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Questions to Ask Your Caterer: Claire Hanley's Top Tips for Summer Weddings

Questions to Ask Your Caterer: Claire Hanley's Top Tips for Summer Weddings

To delve deeper into the behind the scenes of creating the perfect wedding experience, we've had the pleasure of sitting down with some of the industry's experts. From the latest Summer Trends to valuable tips for crafting seamless celebrations, our new Wedding Series is the ideal guide for any couple or wedding planner. Today, our spotlight is on the talented caterer, Claire Hanley, as we unravel her expertise and gain valuable insights into the art of wedding catering.

How soon in advance should I book a caterer for my wedding?

As early as possible if you don’t have a wedding planner. Your caterer is likely one of the first people onsite and the last person to leave your venue.

Claire’s Top Tip: Don’t forget that caterers can also help with recommending suppliers and even help you through the process of booking other vendors, as they’ve likely worked with many local wedding suppliers throughout their career.

Caption: A gourmet delight served on Caterhire's Villeroy & Boch Crockery.

When it comes to selecting a menu, what advice would you give on having 1-2 choices for a main course? Would you recommend offering a choice for the starter?

If you’re in a hotel-style venue, we recommend having a choice, which hotels will usually offer. If you have a caterer or marquee-style wedding, generally your food will be taken from their kitchen. I believe you should stand strong on what your main course should be, and offer silent options, like a chicken or fish and a vegan/vegetarian dish which guests can ask their server for should they have another preference or dietary requirement. This also applies to starters. Keep in mind that there’s generally a supplement charge for each additional choice.

What are the pros and cons of a buffet style meal & sit down style meal at a wedding?

Personally, I love buffets. Not necessarily for the whole meal, but it’s great to start with an amuse bouche or a beverage to get guests seated before launching into a buffet.

A pro of a buffet is it’s a great way to reduce spend. You won’t need as much kitchen equipment or facilities and you can put on a wonderful cold-food buffet. Keep in mind, though, that your menu spend may not be reduced significantly as a buffet will require an abundance of food.

Another pro is that buffets are ideal for anyone who wants to offer their guests a variety of food and guests can choose according to their personal tastes. It’s a great choice for foodies and those who love individual plates of food.

The ideal buffet setup would probably be food stations and lots of canapes. For a summer wedding, you could perhaps begin with something light like a gazpacho and then serve a main course as a buffet-style. I think the best way for a buffet to work is if your guests only have to leave their seats once.

The only cons for serving a buffet is portion control and the fact that there can be a little more waste than a traditional sit-down meal.

Claire’s Top Tip: Your buffet should also look elaborate and like a real feast so think tall flowers, layers, draping.

What’s a popular summer dish?

Of course, what’s fresh and in season. Fresh seafood is a great choice if you’re by the sea. It presents beautifully on the plate. A cured wild salmon is also great for June-July. Perfect for those who love sashimi! I also think it’s all about the little details, such as pickled carrots, pickled cucumbers, etc. Lamb is a good choice for a main course, but you don’t necessarily need a meat as a main. You can keep it summery with a lemon risotto and seared scallops or perhaps a tortellini. It’s fine to forgo the idea of “meat and two veg”. I personally prefer several smaller plates. I like an amuse bouche for summer as well. For sorbets, I think it’s a great option for desserts, but not necessarily as its own course.

Caption: A delectable dish served on Caterhire's Tranatlantica Plate 

I also think a spritz bar is a lovely choice for summer weddings. You can make these both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. Mocktails are big for this summer. You could opt for limoncello, peach, prosecco, etc. Or you could pair a signature beverage with each course if you prefer.

What do you do to try and be more sustainable in the catering industry and what advice would you give?

We try to reduce food waste through food recycling. We’re also big on hiring with companies like Caterhire.ie, so that in itself means we’re contributing to the longer life cycle of products. We also tend not to use many plastic products.

Regarding advice, be practical! Encourage the people who work with you in a practical way. If we all did something small every day, it adds up.

What’s your favourite go-to from CaterHire?

I love to be able to introduce colour to dinner parties and events. I love the Jasper Conran Chinoisire collection. There’s such an elegance about it, even once piece of this crockery lifts your entire experience. And I love the Arthur Price cutlery, I use this so much and it’s my first choice. I also love tasting plates for presentation of food, and of course, the new CaterHire lounge furniture! Glassware and stemware makes a table stand out, and I have a love story with the Diva range and I love the Sensa range. I also enjoy the coloured glassware, crockery and cutlery. You can mix and match everything to make a table pop. Finally, I adore the Waterford Crystal Salt & Pepper Shakers to add extra detail. Everything we need for a marquee wedding, we can get from Caterhire!

Summer is only around the corner. What are some catering trends for 2024?

I think that each wedding is about the couple, and they create their own trend. Trends are inspirational and there are always changing styles. We’re seeing that many couples are focussing on the guest experience. Regarding food trends, we’ve seen the rise of the grazing board/sharing board and various plays on that. For this year, we can expect to see a rise in couples expressing their personal tastes through reception food and late night menus, such as oyster bars, canapés and interactive food stations.

Regarding layout and colour trends, personally, I love green for summer to keep things light and airy.

Claire’s Top Tip: I definitely suggest bright, bold colours. Think Mediterranean, Sicilian shades like a saffron yellow for summer. I definitely think that during winter we’ll see a lot of white and black. More white, with hints of black.

Caption: Dining Setting Using Caterhire Table, Chairs & Tableware. 

About Claire Hanley

Claire began her career in PR and Marketing, where her quest for a caterer accommodating specific menus to match events sparked a realisation of untapped potential. With experience spanning years in the industry, including notable establishments like Ballymaloe, she seized this opportunity to redefine catering services. Her mission became clear: crafting tailored culinary experiences for all of life’s events. You can find more details about Claire Hanley here.

Join us for our next episode of our Wedding Series here at Caterhire.ie!

7th Feb 2024

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