Catering Close to Home

Locally grown food provides both sustainability and sustenance.

Will Phillips and Katie Hartman “butted heads” about certain aspects of their wedding, says Katie. For example, Will, manager of Under Armour Green, “wanted to go really casual, a picnic sort of thing. He didn’t want to wear a suit,” recalls Katie, who is studying to be a nurse practitioner. “I said, ‘No. This is a wedding.’”

But they did agree on just about everything else. “We wanted the wedding to reflect who we are and where we come from,” says Will. “Everyone who played a role was a friend or a relative.”

“We wanted to incorporate the feel of the place where we grew up,” says Katie, “and we wanted everything to be local.”

The couple, high school sweethearts at Annapolis High, chose the nearby headquarters of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a LEED-certified building on the beach. Will and his attendants arrived for the ceremony on his father’s antique crabbing boat. A friend of Katie’s was the officiant, and all four of the couple’s parents spoke at the ceremony. The outdoor tables were decorated with dahlias and zinnias in Mason jars. And the food for the October 2010 event included all local fare: rockfish, beef, shrimp, and vegetables.

Will called upon Jonathan Soudry, owner of Rouge Fine Catering, who also operates the Humble & Hungry Café at Under Armour headquarters, to cater the event. “I worked closely with Jonathan to make the cafe as green as possible,” says Will. So when it came to planning his wedding, he turned to the chef, whom he considers a friend. “I knew he’d come up with a great local menu that represented the Chesapeake.”

The wedding and reception were held at the water’s edge, Will says. “We wanted food that actually came from the Bay, to make that connection for our guests.” 

The couple’s careful choice of caterer and menu reflects a growing trend in weddings: Gone are the days of a choice between chicken and filet. Today’s wedding menus are carefully chosen by the bride and groom, and, frequently, represent their values, personalities, and sense of place.


Local food is a trend “with legs,” says Jerry Edwards, president and corporate chef of Chef’s Expressions. “People are really into the local and organic movement in this country,” he says, and that is affecting the way they approach their weddings.

He recalls attending an event (both as a guest and as the caterer) on the Little Choptank River on the Eastern Shore last year that was “all Maryland.” The menu included Maryland crab, bison, and beef tenderloin, with produce from local farms. The bride and groom, he says, wanted a James Bond theme. “She drove up for the ceremony in an Aston Martin with her veil flowing behind,” Edwards recalls, “and he came in a speedboat.” A gold-painted model walked among the guests during the cocktail hour.

Chef’s Expressions created a menu that combined local ingredients with whimsical references to the famous films. The first course, for example, was a “smoking” Chesapeake Bay cocktail, crabmeat layered on top of dry ice in a martini glass, and the dessert bar included cheesecake lollipops dipped in chocolate. The wedding cake sported a marzipan passport and gun.

Made in Mt. Vernon

The Choptank Oyster Company was booked to make a special appearance at Melanie King and Sam Hecker’s wedding to shuck the couple’s favorite treat: Choptank Sweets. Like Will and Katie, Melanie and Sam chose to make their wedding as local as possible. That’s one reason they decided to hold both the ceremony and reception at 4 East Madison Inn, just a few blocks away from where the couple met—playing poker at a friend’s house in Mt. Vernon. The owner of the inn, Betty Loafmann, was the officiant at the service, held in the spacious, elegantly decorated front parlor of the inn. The wedding party booked all nine rooms of the repurposed historic mansion for the weekend. “We fell in love with the place,” says Melanie.

The couple’s decision to hold their event at 4 East Madison was reinforced after they ran into the inn’s co-owner and chef, Sandy Lawler, who also operates an on-site restaurant called Feast @ 4 East, at the Waverly Farmer’s Market, where the couple shops every Saturday. “She had told us that she bought a lot of the food for the restaurant at the local markets,” says Melanie. “And there she was.”

Melanie and Sam also purchased their wedding flowers from Karen Lock, a vendor at the Waverly Market, and ordered their wine and spirits (including Natty Boh and Clipper City’s Loose Cannon) from The Wine Source in Hampden. The cake was made at Sweet Bakery, just around the corner on West Read Street.

Since Melanie grew up in Florida and Sam is from Bethesda, their 80 or so guests included plenty of out-of-towners. The couple compiled a list of suggestions to introduce friends and family to the city the two have adopted. “We wanted them to visit Hampden Main Street, the American Visionary Art Museum, and The BMA,” says Melanie. “And we suggested lots of places where we love to eat, like the Cross Street Market, The Brewer’s Art, and Iggies.”

It’s All Relative

Speaking of local, Forum Caterers, based in Pikesville, offers a “Chesapeake Bay Crab Feast,” a four-hour event that includes crab soup, steamed crabs or crab cake, fried chicken and plenty of sides: mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, and green beans. It’s a great option for brides who want an informal, picnic-style event, says marketing director Nikita Haysberg.

But most of the brides Forum caters to are moving in the opposite direction. “We’re seeing older couples who are paying for their own weddings,” she says. “They tend to spend more and want something formal, as well as an event that really reflects who they are.”

Because Forum owns a catering hall, located in Northwest Baltimore, the company is happy to help design a highly personalized wedding, from the décor to the dessert.

Shaneika Spruill and Rodney Wilson, for example, designed their wedding around the memories of the groom’s mother and the bride’s grandmother, both of whom have passed away.

“We wanted our wedding to be about our families,” says Shaneika.

Her grandmother was Japanese, and Rodney’s mother’s favorite color was red, so the Asian color of celebration was an obvious choice for one of the wedding colors, along with black, white, and gold.

The hall was decorated with red lanterns strung from the ceiling, miniature golden Buddhas, and a black paper pagoda constructed at one end. There were plenty of personal touches, like the bride and groom mixing different colors of sand to symbolize the blending of the two clans. 

The dinner was served buffet style, with family favorites: chicken, mashed potatoes, and string beans. Shaneika particularly loved the “candy buffet” designed for the children. (Both she and Rodney have sons from previous marriages, and about 20 kids attended the wedding.) Guests were given cardboard Chinese restaurant carry-out boxes to fill with sweets from a candy-laden table.

For the ceremony, Shaneika’s son was the “bell-ringer,” preceding his mother down the aisle. Perhaps the most touching moment of the event was when the bride’s son improvised his own script, ringing the bells and crying out: “My Mommy is coming! My Mommy is coming!”   

PHOTOGRAPHER Jacqueline Schossman of Readyluck

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