Feeding the wedding guests

Choosing the menu style for your wedding reception is important as it will largely dictate the overall ambience of your special day. Want something breezy and informal? Go for the increasingly popular cocktail menu. Is paying homage to your family’s traditions important? Perhaps you’ll hold an authentic Chinese banquet instead.

JW Marriott Hotel account manager Narumol Thamrongsat says most couples already have a good idea about the style of menu they want before they approach a hotel. "Thai-Chinese will mostly go for the set menu or buffet-style, while Thais tend to go for the cocktail receptions," she says.

There are three basic options: a cocktail reception; a buffet or a banquet. The cheapest is a cocktail reception, which can cost as little as 360 baht per person. Buffets cost between 400 and 800 baht a head and Chinese banquets can set you back as much as 9,000 baht for 10 people.

Cocktail receptions came of age during the economic downturn, but are now embraced by many younger couples for more than just financial reasons. The Peninsula’s banquet sales manager Khanitta Wantanapreeda says that they’re popular because they’re relatively uncomplicated. "Couples feel more comfortable with their style. They’re more informal, and people can walk around and talk to each other. Also, the event doesn’t take as long as others – they usually only last for around two hours."

Khun Pharanya from the Century Park Hotel puts it simply. "If most of the guests are your friends, choose a cocktail reception. But if most of them are your parents’ guests, choose the buffet."

The food on offer at cocktail receptions tends to be light: hot and cold canapes, a carvery and sweets are usually offered. Current menus in Bangkok include imaginative dishes like parma ham with rockmelon, cheese mousse with green olives on rye bread, beef kebab with grilled pita bread, scallop dumplings with chilli and roasted pork loin with mustard sauce. "Food stations" featuring heavier food can be additionally provided at extra cost.

Narumol adds that cocktail receptions are more flexible when it comes to numbers. "If, for example, you expect 400 people but 430 turn up, you won’t have to pay any extra because the hotel doesn’t have to provide any extra food." If, however, even more people turn up, the hotel would discuss with the couple on the day as to whether more food is required, and would charge extra for soft drinks.

This is in contrast to buffets and banquets, where heads are counted and must usually be confirmed at least 72 hours before the event. If less than the expected number turn up, the confirmed number of heads must still be paid for.

Buffets are the middle ground between cocktails and Chinese-banquets. "If you have older people in the group, you may prefer to have a buffet rather than cocktail reception so they can sit down," Regent wedding consultant Rakklaw Thankunpanit says. "But there are some chairs provided at cocktail receptions."

Buffets are declining in popularity and are being replaced by cocktail receptions. At face value, they are not as cheap as cocktail menus, although if food stations are included, the price may be comparable. Most hotels offer both Thai and international style buffets, the latter of which tends to be more popular.

Chinese banquets are popular among more traditionally-minded Thai-Chinese, who want to be more generous towards their guests. "Younger couples might prefer to have a cocktail reception, but their parents want to have the set menu instead," says Khanitta.

Once the style itself is chosen, the precise dishes chosen become important. According to Narumol, people can be particularly concerned about the Chinese set menus. "It’s not unusual for special menu requests to be made, such as extra shark fin in the shark fin soup – and people will check that the food is coming from the hotel’s Chinese restaurant."