2021 Wedding Catering Trends: Plant-Based, Korean Cuisine, and More!

Wedding catering trends for 2021 are as exciting as they are varied. We’re seeing fresh takes on old classics and cuisine inspired by cultural heritage making for some innovative wedding menus.

Since 2019, grazing tables have been all the rage, but with COVID safety measures, wedding caterers have had to get creative to bring delicious food to guests in beautiful yet safe ways. The result has been a rise in mini-charcuterie boards, individually packaged grazing boxes, and canned cocktails just to mention a few things. Ready to dive into all the latest wedding catering trends?

Life has seemed uncertain and as we have heard all too often — unprecedented. Because of this, couples are looking toward comfort foods for wedding menu ideas. Also, because of travel restrictions, food choices have become a way to experience that wanderlust. Additionally, during the pandemic, many couples have refocused on what is important to them. Family is the central focus which means we’re seeing family heritage and culture play a big part in wedding food.

Let’s jump into this delicious list of wedding catering trends for 2021!

1. Individual Grazing Boxes

Photo Courtesy of Cultured

Safety precautions have put a slight damper on large grazing tables, but wedding caterers have innovated with curated individual grazing boxes. These delicious single-serving boxes are filled with all the best fruits, cheeses, and more!

Safe and delicious, this is the best of both worlds and you can expect to see this stay around for a while.

2. Virtual Meal Kits or Cocktail Kits

Photo Courtesy of Party Slate

For a large number of couples, virtual connections are the primary way they are having guests participate in their wedding. For this reason, wedding caterers — and even big businesses — have created virtual meal kits and/or cocktail kits that allow wedding guests to share an experience with the couple, even though they are far apart.

Photo Courtesy of Refinery 29

This is such a popular concept that make-at-home and delivery cocktail kits are trending online as part of wedding planning ideas. (Check out these companies offering cocktail kit delivery.)

3. Mini-Charcuterie Boards

Photo Courtesy of Pizzazerie

One of the ways to keep wedding food safe for guests is to keep servings individual. This reduces the chance of spreading germs and the upside is that no one has to share their favorite cheeses. Mini-charcuterie boards can also be highly styled and curated, which is why this catering trend is here to stay.

4. Plant-Based

Photo Courtesy of Martha Stewart Weddings

Long gone are the days when a single vegetarian option is good enough for wedding menus. Vegan wedding catering has exploded in recent years and the newest iteration of vegan catering is focusing on plant-based menus. If you’re thinking vegan is only plant-based, think again. Oreos are technically vegan. More and more vegan wedding caterers are advocating getting back to plant-based cooking — and couples are loving this.

Whether it’s because of a belief, a dietary choice, or an environmental focus, vegan and vegan-curious eaters are winning with 2021 wedding food.

5. Attended Buffet

Photo Courtesy of Brides

Buffets are popular for a reason — they work. COVID put a full-stop on many buffet options, but we’re seeing a rise in attended buffets and stations which allow staff to serve guests while reducing germ-sharing opportunities.

6. Canned Cocktails

Photo Courtesy of Beverage Media | Mia Yakel

Happy hour has been canned — and people think that’s a good thing. Canned cocktails are on the rise as a popular — and safe — alternative to a traditional bar. Where couples may have thought this was gauche before, canned cocktails have gone chic thanks to 2020. Like many things post-COVID, it’s all about putting the fun in functional.

7. Korean Cuisine & Flavors

Photo Courtesy of Moth and Moonlite

If you feel like you’re seeing kimchi, bulgogi, and bao buns everywhere, it’s because you are! These mouth-watering dishes, along with a bevy of amazing Korean flavors have gone mainstream thanks to a blend of pop culture and cultural celebration.

Korean cuisine also features fermented vegetables and other elements which are highly praised for their health properties. Post-COVID, there is a greater focus on healthy options. Talented chefs and creative restaurateurs are spicing up the wedding food scene with all kinds of Korean cuisine goodness in 2021. Trend forecasters predict this will be popular for at least the next 3-5 years if not the foreseeable future.

8. Outdoor Cooking

Photo Courtesy of Webstaurant

Outdoor weddings brought a sense of safety in the face of COVID precautions, so it only makes sense that 2021 wedding catering trends would include outdoor cooking.

From grilling to smoking and more, caterers are taking to wide-open spaces to create a feast for the senses — meaning it looks as good being prepared and is tastes when eating it.

9. Food Trucks

Photo Courtesy of Blue Linden Weddings

Food trucks have been part of the wedding food scene for a little while, and 2021 will only see food trucks getting even more popular. It is a fun experience as well as being a safer experience when it comes to serving food and general preparations.

Many restaurants and bakeries are joining the trend by creating a food truck iteration of their existing services — and couples are loving it!

10. Locavore Wedding Menus (Local and Seasonal Wedding Food)

Photo Courtesy of Truth Out

Locavore is another one of those 2021 wedding catering buzzwords. Essentially, a locavore wedding menu is one that only or primarily uses locally-sourced food. That includes farm-fresh veggies, meats, and cheeses. The idea is to reduce waste, reduce the carbon footprint, support local growers/producers, and enjoy food at its freshest and best.

This wedding menu trend also is exciting because it’s a very in-the-moment menu offering that is likely never going to be exactly duplicated.

Today’s couples are often concerned with making sure their wedding choices don’t hurt the environment. For more on this topic, click here to see what wedding vendors are doing to woo eco-conscious couples.

11. Covered Appetizers

Photo Courtesy of Special Events

COVID didn’t eliminate all the traditional items from wedding catering. Appetizers, crudite, amuse bouche, and more are all still very possible wedding food options. The twist is they are now covered, which started out as a safety precaution and has grown into a way of adding to the guest experience as well.

12. Late-Night Snacks for Wedding Guests

Photo Courtesy of Kelly Vasami Photography

Dance the night away, but don’t leave guests hanging. That’s the prevailing thought for couples these days. Late-night snacks or midnight snacks prepackaged for easy enjoyment after the reception are becoming almost a given at weddings. They are often a favor alternative and guests are going crazy for this bonus bite to enjoy after the dancing or even after the wedding altogether.

13. Mini-Tacos

Photo Courtesy of The Knot

Sure they’ve been on the rise in popularity since last year, but mini tacos have secured a place in 2021 wedding catering trends — and have possibly secured a forever favorite spot.

They are all over Instagram and we can see why these little bites of deliciousness have created a fanatical following.

Tacos are popular right now in general as a way of transporting food. We’re also seeing exponential growth in the popularity of Korean Tacos.

14. Comfort Food

Photo Courtesy of Biz Bash

Chicken and waffles, popcorn, peanut butter and jelly, burgers and fries, macaroni and cheese. The list goes on and on. Comfort food is one of the most popular 2021 wedding catering options. Whether caterers are keeping the classics or putting a new spin on it, comfort foods are more popular than ever on wedding menus this year.

Next-level comfort food for weddings in 2021 is adding COVID-friendly tray service and individually packaged portions.

15. Elaborate Dinner

Photo Courtesy of Tiny Victories

For the couples that have paired down their guest list to a select few family and friends, we’re seeing the rise of the elaborate dinner party. Well within the safety of their pod (people they interact with on a regular basis), couples are gathering for a traditional meal that is taken to the next level with multiple courses and details.

Everything in a Cone

Photo Courtesy of Ain’t Too Proud to Meg

Last on the list is a trend we couldn’t overlook. It’s the cone. Partly for safety, partly for functionality, and partly because it’s just fun — the cone has become the single hottest wedding catering trend in 2021. From savory to sweet, from paper to bread, we’re seeing cones in every style and flavor.

Statement Salads

Photo Courtesy of Party Slate

Salads are no longer something you have to add to the plate to look balanced. Today’s couples — and wedding guests are all about the flavors and holistic eating. For that reason, salads are going mainstream with dynamic flavor combinations and inventive designs. Say goodbye to the sad side salad of yesteryear — and get ready for the statement salad.

Smoked Cocktails

Photo Courtesy of A Bar Above

You’ve likely seen these taking the internet by storm — and sales of at-home cocktail smoking kits are skyrocketing. With other elements being limited in life, food and drinks have become more of an experience and that’s also true when it comes to wedding menus.

People are wanting to treat their guests to something unique and smoked cocktails are going to be the thing to watch in wedding bartending trends.

Breakfast Foods

Photo Courtesy of Brides

File this under comfort foods, but breakfast dishes are hot for 2021 wedding food ideas. Now that the day itself looks different with the changes COVID has brought around, couples are not afraid to buck the system with early weddings with brunch reception or breakfast for dinner. Additionally, today’s couples are booking weddings at different times thanks to the postponed nuptials of 2020 and the overbooking in 2021.

When it comes to wedding breakfast, couples can go fancy or keep it simple. It can be healthy or indulgent — and everything in between. It’s a diverse wedding food concept with something for every palate.

WHERE WEDDING FOOD WILL GO FROM HERE

You’ll continue to see developments in the wedding industry — and catering specifically — that will focus on safety and guest comfort. Individually wrapped and packaged foods will be popular for the foreseeable future.

Wedding caterers looking to prevent future disruptions, like the ones when COVID first hit, have learned to pivot by solving customer problems with delivery options, prepackaged items, and curated menus making room for new traditions and expanded opportunities.

Get more insights on wedding catering trends by taking a deeper dive on these trending topics —

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Written by Corrie McGee
Photo Courtesy of Special Events

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