As you plan your wedding day, you might have a few questions on your mind: How can I stay on budget? How can I ensure that everyone enjoys themself? What will work for everyone? While we'll leave finding a wedding dress and DJ to the professionals, there is a guaranteed way to ensure that your stress is low and that you and your guests are well-fed: Plan a BBQ wedding menu for the reception.
A BBQ wedding reception menu is the perfect way to keep your food and drink as low-maintenance as possible, while still giving you and your guests something special to remember. There are a lot of ways to serve BBQ at a wedding, and picking the right setup and menu will make it that much easier to relax, be present, and fully enjoy your wedding day.
In this guide, we’ll give you the ins and outs of planning a BBQ menu for a wedding, with ideas for different dishes to serve and important planning tips that will make the whole process smoother, easier, and tastier.
Planning and preparing for your wedding reception BBQ menu is how you’ll guarantee its success. That comes down to knowing the details of your party, getting a BBQ station set up in advance, deciding how you’re going to serve your wedding meal, and then organizing a detailed grilling plan.
We’ll take you through that step by step in the sections that follow.
Know Your Budget, Headcount, and Location
How many people will you be serving at your wedding? What’s your budget for feeding that many people? And perhaps most importantly, where will you be holding your ceremony and meal—how will that affect your menu?
Your budget and headcount are pretty straightforward to calculate. Once you’ve received your RSVPs and have an accurate idea of how many people will be in attendance at your wedding, you can plan your menu around making your budget stretch to cover food for all of them.
So how much does it cost per person to serve BBQ at a wedding? Well, you can plan for about one-thid to one-half pound of meat per adult, and about 1/4 to 1/2 pound of sides. Calculating the total can help you decide whether to go with more economical choices—chicken, burgers, and hot dogs—or going all in on more expensive preparations like smoked brisket and ribs. It’s not too difficult to keep your cost per person under $10 by shopping around for good prices on larger cuts of meat.
Perhpas most important, plan for your location. What sort of resources will you have available to help serve your wedding BBQ menu? Are tables provided, or do you need to bring them? What about kitchen equipment? Are all of the grilling essentials provided, or should you plan to bring your own tools and trays? There isn’t any one-size-fits-all solution for every location, but keep in mind both what you’ll have and what you’ll need to bring as you read through the next sections.
Decide On A Serving Method
There are two main barbecue serving styles that you can choose from for your wedding menu: cookout style and buffet style. We’ll cover them in more detail in a later section, but for now, here’s a summary:
Plan and Lay Out Your BBQ Station
Depending on which style of BBQ serving method you choose, your BBQ station will look very different.
In a cookout-style BBQ, you’ll often have your tables set up right next to your grilling station. That way fresh burgers and dogs can be laid out right away for hungry guests, or plated up nicely to be served to seated guests. You’ll need all your usual grilling tools—tongs, spatulas, a basting brush, and seasonings—as well as plates and utensils to serve your food with.
In a buffet-style BBQ, all of your mains and sides will be prepared well prior to when you serve them. Instead of having a roaring grill as the center of your BBQ station, all your smoked meats and sides will be laid out on a long table, and served hot in specialized serving trays to keep them warm.
Either way, you’ll need plates and utensils for your serving station. So the main difference comes down to whether you’d like to get everything ready well in advance, have your food grilled fresh for the meal, or some combination of the two.
Come Up With A Detailed Grilling Plan
So assuming that you're going to be serving a cookout-style wedding BBQ menu, you’ll need to make a detailed grilling plan. That includes three main things:
Deciding on your grilling menu is the first step—and don’t worry, we have plenty of recipe ideas coming up soon.
Then you’ll need to go back to your headcount from earlier and calculate just how much meat you’ll actually be grilling. For example: Serving 30 guests, firgue on 15 pounds of meat. That’s the total amount of meat you’ll be serving, split up between any different dishes you want to serve (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken, etcetera).
Lastly, you’ll need to determine what goes on the grill first (and what you can save to throw on last).
Those are the basics for determining grilling order: Whole cuts of meat first, raw meats next, pre-cooked meats last, and vegetables on the sides of the grill while you’re cooking everything else.
As mentioned earlier, there are two main ways to serve your BBQ wedding menu: Cookout style, or buffet style. Let’s look at what type of wedding each style might serve best.
BBQ Cookout Style
Cookout-style BBQ is best served at weddings where you have plenty of friends and family who want to help out with the cooking. That’s because someone will have to be manning the grill throughout the entire cooking process, and you’ll need other people to help plate up and serve the freshly grilled food.
BBQ Buffet Style
If you’re short on help or just don’t want your friends and family to be working during your wedding, a buffet-style BBQ is the way to go. For this, you’ll smoke the majority of your meal prior to the wedding, then keep it hot and ready to serve come mealtime. The same goes for sides: Pre-make as much as you can, and then get a few helping hands to set up the buffet table when it’s time to serve.
Of course, you can also mix and match the two serving styles. Why not smoke the majority of your meats and pre-make a selection of sides, then cook up some burgers and hot dogs to go with it? This way you can get all the tasty benefits of freshly-grilled foods without having someone dedicated to slaving over a hot grill for hours at a time.
A BBQ wedding menu might be best suited to low-key affairs, but there are plenty of ways to doll it up for everything from the most casual to the most formal of parties. Here are some of the wedding BBQ menu ideas that are best suited to each style of occasion.
Formal wedding BBQ menus will mostly focus on high-dollar cuts, with steak, salmon, and smoked brisket high on the list. Here are our favorite BBQ recipes to serve at a formal wedding:
Semi-formal wedding BBQ menus might serve a few pricier cuts from the formal side, then complement them with inventive takes on cookout classics. These recipes will be perfect for a semi-formal wedding:
Casual wedding BBQ menus will look a lot like a classic cookout in your backyard, perhaps with a few fancier touches. Here are some easy-to-make recipes that will make your casual wedding feel special:
Before we go, here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about planning a wedding BBQ menu.
What Do You Serve at a BBQ Wedding Reception?
You can serve grilled and smoked meats and sides either cookout style or buffet style at a BBQ wedding reception. For more menu ideas, check out the above sections of this article.
What Should Be Included in a BBQ Menu?
A basic BBQ menu should include a selection of proteins (steak, hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, etc.), a few sides, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at your discretion.
What Food Is Good for an Outdoor Wedding?
BBQ is perfect for an outdoor wedding, as it’s easy to serve to large groups and can be cooked and served outdoors.
What Sides Do You Serve With BBQ at a Wedding?
Is BBQ a Good Idea for a Wedding?
BBQ is a great idea for a wedding menu! It’s a versatile food option that can be served in a variety of styles, and offers something for every guest’s taste.
Give our most popular Traeger recipes a try.
Our famously easy 3-2-1 ribs recipe will make your rib game the envy of the neighborhood. This super simple recipe takes all the confusion out of making ribs without sacrificing any flavor. Start by smoking your ribs for 3 hours, then cook inside foil for 2 hours and finish by removing from foil and brushing on sauce for up to 1 hour.
Smoke it low, smoke it slow. Perfect pulled pork is worth the wait, and this versatile BBQ meat can be served any way you like.
Give your pork a sweet and smoky kick. These tenderloins are marinated in a sweet honey and thyme mixture, then smoked to perfection over aromatic applewood pellets.
Discover the ultimate Traeger brisket. This brisket recipe is given a Traeger Beef Rub coating and then smoked low and slow to tender perfection for a delicious wood-fired flavor.
Reverse-seared like a boss, this juicy tri-tip is everything a steak should be: juicy, flavorful, and addicting.
Get ready to impress your loved ones this holiday season with the perfect pellet grill turkey. After brining in a solution of water, Traeger rub, sugar, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce overnight, let that bird smoke its way to deliciousness on your outdoor grill while the sides cook in the oven. This pellet smoked turkey is worth getting scrappy over.
We’re taking everyone’s favorite BBQ dish, brisket, and infusing it with our signature wood-fired flavor. Forget seconds, you’ll be coming back for thirds on this mouthwatering whole packer.
Grab your rib bib & sink your teeth into these tender, sweet, and spicy ribs. They smoke low and slow, and are definitely worth the wait.
Wrap your next poultry cook with a little smoke. This whole chicken is brined, seasoned with our chicken rub, lemon, garlic, and fresh thyme, and mesquite-smoked for some smokin' flavor.
Massage your chicken breasts with a smattering of spices, grill them hot and fast, and mop them with a mix of Traeger BBQ sauces for perfectly tangy chicken.
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