Kosher catering for interfaith wedding?
I'm a little wary to post this topic here, since I know that many Jews don't approve of interfaith marriages, but if we can all put aside our feelings on that... I'd love to get some answers.
I am Jewish and my fiancee is not. He and I have had many long talks, over the course of our relationship (going on 5 and a half years now), and he does not want to convert. I respect his wishes. We are planning to have a Jewish ceremony for the wedding, and then we will need kosher catering for the reception. We have a very limited budget and would love to find a caterer or a location+caterer, who would be willing to work with us. I'm talking about the fact that maybe we can spend $50/person, max.
We're very flexible and open to different types of options. A dessert-only reception would be fine. A dairy buffet wedding would be fine, as it would accomodate our vegetarian friends and relatives. A cocktail-only reception would be fine. Whatever will get us something nice for our wedding, food-wise; we're willing to compromise, since finances are a factor. We're willing to get married in any of the "off-season" months next year, as we know that usually brings wedding prices down.
We're located in central NJ, and we'd love to find somewhere in that area or perhaps in Staten Island. Due to elderly relatives in both of our families, traveling further into the NY area is unfeasible.
Thank you very much in advance for any help that anyone can give me.
I am responding in more of a theoretical nature. I made a wedding for my daughter in 2003 so my figures are probably stale, also the places that I considered are in Brooklyn NY so the location is not a match, that said, I paid $92 a COUPLE i.e. $46 a person for a full fledged orthodox wedding. This included a lavish smorg with a few meat carving stations, the main included a choice of fish, chicken and meat, there was also a salmon appy with soup, salad and desert. The point here is that it should be theoretically possible to have a nice affair for $100 couple - unless prices have inflated greatly from 2003.
Since you are willing to compromise on the amount of food, forgoing a sit-down dinner, and are willing to have cocktails/apps/desserts or buffet, and are happy to go dairy (a good choice, in my opinion), it will open up your options as far as cost. Obviously, passed food or buffet or dessert only will cost considerably less than a sit-down dinner, which will give you the possibility of going for very beautiful and high-end food. Since you are entertaining both kosher and unkosher guests, you may be thinking about food that is more creative and freshly presented than that served at some traditionally kosher weddings I've attended. Not to insult kosher caterers (because there are some really great ones out there), but at some kosher weddings one finds chafing dishes of meat dishes in thick sauces that are rather tasteless and unimaginative, or standard carving stations of corned beef or whatever, as opposed to some of the fresher, more creative dishes that have been done out there for a long time. If you are looking for quality as opposed to quantity, there are some interesting, creative caterers out there, such as Dan Lechner of Manna Caterers - http://www.mannacatering.com/ is their website. I've been to two events catered by them. One was an all-dairy wedding and the food was very impressive. The kosher and unkosher guests all felt the offerings were very contemporary and tasty. I also went to a dessert buffet they catered, and was really pleased. Delicious dairy desserts (I can't tell you how many kosher caterers seem to serve non-dairy desserts, even at dairy events, and they're often disappointing) and I am pretty picky about desserts, and not easy to impress. I have no idea what their prices are these days, but it's worth a call. At my wedding I used Simply Divine, which was also a great company to work with, with great food. A bit pricey, but may have options available considering what you are thinking of doing. For some reason I'm having trouble finding their website, but I know it's out there. Judy Marlowe is the owner. Really good food, presented artfully. I often recommend both of these caterers when people seek great kosher catering, because I think they are a cut above. Being a food person, the quality of the food was my top priority when I got married, and some of the abc cookie cutter caterers out there just seemed to be lacking something that I felt we needed.
By the way, marrying off-season is a great idea to save money. We were married during an unpopular month (February) and managed to get a great rate on our location, which helped offset some of the other costs. We also managed to find a florist who was able to be creative and original even with the paltry amount of money we had to spend on flowers, providing some really beautiful table arrangements. I'm getting off-topic now but my point is that there are ways to save money and still do something stylish that reflects who you are.
I live on the west coast, so I'm afraid I can't offer any recommendations for caterers in New Jersey. However, I did want to plead to all knowledgeable Chowhounds to come to your assistance regardless of their perspectives on "mixed marriages." That is a wholly irrelevant issue as far as your inquiry here is concerned. You need a kosher caterer on your budget of $50 per person, period, 'nuff said. Mazel tov and best of luck!
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Bear in mind that while there is definitely a variation in cost for different seasons, I doubt it's as great with kosher caterers as with non-kosher ones. Many people planning kosher weddings don't have long engagements that would allow them to pick an ideal date a year or two in the future (in many Orthodox circles, 2-5 months is the norm), and while more people get married in August than in February, kosher caterers probably aren't suffering for business in what most people would think of as an off month. (For what it's worth, my husband and I were invited to three weddings one weekend this February.) The cheaper times might be when Jews traditionally don't make weddings or other celebrations, during the Omer period between Passover and Shavuot and during the three weeks in mid- to late-summer between 17 Tamuz and 9 Av. While there will probably be some business for caterers then with kashrut-observant Conservative people, the Orthodox business falls off to nearly zero, and you might be able to get something for somewhat less. Many kashrut-observant people are also reluctant to make weddings immediately before Passover and during the fall holiday season, as it's seriously inconvenient to be both making a wedding and doing the pre-holiday cooking, cleaning, etc. However, all of these times fall out during months that the rest of the country thinks of as peak season, so while you might save some money on catering, you might lose it on the hall.