Can I Cater My Own Wedding?


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Menu For DIY Wedding Reception

I am in the beginning stages of planing my wedding in June. We have a guest list so far (1st draft) of about 200, and I know the old adage is on about half will come, but to be on the safe side, I want to cater my own reception. Is it possible?

I have plenty of help. I have a support staff at the hall that will be there and do for me as long as I purchase the food, tell them what I have in mind, and I plan on prepping the week prior to the actual reception with another friend, who has as much experience of large quantity cooking as I.

I have the type of friend’s and family that are 180 degrees different from one another, and plan on meshing the 2 culture’s together with my menu, and decorations and theme, it is after all a celebration and I want both sides to know I love them enough to celebrate this day with them.
The venue is a casual sit down dinner in an old barn that was converted into a reception hall. Just trying to execute the menu, it is for sure giving me the most stress.

My menu to me is possible, yet affordable, and I just want to get advice from an outside prospective.
Appetizers
1. Shrimp cocktail, no if and butts about this!
2, No idea. I want finger foods, it be fun and quirky for the little people that will be attending! Easy prep, simple cooking or no cooking at all.

Salad
1. Pasta salad with a plan “country” vinaigrette of vinegar and sugar. Do not yet have the vegetables chosen, but do know using the normal pasta noodles.
2. Debating on a leaf salad with multiple dressings, or a simple bean salad. (Have doubts on a 2nd salad.)

Meat
1. Creamed Tenderloins, using a wine mushroom gravy and tenderloin pork. Doing a pork as I am not a major beef eater, and do not have much experience in cooking large amounts, other than normal grilled burgers. Can easily pull this off with good prep time.
2. Chicken Parmesan: chicken breasts, mozzarella cheese and homemade, simple red sauce recipe I have used many, many times for family dinners. I know my family will appreciate and enjoy!
Using egg noodle pasta for both starches for both dishes. (Any ideas on this idea?)

Side dishes
1. Au-gratin potatoes with ham bits. Can easily pull this off, and it is economical. Can prep this, and bake it days before, freeze and thaw day before and warming trays day of reception.
2. Green beans. Will have fresh green beans from my garden, and another friends garden this year, no problem here. Simple garlic, onion, and simple homemade bacon bits. Will be prepped,and ready for cooking 2 days before. Day before will have many crock pots cooking these and warming trays day of reception.

Desserts
1. Fruit salad or watermelon, cantaloupe and grapes.
2. No idea, want simple prep, simple cooking or baking, not a great baker, but can make a mean chocolate pie, but it being summer do not want to have to worry about a pudding, and do not want to have to make so many pies, then worry about cutting and the like, when I will be having a wedding cake for cutting! No idea if I should even have a 2nd dessert since I am providing and prepping for everything. Needs thoughts on this.

I have 2 friends who are going to help do prepping and cooking. We are used to cooking for 20-24 people and we feel if we multiple the ingredients, prep cannot be that bad since these are dishes we have cooked many many times.

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Donna, Wedding Queen

Wow, that seems like a lot of work to do for your own wedding. I’d recommend visiting my friend Chef Mike at his website how to cater your own wedding. he’s got a ton of info menus and some videos. I’m sure you’ll find it helpful.

Joyce C Smith, MBC, President and owner of Weddings Unlimited, Inc. and Ohio State Coordinator for Association of Bridal Consultants

Congratulations on your pending nuptials. It is possible to cater your own wedding, but unless you can handle all that comes with planning a wedding and preparing the food, I would advise against it. I believe that the bride and her family should enjoy the day and be a guest themselves. Overseeing the food is a large responsibility! Also, asking your friends to prepare the meal is a tough call too. If something goes wrong, your friendship may weaken. Go ahead and plan the menu (sounds yummy!), but seek out someone that knows catering for larger groups. Allow your friends to enjoy this day also.

A side note…a larger percentage of 200 guests will attend.

I do agree, you can do this but advise you not to do it. If you had nothing else to think about the menu would be a huge undertaking. We know that any bride has much to do at the same time the food is being prepared. You will want to remember the enjoyment and sharing with friends and family not the stress of completing the cooking racing to the ceremony and worrying about the servers. I vote that you leave it up to someone other than yourself. Enjoy your day.

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Donna, Wedding Queen

I agree with our wedding coordinators, it’s not an easy task. But if you have your heart set on catering your own wedding, here is an article you might be interested in reading:

Catering Your Own Wedding; It’s Easier Thank You Think

Hope this helps.

Donna, Wedding Queen

I got this response from celebrity caterer, Peter Callahan on Twitter: If a bride can find the joy catering for her wedding, then cook away! But if it’s stressful and becomes overwhelming, hire a pro.

Good advice.

Amy Rubins, Fete Perfection

I wouldn’t cater my own wedding if someone paid me to. I simply cannot see how you can enjoy the days leading up to and including your wedding day. I have heard too many horror stories about friends who promised to help then bailed at the last minute. In fact, my team and I had to jump in and save the day for almost this exact same reason. In the end, the bride regretted not hiring professionals.
I also wouldn’t count on 50% of your guests NOT showing – I think that is far too optimistic or pessimistic, depending on your perspective, and then what? You have 100 extra guests you didn’t plan on coming?
Hire a professional caterer. Look for an up-and-coming new caterer nearby who is trying to make a name for his/herself and work out a budget friendly menu. Lastly, what if someone gets sick as a result of your DIY catering. Do you have insurance to protect yourself? A caterer will. Sorry to sound so harsh but seriously, you should not cater your own wedding.

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Darlene Taylor, PBC
TaylorMade Weddings

Lots of GREAT advice and articles to help you!

Catering your own wedding IS a huge undertaking as was mentioned by everyone. I will tell you that I’ve done 2 weddings where the bride did not hire a caterer but had a group of ladies at her church cook and serve all the food. Not everybody had this available to them so here are some things to consider from my experience if you go this route:

Hire a coordinator! Seriously. It is too much for you to deal with on the wedding day and a coordinator will also be able to guide the whole purchasing process and prepping process to make sure you have enough food and drink and that you have enough hands and enough time. It’s a lot for a team of friends to handle and with a coordinator involved, it eases the stress for them and they can just concentrate on the cooking and serving.

Make sure your team of cooks has some experience serving large crowds (like the church ladies did).

Serve buffet style. WAY easier than serving each table. Keep your menu simple. Have several stations: dessert station, drink station, etc. Also set up your buffet so that 2 lines can run.

Most important: if you do not have a commercial sized kitchen, think carefully about DIY catering. You’ll need the room for prep, storage, and the many people involved. The church where I did these weddings had a HUGE commercial kitchen with huge refrigerators and prep tables, several ovens and stoves.

So…wirh this in mind, take some time to think about what you want for your guests and what you’re willing to risk. What do you envision for your reception? What kind of food do you want vs. the ability of your “staff” to pull it off the way you envision? Are you willing to strain friendships for this or hire someone take care of it and everybody have a good time?

Just some thoughts for you…hope it works out. Best wishes!

Donna, Wedding Queen

Great advice. I serve a group of 50 children and 25 adults at my church for snacks and dinner after school once a week and I can tell you it’s not easy! Even with a commercial kitchen and a few helpers it’s a grand undertaking and we’re not serving anything fancy! It gets really hot in there too – and who likes a sweaty bride? :rolleyes: Plus there’s all the clean up. Unless you have lots of help from people who aren’t wedding guests I’d try to find a caterer you can afford or cut the guest list a bit.

Ann Guise, Wedding Veil Designer at Silk Wedding Veils

I designed and made my wedding dress and looking back wish I’d let someone else make it. I was well able and wanted to but didn’t realise how much time it would take and by the time I’d finished it I was fed up of looking at it.

I’m sure you can do do the catering and would love to but it is a huge undertaking when you have so much else going on. If you really want to do it then go for it, but if it was me I’d choose the menu and let someone else take the strain.

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Amy Rubins, Fete Perfection

I’d love to hear what this bride decided to do given all the great advice. If she can follow-up with her decision and details, we’d love to know!