FROM the flowers, to the dress and the music – your wedding day is often considered one of the biggest milestones in a relationship.
And therefore, getting it right is important – and choosing the right kitchen and catering company is key.
Raef Hamze is Group Operations Manager at Leila Catering, a bespoke Middle Eastern catering company with a team of highly experienced chefs who have been hosting weddings across the UK since 2010.
Here, Raef shares exactly what goes into catering for a wedding and why he advises against certain dish decisions in order to ensure a more sophisticated ambiance…
‘Nothing is impossible’
As with all reputable suppliers, Raef will always accommodate his clients’ wishes, whatever the nature of the request – but there are always certain ideas he will advise against.
Raef explains: “Nothing is impossible. We always try to make whatever is asked happen, because if a client asks for it, obviously it means something to them.
“Our team is there to advise and execute, but it’s the client who pays so we’ll do what he asks, even if we advised against it.”
The only dish to avoid
While no request is out of the question, Raef admits there are certain decisions they try to advise against in order to ensure the event remains a class affair.
He says: “Chicken wings are a dish always requested by the bride and groom and their wedding party, but we wouldn’t recommend them at all for a wedding.
“They tend to get very messy and don’t match the vibe if someone wants a more sophisticated wedding.
“We promise you it’s not a good idea – unless you want sticky sauce all over your dress!”
“We warn customers in advance”
From delicious hot and cold mezes, dips and breads to salads, grilled meats and savory tagines – when it comes to the menu that Raef serves, there is a whole host of delicious Middle Eastern dishes on the table.
Raef says, “In terms of mezze, our most popular dishes are the hummus and the fattoush salad, then for the main course, our chicken tagine and our mixed oriental grill are two crowd favourites.”
However, there is one key ingredient that comes with a warning and has a reputation for ruining photos.
Raef says, “We serve a famous Lebanese dish called tabbouleh, which is a salad of parsley, tomatoes, onions and lemon juice.
“Although everyone loves it, most people tend to shy away from it during weddings because of parsley sticking to guests’ teeth and ruining photos!
“We can’t tell you how many times photos have been taken at events with parsley all over everyone’s teeth.
“We will at least notify customers in advance if they request it.”
The largest wedding Raef’s company has hosted is for 600 guests, with an average price of around £58 per person, although they have held weddings up to £800 per person.
And while Raef has been in the industry for years and has liaised with countless couples and their guests, even he still gets shocked from time to time.
Raef says: “Although our staff are trained to deal with drunken guests at weddings, we always have surprises.
“Someone once fell off the stage because he was so drunk he thought the 1-meter-high stage was a 10-cm step!”
“This year we provided catering for someone who married for the second time to someone else, having arranged their first wedding five years ago.
“It’s a bit of a weird and fun part of our job when things like this happen, but we’re so grateful the client wants to come back to us, despite the negative connotations of their previous event!”
“It is crucial to do things well”
Of course, it takes a lot of preparation to make sure a wedding goes “smooth”.
Raef says: “At least three days, sometimes even a week, are spent preparing for the wedding.
“The planning aspect is often the most stressful part of wedding catering, while making sure nothing is missed or overlooked.
“This is a hugely important event for someone, so getting it right is absolutely crucial.”
However, for Raef and his team, the hard work is worth it and really pays off when they make a couple’s special day perfect.
Raef adds, “We love being part of the wedding experience and providing those finishing touches to make a lasting impression on the bride and groom’s special day.
“We always assure the couple that they are in good professional hands and let them know that the most important thing is that they enjoy their special day.
“It’s one of the most important and memorable days in a person’s life, so to be able to have an impact on him is amazing and really reminds us why we love doing what we do.”