Mathilde Dratwa and Jason Wojciechowski got engaged, and then married three months later. Not for them the drawn-out and torturous process of wedding planning. Instead, they hired their favorite Brooklyn food truck to drive out to a friend's house in Babylon for a backyard party for 50 people that was easy, fun, and economical. It also happened to be on the cutting edge of wedding trends.
The popularity of food trucks at weddings, a trend that's big in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is quickly spreading east. Trucks serving a variety of casual dishes, including tacos, lobster rolls, pizza and sliders provide all of the services of a conventional caterer, giving couples a new and interesting option for rehearsal dinners, after-parties, and the wedding reception itself.
For their big day on Sept. 15, 2012, Dratwa, 31, an actor and teacher, who also writes and directs plays and films, and Wojciechowski, 37, who owns a company that does consulting work for charities and nonprofits, called on Mexicue, whose colorful truck set the tone. Dratwa's dress was from a vintage store, special because it was one-of-a-kind. The truck, too, was anything but cookie cutter.
"It felt more special because it was slightly unusual and very us," she says.
The couple, who met through a mutual friend at a Fourth of July barbecue in Maryland and now live in Brooklyn, liked the idea of food continuously served while people danced, drank, and had a good time.
"We didn't want people stuck at assigned tables and eating at the same time," Dratwa said.
While Mexican and southwestern flavors made up the bulk of the menu, they made sure there was something available at the window for everyone, and served vegetarian and gluten-free options in addition to Alabama barbecue chicken sliders and green chili brisket tacos.
One of the best things about hiring the truck was the easy post-celebration cleanup -- or lack thereof. The truck drove in, served food, cleaned up, and drove away, Dratwa says.
When hiring a food truck to serve cuisine at a big event, it's important to work through the details of how you'd like the day to unfold.
"I want to make their lives easier," says Carly Katz, the catering manager at Mexicue. "The food truck takes care of everything. We bring the kitchen, we bring the food, we bring the plates, forks and knives."
"I want them to totally trust me to bring their vision to life," she said.
Katz believes in the food-truck-as-wedding-caterer concept so much that she'll have three food trucks -- Mexicue, Morris Grilled Cheese truck and the Van Leeuwen ice cream truck -- at her own July wedding in Brooklyn, which she's planning now.
It's been difficult, she says, for her "Jewish mother who has her hand in every pot," to sit back and let her daughter do the planning. But Katz is sure she will be wowed by the food, service and style that the trucks will bring to the event. Her mom may also be surprised at the relatively low price. Mexicue's unlimited menu of tacos and sliders, which come with the choice of six toppings, costs $10 per person per hour, plus tax and an operations fee of 22 percent, with a two-hour and 75-person minimum. Morris Grilled Cheese charges between $5 and $15 per person.
But don't assume that all food trucks are cheap. Susan Povich, who owns the Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck, says that events out of the city can get quite pricey.
"I love doing weddings and we do a lot of them, but it can get expensive to take the truck out of the city," Povich says, adding that couples aren't calling her to save money. They're calling because "we serve the best lobster on the East Coast."
In fact, quality is a big reason couples are going the food truck route. Ben Latham, a Springs native and the manager of the Morris Grilled Cheese truck, notes that staffers have pedigreed culinary backgrounds (owner Michael Jacober cooked at Per Se).
Claudia Fleming, the acclaimed pastry chef-owner of The North Fork Table and proprietor of the North Fork Table's Food Truck, also serves high-quality cuisine. Typically, the North Fork Table's truck serves as an addition to a sit-down dinner or buffet, Fleming says, serving its standard menu of creative salads, sandwiches and soups. And while it may seem casual, its food is backed by 25 years of fine dining experience.
"Our ingredients are organic, grass-fed, free-range, local," Fleming said. "There is a lot of dignity and experience and love and passion in what we do."
Laura Donald, 40, and Carl Utz, 38, who live in Brooklyn, were not thinking "food truck wedding" when they hired Matthew Michel of Rolling in Dough Pizza in Greenport to cater their July 7 wedding at the Old Field Vineyard in Southold. Wanting a "simple and North Fork-y" wedding, they chose the bayside vineyard for sentimental reasons (it was the location of their first date) and the pizza truck because they had eaten Michel's pizza and knew it was sensational, Donald says.
With a Valeriani oven imported from Florence and fired at 800 degrees, Michel produced thin-crust Neopolitan-style pizzas with about 20 topping choices. Guests ordered their custom, individual pies at the window, and then sipped drinks and nibbled on appetizers while waiting for the pizza to bake.
"The party really started when the truck arrived," Donald said.