UK wedding catering trends 2023

Now that the dust has settled, and government mandated guest list limits are all but a thing of the past, the UK wedding scene has seen a definitive shift. New data from Restaurant Associates shows a preference to an informal style, plant-forward menus and reception only guests - so what does a 'normal' wedding look like, post-covid?

Restaurant Associates rank amongst the UK's leading experts in weddings and events, hosting week in and week out at over 20 distinct and unique venues across the UK. From Edinburgh Zoo to Bristol Museum and Art Gallery; Beaulieu to Knebworth House; and Somerset House to Hatfield House - its range of beautiful wedding venues played host to over 170 weddings in 2022.

2023 has been dubbed the year that everything returns to 'normal' - but with the cost of living crisis and a sharper focus on climate change than ever before, weddings and events are on a rather different trajectory than in previous years. Post-covid, more couples are opting for longer engagements to allow time to save money, and even those with larger budgets are looking to add value wherever possible; many venues have even started show rounds for 2025 and 2026 weddings. Potentially in response to workplaces offering more flexibility to staff, there has also been a 2% growth in weddings booked on Thursdays.

Alongside this, the data shows a shift away from traditional white weddings, with couples prioritising the guest experience; more celebrant/humanist ceremonies/blessings are being booked in than ever before. This very much mirrors the overall feeling of couples wanting a more relaxed feel to the proceedings. Spending time with family and friends to celebrate their big day is more important than extravagant gestures or decor, and many are prioritising activities and entertainment for all to enjoy. 90% of weddings look to incorporate an 'al fresco' element into the day - particularly for drinks and canapés while some of the wedding photography is being conducted.

Further still in terms of trends within food, many are looking for alternatives to the traditional three-course meal in favour of an informal dining style and interactive food options, with grazing boards, dessert stations and artisan food truck bookings on the up. This also ties in with sustainability being a focus - with more questions around suppliers, and a preference for locality and seasonality reigning over the desire for the best of the best, which may have dominated in years gone by. 5% of bookings now place sustainability as the number one priority for consideration in planning their special occasions. Whilst there has been a gradual increase of 10% in plant-based weddings, the venues have reported a definite shift in that 80% of couples are consciously choosing to incorporate plant-based dishes as part of their wedding menu and evening food, and at enquiry stage, 90% of couples inquire about options for vegan/vegetarian guests.

Overall, the data show that post-Covid there has been a distinct shift in style and substance in the wedding industry; the result - a positive impact on the planet. As is the way for most individuals, responsibility for one's own part in climate change is prevalent in both day-to-day and bigger life decisions. Businesses and venues can (and should) maintain their own standards within this to encourage positive change - like Restaurant Associates, which is well on its way with its pledge to be 50% plant-based across all menus by 2028 and to be 70% zero waste by 2030, holding the industry to standard.

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