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party for 25-30...should i be worried?

I am hosting a wedding rehearsal party for around 25-30 people. It's at 7pm - a casual, but festive buffet style dinner. (there are enough chairs for everyone- but dispersed throughout living room, den and patio- so food should be easy to eat) Up until now i have been totally relaxed about it- but many people now have expressed that it is too much for me to do alone. I am starting to wonder...more importantly, i was hoping to get input on my menu...

hot hors d'ouerves (purchased)
hummus dip (purchased)
pita (purchased)
cheese platter
vegetable tray with dip(purchased)
breads, crackers (purchased)

boccocini/tomato/basil skewers

chilled pea soup shooters

new potato salad
couscous salad
green salad

veggie lasagna
samosas (purchased)

Fruit kebabs

I have two full days to prepare. I plan on making the veggie lasagna, the potato salad, the trifle, the couscous salad and the soup in advance...as well as the fruit kebabs.
The lasagna, potato salad, couscous recipe and soup recipes are very simple...low labour and time. The fruits kebabs and boccocini skewers are more labour intensive, but i enjoy them... and i want some special elements as this is a wedding rehearsal party....


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  1. i think that you might be totally fine. it is a reasonable plan.
    i've done catering. some things to consider about your plan:
    -you should plan ahead every single serving platter / cup / fork / etc. you will need more than you think.
    -you should think about what you will wear, how you will be involved while serving, where the dirty dishes will go / the general flow of activities. think through oven space, the fact that you can only be in only place a time. are you planning on serving and socializing? i don't think you can realistically do both of those things at once.
    -if you could pair down to less separate courses, i think you should do that.
    -it's better to have less things that are delicious, and plenty of it, than lots of different things.
    -fruit kebabs - how will you keep them fresh looking? what about the basil? it will turn black once skewered.
    -hot hors d'ouevres - who will serve them while they are hot?
    -i confess, why the samosas? seems sorta random, but i'm sure there's a reason you want them?
    -what will the people drink? who will serve it? where will you stash all of their coats? where will you store the pre-made items? your home fridge will not store that quantity of food.

    i guess i generally would do less. you will not create a more "special" effect by offering more variety - it is better to do a few things really well. just my grain of salt, and my experience. people will notice a *really* delicious lasagna. they will never care that they got to choose between a dozen different nibbles while they stood around. i think that the best things about your plan are having plenty of prep time, the purchased hors d'oevres, the salads which will be good at any temp, the lasagna, and the trifle. i would get rental china, unless you have your own. i would hire a server, or else be committed to not having fun yourself.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pigtails

      thanks, i appreciate your detailed input. It is a bit more casual than your comments suggest though- we aren't having china, but disposables...so I have accounted for that end, and i have counted serving bowls etc and obtained extras - i think i am okay on that front as well.
      i'm not serving so much as having a buffet- i have a couple of friends who will serve hors d'ouerves while hot
      samosas- because they are a favourite of the bride, because they offer another more substantial vegetarian option, and because they are made ahead of time and don't require anything
      drinks are taken care of - not too worried about that

      i am somewhat worried about space in the fridge, but i plan to essentially empty it out in advance and hope for the best- not sure if there is a better solution here...
      drinks are going to go in coolers so that should help.

      i am purposely trying to keep this a casual affair- and don't want servers or caterers for that reason, my fun is less important than keeping everyone comfortable.
      i'm also going for more options because although i am serving a vegetarian meal(this is non-negotiable), most guests are not themselves vegetarians, so i am trying to provide lots of options.

      i'm not worried about the fruit kebabs- i make them with strawberries, pineapple, grapes, melon- things that keep well- i haven't had a problem with them before.

      i haven't made the boccocini skewers before- i didn't think the basil was an issue- what kind of time lines are we talking about?- i was thinking of putting these together near the end- but may ditch them in favour of a watermelon feta salad....

      i really appreciate your input- thanks!!!

    2. Hire the help anyway. I was having a sit down, 4 course dinner for both sides of our family which ended up totaling 24. I received tons of "ribbing" from both sides because I hired someone to help with the set up, clearing of plates, and cleaning. Everyone said it would make them "uncomfortable" having someone wait on them at a family event, or "its just a waste of money and we can do it", or flat out comment like "who are you trying to impress".

      After dinner was over, they all shut up and ended up asking if they could contribute to the cost of the help and wanted to make sure we had the help at all future events. You've obviously been gracious enough to offer to host this event. Make it easier on you by getting the help for a few hours. Not having a dirty kitchen from all of the trays, serving spoons, dishes and cookware at the end of the night will be a huge blessing. And guest won't feel obligated to get in the kitchen with you to help with the clean up.

      I would also suggest reducing your number of hors d'ouerves. The hummus and a beautiful cheese tray with some fruit would be sufficient considering your serving a full meal. I'd also remove the potatoe salad and instead do the couscous and the grean salad. Or if you area really set on the boccocini/tomato/basil skewers, instead make that into a salad to serve with the lasagna course.

      On storage of the food, borrow large coolers from friends and store your salads and vegetables. Leave the ice in the bag and then when you set the food out, you can use the extra ice for drinks. I also set up a roaster in my utility room and use it to keep hot items warm until serving. I'll cook the lasagna 2 ahead, take out and stack the pans in the roaster, turn it on to warm, and it stays great until ready to serve. This makes cutting easier and frees up my oven. If you don't have a roaster, you can use a cooler to keep warm items warm, or I've wrapped casseroles in heating blankets.

      1. To be really hinest I find the menu far to full of carbs. There is very little I would eat that is on the menu. Cheese and green salad is about it, maybe some of the veg tray. Whether you will eat it or not you need to provide some protein options. As you said you don't know many of these people and many may be stopping for a burger on the way home. You might consider something with shrimp or seafood of some sort. Maybe 2 lasagnas? One veg and one with shrimp and scallops?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Candy

          My first thought is that this is a party for vegetarians. You definitely need some protein -- at least some chicken. It's very carb-heavy, as Candy states. While I like most of the items individually, potato salad and couscous salad don't really go as sides to veggie lasagna.

        2. You'll be fine. As a vegetarian, the menu looks great. I also think most people won't notice a lack of protien. I've noticed a lot of non-vegetarians get worried that there will be something lacking from a meal that doesn't feature meat. Then, they come, eat dinner, love it and never really notice. Every now and again, someone says something and I reassure them there will be another meal after this one.

          I come from a family that regulary has meals for 15-40 people, some are small children. It is a lot of work, but with two days to prepare, you should be fine.

          Just make sure you have plenty of ice! Enjoy!

          1. As a vegetarian, I appreciate your efforts! It seems as though your menu lacks a consistant theme, though. I like the idea of veggie lasagna, so why not stick to an Italian theme? I agree with pigtails that fewer, really outstanding dishes would be better than lots of (sort of) random choices. I also think that an all Italiam menu would be less noticably "vegetarian", and would appeal to the meat eaters. You dont want your guests to feel "deprived"!

            1. I hosted a party for 25 on my own recently and it was fine..I do agree that a teenager to pass food around is a good idea.....and maybe you can enjoy your party more!.. the one thing I think you need are more desserts... they all went at my party fast... I did lemon Pound Cake in a bundt pan with raspberries...looks beautiful and can be made ahead...2 batches of brownies...strawberry trifle and cookies and popsicles for the kids...I thought it might be too much, but as I said...they went... also... you didn't mention wine?... a dozen bottles or so...mix of red & white..I'm not a vegetarian but it I would be fine with your menu...

              1. I think with advanced planning you'll be fine without a server. It seems casual and a server running around would seem in some ways odd w/ 25-30 people. I've thrown plenty of parties for 20-30 on my own. I have to agree with those who think sides don't go. Seems more like a veggie potluck instead of a planned meal. Okay, the samosas are a favorite, so keep them, but I would find a couple of dishes that go with veggie lasagna that don't involve cheese OR carbs necessarily. If you want variety, I would do two different mixed salads - maybe one predominantly greens and the other without any kind of lettuce - one with peppers, tomatoes, olives, cukes. Maybe a little crusty garlic bread and you're good to go. Okay, I know, more carbs, but couscous and potato salad just don't seem to go with lasagna at all.

                1. I'm not a vegetarian, and I don't eat a lot of simple carbs or cheese but I think your menu sounds great for the kind of gathering & holding times you are planning. I only somewhat worry that with 30 people I hope you're not planning to have everyone hit the buffet line all at once right? ie maybe don't think of it as a buffet, but think of it as having food out for people to pick & choose & eat throughout the evening. That means a little more work for you to heat the hot dishes in batches (so they stay hot), but only the lasagna, samosas, and the hot hors d'oeuvres would be heated & served in batches.

                  I like that there's variety (ie 3 diff salads instead of 1 really great one). Pretty garnishes can dress up the plainer dishes like lasagna & green salad if you need the dishes to look "special". Even if it's just chopped parsely on the lasagna & edible flowers on the salad.

                  I disagree that you should hire a helper since you said this is a casual thing and the families coming would never hire a helper at this kind of party, and b/c you said you, your hubby & a friend will be serving. At these casual affairs someone in the families is also bound to say "can I help with anything?" as they see you rush around and they can do easy tasks like refill dip bowl or the crackers, or refill the serving dishes that you thought would be big enough for the amount you made but isn't.

                  I'm a bit worried about the prep though, even if you have 2 days. It always takes longer than you think plus making a dish for 30 (or rather 40 if you're planning to overfeed ;-)) is just more time than what you're used to. I would calculate how much time it takes me to make each of those dishes and add atleast 50-75% time to factor the larger serving size, then count how long it takes you to plate each of the purchased dishes. Then see if it's less than the # hours you have over those 2 days. Maybe hubby can help you skewer the bocconcini skewers & fruit skewers, and maybe you can ask your friend to come early to help?

                  1. I agree with the poster who suggested unifying the theme of this menu, and would opt for an orzo and grilled vegetable salad over the potato salad and gazpacho soup over the pea shooters. I also think you could add a main dish for people who don't like lasagna -- maybe an eggplant parm or something. Or forgo the orzo salad and make a pasta primavera to go with the lasagna. Just a thought. But it sounds like you're ready and will have a great time!

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: jenhen2

                      I really feel that unifying the the menu and selecting a theme is important. I would recommend an Italian/Mediterranean theme. It is a safe bet for vegetarians and would slightly more in line with the samosas. For time and hassle, I would skip the skewers and just do a caprese salad, and a fruit salad. If you have a unified and themed menu, that will make a greater impact and feel more special than a lot of random things thrown together. I would also replace the Veggie lasagna with Eggplant Parm (or serve both) and offer that along with Falafel which you can order in advance. I would skip the separate veggies and dip platter, and just use the hummus as dip and have one platter with fresh veggies and pita. I would also pick up some Baklava as an additional dessert. I think you can also skip the purchased hors d'oeuvres honestly.

                      This is what I would do if I were you:

                      Assorted cheese & crackers & greek olives
                      Hummus & Pita & Vegetables
                      Grilled/Roasted Vegetable Platter (Eggplant, Portabello Mushrooms, Zucchini, Squash, Onions, etc.)
                      Gazpacho shooters
                      Samosas, serve with cucumber yoghurt sauce and chutney

                      Caprese Salad over Arugula (arugula, mozzerella, tomatoes, basil, red onions)
                      Greek Salad (romaine, kalamata olives, feta cheese, red onions, peppers, cucumbers)
                      (*Lightly toss both salads in balsamic & olive oil, as well as offer on the side)

                      -Serve Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar on the side for both salads
                      -Have Pepper Grinder and Sea Salt on the side

                      Eggplant Parm, serve with Crusty Garlic Bread
                      -Have small bowl of grated Parmesan Cheese on the side
                      -Have bowl of Marinara sauce on the side
                      Falafel, serve with Pita Bread
                      -Have bowl of cucumber sauce on the side

                      Fruit Salad with whipped cream

                      If you wanted to serve a festive drink, you can have pitchers or punch bowls of
                      Red & White Sangria :-)

                      Enlist friends or family already attending to help you keep things refreshed and clean.
                      You are a great friend to host and offer such a lovely party! Good Luck and Enjoy!

                      1. re: gottasay

                        thank you so much gottasay!! this is both very helpful, and very kind.

                        I will post with the results of the party.

                        1. re: gottasay

                          I fam in complete agreement with gottasay. I also don't think cous cous and potato salad go with the lasagna. The changes suggested by gottasay sound much better; along with the light dressing of the salads, etc. I even think you could skip the gazpacho shooters. And the suggestion that the samosas be served hot sounds good (I like them hot myself),
                          Since you are eating off of paper, do invest is some of the nicer ones (as opposed to the self destroying ones my mom buys!). Target has a nice selection of solid colors, as well as many square and different shaped patterned ones. Napkins to match there, as well. Buy twice as much as you think you'll need. You can always return anything unopened. And don't forget about the silly things, like lots of heavy duty garbage bags and paper towels for clean up. You may want to rent/borrow an extra large coffee maker and have that all set up and ready to plug in.
                          Hope your party goes well.

                          1. re: gottasay

                            Well done gottasay! This is exactly what I had in mind when I suggested sticking to a theme!

                            1. re: hollyeve

                              thanks guys! yeah, i agree that you could skip the shooters entirely. nice touch but time-consuming and unnecessary. can't wait to hear how and what you decide to do in the end!

                              1. re: gottasay

                                As far as your table set-up/platters/utensils/etc (this isn't as menu-centric, but also important for someone not used to hosting dinners)...
                                (this may be obvious to you already and you may have this part already in mind, so disregard if that is the case), BUT in case you are unsure:

                                -I would recommend purchasing a bouquet of sunflowers for your buffet table or a bouquet that compliments/coordinates with the color of your paper plates/napkins/utensils (purple or light blue+white is a lovely compliment for sunflowers).

                                -Oh, and a lovely touch for any Italian/Meditteranean table is to have a cup/vase/pitcher full of tall breadsticks. For appearance as well as taste.

                                -Organize all platters, bowls and serving utensils asap. A great idea that my mother does to stay organized is to set and decorate her table far in advance, and have post-it notes labeling what food item is designated in what platter. That way, even if you have people helping you, it is a no-brainer what goes where.

                                -Make sure you purchase small plates and cocktail napkins to offer with the appetizers and have a teeny basket or cup of forks alongside.

                                -For the entree, I would have the forks and knives rolled together into individual large dinner napkins and tied with a pretty ribbon or sealed with an elegant gold sticker offered in a basket next to the plates.

                                -For dessert, I would offer forks and spoons displayed in a teeny basket or cup next to your dessert plates and napkins.

                                -I would also add unscented votives everywhere for ambience.

                                -Don't forget to have some great background music selected. Jazz standards are great because they are festive, elegant, romantic and nostalgic and will set the mood for the next days events. They are usually universally appealing as well.

                                I think that's all the advice I have for you! Good luck! :-)

                                1. re: gottasay

                                  thanks for detailed message- much appreciated!

                        2. Folks, we've removed some off topic posts about party planning and hospitality. Please help us keep the focus of this board on sharing tips on recipes and menu planning. Thanks.

                          1. alltummy, you have a lot going for you. You've got time to prepare, you seem pretty calm, you seem to know what your guests might enjoy and your priority is to make everybody comfortable. I have no doubt you'll pull it off.
                            Here's what I have to offer
                            I think that you've got a lot of food for this many people (but I always have too much too). To solve the samosas issue of not exactly going with the lasagna - why not have these as the hot hors d'oeuvres? I think you have plenty of other snacks to satisfy those who might not like samosas...
                            While the pea soup shooters sound fun and refreshing, they do require a lot of work (prep, clean up and passed around) - I might take this off as well - but I can understand why you would be excited to serve it.
                            I would suggest switching the cous cous salad or the potato salad with a selection of grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, peppers etc) these could be grilled before hand and served at room temp. They look beautiful on a platter.
                            I think the fruit kebabs are fun, and will be a hit (especially if there will be kids around) but I would add some purchased little desserts as well, just to flush it out.
                            I wouldn't want to hire a server either - not for economy's sake - but I would be terribly uncomfortable with a server at a casual event. In my circle of friends and family, this would seem a bit out of place - and plus, we're the type of people who would happily take a turn passing a tray or two anyway...not that I'm suggesting you employ your guests.

                            1 Reply
                            1. I'm sure that it will be a lovely event. For those that say you have to offer meat, I say, why? Not every meal has to be protein-laced for one thing and, for another, there is more than enough protein in cheese. Further this is one party, not the rest of their lives. With that out of the way, I might suggest that the potato and couscous salads seem unnecessary; I think one green salad would be plenty. You can certainly wash the lettuce and prepare anything else you are putting into the salad a few days ahead (clean the lettuce and wrap in a clean cotton towel, store in the crisper drawer). You don't mention it, but I would plan on putting the hors d'oeuvres in several places to keep people mingling; also perhaps chafing dishes for the warm things. The mozzarella skewers will be great, do them last-minute. I served them not too long ago and one guest called them "Christmas on a stick". Do drizzle w/ balsamic vinegar. Sounds like you've got experience behind you and everything will be under control. Don't forget to enjoy your own party!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: gourmanda

                                christmas on a stick- what a great endorsement!


                                1. re: alltummy

                                  I just wanted to thank everyone for their help with this menu planning- I have to report that I had the party this weekend, and by all accounts it was a great success...last guests left at 1:30 am.

                                  Though many responses were helpful, i "gotta say" that gottasay's menu plan was a lifesaver. I stuck to it pretty closely. And your suggestion to lay out the serving platters in advance was brilliant. I did that too, with little cardboard cards listing what went where (which was also useful for letting people know what was in everything). The day went really smoothly, i even had time for a pedicure. I did most of the prep the night before.

                                  cold appetizers before dinner-
                                  cucumber cups, half with hummus, half with spinach dip
                                  boccocini cheese, grape tomato and basil skewers
                                  cheese plate
                                  vegetable trap with dip

                                  drink- i prepared a cocktail in advance- a sea breeze.v. popular.i also prepared a virgin version(+ beer, wine, juices etc)

                                  yellow tomato and boccocini salad
                                  falafel, pita, hummus tzatziki, pita
                                  grilled vegetable platter (beautiful!) with yellow, red peppers, green and yellow zucchini, mushroom and eggplant
                                  samosas with tamarind and mint sauce
                                  greek salad- lightly dressed with feta, oil, vinegar and olives on the side
                                  rice balls with tomato sauce
                                  lasagna three ways (sweet potato lasagna roll ups with tomato sauce, same with a vegetable sauce and a regular veggie lasagna) parmesan on the side, extra sauce
                                  garlic bread


                                  very popular trifle!
                                  fruit skewers
                                  baklava and indian sweets
                                  birthday cake

                                  The changes to the menu were because i found out rather at the last minute that three people had dairy allergies (hence the sweet potato lasagna roll ups with vegetable sauce instead of the eggplant parmiagana) and two people had tomato allergies(so the above noted lasagna was also tomato free- phew)

                                  everything went very smoothly, I had a great time and by all accounts people were full and happy.
                                  I let go of the gazpacho shooters (but only because my disposable shot glasses were too small) :)
                                  everything else i made, except for the samosas, falafels baklava, indian sweets and birthday cake

                                  thanks so much for all your help!! and a huge thank you to gottasay!

                                  1. re: alltummy

                                    Wow, sounds fantastic!!! Thanks so much for the report. When you have caught your breath, would love it if you posted the sweet potato lasagna roll ups, those sound intriguing.

                                    1. re: alltummy

                                      YAY!!! I am SO happy for you! Everything you did sounds AMAZING! Excellent ideas with the lasagna/roll-ups to counteract the dietary needs. I am really so glad that I could've been of help, you seriously made my day! I initially signed up to this site just to chime in on a particular post, but you specifically make me really glad I joined. Cheers!

                                      1. re: gottasay

                                        your menu was a total life saver. Practical, detailed, interesting- organized- thank you!