with gingham bonnets. Herbal cookies tied in cellophane bags with the recipe attached will also be welcomed. To make rosemary-orange cookies, try adding minced rosemary to your favorite sugar cookie recipe along with some orange extract, which goes really well with the rosemary. Then press a sprig of the herb onto the top of the cookie, and you have a special treat!