Couples planning a wedding are always looking for special touches to make their big days stand out. One of the hottest trends in the culinary category for weddings is the concept of a food bar. Whether brides and grooms want to offer something as whimsical as a retro candy bar for guests or choose gourmet options such as seafood with different-flavored cocktail sauces, a satay or shish-kebab station or decadent dessert bar, the possibilities are endless.
"We do a fairly large number of weddings and other parties," says Nick Walker, manager of ChicagoLand Popcorn in Merrillville. ChicagoLand Popcorn is a family-owned and family-run business operated by Mogda and Dwayne Walker. Through ChicagoLand Popcorn, which was established two years ago, prospective brides and grooms can create a custom popcorn bar for their weddings. Various flavors and colors are available. "People always like something a little different to have at their weddings," says Nick Walker.
Nick's mother Mogda is the official wedding and party planner for the business. "Most brides are trying to give their guests a warm and welcoming experience," says Modga Walker. She says any time something special is presented in addition to the reception meal, "it adds to the entire experience."
Modga says ChicagoLand's special event business is popular in the Region. "We've done many weddings, birthday parties and corporate events," she says. They've recently even had a request to offer their services for a quinceañera, which is a 15th birthday celebration in the Hispanic community. They can also provide bowl rentals and have someone set up the popcorn bar for a wedding.
Mogda says pricing varies for weddings and parties and can be fairly modest if brides want something simple or pretty elaborate for more flavors. The business features 141 flavors of popcorn, Mogda says. Among some of the favorite flavors for weddings and events are Caramel Sea Salt, the ChicagoLand Mix and Loaded Baked Potato. Nick Walker says other popular flavors include White Chocolate Macadamia Nut and Kettle Corn.
"A lot of people are interested in the (food) bar trend," says Allison Smith, retail manager of Albanese Confectionery Group in Merrillville. "Many people are doing a candy buffet in addition to desserts and cake for their weddings." She says brides will often request favorite candy for the bar or choose candy in the color scheme of the wedding.
According to Smith, some of the popular selections for a wedding candy buffet include Albanese's twelve-flavor gummi bears, chocolate-covered and yogurt-covered pretzels, and more. Sometimes people are interested in providing nostalgic-type candy and may go with selections such as Sixlets or cherry sour balls. Smith says items such as Sixlets are good because they come in various colors which can correspond to a wedding party's special colors. Albanese, which has been in business since 1983, carries a variety of candy ranging from chocolate-covered treats to other types of candy, gum and confections.
Wedding planner Michelle Nikitaras has worked with various brides and grooms in planning an assortment of food bars. Nikitaras, who owns Unveiled Weddings and Events, says many of today's weddings are indeed featuring food bars or, what she calls midnight snacks. After a traditional reception and after everyone starts drinking and dancing, she says, many of today's weddings will have special bars set up featuring items such as tacos, cheeseburgers, pizza and more.
Candy and popcorn bars, she adds, are especially popular. "I think (food bars are) popular because they look pretty and are necessary," Nikitaras says. If guests are drinking throughout the event, she adds, it's good to give them something else to fill their stomachs before they leave.
Nikitaras has worked with a number of brides who've had creative food bars, including everything from a hot dog cart and nachos to colorful candy and popcorn buffets, and says, "Those are fun things to add."