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Potluck Wedding Reception?

Help me rise to the challenge. I just received a wedding invite for a family member who lives in a semi-rural place, a handful of hours away. There was a slip of paper in the envelope indicating that the reception will be a potluck, and the guests are asked to bring marked dishes. And no alcohol allowed.

Most of the family guests will be traveling from hours away. There are no places to stay in right in town. Does the couple really expect us to all pack coolers? I'm stumped and a little frustrated. I really would have preferred a cake-and-coffee simple reception to being on the hook for food!

Talk me down? Suggestions?

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  1. I've been to a couple of potluck wedding receptions and they were fantastic ! People weren't told what to bring though for the most part, or mark who made what, and the bulk of the food still came from the bridal party and family, so it wasn't a flood of potato salad and little else.

    No one was driving from hours away though. I still packed my stuff into coolers, and it was no big deal. I wanted to preserve my dish to taste as good as possible. And at the very least, I knew there would be one thing for sure that I could eat while there.

    If you don't want to cook, you can always volunteer for rolls from the bakery or some sort, or a lovely dessert from your area. Is it so strict that it's "no entry allowed unless you have a dish" ?

    If all else fails, it's a wedding INVITE, you don't have to go......

    2 Replies
    1. re: im_nomad

      I'm sure I won't be turned away, but the invite says "please bring." I haven't the foggiest what's available in their local area, and the dessert I could bring still has to ride in the backseat with the dog and suitcases... I know, grump, grump...I do appreciate the dessert idea. Maybe I'll just bring cookies.

      1. re: caffeaulait

        We were invited to one of these once, the potluck was in a park so pretty casual. We were traveling before and after the wedding, so just brought a huge box of donuts from a ubiquitous donut place.

        They were the first thing eaten.

    2. I am assuming that you mention the prohibition on alcohol because you were thinking otherwise you'd bring a bottle of wine or something similar, since it would be easily transportable. So, why not bring a few bottles of some nice, even fancy, juice or sparkling soda? You can even find nice stuff in plastic bottles, and I imagine there will be ice of some type at the reception. You could always call and verify that ice will be available. Or if even freeze some type of juice in a plastic container, wrap it is plastic, and bring it frozen. Will still be cold when you arrive several hours later, and if you are spending the night before at a hotel (you must be spending at least one night nearby since you mention suitcases) the hotel will have ice. Similarly, you could freeze bread and let it thaw on the ride over.

      This is of course assuming that you really don't have a small cooler that will fit in your trunck or somewhere the dog won't get it. Or that, since you are obviously spending the night (since you mention suitcases) that there won't be any grocery stores within a half hour radius where you could pick up something already chilled. (Have you tried googling the area for services?).

      Or you can get ice wherever you are leaving the dog during the ceremony. I presume you aren't taking the dog to the ceremony, because if so, I imagine it will be so informal that no one will object if all you can bring is fruit or cookies.

      OTOH, if the real issue is that you object to the concept of a potluck, and the lack of alcohol will make it unbearable, than you certainly have the option to decline the invitation.

      4 Replies
      1. re: susancinsf

        Fancy soda is a great idea. Trader Joe's isn't local to where we're going, so I could stock up on some fun stuff and wedge it in here and there in the car.

        The lack of alcohol mostly means fewer fun stories from various inebriated relatives...I can cope!

        1. re: caffeaulait

          A walk around your local Trader Joe's will turn that frown upside down! Lots of cute, fun snack stuff, nuts, cookies, unusual chips -- none of these need cooling. Many of their prepared desserts are surprisingly elegant (choc granache tart, berry things) or rich and good (cheesecakes) and are sold frozen designed to thaw in a fridge or cooler and will be perfect in a few hours. Not very expensive, either.

          1. re: nosh

            I've been to a couple of pot luck weddings that were rally fun. I like the idea of wandering the aisles at Trader Joe's for goodies. A few times when we've known we'd show up at family pot lucks (across the country) at the last minute, we've ordered a ham or some other ready to eat stuff and had it shipped in time for the event.

            1. re: nosh

              And..if you choose one of the frozen desserts, by the time you get there, it will be already defrosted :)

        2. I love all these ideas. esp. Trader Joe's goody buy! You will be loved. While there I would pick up a nice bottle of wine and put it in a thermos. You can call it medicine. Weddings without alcohol are family and friend abuse. Plus you will have the pleasure of drinking on the sly... you will need a partner in crime for full enjoyment.

          5 Replies
            1. re: KathyM

              Yep, this is what I did at a no alcohol wedding too. I also make trips to the gazebo to smoke left handed cigs.

              1. re: MattInNJ

                Am I the only one who thinks this is disrespectful and inappropriate? The couple obviously has a reason for not wanting alcohol at the wedding and I don't think it's that difficult to refrain from drinking during the festivities. If a person is not able to get through a wedding without alcohol, maybe s/he should refrain from attending.

                1. re: queencru

                  No, you're not the only one. Maybe it's because I come from a family that just doesn't drink that much (part culture, part religion, part history of substance abuse), but I'm used to alcohol-free events. At least half of the weddings I've been to have been alcohol free (with receptions in the church fellowship hall!), and for most that did have alcohol it was only champagne for the toast(s). I'm no teetotaler, but when I get married the reception will probably be alcohol free (or at the least beer/wine only, and in somewhat limited quantities) because my grandmother's preferences outweigh my friends'.

                  1. re: queencru

                    Nope, you are on target. It is the couple's wedding. If they want no alcohol, that is how it should be. If the guests can't deal with that, they can go have a drink elsewhere after the reception is over. I frequently want a drink after a family function (because I have a dysfunctional family), but it can wait till I leave and find someplace else to enjoy it.

            2. Yes, it sounds like they want you to pack coolers. I would be off-put as well but if you're going to go, you need to figure out something to bring. I'd just bring cheese and crackers and maybe some summer sausage or trail bologna. You could slice everything up and put in ziplocs and it would easily transport in a small cooler in the trunk, then you just have to take it out and assemble it on a plate.

              1. I'd say a cooler would be de rigeur if you want to attend and eat something that won't harm you. Since it seems they've asked you to bring dessert, there are a zillion things that could be "dessert" including: chilled fruit soups, a pan of special brownies, lemon/lime bars, chocolate in many incarnations, a fruit platter with a nice fruity yogurt dip, an English dessert platter with several kinds of apples and cheeses, etc.