When my fiancé and I got engaged in August, we came up with a list of things we wanted and didn’t want at our wedding.
Want: Good outdoor area. Lots of plants. Space to party freely. Lawn games. Good food and beer.
Don’t want: Lots of white. French chateau shit. Formal dinner service.
The idea of a formal wedding causes us both great discomfort and panic. For one, we’ve been together twelve years and have celebrated the milestones we’ve personally found most meaningful—moving in together and starting a life in a city we love. Deciding where to go for date night is, for us, basically a run-through of different combinations of places in Durham to get pizza and beer.
So the thought of waiters plunking down your choice of chicken or salmon in choreographed unison just wasn’t for us. Food trucks were more our speed.
We wouldn’t have to make a seating chart. Our friends and family could mingle and get food at their own pace. We’d get the casual vibe and good food we’re looking for, guests would have more options to choose from, and our wedding would have a touch that’s personal to us, and to the Triangle.
And we’re not alone: Just as the food truck industry has taken off in the last decade—it was an $800 million behemoth in 2017—so too has the notion of food truck weddings.
“A lot of the Triangle eats from food trucks on a weekly basis,” says Rochelle Johnson, one half of the husband-wife team that founded The Cookery, an event space and food business incubator, in 2011. “We have our regulars, and they have just as much of an emotional connection to us and crave our food and want to share that with other people.”
The Cookery—in addition to hosting weddings—has helped launch some of the Triangle’s most popular food trucks, like Chirba Chirba, Pie Pushers, and The Parlour. It also owns Soomsoom Pita Pockets.
Fortunately, there’s no shortage of food truck options in the Triangle, though not all do special events. Roaming Hunger, a national food truck booking service, lists 226 for the Raleigh-Durham area, from standard truck fare to more niche themes like waffles, shaved ice, and stuffed potatoes.
But having a food truck at your wedding isn’t as simple as just calling up your fave and asking them to swing by. There are a few things you’ll need to consider.
First, you need to figure out your budget and make sure your venue will allow you to bring in an outside caterer. You should also ask your venue if it can accommodate food trucks (they need space and possibly access to electricity) and whether it has hosted food trucks before to make sure there’s someplace for them to park and for guests to wait in line and eat away from the crowd and the noise.
Johnson recommends that people who want food trucks at their wedding consider having their favorite truck cater their wedding, buffet- or family-style, rather than having the actual truck at the reception. Booking the truck means it loses business elsewhere for that day, she says, and that will be reflected in a service fee. Setting up a self-service buffet may also put food on your guests’ plates and get them back to their tables faster than waiting in line and placing an order.
You could also have a hybrid setup, with an actual food truck doling out quick-to-make dishes like appetizers or desserts, and the main dishes ready for guests to serve themselves—or vice-versa. Or choose a caterer for dinner and surprise your guests by bringing in a truck toward the end of the night to serve desserts or late-night snacks.
Often people envision having “a mini food-truck rodeo” at their wedding, Johnson says, but realize that’s unrealistic as they get into the details. For one, the costs add up—food trucks are often cheaper than a traditional caterer, but probably not if you have a half-dozen—and the trucks themselves take up a lot of space.
That said, if you do want an actual food truck at your wedding, it’s probably a good idea to have more than one. Just imagine some of the lines you’ve waited in to get tacos or dumplings and extrapolate that out to your entire guest list.
From scanning wedding websites, I’ve gathered that you should have one food truck for every seventy-five guests, and depending on what’s on the menu, expect that some guests will go back for seconds.
Johnson suggests talking to your food-truck operator about how to pare down menu items so that there isn’t as much prep involved, and scheduling a tasting. They’ll need to know when they can arrive to start setting up, when you want food service to begin, and how long it should last (two-hours service seems to be standard).
Going without a traditional caterer may also mean you need to source your own plates, napkins, cups, and utensils. (Some food trucks provide these things when catering.) Johnson recommends couples hire a day-of wedding coordinator, and if they’re having more than one hundred guests, staff to help with food service as well.
At the end of the day, though, Johnson says what’s most important is that a couple’s wedding be “a real reflection of who you are”—even if your choices aren’t traditional.
“Everyone around you who loves you is going to appreciate it as well,” she says.
Here’s hoping our guests appreciate beer and pizza.
Contact staff writer Sarah Willets by email at email@example.com, by phone at 919-286-1972, or on Twitter @sarah_willets.