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May 30, 2007 05:45 AM

Help me plan a non-traditional wedding, Chowhound style

Some people dream of weddings with pink and tuille, my dreams include roast pork buns, vietnamese mussels in cocounut sauce, ceviche, murrays cheese, tamales, sullivan (now granddaisy) pizza, chaat, you get the idea. SO and I are big-time chowhounds, especially on the cheap eats side and are trying to figure out how to throw a party for 50-60 people where we can serve all of our favorite foods. Kind of like a chowhound social if you've been to any of those.

Some of the areas where I would love advice from more seasoned party-planners:

1- Picking up the food. I could ask an assortment of friends to do this, but would love any advice on who I could hire to do this instead. Do I need someone with a capacity to keep food warm or cold, or is it ok if it makes it to a kitchen in <2 hours?

2- Heating the food. Can chafing dishes do this? I'm thinking of something like roast pork buns or coconut sauce--nothing that needs delicate heating.

3- Laying out and serving the food. This is definitely too much for my friends, I would love advice on what type of person I could hire to do this. I don't know that I need formal servers, but someone needs to cut the pizza, for example.

Any other thoughts would be welcome (though naysayers can hold back). Thank you so much!!

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  1. Sounds like a fun idea - ok here are my thoughts:
    1)Do you have any teenagers/college students you know that would do this for you? You could offer them cash to run around for an hour or two and pick things up and then bring it back to your place. You could have them use their car or their own. Have them bring cooler bags to keep things hot or cold, but I don't know how far they're travelling for all this food.
    2)You could ask the restaurant for a catering sized amount of food (usually cheaper too) you want, and ask them what size metal dish they'll put it in to get the right holder for it.
    3)I'd go again with hiring some local kids, teens, or college students for this one. Heck, if any of your friends have kids 12 or older, you could give them some cash to be servers (seems like you're not asking for much - just cutting pizza and doling out servings, yea?) or something like that to have them involved/helping out. I think you could really do away with having someone to serve the food, though, if you just made it all buffet style where everyone could grab what they wanted off of a big table. You could just set it up before hand and then it's all taken care of.

    1 Reply
    1. re: yumcha

      An Idea is a Breakfast Wedding for the guest. That way you can have the rest of the day to do something fun. Like inviting your special guests to the beach for BBQ. :)

    2. Two words: Party Planner. Find an inexpensive one in your area and post the challenge to them. While the idea of high school/college kids is pretty cool, I'd be concerned with the organizational aspects. You need all the food from various places to arrive hot at the same time. With the numerous balls that need to be juggled, you need someone who will be accountable for keeping them in the air. This is not something you want to worry about on your wedding day, nor do you want to burden a guest. And party planners have access to inexpensive labor. (Notice I did NOT say 'Wedding Planner.' These folks are usually way more pricey and will suggest a bunch of extras you don't need.)

      6 Replies
      1. re: mojoeater

        Thanks so much. I like the idea of some college students (we know lots!) but then a party planner -- which, I am embarrassed to say, I didn't even know existed, I just knew of overpriced wedding planners -- to tell them what to do. I don't want them coming to me all day with questions! Any ideas on where to find a good party planner?

        1. re: Produce Addict

          Where are you located? Maybe you can post on your local board and get some suggestions. Make sure to emphasize the PARTY part of planner.

          1. re: mojoeater

            Located in Northern New Jersey (I live in Jersey City). I'll post on my local board too---not sure if that will get deleted.

            1. re: Produce Addict

              Ask for suggestions for a Party Planner in your area that knows or can appreciate good food. That way, it will still be food related.

          2. re: Produce Addict

            Along the same lines, see if any of the colleges in your area have hospitality majors, then hire a student to do the planning. You could even hire their friends/classmates to help serve, and they get out-of-the-classroom experience.

            1. re: pamalamb

              Yep, this is what I was thinking. Hire a talented culinary school or hospitality student
              to coordinate this for you. Call the teachers and ask who the bright, reliable organized students are. I've had good success with this.

        2. When my sister got married 25 years or so ago, we prepared a bunch of ham biscuits and salads and all her friends brought food pot luck. Only time I've ever been to a potluck wedding, but it sure was fun.

          1. Yes as mojoeater suggest, hire a coordinator, or planner. I do this for a living for all sorts of events, from corporate to private. The planner will make arrangements for everything, exactly coordinating every aspect of your event, including the food and catering/delivery services.
            Unless you are going to a venue that will provide this service, the outside source will be invaluable in saving your sanity. As a note, in choosing your planner, it is best to use one that charges a percentage rather than one that marks up everthing within the event. Ask the planner if they take a percentage or exactly how they determine their fee. My clients are privy to all invoices. I find that keeping the "open" book policy the most fair for everyone, and I sleep well at night knowing I work hard to give my clients the best for a fair fee. Also, check their experience. An experienced planner will be an excellent negotiator working for you.They should have an established vendor base. If they do business with established vendors they've developed relationships with, they can often get a better price, and all around will work well together.
            If you have Craig's list in the area you live, you possibly could find one there by posting your own ad. I have found that there are wedding planners where I live that operate their business the same as me, strictly working from a percentage standpoint.
            Good luck, and I am available to answer any other questions anytime!