'Foodie Culture' Leads To Skyrocketing Wedding Costs

Wedding food used to be characterized as a joke, following airline and hospital food on the list of meals that did not generate high expectations. In most cases, guests expected a dry chicken breast, a bland piece of salmon, or a sad vegetarian option. At the end, there'd be cake in fondant. But today "everyone is a foodie today," according to one New York caterer, and wedding meals have become elaborate and hugely expensive spectacles.

"A nice piece of filet, a salad and a baked potato won't dazzle anyone anymore," said Mary Giuliani, founder of a Manhattan catering business, to the New York Times.

One couple, who described themselves as "serious foodies," said the food was the entertainment at their show. Guests at that reception were offered fresh-shaved truffles, heirloom tomatoes, pastrami from Katz's and designer cupcakes.

The bride said there was a lot of pressure to have really good food these days, but while high-end, gourmet wedding menus are a relatively recent phenomenon that's associated with "the rise of foodie culture," according to sociologist Bradford Wilcox, the role of the wedding and its food in the communication of identity for a new couple is centuries old. The wedding reception serves to "symbolically locate a couple within a community," and that includes communicating the couple's social status, taste, and knowledge about food.

"Many couples want to demonstrate their sophistication about food," Ms. Giuliani said. "And their menu can tell their story."

The food for top-tier foodie weddings starts at $275 per guest, according to Andrea Correale of Elegant Affairs in New York, who cited fresh juice for cocktails and a mixologist behind the bar as "de rigeur."

To really impress people, some couples are even trying to get celebrity chefs like Daniel Boulud or Jean-Georges Vongerichten involved. Some caterers say a connection to a big-name chef is essential to getting high-end wedding business these days. Giuliani herself has recently started a catering program with Mario Batali called "Mario by Mary."

Another rising trend appears to be locavore weddings.

"At some weddings now, every food item has a name card to identify the farm or fisherman of origin," Giuliani said.

We wonder how hard it is to score a reservation at some of these weddings.