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Sep 28, 2008 01:12 PM

Affordable Wedding Caterer

I have an almost impossible catering request for a budget of less than $5,000

May 2009 evening wedding at Orcutt Ranch in West Hills
(outdoor facility with full indoor kitchen)
80 - 90 guests
buffet style
locally sourced ingredients if possible
we'll also need service and rentals

Is this even possible???...I don't want the food to suffer because of my budget.

Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated!

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  1. would be easier if you could go with vegetarian entrees.
    try www.spork

    1. city cuisine. they are awesome and can work with your budget. 800-758-5858. Talk to Chris Baker.

      1. Vegetarian items will help, but when you compare your budget with what is needed (food, staff, rentals) I think it may be a bit tight.

        Tables, chairs, linen, china, flatware and glassware will set you back around $10 - $15 per person, (a round table is appx. $10 each, linen tablecloth appx. $20 each, chairs appx. $3 - $15 each (there are many types of chairs), glassware/flatware appx. $1 per piece) leaving you with around $40 for food, staff and tax. Not to mention your cake...

        Staff are either paid an hourly wage ($15 - $30 per hour, depending on skill level) or a percentage of your food (15-20%). For a buffet of 80-90, I would suggest no fewer than 1 bartender and 5 waiters.

        If food is really an important part of your event, you may want to adjust your guest count down a bit, if that is possible.

        That said, try to find a caterer during your search that will include items like china, flatware and glassware, as well as all items to service your buffet (chafing dishes and serving utensils)

        My overall suggestion for lower budget events is to try a restaurant with catering abilities. They will have more equipment to use than a caterer that doesn't have a restaurant.

        Good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: parmamom

          Thanks for the great info. I know most of this already since I've been sifting through quotes, but it's nice to compare notes.

          I'll contact Chris Baker cincyn. Thanks.

          And unfortunately, we can't go with an entirely vegetarian menu. ...too many meat eaters in my family.

        2. Places I like that (I'm Pretty Sure) also cater:

          Angeli Caffe

          Rahel Vegetarian Ethiopian

          Carnival Middle Eastern in Sherman Oaks

          Boneyard Bistro

          Inn Of the Seventh Ray

          Maybe Alexis Greek Cafe (not sure about that one)

          Cheaper Options:

          Aloha Hawaiian BBQ

          El Torito (yes fauxican, but edible)

          Pomodoro (another chain, but OK)

          The Dressing Room

          Gelson's (good food, though..the Deli can't be beat.

          I figure most of these places will have to get rental on the side. Here's how I saved money whilst having an outdoor wedding/reception that wowed the crowd.

          We had special glasses made, and used them on the tables as wine/beer/water glasses AND as favors. Keep with the buffet style, it end us having waste, yes, but being cheaper.

          For cocktail hour, rather than passed fancy crap, we had some great cheese, giant fresh soft pretzels, and kegs of homebrew. If you have a beer geek friend, use him or her. If not, try and find one! :) Still, beer, pretzels and good cheese is way more affordable than frou frou stacky things. Plus, everyone was thrilled with them.

          paper napkins and nice plastic flatware. You heard me, I used plastic. Higher end plastic, but plastic. It was wrapped with raffia and wheat stalks (harvest theme) in a lovely high end paper napkin. And nice, solid disposable plates. I was a little worried, but the guests didn't notice, and I save a bundle (there is a washing up fee, you know!) It looked good but saved $$, and added a picknicy feel to it all. Also,, no plates for drunk guests to break means no fee for lost/broken items.

          Rent tables and chairs and tablecloths from a company that will do the set up and break down, or ask them to drop it all off and have friends and family do it. Drop off is cheaper, but do you really have people that will do it for you?

          Our cake was lovely, 3 tier, three flavors and made entirely by my mom-in law's book group. IT was fabulous, flavorful and a gift. The catering company had the servers cut and serve it. IT was white, with decorative frosting, and the florist used clean roses and rose petals to add more beauty. I saved over $600. Don't do a dessert and cake, no one ever has room. Just do cake. You can also get a baker to make a nice, small cake for you to cut, and have sheet cakes in the kitchen for the servers to serve. You cut for the cameras, they roll the cake to the kitchen, out comes cake on plates for guest who are none the wiser.

          OR do something different, like a bunch of different wonderful pies, or rally great brownies with special decoration, a do-it-yourself bulk candy buffet or, the now overdone but still yummy cupcake platter. Or how about a milkshake bar? That would be new and fun!

          Micheal's sells good stuff. I got supplies for invites, save the dates, my cake knife and server ( looked nice, was inexpensive, but only I was close enough to tell, and do you really need to keep them as an heirloom? Trust me, you don't) Heck, I got some gold wire, pearl beads, crystals and a basic veil kit and made my own headpiece and veil. People thought it was a custom one that cost $$. it was custom, but I paid all of $30, if that, for supplies-the same ones the fancy veil makers buy! And it was fun to do.

          Pay as many vendors as you can in cash. Why? They don't have to declare it if the bank can't track it. They save on tax, and often pass this along to you.

          If you bother with a seating chart, keep in mind that most people mingle, anyhow. Maybe a few long communal tables? Probably less expensive!

          Don't forget lighting!

          Check with Orcutt for any restrictions on vendors, a lot of people will only let you use ones they have on a list.

          Have fun!

          If you DO need a caterer, Pure Joy based in SB is VERY good, and will work down here, too.

          5 Replies
            1. re: luv2savr

              I highly recommend Cynthia Brooks Distinctive Catering . I called them just to make sure that what you want is doable. are based in Pasadena however it is a full service off site catering service including service personnel, rentals, flowers, whatever you want/need to include. She did our wedding 15 years ago and instead of a sit down meal (which I have rarely had a good one at a catered event), we did hors d'oeuvers which I love. We did both pass and stations, fruit, sushi, crudite, etc. Congratulations & Good Luck!

              1. re: Fru

                Wow, thank you so much for checking with them! I will definitely give them a call.

            2. re: Diana

              I did my outdoor wedding with Angeli Caffe and it was awesome. We had a Meditarian/tuscan meal with all sorts of local produce from the farmer' s markets. We did have meat---my recollection was it was chicken and somethign else. We geared towards finger food so we didn't even need lots of silverware [exception: cake]. At the end, there was an obcene amount of leftovers which we took home and frozen and consumed when we returned from the honeymoon.

              Like Diana, I went with disposable as to napkins and plates but used real glasses--less tipping. I did not rent table linens. Instead, i bought french provencial fabric table clothes and kept them---can't remember where I ordered the stuff from but you can find things on line.

              My wedding advice is that you figure out what is most important and focus on that. For us it was food and photos. So we had spent most money on food, made invitations ourselves [ran them off on a laser printer] and bought my wedding dress for $50 at an outlet while the groom wore a 2d hand tux from goodwill....don't knock it until you've tried it.
              have fun!

              1. re: jenn

                Love it! Great idea! ...and we love Angeli!

            3. You can get a bartender who's starting out and will bartend for your party for cheap or even free to get their names out.

              I don't want to seem like I'm advertising but I do know one:


              1 Reply
              1. re: burumun

                That is the one thing that our location requires. We can only use their bar vendors, but thanks!