For a couple planning a wedding, a clambake gives the ‘chill vibe’ feel that is uniquely New England. Maureen Woodman of Woodman’s of Essex talks about ways to incorporate clambake culture into a wedding or rehearsal dinner. Listen or read more to find out about clambake weddings.

John Maher: Hi. I’m John Maher, and I’m here today with Maureen Woodman from Woodman’s of Essex, a restaurant and catering company in Essex, Massachusetts. Today, we’re talking about clambake weddings. Welcome, Maureen.

Maureen Woodman: Hi, John. Thanks for having me.

John: Sure. So, Maureen, what is a clambake wedding?

Maureen: So, a clambake wedding, I think, would basically have to do with the menu at the wedding. It’s still a wedding. It’s still somebody getting married to somebody.

John: Yep.

Maureen: And there’s probably some kind of ceremony, and then there’s probably some kinds of guests, and dancing, and merriment. And . . . off the bride and groom go, and hopefully they have a great life, or the bride and bride, or the groom and groom.

John: Right.

Maureen: But I think a clambake wedding, right away, would kind of have a feeling like, “All right. Their people want to make it a little more casual.” I think the dress would be a little different. Everything’s probably in a nice outside venue, hopefully by the water somewhere, or in your yard. But, I think the people that want to do this definitely want to have a more casual vibe.

Best Locations for a Clambake Wedding

John: Okay. So, what are some good locations for a clambake wedding? You said that it’s typically held outdoors.

Maureen: Three of my favorite locations: one would be the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown, right near Boston, underneath the Tobin Bridge. Tuck’s Point in Manchester’s a lovely little pavilion with a gazebo, right on the back of the Manchester water. So, kind of near West Beach in Beverly Farms. And then, of course, I love the Cambridge Boat Club, which is right on the Charles River in Boston. I think it’s a beautiful, beautiful little venue for a small wedding.

But you can have them anywhere. There’s all kinds of places on our site list at If you go to Event Sites, and they’re all listed, North, South, East, and West. You can go there and get some ideas. Or maybe there’s somewhere that you think you could have it, and you just call the catering office and see if we can make one happen. I think a lot of people would love to have it on the beach, but there’s a lot of rules on the beach. So, you have to make sure if you can have a fire on the beach, if you can cook, if you can have alcohol on the beach. Obviously, if you live at Wingaersheek or down in Cape Cod somewhere and you own your own property, that would be fantastic. You could have it right in front of your house.

Typical Wedding Clambake Menu

John: Right. So, what’s on the menu at a typical clambake wedding reception?

Maureen: So, a clambake wedding menu would be a little different. Again, like a real wedding, there’d be a lot more hors d’oeuvres in the beginning, a lot more appetizers, where a regular clambake would start out with just clam chowder. But, you might have scallops wrapped in bacon. You might have some spanakopita. You might have a veggie/cheese platter. You know, your basic wedding hors d’oeuvres. If you’re lucky enough, you might have some fried clams to start everyone off.

And then I see quite a bit that people waive the steamers and mussels. A lot of people had their manicure done. They don’t want to be dealing with those that day. So, you might see a salad substituted where the clams and mussels would normally be.

And then, of course, you would have your boiled lobster. And, I would say, most of the time, you see steak. I actually prefer steak tips on a clambake wedding. I think it’s a nice size and portion to do steak tip with the boiled lobster, as opposed to a giant steak. But if you have someone who doesn’t like fish, we can always just do a nice sirloin or a rib eye. And we also have plenty of chicken options as well.

And then, of course, your sides: corn on the cob, coleslaw, potato salad, roasted potatoes. All those things we can make happen.

And then, of course, at the end, I think you’d see a traditional wedding cake, as opposed to strawberry shortcake or cookies and brownies. I think you’d go with a more fancier dessert, and most likely a wedding cake.

Creating a Clambake Vibe

John: Okay. So, what could a couple do to kind of bring their own style to a clambake wedding? You mentioned that this might be typically done by a couple that wants to be maybe a little bit more casual. But, say they had their own style and they want to add something to it, what could they do?

Maureen: I think a lot of times where I see the style come in would be the décor for the tables. You might not necessarily have flowers for a centerpiece. You might see something done with seashells, or destinations on the water where they’ve traveled. Or you might see something that’s just really low-key, like maybe more candles, or just beach sand and marsh grass. I’ve seen people really build beautiful centerpieces out of marsh grass and sand at these clambake weddings.

I also think that in your cards, your seating cards, you’ll see a lot more personalization of the ocean. Things might be done on seashells, or rocks, or clamshells. I think you might see it in the favors that they give you. They might give you something that’s more for the beach, or maybe they’ll give you bug spray, or tanning lotion, or something. I think that’s where you . . . it’s in the décor and the favors.

Hosting a Clambake Wedding Rehearsal Dinner

John: Okay. And what about rehearsal dinners? Are clambakes good? Do they make a good meal for a rehearsal dinner?

Maureen: I think the rehearsal dinner’s a slam dunk. The one place where I always sell the rehearsal dinner for people on a wedding is, at a typical restaurant, everyone has to sit at the table, and there’s 10 people there, and eight people there, and four people here, and no one ever gets up and talks to each other. A clambake rehearsal, if you do it a true way where the clambake’s done, you get up, you get your chowder, you sit down. You get up, you get your steamers, you sit down. You get up, you get your lobster, you sit down. Every time you get up, you’re in the line. You have a chance to stand next to somebody else and talk. So, it really forces to you to mingle with the crowd. And I think clambake food is fun, you don’t cook it at home, and I think lobsters are funny, and steamers are funny. And sometimes people go around table to table and help each other learn how to eat a steamer, especially if you’re from the middle part of the country. They don’t know how to take the neck off, and wash the clam in the water and the butter.

John: Right. So, if you have guests coming from out of town —

Maureen: Yeah.

John: — that’s kind of fun because it’s a unique experience for them that maybe they’ve never had before.

Maureen: Yeah, definitely. It’s local. And what I see in my weddings right now, kids are getting married, you don’t marry the neighborhood kid anymore. They met at college, or they meet on their job, and everybody’s coming from all over the country or all over the world now.

So, yeah. I think it’s nice to, if you’re going to have a New England wedding, you have this New England clambake. And, I think people love it.

John: All right. Well, that’s really great information and good advice Maureen. Thanks again for speaking with me today.

Maureen: Thanks, John. Thanks for having me.

John: And for more information about Woodman’s catering services, visit the Woodman’s website at, or call 978-768-2559.

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