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Although the bride and groom may barely get a bite to eat during the rush of the wedding day, the food is always a notable part of the reception experience for the attendees (ever watched Four Weddings?). While there’s no need to overthink what your guests’ Yelp reviews would be, a well-considered meal can have the extraordinary effect of uniting your diverse collection of friends and family members in the way that only breaking bread together can do.

As with any element of your nuptials, the reception spread will be most gratifying if it feels personal to you as a couple. So how do you go about putting together a menu that is at once elevated, crowd-pleasing, and specific to your tastes (both culinary and aesthetic)? Like crafting the decor of your home, the answer lies in the problem-solving, storytelling power of design—just within the circumference of your dishes, in this case. To find out how to bring that discerning eye to the wedding table, we tapped Sun in My Belly, a highly creative, chef-driven brunch café and full-service catering operation (with nearly all-five-star reviews on Wedding Wire), based in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood.

Founded in 1996 by executive chef Alison Luker, Sun in My Belly was one of the first eateries in Atlanta to focus on seasonal, locally sourced food with an “intricate, nature-driven,” visual style. We chatted with executive director Max LeBlanc to get the caterer’s best tips on crafting a personal dining experience from the plate up.


Find a Caterer Who Thinks Like a Designer

When we asked LeBlanc about the relationship between food and how it’s presented, he responded, “The better the composition of your cuisine, the more likely it is to be desired.” Each component of your meal, from the mix of shapes and colors to the way in which it’s plated, adds up to an overall visual effect that determines how appealing it will be to the diner. Your caterer should treat the details as building blocks, not an afterthought.


Take a Walk Down Memory Lane

In order to begin planning your future menu, LeBlanc suggests first looking back. Instead of scouring the Internet to find out if tapas is still trending, explore the ways in which food has been linked to your relationship. Ask questions like: What are some of our favorite memories attached to dining? What were we eating, and what was it about that meal that brought delight?

Perhaps you won’t want to serve your guests the Chinese takeout you had during a rom-com marathon, but you can use this memory to inform the selection of a glazed chicken entrée. Or if your fondest dates were breezy weekend picnics, a casual, family-style approach might be more your thing. Helping your caterer understand the feeling you want to invoke will allow them to narrow their offerings to what will suit you best.


Stay on Palette

The most compelling weddings tell a cohesive story using every component at hand. The simplest way to tie the eats to the other more obvious decor is with color. LeBlanc recommends looking holistically at your palette, from the invitation, website, and attire to the table cards, linens, florals, and menu. If you treat each visual puzzle piece as part of a whole, then it’s not hard to envision how your magenta and sage green florals could be reflected in the goat cheese ravioli with beets and dill. While your guests may not consciously observe each of these subtle connections, they will certainly feel the presence of a thoughtful through-line.


Eat as the Locals Eat

If you choose a caterer committed to seasonal, farm-to-table fare, they will have a wide network of local vendors that can provide the myriad produce that go into such an assortment of dishes. Another way to support local vendors is to personally request options that maximize the types of produce that you know are currently ripe for the picking and available from nearby farms. For example, at the end of summer, Sun in My Belly uses Georgia figs on everything from blue cheese shortbread to juniper-roasted pork tenderloin.

So when menu-tasting season comes, instead of idly checking off boxes under “chicken, steak, or fish,” seek out a collaborator that will partner with you in the pursuit of bringing your love story to life—for all the senses.

Read on for more vibrant hosting ideas: A Luscious Color-Blocked Crudite Board, Fit for a Wedding How to Style a Monochrome Bridal Brunch We Foraged the Farmers’ Market to Create 2 Unique Fall Table Settings