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Country catering goes chic 

Down-home feasts see unexpected twists

During the chaos of planning my own wedding, food was of the utmost importance. So much so that my fiancé and I backed out of a formal commitment with a venue when we discovered the food, prepared by the site's exclusive caterer, left much to be desired. When I say formal commitment, I mean a handsome deposit was made and contracts were signed. Instead, we opted to have our wedding on my landlord's front lawn so that we could hire the caterer of our choice and fully realize the DIY vision for our big day.

Our vision, dubbed "flea market chic" by our chosen caterer, was to incorporate a menu that would complement the décor of farmers market flowers and vintage items I had collected from local antique stores and flea markets. I wanted the food to reflect a sense of place to our mostly out-of-town guests. So, we chose a menu with a Southern sensibility. We had an elaborate pie table instead of a traditional wedding cake, and people are still talking about the shrimp and grits.

While Southern fare is hardly "nontraditional" in the strictest sense, the caterers chosen below (including mine) offer interesting variations on a Southern menu that work well with unconventional visions. Also included is a quintessential Charlotte venue and caterer that we just couldn't pass up. Every caterer on this list is capable of accommodating your every wish and offers customizable options for weddings large and small.

Low-Country Bliss from Delectables by Holly

Delectables by Holly was the caterer at my wedding a year ago and delivered excellence from top to bottom, including killer food and a gorgeous display that fit right into my vision. Whether you want Southern fare or not, it is imperative you try the aforementioned shrimp and grits. Chef John Cuttita uses Swiss cheese in his creamy grits and serves sauteed shrimp with parsley, bacon, white wine and lemon (and all of the delectable juices) over top for an incredible signature dish that is 100 percent vetted. Guests who didn't even like shrimp and grits returned for seconds and even thirds. Look for the brown butter ham biscuits, another Southern favorite.

www.delectablesbyholly.com

Vegan Magic from Something Classic Catering and Fern, Flavor from the Garden

Fear not, dear vegans, we've got a Southern menu for you too. Jill Marcus at Something Classic Catering partners with her sister vegetarian restaurant, Fern, Flavors from the Garden to create a most excellent vegan spread from the mind of chef Drew Trepanier. Think smoked tomato mac 'n' cheese made with orecchiette and tofutti/daiya cheddar cream sauce. Indulge in "chicken and waffles," comprised of chicken-fried tofu served atop a sweet potato waffle with a maple hot sauce glaze, or broccoli ribs — smoked and braised broccoli stalks tossed in barbecue sauce. A vegan spread to go down in wedding history.

www.somethingclassic.com

Lexington-Style Meat Fest from Sauceman's Catering

Introduce your guests to Carolina barbecue in the Lexington style, featuring slow-smoked pork shoulder traditionally chopped and served with a kicky vinegar-based sauce and classic sides like baked beans, mac 'n' cheese and slaw. Folks can add beef brisket and turkey to the menu (meat sweats are complimentary). For the happy couple, they even serve a barbecue sauce called Love and Smoke. Ain't that cute.

www.saucemans.com

NYC Street Food Feast from Sonoma Restaurant Group at Founders Hall

For all of the ballers (and we know you're out there), there is the breathtaking venue at Founders Hall, a sweeping atrium perched in uptown Charlotte where you can invite 500 to 1,000 of your closest friends for the soiree of the century. Luckily for you, Founders Hall works exclusively with Aria Tuscan Grill to create fanciful concepts for the bride who wants to go beyond the carving station. They've created an entire concept around New York City street food. While you can't pull a food truck inside Founder's Hall, you can have the Dump Truck station filled with all the dumplings you can eat, the Slider Shack with mini-burgers and tater tots galore, and Frank's Taco Truck serving an assortment of tacos. The stations are outfitted to the tee with clever packaging and pretty little details.

www.foundershall.com

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