Explained: 10 Foods You’ll Find at a Jewish Wedding


Table laid with food at wedding

Many wedding guests will agree that they look forward to the wedding’s reception, especially food. However, you may not be familiar with the Jewish culture and the types of foods that may be served at a wedding, making it hard for you to anticipate what’s on the menu. Jewish weddings tend to respect the Jewish traditions; therefore, you won’t miss a mixture of modernity and tradition when it comes to the menu.

So, what are 10 foods you’ll find at a Jewish wedding? A typical Jewish wedding menu comprises either traditional or modern cuisines or incorporation of both. The meat menu may have the brisket, while the gefilte fish may make up the fish menu. For the main course, you are likely to find traditional Jewish meals such as the pierogi, schmaltz, and holishkes. The latkes, tzimmes, and kugel are also common meals that make up the side dish menu. Lastly, a Jewish wedding may have soup and deserts as finishing courses.

Because food is very important for any celebration, we highlight the best foods to serve at your Jewish wedding. We also give you tips to consider when making the best Kosher choices for your menu items. Read on as we explore more Jewish wedding menu ideas.

What to Consider When Picking a Menu

You may have the most colorful wedding ceremony, but eventually, it is the reception part that will ice the cake. Therefore, you need to pick the best options for your menu. Depending on your guests and your preferences as a couple. So what do you need to consider?

It may be a challenge to accommodate everyone’s customs into the wedding. First, you may have to consider both sides of the family and understand the traditions they follow before picking a menu. You also need to check the guests’ preferences to fulfill their dietary requirements. It may be unfortunate if some guests leave hungry because they don’t eat most of the menu’s food.

One key aspect to look out for is whether the attendees observe kosher or not. If the attendees are Kosher compliant, then there are strict rules to follow during the entire process of meal selection and preparation. The only issue may arise if the different family sides have different views on the befitting food for the menu; this implies that you’ll have to cater to both sides. Doing so also means digging deeper into your budget to find a skillful caterer that can incorporate both customs into the menu.

Similarly, if a partner’s family is inclined to a specific taste in food, you may have to include their needs. You need to consider their culture and origin so that you include items that they would enjoy. As much as this day is for the bride and groom, we cannot completely ignore the family, so the best cause of action may be to consult to find common ground. This way, everybody leaves happy.

Another aspect to consider is the caterer’s choice; one wrong choice and all your money and planning go down the drain. Given that the food takes up a large part of the wedding budget allocation, you need to be keen when selecting a catering service.

First, consider your guests’ dietary needs and preferences before you bring in a caterer. For kosher meals, the caterer has to know the rules of making a kosher menu. You may also have to confirm that your venue allows for these types of meals.

A cheaper alternative would be hiring a caterer that does the kosher-style menu. Similarly, if you don’t have a caterer, you may check if the wedding venue offers one. This provision may eliminate the hassle involved in finding a professional chef. Note that your choice of a caterer will strictly depend on your guests’ number, their preferences, and your budget. So what is kosher and kosher-style menu?

Kosher Wedding Menu

A meal is kosher if it meets all the Jewish dietary specifications. This rule means that certain foods are biblically prohibited, so a Jew has to eliminate such foods from his/ her diet. Unlike the general belief that kosher meals are dull and distasteful, you can still find a way to spruce up the menu.

The choice to incorporate kosher catering will rely on your families’ traditions and your guests’ requirements. You can either have a kosher chef (who knows the ins and outs of kosher foods) or deploy one provided by the venue. Going for a kosher menu means that you’ll have to observe all the guidelines that make the meal kosher.

First, you need to comply with preparing the food, the food choice, and the catering technique. You may have to stretch your resources further to provide these meals with so much involved. Let’s have a look at some key kosher rules to observe at your wedding.

  • The main rule to follow is to avoid mixing dairy and meat products during cooking since Kosher rules prohibit meat and dairy products in the same meal. For your kosher needs, some venues provide a separate meat and dairy kitchen. However, the rules dictate that if one has to eat a dairy product after eating meat, they have to wait for some time (up to six hours).
  • For pareve foods (eggs, fish, and plant foods), you may mix them with dairy or meat products since they consider these foods neutral. The only exception is that if the chef uses the same equipment for dairy/ meat products during preparation, the food will fall into the respective category (meat or dairy).
  • Kosher meat has to meet specific guidelines. First, the meat must be from ruminants (cows, goats, lambs, or sheep), domestic fowls (chicken, dove, turkey, or quails), and there should be no blood traces before cooking. 
  • The dairy products (butter, yogurt, and cheese) should also be from kosher animals.
  • Pareve foods (eggs and fish) have to meet the kosher rules; the fish should be finned and scaled, and the eggs must be from kosher birds.
  • The staff should use their equipment in meal preparation in case the venue does not provide kosher equipment. This rule includes all the utensils and even the dishwasher for cleaning up afterward.
  • A rabbi must inspect the food before the catering staff can use it to ensure that they cook only kosher foods.

Kosher Style Wedding Menu

With so many rules to follow, the kosher wedding menu may be quite expensive. We show you a great alternative; the kosher-style or “non-offensive” catering method. In this catering style, the food does not necessarily have to meet all the strict kosher rules.

Traditionally, a kosher-style meal refers to the food the Jewish eat that they prepare without strict adherence to kosher ingredients. In other cases, this type of menu refers to food with Kosher ingredients that are not necessarily certified kosher. The term may also refer to food that is not traditional but theoretically kosher.

This style is a more pocket-friendly option for you and is perfect if your guests are not strictly kosher compliant. It is also a brilliant way to serve food that will not offend the attendees even when you don’t have a kosher chef.

However, the kosher-style does not allow dairy and meat mixing and eliminates the forbidden animals from the menu. You may also observe that the menu’s main course will mostly consist of neutral dishes such as fish (excluding those without scales or fins).

Unlike in kosher meal preparations, the caterer can use the available equipment at the wedding venue and even the ingredients they provide. However, the chef will still comply with other kosher rules, such as cooking meat and dairy separately and doing away with non-kosher food items.

10 Foods You’ll Find at a Jewish Wedding

At the wedding reception, expect a lot of merrymaking, this means a lot of dancing and eating. The most common foods at a wedding are fish and chicken, synonymous with fertility among the Jewish. Also, expect a delicious main course, side dishes, soup, desserts, and wine or beer.

The foods at a Jewish wedding are either kosher or kosher-style, but they have to be in line with the Jewish specifications. The menu mainly consists of traditional Jewish holiday meals, but it mostly depends on the couple’s customs and the caterers. Let us check out the most common foods you can find at a Jewish wedding.

1. The Brisket

It is a flavorful dish that you are likely to find at any Jewish ceremony. It is a traditional meal obtained from a cow’s chest that is perfect for a wedding ceremony. The cook roasts this popular meat in an oven with spices as a seasoning. It takes quite some time to cook (this is what makes it so special) so that it becomes tendered and juicier.

The meat is ideal for two-day ceremonies since you only need to reheat it to make it better. One can also personalize the recipe with other spices and flavors. If you accompany it with some red wine, the brisket is a perfect meal for any wedding ceremony.

2. The Latkes

The Latkes meal is an absolute favorite dish, especially for occasions such as Hannukah. It can be an appetizer, a side dish, dessert (with nuts or coconut shavings), or even as part of a breakfast meal. It is a potato pancake that looks like hash browns. This meal is delicious and perfect for any Jewish ceremony, especially a wedding.

It also helps that it is kosher, so you need not worry about breaking any rules. Some chefs may use sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes or add the couple’s preferred flavors for a contemporary twist. It is also easy to personalize this meal using a traditional family recipe to make it perfect for your family.

3. The Kugel

The Kugel dish has been present for a very long time in most Jewish homes and ceremonies, from holidays to brunches. It is a versatile appetizing casserole dish that you can play around with different recipes, either traditional or modern. It is also perfect for any occasion, especially a wedding ceremony that will leave the guests returning for seconds.

It can be a side or main dish, depending on the ingredients you use and how you serve it. You can make it with a modern Israeli twist by adding nuts and fruits or use a traditional family recipe. 

4. The Pierogi

The Pierogi dish is another popular meat dish that is great for party appetizers. You can also have them for lunch or as a side dish. Just like most Jewish delicacies, you can easily and successfully play around with various recipes for your guests. You can stuff them with minced meat or Kishka and add your favorite spices.

Another version is the potato and onions mash-up, where you pan fry or boil it and sprinkle it with green onions. One can never go wrong with pierogies since you can fill them with meat or vegetables and serve as a fancy buffet. You are likely to find these yummy dumplings at any wedding, especially if the couple is going for a fancy menu.

5. The Tzimmes

Every reception needs to add an incredible side dish to the main course. The Tzimme is a hot savory option made of cooked vegetables (mainly carrots) and fruits. It comprises sliced carrots and fruits such as apples, plums, or pears, but some chefs also add meat.

 It is a common meal for the holidays, especially during the Rosh Hashanah, as it symbolizes the new year’s wishes. This sweet food is also very common at weddings because it is easy to make and is a favorite dish. It is also a healthy option that is fit for vegans.

6. Gefilte Fish

As an alternative to Kosher meat, some couples opt for fish, a neutral food in the Jewish culture. The gefilte fish is a popular delicacy in a Jewish menu, a culinary dish made of groundfish, starch, and onions. The Jewish mainly partake of it during the Shabbat as it symbolizes unity and fruition among couples.

This meal is also known as stuffed fish, and to prepare it, you skin the fish steaks and remove all the bones, as the Sabbath laws dictate. The chef can also add sugar to the broth to give it a sweet taste. The Gefilte fish is an excellent main course option for any wedding, especially when the attendees are strict on what’s kosher.

7. Schmaltz

A truly traditional Ashkenazi recipe you may find at a wedding is the schmaltz. This “Jewish Bacon” is crunchy and delightful, a product of rendered fat. The chef may cook it or preserve it raw to use when in need. Synonymous with the Ashkenazi Jews, the poultry meal together with gribenes (leftover cracklings from rendered chicken) is fit for special occasions such as weddings.

It is also useful in adding a distinct flavor to several recipes, such as the liver and maltzo balls. The guests can spread them on bread to eat during the main meal. Despite it being a favorite meal among many Jewish guests, the cholesterol-conscious people may find it unhealthy. However, this meal is a unique chicken delicacy that most guests are sure to enjoy.

8. Holishkes

Another option for meat is the holishkes/ huluptzes/ holipches, a traditional dish made of cabbage rolls or stuffed cabbage. This dish is a must-have in any Jewish home or celebration, perfect all year round. Normally, this dish is a favorite during the Sukkot to symbolize bounty in the harvest and during the Simchat Torah because the stuffed cabbages resemble Torah scrolls.

You can lightly boil the leaves, wrap them around minced meat and simmer them in tomato sauce. One can also add rice to the filling. The cabbage fillings will depend on the guests’ preference. For vegetarians, you may avoid meat fillings all together and go for a vegetable fillings alternative.

9. Chicken/ Krupnik/ Borscht Soup

Soup is a necessity in any Jewish wedding. Most couples go for chicken soup and serve it with rice or any other dry food on the menu. This soup consists of pepper, salt, eggs, or meat and is a great alternative to the main course.

Another option is the krupnik soup, mainly made of barley, meat, and potatoes, to add a special flavor to the food. We also have the versatile borscht soup and a yummy accompaniment to most food on the menu. It contains cabbage, raisins, onions, and tomatoes, but you can add meat for a better taste.

10. Bread and Cake (Dessert)

Bread and cake are a must-have for any Jewish dessert menu. The Jewish use symbolic shapes to define certain aspects of their lives. They may have bread in various shapes to go on various occasions. For a wedding, it may be key-shaped or triangular with honey or a sweet paste. They may also be rectangular or circular, with sprinkles of poppy seeds. Similarly, the bread may be fried or dipped in molasses.

Since we consider the guests and their beliefs and customs, the Jewish wedding menu incorporates all that the Jewish regard as kosher, but still tasty and flavorful. Also, note that wine and beer are an essential part of a Jewish menu.

By incorporating beer, cocktails, and kosher wine, you provide the guests something to sip on as they wait for the main dishes. The wine and beers should be alcohol-free, without additives, and unflavored. They must also have the Kosher approval seal before you serve them.

Useful Ideas and Tips

As we have noted, the menu is very important to the Jewish culture; hence, you need to prepare to give your guests a special food experience adequately. By closely consulting with your caterer, you are sure to land on the best tasting and popular foods for the wedding.

Here are some fresh ideas that will make any wedding menu stand out.

  • Add a personal touch to your menu to make it more special and fun. You can have fun with your choices by switching up the normal recipe in terms of flavor or appearance. This trick will surprise your guests.
  • If your wedding will go on into the night, the great idea is to serve snacks later on before midnight, since the guests will certainly get famished due to all the merrymaking. Even if your reception started earlier, they are still likely to get hungry. You may go for light choices such as French fries or bite-sized meatballs.
  • One trick is the use of coffee to keep the guests energetic all through the reception. Set up a coffee bar that can later alternate to a bar for the wine and beer. Drinking coffee before indulging in the main meals will be a welcome trick to keep them alert before they start indulging in the tasty food.
  • Everybody loves well-made drinks, so to cater for that part of the ceremony, consider hiring a professional mixologist that can help everyone with their signature drinks. Ensure that the mixologist is versed with various drink options and can easily craft any drink upon request.
  • Give the guests a wide range of varieties to choose from instead of making them choose. Doing so ensures that they can have a taste of different foods in their desired proportions.
  • Nothing beats a homey meal. You can add some dishes that will bring fond memories to your guests. To add a personal touch, you may incorporate food that you enjoyed as a child or that you ate together with your partner. Even if the choices are simple, your guests are sure to enjoy them.
  • Add special deserts to the celebration. You may go for the traditional wedding cake or have tiny cupcakes that the guests can indulge in after the main meal.
  • Consider going for tiny, bite-sized meals. Recently, most guests prefer eating light given all the activities at the reception, so serving very large chunks of meals may be wasteful as most may end up tossing them in the bin. Having mini foods may also be helpful for your budget!

Always learn your guests’ preferences; this way, you can never go wrong with incorporating certain ideas. As long as you give the menu a personal touch, you are sure to leave them wanting for more.

Do Jewish Weddings Have Cake?

Traditionally, Jewish weddings do not involve cake cutting, but sometimes, they bake or buy cakes for dessert. For creative reasons and to make the moment more memorable, most Jews couples make personalized cakes to symbolize their union or reiterate the essence of the wedding. The deserts may range from simple cupcakes to three to four-tier wedding cakes. 

Due to the low popularity, bakers have started acquiring kosher certification to make pareve cakes (containing non-dairy or meat products). Since the cakes’ content is neutral, it can go well with meat products, thus, abiding by the Jewish dietary laws.

The ultimate wedding cake can be a portrait of the bride and groom and made big to go with the occasion’s theme. Other couples may be creative to go for a cake made of chocolate biscuits or any other favorite flavor. They can also go for the cupcake, which is also a popular dessert at a Jewish wedding.

One can opt for a jar-filled cupcake that is unique and trendy or choose some made of the wedding theme. Additionally, one can incorporate donuts made in the shape of a wedding cake and attractively decorated according to the couple’s needs.

You can decide to incorporate something from your culture to make an outstanding wedding cake. As a result of traveling, the couples can decide to include wonderful dome sites that they came across to come up with a unique type of wedding cake. They can also reflect on their childhood preferences and from that make a special cake.

Lastly

The Jewish believe that food is the bridge between the body and spirit; hence, eating at a ceremony is a vital yet spiritual event. Thus, a reception at a Jewish wedding has to be kosher. For any celebration, the food and drinks present are vital, so you need to pay extra attention to what you serve your guests, we don’t want them to leave dissatisfied.

There is an option for kosher catering, which is the kosher-Style catering or “non-offensive” catering. Having purely kosher catering at your reception venue may be a bit expensive. For instance, there will be a need for two separate kitchens, one for dairy products and another for meat products.

Similarly, “non-offensive” catering can do with a single kitchen and still deliver according to Jewish dietary rules. The Jewish prohibit serving meat and milk in the same meal. Thus, all Kosher desserts must not contain milk, cheese, and cream butter. With a neutral main course like fish, then the dessert may contain milk products.

Otherwise, if you have meat as the main meal, then you need to avoid the milk products on the desserts table. Simultaneously having meat and milk products may violate Kosher. All the foods in a Jewish wedding must be examined and approved by a Rabbi. Note that pork meat is prohibited hence so do not add it to your menu.

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