In the midst of wedding planning, you may have heard of the Cookie Table. Yinzers may claim it to be the “Pittsburgh cookie table,” but the tradition spreads a bit further to include any location that identifies as “western PA” and even into eastern Ohio. It’s that delightful, smorgasbord of sweet treats at the wedding reception where guests can eat as many varieties and number of cookies as they see fit. And it’s not exclusive to dictionary-defined “cookies.” On the Cookie Table at a wedding, you can find anything from buckeyes and lady locks, to chocolate covered pretzels and mini cheesecakes with cherries on top (my favorite!).
Traditionally, the Cookie Table was found at one or two open tables near the food with tongs available for making your cookie selections. Many weddings had cookies homemade that friends and relatives dropped off to the reception to help with the Cookie Table. However, in our post-coronavirus environment, health and immune system safety is an even greater concern, and the Cookie Table may look different now.
To help brides know how the Cookie Table may be evolving in light of current events, Michonda Weber, owner of Weber Catering, offered three points about what may stay the same or change about our beloved Cookie Table (actual Cookie Table guidelines and adaptations may vary upon your specific wedding vendors or location).
Updated food preparation and handling regulations In the past, many families of brides and grooms have enjoyed preparing tens of dozens of their favorite cookies at home to contribute to the Cookie Table at the reception. This may be changing. With recommendations for greater health-safety arising since February 2020, event venues, states, and specific counties may add restrictions about bringing homemade cookies or cookies from unlicensed facilities to be served at the venue during the wedding reception. As regulators decide the best ways the food industry can move forward without compromising the health of individuals, businesses or local authorities may enforce their own food guidelines as they see fit.
Same cookies, different look With the entire world experiencing a heightened awareness of germs and sanitation because of the coronavirus, caterers might rethink how the Cookie Table is set up and served. Possible solutions include using a transparent sneeze guard and adding gloved staff members to serve guests the cookies they want from the spread or frequently switching and sanitizing food tongs. Other options for a safer way to serve cookies to guests could include small pre-boxed or pre-bagged selections of cookies displayed for the Cookie Table, or the pre-boxed cookies could sit at each place setting to double as a take-home favor. Caterers and others in the food industry are working hard to keep clients and their guests healthy while enjoying the wedding food and atmosphere.
Fewer cookies per person Having a long and loved history in our region’s wedding traditions, the Cookie Table won’t be exiting the wedding scene any time soon, but it could be decreasing in quantity. Depending on your family’s heritage and traditions, you may plan for up to 12 cookies per guest. With a wedding of 200, that’s 200 dozen cookies! However, in a general sense, the rise in food sensitivities and health awareness can cause more guests to shy away from wedding desserts altogether. Weber Catering recommends preparing five cookies per wedding guest, especially if the reception includes hors d'oeuvres and a full meal.
As weddings and other event industries recuperate from social distancing orders, it’s important now more than ever to communicate and ask questions of what to expect when working with your wedding venue, caterer, bakery, and other vendors. Does your caterer and venue allow homemade cookies to be brought and served? If not, does your caterer, bakery or another licensed vendor offer wedding cookie platters to serve on your Cookie Table? Communicating well with your vendors will help your wedding day run with no unfriendly surprises.
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Cookie table design pictured above by Hallie Grace Marie Edwards!