Celebrations & More: Queasy over menu planning Dont be, caterer says

He’s kosher, she’s not. She’s Sephardi, he’s Ashkenazi.

When marrying someone from a different background, what is the best way to provide a menu everyone will love?

Andrew Wiener, founder and owner of Catering by Andrew in Brookline, Mass. (a 2010 and 2011 “the knot, best of weddings” pick), suggests what families and caterers can do to create a menu that will leave all guests satisfied.

A savvy caterer can help design a menu that pleases almost everyone. photo/torsten seiler.

Sephardi and Ashkenazi differences can be challenging. Wiener says that Persians (and other Sephardi) tend to not RSVP, or come on time: This makes planning a bit difficult, and favors buffet-style  rather than sit-down dinners. Ashkenazi tend to prefer separate courses and sit-down dinners, Weiner says.

The differences extend beyond food; style is also important, Wiener says. “For Russians, the less you can see the table, the more respectful it is.”

One of Wiener’s greater challenges is creating a menu for two families — one kosher and one not. This is difficult, Wiener says, because creativity won’t suffice — some food options are strictly limited.

So, marrying the person you love, but concerned that half your guests will leave with a frustrated palate? Wiener offers some suggestions:

• Keep an eye on the big picture. Wedding planning can be hard and stressful, or it can be a lot of fun, and there’s really no reason why it has to be the former, he says. “My advice to people is to bring the families together at the table, to come up with a common ground. Find the items that families feel is necessary to serve. It’s a matter of making sure it’s a fun relationship, not an adversarial relationship. Keep the focus on the bride and groom, and what they want.”

• If one of the families is kosher and the other is not, find a caterer well-versed in kosher requirements so no problems ensue.

• If either the bride or groom comes from a family with specific culinary tastes, consider bringing in a specialized chef. “We have actually brought in chefs,” Wiener says. “We’ll bring in a Persian chef at times to give that flavor.”

• Finally, the golden rule, Wiener says, is to keep the main course constant, but throw in a buffet style, or incorporate the different backgrounds into the cocktail hour. For example, if one of the families is Russian, Wiener will include some trays of “zakuski,” or appetizers. Instead of serving a plated dessert, he’ll create a generous dessert buffet.

“For Persians it’s the same thing,” he says. “We take what they normally serve at the buffets for dinner, and serve it as an hors d’oeuvre. We’ll make sure there’s a lot of extra food, a lot of choices, and then serve a sit-down dinner.”

So, rejoice in having found the person you love, agree with your family on the big-ticket food items, and relax and enjoy your day. Who knows — watching your relatives delight in the foreign-yet-delicious tastes might provide some added amusement. — jns.org