Newlyweds Brooke and Gordon Webb of Portland order donuts from a food truck at their Sept. 22, 2018, wedding reception at Hardy Farm in Fryeburg. Photo by Maine Tinker Photography

By the time Brooke and Gordon Webb got married last September, they’d been guests at a lot of weddings and knew what they wanted – and what they didn’t – on their own special day.

So when it came time to plan their own wedding, they ditched the traditional dances and the strict schedules that had every last moment nailed down to the very minute. They wore traditional wedding garb, but held their wedding in a barn and hired a few food trucks to serve Japanese street food, tacos, lobster rolls, and donuts. A vintage bar truck served beer, wine and liquor. Instead of sitting at formal place settings and eating salmon or prime rib, their guests had three hours to mingle and eat anything they wanted from the food trucks.

“It felt like more of a party and a celebration than an event you felt forced to be at,” Brooke Webb said. “We wanted everybody to be able to do what they wanted to do.”

Food trucks have been trending at Maine weddings for a few years. Wedding planners and owners of wedding venues say the trend is now moving beyond the single truck parked in a corner, serving a few appetizers to help stave off guests’ hunger until the “real food” is ready at the formal sit-down dinner. Now, many couples hire multiple trucks that serve different styles of food so they can offer their guests variety. And they’re using the trucks not just for the rehearsal dinner, but for the wedding reception, late-night snacking and next-day breakfast.

The food trucks, too, are evolving by expanding their menus, adding fancier foods as well as event services, such as providing dishes and flatware. Some even bring food runners to set up buffets, or deliver the food to tables. Nationally, this expansion into catering weddings and other celebrations means that food trucks now make an estimated 30 percent of their revenue from such events, according to a national food service equipment company.

Express yourself

From the couples’ point of view, using food trucks instead of, or in addition to, traditional caterers better fits the casual atmosphere if they’re getting married in trendy venues such as a barn, on a farm, or in a field.

“Couples want to showcase Maine,” said Catie Fairbanks-Cliffe, owner of Destination Maine Weddings. “Food is a really big part of it, and they always say ‘We want to do farm to coast,’ and a lot of food trucks do that.”

Food trucks and carts that serve oysters and other seafood have become especially popular over the past couple of years because couples like to show off Maine’s large selection of oysters to out-of-town guests.

Deborah Link, owner of Hardy Farm in Fryeburg, which hosts barn weddings, said young couples want to express their personality and style on their wedding day, “and I think that gets expressed in the food as well.” She recalled a Game of Thrones-themed winter wedding where everyone drank mead instead of champagne, and a December wedding where the foodie couple wanted to serve rabbit pot pies, “which wouldn’t be for everyone.”

Couples with a “casual personality” can use food trucks to convey that style to their guests “in a way that’s really relaxed and fun and interesting, and not in the formality of lots of speeches and corralling of guess in different spaces,” said Paula Cano, a wedding planner at A Family Affair of Maine.

Couples also want to give their guests an experience they’ll remember — a dining adventure that’s interactive, akin to watching chefs prepare food in the open kitchens of restaurants. From lobster bakes to outdoor grilling, food trucks provide such experiences.

“We’re finding that’s a lot more of what it’s all about,” Link said. “Wedding guests are being entertained.”

Jordan Rubin, owner of the Mr. Tuna sushi carts and the Mr. Tuna cafe inside Portland’s Public Market House, recently upgraded to a trailer to use at weddings. (Rubin has seven weddings booked this season, just a year after he started working them.) The trailer, which can accommodate four staff, once sold snow cones and cotton candy at fairs. Now, newly wrapped with Mr. Tuna logo – a fish wearing a business suit – it makes spicy tuna rolls for the Mr. and Mrs., or Mr. and Mr. and Mrs. and Mrs.

“It has a better look for the weddings instead of a guy with a hot dog cart,” he said.  “It’s like literally having a sushi bar at your wedding.

“You can talk to the chef,” he said. “You can ask some questions. It’s definitely a draw for people. It’s more interesting, I think, than a bunch of servers coming out with plates and setting them down and that’s it.”

The Webbs, pictured here, hired an array of food trucks to cater their wedding. The trucks set up in an outdoor courtyard at Hardy Farm.

Eight years ago, Ryan Carey bought a pizza oven on a trailer and started a mobile, wood-fired pizza business. After working a lot of festivals, he was flooded with requests to cater weddings. The following year he started Fire & Co., his catering business, from a vintage pizza truck outfitted with mobile smokers and grills — perfect for cooking at rustic wedding venues that don’t have on-site kitchens. The truck cooks with fire, so there’s no need to plug anything in, and no wires to trip over.

Pizza is still 20 percent of the truck’s business. Carey typically makes pizza for the rehearsal dinner, and serves it with a locally sourced, seasonal salad and a few appetizers. He’ll come back the next day to roast whole animals, such as a suckling pig, in an open fire pit, or cook steak, salmon and vegetables in his wood-fired skillets and smokers.

Fairbanks-Cliffe likes to hire Carey partly because “people love watching him. It’s almost like a production. (He serves) everything from pizza to a grilled pig to barbecue to mini lobster rolls, and the way the food is presented is just beautiful.”

Carey has launched a second truck, called Mobile Noble after his Portland restaurant, Noble Barbecue. Recently, a couple from Texas who got married in Maine hired Carey to serve barbecue sandwiches, along with a buffet of mac and cheese, beans, pastrami and brisket at their reception. For their Sunday farewell brunch, they served Tex-Mex breakfast tacos.

Carey considers his business to be a full-service catering company that happens to cook out of multiple trucks. (He’s working on a vintage bar truck so he can serve wine and beer too.) His goal is to streamline the food truck process for the bride and groom in the market for a wedding caterer so they don’t have to sign multiple contracts and write multiple checks. This strategy will not only bring Carey more business, he hopes, it could save the engaged couple some money.

“The reality is, if you’re communicating with four different companies, it’s going to (cost) as much or more than going to one caterer,” Carey said.

Not chickenfeed

It’s difficult to compare the costs of food trucks versus traditional caterers because of the many variables  – number of guests, style of food, extras such as flatware and utensils, and so on. But wedding planners warn that couples should not assume that food trucks will be cheaper. That may be the case if you’re hiring one truck to serve just a few appetizers. But Fairbankes-Cliffe noted that at one recent wedding where the food truck provided lobster rolls and salmon, the tab ran about $85 per person, similar to a traditional caterer.

Link said she’s also seen some food trucks quote minimums for food that are “a healthy number. That used to not be the case a couple of years ago.”

When Brooke Maines married Gordon Webb last autumn, they held a sit-down dinner the night before the wedding. But for the reception, they hired six trucks to create an outdoor food court with strings of lights to add to the festive atmosphere. Both bride and groom lived in Portland and were heavily into the Portland food scene. They wanted to be married out of the city, but bring Portland food along with them. In addition to Portland food trucks, they hired The Old 37 out of Biddeford, a restored antique 1937 Ford flatbed truck converted into a beer truck outfitted with four full-sized kegs.

The Webbs pose with The Old 37, a vintage beer truck they hired for their wedding reception. Photo by Maine Tinker Photography

“We wanted to run the gamut and have something for everyone,” Brooke Webb said.

The couple wanted the event to “feel like a picnic,” Webb said, though they provided under-the-tent seating, too.

The food included lobster rolls from High Roller Lobster Co., gyoza and a noodle dish from Mami, and Maine blueberry donuts from Eighty 8 Donuts.

Webb said when they started planning, they expected to spend less, but “I would say it was the same if not more” than traditional caterers because of extras  – lighting, for example, and rentals of glasses, flatware and linens. (Webb was worried about waste, so she hired Garbage to Garden, a Portland-based curbside composting company, to take care of it.)

The Knot, the popular wedding website, recommends hiring one truck for every 75 guests. Local wedding planners tend to recommend one truck for every 50 guests.

“I think one truck that feeds everybody would have been significantly cheaper,” Webb said.

But this was her wedding day, after all.

“We wanted it to be fun and laid back,” she said, “but we didn’t want people to think we were cheap-o.”

 

 

 


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