Brides everywhere are melting for the most delicious trend in wedding food.
Here's how to determine if fondue is right for your nuptial fete.
Fondant, the elegant, molded frosting that
has turned the modern wedding cake into a gift-wrapped treasure, isn’t the only
derivative of the French word fondre (to melt) that’s revolutionizing culinary
wedding decor. In fact, there’s something even more delectably smooth on the
bridal horizon. Fondue is back and melting its way toward a wedding near you.
"Fondue is both decadent and delicious, and it’s the hottest food trend for
brides," says New York-based event planner Karen Bussen, author of "Simple
Stunning Weddings" (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2004). "There’s no escaping how
fun and festive it is. People just love to dip."
Popularized in the 1950s by restaurateur Konrad Egli of New York’s Chalet
Swiss Restaurant, fondue quickly became a communal staple at social gatherings
during the 1960s and 70s. Now, fondue is back and bigger than ever, not only for
small, intimate groups, but also for festive celebrations. And for many brides,
fondue has left the pot behind and now towers over the wedding celebration.
Chocolate fountains, modeled to replicate the design of a tiered
wedding cake, look oddly like a lumbering sports trophy when empty. Once the
chocolate starts flowing, however, the device morphs into a towering,
mesmerizing confection, as melted chocolate flows, lava-like, down the sides.
Chocolates or cheeses of any variety cascade from the top down each level of the
fountain, pool in the bottom and cycle back to the top. The result? A
never-ending waterfall that is both graceful and remarkable.
"Chocolate fountains are becoming a key part of any British wedding," says
Carole Hamilton, editor of You & Your Wedding magazine in London and author of
The Sublime Wedding (Collins & Brown, 2004). "They add the essential ‘wow’
factor to the reception, starting with the amazing smell of the chocolate as you
walk in the room."
Wedding planner Karen Bussen says that while the fountain may be a fresh
trend, fondue itself is a classic idea that will delight older attendees and
astonish younger guests. "Plus it’s interactive. Anything that gets your guests
up and moving and mingling adds an irreplaceable dimension to your event," says
No one knows that better than Katie Kinnell, a New York City-based interior
designer. After some heavy persuasion by her mother who had attended a lively
chocolate fountain party, she and her then-fiance Brendan agreed to host one at
their 2003 wedding in Williamstown, Mass. Their hesitation proved to be a
"Everyone loved it," says Kinnell. "Some people would not walk away from it –
they just stood there sampling everything." Bussen, the wedding designer for the
event, created a small tent-lounge off of the main reception tent with the
chocolate fountain, cigars and cocktails. "It was sort of the little after-party
location," says Kinnell, "and I think the dramatic setting really added to the
whole event. People were in awe. By the end of the night, all 22 pounds of milk
chocolate were completely gone."
According to Bussen, any color scheme or wedding theme can be enhanced with
the addition of a chocolate fountain. She suggests setting up multiple stations
with smaller fountains. The arrangement will keep guests moving and enliven the
decor without dominating the room.
"Make sure that your fondue stations don’t depart from the rest of your
decor. If you have a Tuscan theme, use peasant breads and Italian cheeses. If
yellow is in your color scheme, provide bananas, apples, pears, pineapple,
cakes, cheeses – the possibilities are limitless," says Bussen.
Bussen and Hamilton both caution that embarking on a fondue experiment
requires extra preparation. Little plates should be provided in lieu of napkins
for guests to set their food on to. Hamilton suggests keeping an attendant at
the fountain table at all times who can replenish the chocolate or cheese, and
fix any clogs that result from any stray food bits.
For the bride, Bussen has an even stricter rule.
"The bride should never prepare her own fondue. Have a service staff member
or a friend do it. You don’t want a giant chocolate drip down the front of your
designer gown," she says.
Recent bride Kinnell says that a fondue fiasco was certainly a lingering
thought, but her desires overpowered Bussen’s warning.
"Once we walked over and saw the flowing chocolate, I couldn’t resist," she
says. Taking immense caution while dipping her marshmallow into the fondue,
Kinnell says she made sure to devour it in only one bite. "My dress did not have
a spot of chocolate on it and I was very satisfied with my covered marshmallow!"
There is at least one expert, though, who is skeptical of fondue’s place at a
"I must admit that I wonder about the validity of
serving fondue at large events. Although people do it, to me, fondue is all
about sharing a pot of food in an intimate setting with loved ones," says Rick
Rodgers, author of more than twenty-seven cookbooks, including
Fondue: Great Food to Dip, Dunk, Savor and Swirl (Morrow, 1998).
Rodgers, the 1999 American Food & Entertaining Award Winner for "Cooking
Teacher of the Year," does feel that a communal, individual pot at each table is
"the ultimate sign of friendship" and a better option for weddings. He believes
that people love to connect over food and because fondue is so casual, it has
been rediscovered as a delicious way to add fun and intimacy to larger events.
Another issue is price. Carole Hamilton concedes that renting or purchasing
the large fountains from a party supplier or catering service does run to the
pricey side – from $2,000 to $5,000 – depending on the amount of people, type of
chocolate or cheese and whether you purchase or rent the equipment.
Brides can instead opt to rent individual pots for the tables, which Bussen
says can also be extremely effective.
"Just make sure there are no large central flower arrangements – they’re
fondue prohibitive," says Bussen. She feels that by creating luxurious fondue
pots as centerpieces, you can actually save money on flowers. Bud vases can be
used as accent pieces instead of the traditional arrangements. "Make the food
part of your decor. Food is beautiful."
Kinnell couldn’t agree more and recommends fondue for any bride-to-be.
"Do it! We’ve been to a few weddings since ours where there have been
fountains and everyone loves it. Our whole wedding was such a warm, fun and
happy event, and the fountain just made it all the more special and unique."