Say ‘I do’ to safe wedding food

Brides and grooms face a lot of pressure to make their wedding days perfect. But let’s face it, sometimes things go wrong. The best man faints during the vows. Aunt Maria gets a lipstick stain on the bride’s white dress during the post-ceremony hug. Uncle Dan splits his pants on the dance floor during the Cha-Cha Slide.

No matter what transpires, as long as two particular things happen, then any wedding can be considered a success: a happy couple becomes legally wed, and nobody gets terribly injured — or sick.

Any situation where large amounts of people eat meals prepared from a single source can be risky. Earlier this year an Alabama-based caterer lost its license after causing two-thirds of the guests at one wedding to fall ill. It’s important to be mindful of food safety.

DIY-style

Just as many to-be-weds create their own décor these days, many also prepare their own food, in order to give their guests a more unique, intimate experience while saving on costs. In order to pull this off, it’s important to be conscientious of the risks of serving food. Here are some tips:

  • Get someone on hand with food preparation experience, especially for large amounts of people.
  • Be careful about timing. You shouldn’t store your cooked meals in a hot car for five hours because you made the food the night before and can’t access your reception venue until after the ceremony.
  • Perishable foods shouldn’t be left at room temperature for more than two hours, and only one hour in hotter temperatures (take note, outdoor summer weddings!).
  • Use sealable containers that will keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold, even during transportation.
  • Get professional-grade equipment when you can. One bride even rented extra refrigerators and bought food storage containers from a restaurant.
  • Watch out for guests with allergies and other dietary restrictions. Make sure dishes are properly labeled and guests know what they are eating. Some of the most common foods people are allergic to are soy, shellfish, nuts, eggs, gluten/gliadin, milk and fish.
  • Use a food thermometer on all cooked meats. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking to different temperatures for different types of meat.

For more tips, check out the USDA Food Safety Information Service’s booklet about cooking for large groups.

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