What is a celebration without food or drink? As you plan your wedding, consider hosting a variety of dining events throughout the wedding weekend. By having multiple events, you will increase your opportunity to visit with all your wedding guests. Consider expanding your guest list for the rehearsal dinner to include your out-of-town guests. Or, host a casual barbeque or picnic to kick off your Teton wedding weekend or a post-wedding brunch to close out the celebration.

The rehearsal dinner offers an opportunity to break from tradition by serving a finger-food menu. Use a variety of local and regional ingredients—such as elk, buffalo, and huckleberries—and multiple food preparation methods, such as braising, grilling, steaming, poaching, roasting, or sautéing. If your budget allows, consider serving sustainable, all-natural, free-range and organic items. Request that edible garnishes be used for food station or service tray decoration. Food stations are the best way to get your group to mingle on different ends of the location site. Request that catering staff refresh the stations and provide new offerings throughout the event. Provide options for the non-gluten, vegan, and vegetarian individuals on your guest list. If there is one in the group, chances are there are more.

Offering local and regional beverages is a great way to showcase “mountain spirit.” Limit the number of choices to keep things simple and consider serving beverages butler style as your guests mingle; this will help reduce bar congestion. Snake River Brewing in Jackson and Grand Teton Brewery in Victor make a variety of lagers, ales, and sodas. Or, offer a selection of wine from regional vineyards, such as 3 Horse Ranch Vineyards in Eagle, Idaho, and Cinder in Garden City, Idaho. Traditionally, liquor is not served at the rehearsal dinner, but the opportunity to serve locally renowned Grand Teton Vodka may be reason enough for an exception. Distilled in Driggs, Grand Teton Vodka earned a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition in 2013 and a Gold Medal by the Beverage Testing Institute in Chicago in 2012.

There are many fantastic local venues available to host your rehearsal dinner, and the same can be said for local catering companies. I suggest you use a different caterer and location for your rehearsal dinner, wedding reception, and other wedding-related events. If you are not familiar with a specific caterer’s services, ask for references and request a tasting. As you research venues, consider space constraints; you don’t want your guests to feel crowded. When planning your wedding out West, you might also consider the venue’s scenic views; sharing the majestic grandeur of the Tetons with your guests is part of the experience. Some of the larger resort-like facilities offer all-inclusive dining packages. If you choose that route, you may want to hire a personal chef to cater a smaller pre-wedding barbeque or post-wedding event. Consider renting a local home for smaller, more intimate events.

Split your budget among multiple events rather than dedicating it all to the wedding itself. Come up with a concrete per-person budget and ask your chef to create a menu based on that number. Don’t reveal your budget maximum; instead, provide a number that is five to eight dollars less, yielding flexibility in both directions. And, don’t forget: Caterers typically add eighteen to twenty percent to the final bill for gratuity.

Steve Murphy is a personal chef. He owns and operates Three Peaks Café & Catering, located in the upper level of MD Nursery in Driggs. In addition to his catering services, he offers private and group cooking classes through his business, Steve’s Sizzelin’ Seminars. To contact Steve, call 208-227-3729,, or stop by the café south of Driggs.

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