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Tampa Bay Wedding - Needing advice.

andlulu Feb 26, 2007 06:24 AM

Hey everyone -

I am planning my wedding for next year, March to be specific - I have quite a bit of time to plan but will take any and all advice.

The basis of this wedding is to maintain an elegant wedding while being cost effective - thru simple research I have already figured out a ton of ways to make this happen but there are a few general things Im not sure how to get around.

The biggie is the caterer - I really cannot decide what route I need to take, my first preference would be to prepare all of the food myself (with helpers of course) and rent all of the equipment we might need and then to have someone come in to put the finishing touches on and manage the food on site. Not even sure if that option is available or if it would be any more effective than hiring a caterer to take care of the entire thing.

There will be approx 50- 80 guests, we plan on doing a cocktail reception, the alcohol is already taken care of.

Any suggestions?


  1. n
    Noice Feb 27, 2007 11:58 AM


    Your post is unclear to me: are you asking about catering for both a cocktail reception and a sit-down dinner for your wedding? Or just for a cocktail reception?

    As a sidenote, I urge you to do a search of this site using the following terms for invaluable advice (many Hound weddees seem eager to take the DIY catering route): "cater" "yourself" "wedding" "reception". I will also be happy to give you advice if you clarify what type of event you'd like to have, and what you envision. Having just gone through this myself (and not too far from Tampa Bay), most of the wedding self-catering pros and cons are still fresh in my head.


    1. a
      andlulu Feb 28, 2007 10:20 AM

      Ok, sorry about that - it will be JUST a cocktail reception, no sit down dinner planned. I also would prefer for the DIY catering but since I do not have any experience with a caterer or planning a wedding I am trying to figure out which would be more cost effective for me? (The DIY catering or hiring a caterer)

      Does that help a little?


      1 Reply
      1. re: andlulu
        MMRuth Mar 2, 2007 07:21 AM

        Do you have any any family members who will help you? I did a tea for my sister's wedding reception for about 50 people. I, with some help from my mother and sister, did the bulk of the work, but other attending family members also brought some things. Her theme was to use family recipes, which made it a lot of fun.

      2. jnstarla Mar 2, 2007 06:32 AM

        I would strongly advise you not to cater your own wedding. We toyed with the idea but scrapped it and I'm so glad we did - the last two or three days before our wedding were already stressful and hectic. Tons of people around all the time, very little sleep with all the partying, etc.

        You may very well find that with rentals, food costs, the stress of preparation, and hiring someone to monitor the food during your reception (who is then your employee to supervise), your costs won't be any lower if you DIY.

        Call a few caterers, have them draw you up a menu including rentals and service fees, and meet with them. They'll probably feed you for free too. ;) Congratulations and good luck with planning your wedding!

        1. n
          Noice Mar 2, 2007 07:07 AM


          Thanks for the clarification. I will preface my comments by saying that my father (an accomplished home cook with no formal training) catered my wedding for 130 guests last August in his home (reception also held in his home). I will then tell you this: Neither my wife nor I have any pictures with my father from the wedding day; we saw him only a few times in the days leading up to the wedding, even though we were staying in his house; and once every guest was fed the night of the wedding, he promptly proceeded to collapse under exhaustion, barely ever making it to the dance floor.

          Now, the meal he cooked was bar-none the very best food I have eaten that was produced in large quantities. I won't bore you with the menu, but suffice it to say that several guests approached me throughout the evening (and still do to this day) telling me the same, and commenting on how they had never had X ingredient. It was a party-thrower's or food-lover's dream meal for her guests.

          Why so verbose, you ask? Because I think it's important for anyone in your position to weigh ALL of the pros and cons: sure, you are likely talented and passionate enough to create sumptuous and elegant bites for a cocktail reception that I'd be willing to bet would be better than any caterer could make for a reasonable price. But EVEN IF you get "outside help" the day of the wedding (certainly a must, unless you have friends or family up to the task, and whom you don't mind not seeing all day long on this, a very important occasion), you have to think about what you're giving up. Food for even a group this size is a serious undertaking and will consume more time than you probably estimate. My father begun planning the menu four months in advance, and held regular tastings at least once a week until the day of the wedding. The prep work began in earnest three weeks before the wedding. The last thing you want on your mind in the days leading up to your wedding is wondering whether you can get to Publix or Sweetbay before they close for the night.

          One of the things we completely underestimated was the equipment necessary to keep food cold or warm. There is a reason restaurant kitchens are the size they are. A chafing dish will only keep so much food warm; a home refrigerator is only so big. And it ain't easy to rent restaurant equipment because, well, most people don't need it. Although cocktail food for 50-80 people sounds like it's just food for a really, really big Super Bowl party, from what you have written, you want an elegant reception -- Ritz crackers and frozen shrimp in jarred cocktail sauce are probably not what you have in mind. Making food taste great for a lot of folks takes a lot of preparation and a lot of equipment.

          As far as costs are concerned: if you cater it yourself you will save money, to be sure, but likely not as much as you think. (Again, this is assuming you would like to serve premium food made with premium ingredients.) We guesstimated that we saved about 30% off what it would have cost us to hire a caterer. Would it have been a better meal? Hells no, not even close. But we would have gotten some time with my father, and that may have been worth it.

          If you do nothing else, merely consider the logistics of feeding so many people tasty food before you make your decision. This might be one where you have to take in the shorts and let the pros handle it.

          If you give me more details regarding the type of place where the reception will be held and the type/style of food you'd like to serve, I may be able to give more specific advice. Good luck and congratulations.


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