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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.

                1. A bit interesting. I have gone to potlucks and they can be fun, however a couple of the ones I went to they actually asked to bring a side dish or salad or desert etc and they provided the main dish. However people did bring chili, meatballs a few pasta dishes but that was great because I knew what was expected.

                  Cooler, yep, I think so. Do you know if they have power there for maybe a crock pot. I love some strudels and crips you can make in a crock pot also some fruit topping which are great over a simple angle food or something similar. I would try to find out a bit more info if possible. Appetizers some can be made ahead and then reheated in a crock pot or served cold, but I think you are stuck with coolers or crock pot or something. But I don't envy you and would definitely invest in that bottle of wine to sneak in on the side.

                  1. I don't know if you like to bake, but fancy wedding sugar cookies with royal icing wouldn't cause a refridgeration problem.

                    1. sorry caffeaulait, Ok you said, "Help me rise to the challenge" so here goes.
                      Yes, the couple is expecting you to bring coolers, coolers or however, but food.
                      "Talk me down?" Sorry I don't understand what that means...

                      I think if you take this and look at this situation differently, say it was an another event, and not for this couple...
                      For instance, I have gone to an event on the beach every year right before Easter every year for the past 15-18 yrs, and to get there it takes us well over an hour and half. The event is hosted/orgiginated by a family I've know forever and the number of people that attend is, well over 50 people or so. Every year, the invite says the same thing, "It;s that time and we're having a party, bring your favorite potluck dish or make it on the beach!" They send the invite, but everyone brings a potluck item and their own drinks. And boy do they ever! Each person tries to out do the next person with their dish. They bring their little bbqs and their hibachis, and you'll see the most glorious food platters, all brought in by car, and all from a distance. Transporting food doesn't have to be limited to a cooler, there are other ways. Take a large flat plastic box ( like the ones that slide under a bed), put ice in it, place your dishes, it will travel just fine. So that eliminates the cooler.

                      This wedding sounds pretty casual, and on top of that, the guests are being asked to work and provide the meal. In mind this must mean that there is not a lot of money. Most people would wait, but this is not the case, but whatever, it should not stop them from their wedding.

                      What would you bring to a fun beach party? Would you bring a box of doughuts? I doubt it. There are so many great salads, and dishes that relying on premade desserts or cookies without a lot of thought.

                      How about fried chicken? Lumpia or Egg rolls? A Chinese Chicken salad, or any salad, mix the dressing when you get there. A Veggie tray that can be prebagged, then set out on a nice tray, served with a nice dip at the event. Or even little party quiche, put into plastic containers, cover and iced. If you want to get really adventurous, there is a butane operated burner that you can put a pot on with your favorite meatballs. Serve them on a seperate plate. The only problem I see with this potluck idea, is the lack of direction, and then also that guests are being put to work. Maybe you have other reasons, because if its someone I dearly love, I'd do all I could to make this a nice event and help with the food.

                      I'd hate to break the no alchohol rule, for whatever reason they must feel strongly enough about it to include it on the invite. I think it would be disrespectful to bring in alchohol.
                      If you disagree, and still and don't want to do this, send the newly weds a nice gift with your regrets. It's okay to say no thank you.

                      10 Replies
                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        the wedding may also be someplace that prohibits alcohol. why ask for trouble?

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          I am not sure where this wedding is going to be but in rural South a lot of weddings are no alcohol...I had alcohol at mine and there were members of my husbands family that did not attend because of that.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            your absolutely right, I should know that beings I plan events. It's prohibited in almost every park I've ever dealt with. Big fine too.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

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

                              Perhaps the bridal couple is trying to avoid a drunken scene?

                            2. re: chef chicklet

                              I do not think money should ever hold up a wedding. No reception is even necessary. I don't want to give that impression one little bit. I think the American wedding tradition tends to the very silly.

                              Please don't get me wrong, I love my family, I want said family to have a fabulous day. But having guests drive hours and stress out about food to bring? We're not being set up to succeed. I don't even know what facilities will be at the reception site. I just don't think a fabulous inexpensive wedding requires the request for food.

                              1. re: caffeaulait

                                i'm sure very few people are "stressing" about what they're going to bring. if you've been to any pot-lucks, i'm sure you've seen evidence of that!

                                once you find out where the reception is, it will be very simple to contact the location, or whomever manages the site, and ask about available facilities.

                                some great suggestions here. exhale! it's a wedding! a happy day!

                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                  In some rural areas where I have served as a pastor and had a chance to see many, many weddings for ALL sorts of couples, potluck receptions were the norm. I would be thrilled to think this is a tradition that is spreading. Genuine country good cooking is so much more delicvious than catered rubber chicken.

                                  It needn''t bring on stress for a guest who doesn't let it get them down. Although there may be others coming from a distance that are equally puzzled, there are probaly lots of local folks who are competing to create great dishes already...you will probably eat very well, if past experience is anything to go by.

                                  While it might have been more thoughtful if they had given you a more specific idea (like lemons for the iced tea), the hosts may just have wanted you to feel as involved as their local friends and didn't want you to arrive empty-handed when others had coolers and containers of baked goods.

                                  I don't suppose that the hosts are following this style of reception for any other reason than they are responsible wedding consumers as opposed to those really scarey bridezillas and greed-grooms you see on TV.

                                  And, whatever the reason that they have asked for a non-alcoholic reception, respect it. It is just plain rude to bring your own under those circumstances.(although I don't think you actually suggested you were going to!)

                                  I hope you have a good time and post back on what happens. I am proudly presiding at the big city, creative and I expect fun wedding of our daugher in July. Their reception is "part-potluck" . Many of the guest-list are either chefs or purveyors of food because of their mutual involvement in the Slow Food Movement : their gift to the couple is the food, but very so-ordinated in this case...I have already been given my marching orders, gluten-free carrot cake with ginger and marscapone frosting . For all these reasons, I will be madly curious to hear about your 'do'.

                                  1. re: LJS

                                    I loved reading your positive upbeat viewpoint on this issue. And I think it's great that so many people here are encouraging the OP to embrace the concept of the pot-luck wedding and have some fun with it. I think that people returning to these kinds of approaches to celebrating important events, (not to mention generally embracing a back to basics appreciation for simple pleasures) instead of feeling the need to spend megabucks is the silver lining to our current economic woes.

                                    1. re: flourgirl

                                      Why thank you very much, Flourgirl (I like your name!) ...I am really looking forward to our daughter's wedding and will post about it if it is as eventful and fun as I suspect it will be!

                                2. re: caffeaulait

                                  sounds like you want to just say no. this is obviously not your kind of event, and the couple is not important enough for you to make an exception. there is no sense being there if you are going to be unhappy the whole time. why ruin their wedding?

                                  send your regrets and get over it.

                              2. Caffeaulait I believe we're attending the same wedding - I'm dating the Bride's brother. I'm in the exact same mindset as you! I would have been pleased as punch with just coffee, punch & cake. I'm *assuming* that they're providing the beverages though considering mother of the bride's store... plus it would be the right thing to do if you're asking guests to bring the food.

                                I think baked goods of some sort will be just fine or a veggie platter from the Costco you could pick up on the way. I think snack type foods will be completely appropriate. No need to go all out with an awesome entree.

                                Let's vent at the reception ;)

                                3 Replies
                                  1. re: caffeaulait

                                    My food ego is ridiculous too, but I may very well throw in the towel for this one and buy something pre-made. Ugh... if I don't put my name on it no one will know right? I'm leaning towards an artisan cheese platter and rigging some sort of cooler set up that won't result in soggy Beecher's Flagship Reserve Cheddar *sigh*.

                                  2. re: wazzu08

                                    Hellooooo, are we all invited to the same wedding?! This is too funny. My food ego is ridiculous as well, and I totally understand the feeling of being set up to do a half-a**ed job.

                                    In any case, the wedding I'm talking about is planned for a Sunday, and the nature of my job at that time of year is such that I don't think I can make it. I really can't miss any of the following week, nor can I manage well if I get home at 3 am on Monday morning.

                                  3. I totally understand the OP's grump! I really loathe when we are asked to bring something to a family event that is 4-5 hours away. I mean, we've got to jump through hoops just to travel, with boarding 3 dogs ($$$$$), packing, schlepping, gas etc, and then are expectedto pony up something.
                                    We do it, but it irks me.
                                    That said, I'd recommend pasta salad. It's so easy, and what I'd do is prep the pasta and veggies or whatever is going into it, and buy a bottle of Italian dressing to dress the pasta just when you arrive. It allows the pasta salad to be served nice and fresh, no spoilage, no worries. Enjoy the wedding!

                                    1. Oy Vey! As the mother of 2 potential brides (someday in the future), I think I found the answer to my prayers. Now why didn't I think of this - a potluck wedding! And no alcohol, that's where a lot of cost can be involved and people criticize if you just do beer & wine and no mixed drinks. Every now and then I check on the per person cost at the fancy banquet hall where we had their Bat Mitzvahs and I get woozy thinking about appetizers, salad, mains, and a Viennese dessert buffet (is that still done today?). I'll bet this bride doesn't have a Vera Wang dress and have to pay for 10 bridesmaids' dresses either.

                                      Caffe, I am NOT making fun. I want details so I can share with my girls that less is more. In 2009 with everyone's reversal of fortune (can you say 200.5 instead of 401K), I think a potluck wedding is a great idea. Now if I can only get the 5'9" younger DD to get married first, we could alter her dress to fit the 5'3" sister!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                        Don't get me wrong, I'm not a snob with disposable income to burn. I just feel like I'm being put in the position of doing a half-a**ed job. I put such care into my contributions. I never ever bring bought food to a potluck. But this time I'm just not able to do my normal thing, and I don't have the advantages of the local guests. It makes me feel uncomfortable. I admit it. That's why I'm leaning to cookies. I can make beautiful cookies and not have to worry about having enough ice.

                                        What will be funny are the 10,000 references that will be made to the last dry wedding in the family!

                                      2. You can get a styrofoam cooler at Walmart (or similar) for a few bucks, and not even bother to bring it home from your trip. As a matter of fact, this sounds pretty informal, so you could probably find a good deli or sub shop and have them make a 3 or 6 foot sub, cut it up, and pack it in the cooler for you with condiments and such. Then you just pick it up on your way out of town.

                                        18 Replies
                                        1. re: Vladimir Estragon

                                          They want $6.88 for one of those Wal Mart coolers.

                                          1. re: Vladimir Estragon

                                            One of my friends bought one for a recent road trip and it lasted all of 5 minutes. I am not even making this up. It was ripped in two 5 minutes into the trip! It's worth spending extra for a real cooler you can reuse.

                                            1. re: Vladimir Estragon

                                              If you have a platter, which isn't going to fit in a cooler, you can line a low cut cardboard box with plastic or a garbage bag. Or gallon sized baggies, for a veggie and cheese tray, put it together at at park. Or use a plastic container, that you already have.

                                              1. re: Vladimir Estragon


                                                I once drove 13 hours to a wedding (date of a groomsman) and when I got to the reception I saw the footlong on the folding table. I almost threw it in the keg barrel and walked out of that hoedown.

                                                Just say no to the reception footlongs, please.

                                                1. re: chef4hire

                                                  You were a guest, be polite. Sorry .. suck it up and get over it and just try to have fun. Don't eat if you want but don't insult your guest. Some day you may invite them and they can't stand your food. No one is perfect. But just learn to deal with. It is their wedding not yours. Why be so critical and condescending. Come on...I have catered parties where people wanted nothing more than foot longs. Why not, it is the day they will remember. Do you really want to be that shelfish or picky.

                                                  Sorry, I just think that is very self indulged that you can't enjoy someone elses day just because of food. I don't care if they serve chicken mc nuggets, I would still be there are have fun for them.

                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                    Of course I was polite about it....my ma raised me right....but I stand by my "critical, condescending, selfish and picky" feelings

                                                    that fn footlong seriously pissed me off - it didn't stop me from enjoying their day- it just pissed me off

                                                    I would never do that to a guest. There is a time and place for footlong subs and a wedding reception is just not the event. In addition, I feel it's self indulgent to host an event you cannot afford. Use your money wisely, elope and call it a day.

                                                    PS: they got divorced about a year later- so much for subs at weddings

                                                    1. re: chef4hire

                                                      I have to admit I have catered a few weddings (3) actually where I made subs. It was a afternoon wedding and they insisted on it. Now I did make Chicken Caesar and a prime rib sub with arugula and roasted tomatoes, not an average sub however still subs. I would never do a sub for an occasion like that but times are much different and with the bad economy more and more people are doing that. I also think where you live does influence the type of ceremony to a degree. I have a friend who lives in Montana (in the middle of no where) and she recently got married. Well the church holds 50 people tops, her wedding had almost 200. Lets just say it wasn't a NY wedding, so their location definitely influenced the type of wedding. It wasn't a pot luck and no subs, but very very casual, in fact a down home BBQ and the grooms men were the cooks

                                                      1. re: chef4hire

                                                        I am not sure why it made you angry. Keep in mind that due to cultural considerations, not everyone is able to elope. Some families are fairly insistent on inviting certain relatives despite only having a small budget, and in many cases, avoiding ire from the immediate family is more important to the bride and groom than pleasing +1's they do not know and may never see again.

                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                          I appreciate your bringing up the issue that due to cultural considerations, not everyone can elope. However, I would point out that most cultures that limit eloping also limit potlucks. The point is to provide.

                                                          That said, I'm not taking a stand against potlucks but against this argument that shames without thinking about all else involved. I do think there are ways to limit costs without moving them onto the guests.

                                                          But again, not anti- those who choose a potluck, as I would participate happily (although would prefer to be told what to bring). Rather, I don't like the 'cultural' argument since my family, yes, they would not like the elopement but would also hate if I offered a pot luck instead: we provide for our guests when we insist on the party.

                                                          I do hope that's clear: Open to potlucks and to those that hold them. but the cultural argument falls inasmuch as those whose cultures do not look kindly upon elopement ae as likely to not look kindly on asking guests to bring things. It is about the party and the provision in these cases.

                                                          1. re: Lizard

                                                            I am sorry if I was unclear. I was referring more to chef4hire's complaints about serving footlongs at a wedding reception, not the concept of a potluck reception. I agree that more demanding families would expect a meal to be provided, but depending on the location, reception facility, and mood of the wedding, a footlong may make the most sense.

                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                              Thanks, Queencru. That does make sense, and I'll assume that the blame for misunderstanding lies with me as I read new posts and lose sight of the micro-threads. I am agreed on the footlong issue.

                                                          2. re: queencru

                                                            I guess we're going to have to agree to disagree.

                                                            I can't take the PC route just because it seems like the right thing to do. The sub was wrong in my book...totally wrong.

                                                            1. re: chef4hire

                                                              But it's not your book; it's their book. You're not in charge. How does anyone decide what's "right" for someone else. If it SO grosses you out, send your regrets.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Silly rabbit, how could I send my regrets if I didn't know what was going on until I got there?

                                                                If you invite me to your wedding and serve me a 2 inch piece of a 12 inch sandwich I won't take my gift back or anything. I'll just be pissed about it and offer my opinion the next time the topic comes up on chowhound.

                                                                This is officially my last response regarding subs at weddings. If ya'll wanna serve them, please enjoy.

                                                                1. re: chef4hire

                                                                  Well, chef4hire, I owe you an apology! I didn't realize you only got one piece of the sub. That IS rather chintzy, isn't it?

                                                          3. re: chef4hire

                                                            Was the rest of the wedding casual? A black-tie affair with a foot-long reception would be inappropriate, but for a casual event it sounds like appropriate food to me. I know a lot of people who have had pig pickin's for receptions, casual and fun. I also wonder if the 13 hour drive means the wedding was planned according to regional/cultural standards that you just weren't used to?

                                                            The first wedding I ever attended (I was 8 and in the wedding) had home-made (by the mother of the bride) pimento cheese sandwiches, punch with ginger ale and lime sherbet, and cake. That was all the families could afford and it was all the guests expected - we were there for the couple, not the food. The last wedding I attended (last summer) had catered entrees, but the mother of the bride cooked/prepped all the appetizers - she wasn't the least bit embarrassed to recruit guests to help set up and we were thrilled to help.

                                                        2. re: chef4hire

                                                          It seems like there is going to be something to complain about at any wedding. The reality is that the wedding is not about the guests, it's about the couple. Not every couple has the money or inclination to spend a good deal of money to provide a lavish wedding meal. They may feel like putting a down payment on a house or spending money on something that will last more than a few hours is a better use of their money. I've been to weddings where the food was far from fantastic, but I was typically well aware of what the couple could afford and respected that they were able to keep it within their budget.

                                                          1. re: chef4hire

                                                            At least they had provided food for you to eat. It may not have been the best after a 13 hour drive, but not everyone can afford an extravagant meal. That said, I can understand how this might turn you off from a reception.
                                                            For example, I am getting married in May and chose to have my wedding and reception at a time where it wouldn't be dinner or lunch because I can't afford to provide everyone with a great meal. However, we will provide desserts and probably fruits and veggies to munch on.

                                                        3. If it's semi-rural, can you pick something up nearby to take to the wedding instead of trying to bring something from your hometown? I'm not sure if by "semi-rural" you mean 15 minutes from a decent grocery store or 2 hours. It seems like it's fairly casual and you could probably pick up a party platter from a nearby store instead of having to try to tote something 5 hours in a cooler.

                                                          8 Replies
                                                          1. re: queencru

                                                            I know, I know, but it's so not chowish! I'd die of embarrassment to bring a Safeway deli platter, I admit it. Rotten ego.

                                                            1. re: caffeaulait

                                                              of course you're going to do something nice, sorry you have to schlep stuff so far, it is a challenge. what about mini quiche? Or different breads, actually, like cranberry and carrot bread, and spinach/cheese/procuitto And then perhaps some of your own butters, cinammon butter, or herb, berry butters, and cream cheese with pinapples and peppers, or berries. You can do these really nice. Freeze in cute logs prior, slice little circles...

                                                              1. re: caffeaulait

                                                                I was reading this with some enjoyment and appreciation until I got to this. This is not about you and your dying of embarassment. Loved ones are marrying. That ego is indeed rotten. Put it aside for one day please.

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  Totally agree co ... It is their day not caffeaulait's. Just bring whatever, enjoy the day and pay respects and your good wishes to the happy couple. I would bring day old brownies if I had to, it doesn't matter. I still would bring something nice, but don't worry too much, it is their day not yours. Enjoy it for them

                                                                  1. re: kchurchill5

                                                                    I think you're both taking caffeaulait's comments in the wrong spirit (but of course, she can speak for herself). I read it just as caffeaulait really wants to bring something wonderful but understandably feels limited due to circumstances. If you ask me, it's not very nice of you both to imply that she's either "rotten", or thinks it's her day. She's just coming here to CH to vent and find suggestions, obviously showing she cares enough to find something that'll fit. No need to be so harsh, sheesh.

                                                                    1. re: mjhals

                                                                      If you'll reread you'll see she referred to her "ego" as "rotten." I just agreed that it was rotten - the ego, not the person. And I think anyone who confesses she would "die of embarasment" by bringing a Safeway deli platter definitely has a rotten ego. And that sentiment, though I didn't say that, definitely doesn't ring of bowing to the desires of the couple and their families. And I promise you that I could buy one of those platters, put it on a really beautiful platter (I loved the idea of buying something special), arrange it in an interesting day. And I wouldn't be embarassed one bit. While I have an ego it doesn't feel "rotten." Just my opinion :)

                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                        There's no need for me to reread her post or yours, I read them both, thanks. Personally, I think you're making a distinction without a difference. I don't understand why you refuse to cut someone a break and maybe read in a lighter intent to her obviously sheepish confession about her "rotten ego". I just think it'd be nicer, frankly.

                                                                2. re: caffeaulait

                                                                  I don't want to pile on you about the Safeway platter, but Safeway platters were the only option for me when I catered a reception for my son's senior (college) music recital.

                                                                  I do sales in the catering business, and know quite a bit about cooking/prep/ etc etc. I had to work a full week with an event up to the day before the recital, which was at his school 80 miles from my house. I couldn't get into the reception room til 5:30 pm, the recital was at 7:30, so we wouldn't eat til at least 8:30. I decided to keep it simple--sandwiches, dessert (assorted cookies and chocolate mousse tortes) and some simple snack items (cheese/crackers, chips & dip). I presliced cheese and put them in baggies, and plattered them when I got there. Plattered all the desserts (premade and bought) in the room. I had only one friend to help me but I had planned it so well, it was easy. I gave a lot of thought to the decor, and the buffets looked beautiful. Quite a few of his friends came up to me and said it was the nicest reception they had been to.

                                                                  Keep this in mind--it's not just what you bring, but how you present it. People eat with their eyes first.

                                                                  One option you might consider is a roasted veggie platter. You can prep everything at home, then put them into individual baggies. Put them in the cooler, and platter them when you get there. Bring a bowl for a dip (having put the dip into Tupperware) and you're done.

                                                              2. There's nothing wrong with a box of assorted homemade cookies... and they don't need refrigeration or last-minute preperation, just a flat place to sit in the car so they don't get broken. Slices are also good, or poundcake and fresh fruit (take a knife and cutting board and prep it at the last minute so it doesn't wilt, or else buy it as close to the venue as you can.)
                                                                If you want your food to stay cool, one of those big insulated foil bags from the supermarket will keep stuff cold for three hours transport, longer if you put icepacks in it, and when you're done it folds flat so you don't have to mess with a cooler. If you don't think that's long enough, a soft-sided cooler folds up when you're done with it and lasts all day or longer. If you want to keep stuff cold and you don't want to mess around with icepacks, freeze some plastic bottles of water or juice and then you can drink them when they thaw out instead of carrying them home.

                                                                1. I carried a lot of food to my son and daughter-in-law's wedding that was four hours away from me. Among other things, I made homemade bread and froze it beforehand, sliced part of it on site and left some whole. Made a great display, and people loved it. Made hummus, froze it, too, let it thaw en route and put it on platters with a drizzle of olive oil and some paprika. The young ones loved it, the older folks were puzzled by it. They had a small wedding cake, but what they both wanted was my son's favorite cake, a chocolate-chocolate chip poundcake that also freezes well, and I froze that and did the same thawing en-route. Went over like a house afire. Lots of cakes freeze really well, as do bar cookies, and indeed most cookies. You've got lots of options.

                                                                  My best friend did the potluck routine for her wedding reception in the country. I brought a whole country ham for that one and more homemade bread. It was fun. You can do this, kiddo.

                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                  1. re: lemons

                                                                    See, you're my kind of person or guest. I don't know, I just want to do what I can. A wedding in a park, with very little direction, I just would want to help.
                                                                    My hat's off to you, your food sounds so wonderful too, I love it when people try to make something nice, I totally admire you lemons. oh my goodness, I'd get on the phone, and start calling everyone, then plan it all out, and turn out a spectacular feast. What a nice gesture. Great idea bringing a ham. Food is not going to spoil or go bad quickly, people need to stop using that excuse.

                                                                    1. re: lemons

                                                                      I'm with you, chef chicklet: I Like lemons!

                                                                      Atta girl!

                                                                    2. IDifferent flavors of ice cream and some toppings would be nice, esp if other guests are bringing baked desserts. You could bring all the toppings and utensils etc with you so people wouldn't think you forgot to bring something and then just nip out after the ceremony is over. Or ask if there is a freezer at the reception site.

                                                                      Otherwise, pasta salad, fried chicken or any type of baked goods. You could also do an appetizer plate with a variety of dips/spreads complemented by nice crackers/breads and cut up veggies.

                                                                      1. I can see where this would be frustrating, especially for the family members who are traveling great distances to be there. Though, perhaps the bride and groom don't fully expect out of town friends and family to all come with food in hand. With church potlucks, if someone forgets and comes empty handed, they are still always welcome to stay and eat! I bet they'd be happy just to have you there. Pick up some soda, and stay and enjoy the rest of the delicious food hopefully other people will bring. They may have just thought it'd be a fun idea!

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Erinmck

                                                                          I'm wondering if the bride and groom have asked in-town guests whether they could bring the more substantial dishes and are expecting the out-of-town guests to bring drinks, desserts, and other things that do not need heating/cooling.

                                                                        2. I have been to two pot luck weddings and looked at it as an opportunity to give the food, the container and a recipe card as my gift. I have friends who are potters so I bought lovely covered casserole dishes as the main gift. Then I made glazed ribs that are great served room temperature. For the one that we had to travel too, I froze the dish and let it thaw on the trip down. I made my own wedding cards with the recipe card and the card from the pottery studio taped inside.

                                                                          All in all, I was pretty proud of the effort.

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: pengcast

                                                                            my brother had a potluck wedding a few years ago and I had the same reaction you did. But I have to admit, it was one of the best weddings I have ever been too. There was a little stress over what to make but somehow it all works out and everyone has a great time.

                                                                            Try to get over the stress of bringing the food and be happy for the couple getting married.

                                                                            1. re: pengcast

                                                                              I think that is a lovely gesture to give a gift of the casserole dish and recipe. If cafeaulait wants to bring cookies, I'm sure the bride and groom would appreciate a pretty platter and a copy of the recipe.

                                                                            2. this thread had me thinking of a cooking show I thought i'd seen once where salmon or something was wrapped in foil and cooked under the hood somewhere of a running car

                                                                              8 Replies
                                                                              1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                I think that was an episode of Surreal Gourmet with Bob Blumer?

                                                                                I like the nice cookie idea. People loooove good cookies! And they are so easy to pack. Personalizing them somehow sounds really great.

                                                                                1. re: moh

                                                                                  yes moh it was Surreal Gourmet :)

                                                                                  1. re: im_nomad

                                                                                    There's a great book all about this, "Manifold Destiny: The One! The Only! Guide to Cooking on Your Car Engine!"


                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                      This is a brilliant book, and when I did many long distance trips with Boy and Girl Scouts, I cooked a lot on the engine -- weird, but worked great.

                                                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                        Ooh, I'm glad to hear from someone who has actually used it!

                                                                                      2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                        I'm quite intrigued by this. The fish that Blumer made looked really wonderful. You're running the car anyways, might as well use the energy to cook your dinner! It would make sense if you had to commute a long distance, you get home and suddenly poof! Dinner!

                                                                                  2. re: im_nomad

                                                                                    Perhaps an episode of East Meets West with Ming Tsai when he had Click & Clack (Bob& Ray from NPR) cook something on the inside manifold of their car?

                                                                                    1. re: Diane in Bexley

                                                                                      Better yet the OP could call Click and Clack. I am sure they might have a story or two!

                                                                                  3. Caffeaulait...I understand your situation perfectly. Having said that, I have attended the occasional potluck wedding and they were a lot of fun. When required to travel any distance, I have usually gone with some local specialty unavailable where I was going. Here in St. Louis I think it was Gus's pretzels and gooey butter cake.
                                                                                    I did once get my panties in something of a bunch over a last-minute invitation to a potluck-style reunion, and took six boxes of snack cakes (ho-hos, ding-dongs, twinkies, etc.) My statement was lost, however, when everyone descended on my boxes of junk food like locusts and ate them all within a few minutes.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: tonifi

                                                                                      It just goes to show... people will happily eat all sorts of junk if they don't have to actually buy it themselves! lol

                                                                                      1. re: tonifi

                                                                                        LOL! I haven't had a ho-ho in decades. That sounds great! ;)

                                                                                        1. re: tonifi

                                                                                          I had a similar experience where my e-vite somehow got spammed. The host called at the last minute and apologized, told me to just show up empty handed. Couldn't stand the thought of that, but the only place reasonable to stop on the way was a 7/11. Bought 6 large bags of assorted chips. By the end of the evening all six bags were empty, and not one person complained. Gotta do what works.

                                                                                        2. I lived in a very rural part of the deep south for a while, and Potluck Weddings were regular events, and so much fun too. Even here in my "semi-rural" north-eastern community, I've been to one. As some of the other posters have mentioned, I wouldn't stress too much about this. The typical attitude at these sort of events (at least all of the ones I've attended) is "we're so glad you could make it and we will enjoy anything you bring". Plus, there is bound to be some really excellent food and some really...interesting food. I think the recommendation of bringing some sparkling waters or fancy drinks is a great one, especially if it can't be obtained in the local area. Another great idea is to make some fabulous homemade hummous, freeze it, and let it thaw on your drive. Serve with cut veggies and/or homemade pita chips. Neither require a cooler and will probably fit the atmosphere of the wedding.

                                                                                          If you still feel uncomfortable and/stressed about it, you should call someone involved in the wedding planning. Most likely they didn't realize this would be a burden on you (it seems that among people for whom wedding potlucks is a normal event, there's little concern or confusion on what to bring...actually I think people have set dishes they ALWAYS bring to these events, and the hosts seem to know that). They would probably more than happy to give you an idea of what facilities would be available, and whether or not what you're intending to bring would be appropriate!


                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: RosemaryHoney

                                                                                            I find this idea utterly refreshing, as I am sick of attending wedding receptions that are way beyond the means of the hosts. Weddings should be for families and close friends, not an opportunity for the bride/groom to shine a hideous light of overspending upon themselves. When my husband and I got married, our best friends threw a reception/garden party at their farm the next day. The food was home-cooked, the attendees truly close to us, and this remains the best party of any kind I've ever attended. (Some drank, some didn't.)

                                                                                            1. re: pikawicca

                                                                                              Amen, pikawicca. Especially in this economy, it's refreshing to see folks returning to a good old-fashioned celebration instead of a gaudy cash-flashing event. We had a small wedding and I've never regretted it.
                                                                                              To caffeaulait, I think the key is communication. Call the mother of the bride (or groom) and ask if they have any requests, given your situation of no refrigeration and a long drive. You may be surprised with a "just bring yourselves" or a non-food request. My husband has a serious food ego/snobbery problem so I understand! We attended a wedding a couple years ago with boxed wine, cheap beer and foil-pan buffet foods - and he still managed to have a good time.

                                                                                          2. That's a great way to save money! I've always been confused about that myself. =/ Like...does the couple pay for your room and board or not?

                                                                                            1. As a chef who makes a living out of catering, I have to admit that I hate the idea of potluck weddings.

                                                                                              With that caveat out of the way, I can tell you that some of the best receptions I've ever been to as a guest have been pot luck, at least in some part. (Please don't let that get out, Chow-friends -- the economy is being particularly hard on those of us in the upscale catering sector of the food biz.!)

                                                                                              You can't go wrong with a pasta salad. It's fairly inexpensive, easy to make in large quantities, doesn't have to be heated up when you get there, and you can get crazy creative with it. Think nationalities, if that helps. Greek (farfalle pasta, kalamata olives, diced cucumbers, yellow peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese and a lemon-rosemary dressing), Thai (skinny egg noodles with flash-sauteed shoe-string-cut carrots, zucchini and red peppers with sliced green onions, crushed peanuts and a bottled peanut sauce cut with orange juice and a squeeze of lime juice), Mexican (elbow mac, grated cheddar, pico de gallo, cumin, lime juice and sour cream) or New-Age Southron (orrechiete pasta, sweet corn, chunks of fried green tomatoes, country ham and pimiento cheese with a sprinkling of fresh chives and -- if you want to really splurge -- jumbo lump crab meat).

                                                                                              When you get to the reception, put the pasta salad in a pretty bowl with a sticker on the bottom that says something like "To the Happy Couple, From Caffeaulait. May we all share a meal from this bowl again that was prepared by one of your grandchildren."

                                                                                              One really important note about transporting food in coolers:

                                                                                              No matter what the quality of cooler you decide to invest in, the most important aspect of transporting chilled food safely is THE WAY YOU PACK THE COOLER.

                                                                                              The cardinal rule of cooler packing is this: Cold air is heavier than hot air. In other words, the ice on the bottom of the cooler is only going to keep the bottom of the cooler cold (which does little good for the food sitting above it). Put your ice packs, frozen water bottles, bags of cubes, etc., ABOVE whatever you're trying to keep cold. As the temperature in the cooler rises, it rises from the top down. If your cooling source at the top of cooler is still semi-frozen, your food will be fine.

                                                                                              Some additional rules (not guidelines, actual RULES):

                                                                                              Don't try to cool food down in transport. Make sure the food is below 45 degrees before it goes in the cooler.

                                                                                              Pack all food in watertight containers. That way it won't be contaminated by any ice-melt. (or cross-contamination by other foods in the cooler).

                                                                                              Don't open the cooler until the last possible moment. If you're travelling and want to bring drinks, snacks, whatever -- put them in a separate, smaller cooler.

                                                                                              Don't bother with a cheap styrofoam cooler if you're travelling with dogs. You're going to have to invest in (or borrow) a good Igloo cooler that they can't scratch through (heck, I could get through a styrofoam cooler without every chipping my manicure if I had one). Marine-rated Igloos are best, and worth the money.

                                                                                              1. caffeaulait, if you love that relative enough to go to the wedding, you love that person enough to just prepare something good that can travel for a few hours in a cooler - and I think a cheap styrofoam will last long enough, even with your dogs. You mentioned that you make good cookies - that would be one solution. But what else do you make for a picnic? Traveling a few hours is like going to a picnic with prepared food up in the hills or at the beach (as was discussed upthread). Personally, I'd have fun with the challenge, making something good that travels, working out how to do a great presentation, and being able to show my feelings for a loved one. And if I didn't feel that way about the relative and the couple, I might choose to not go, but send a nice gift instead.

                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                1. You've gotten a lot of great suggestions caffe- I know you'll figure something out and make the best of it.
                                                                                                  I just wanted to throw this in: the last wedding my husband and I traveled to was at a "fancy" place-all very black tie and snooty. The food was horrible! I would have loved to had a few slices of deli meat on a roll with pasta salad and a ding-dong for dessert. Seriously-horrible food. Of course we had fun anyway but Aunt So-and-So's sweet-n-sour meatballs would have been welcomed by this girl!

                                                                                                  1. I like potluck weddings. It's not the norm for us city/suburb dwellers and I'd never even heard of them until far into my adulthood when I was embraced by a large, wonderful family that lives in rural areas. This is how they do it and it really turns out to be fun and delicious. Best part is everyone feels that they have had a part in providing the couple with a special beginning to a happy life together.
                                                                                                    I know that sounds corny but really, I think that is a large part of it. It is a community coming together to celebrate and provide for the newly married couple. Next wedding, this pair is doing the same for a new couple. I think it is sweet, intimate, and inclusive. It is just how it's done in the country where our people are.
                                                                                                    Sort of an extension of other facets of country life. When someone needs help getting field planting done, folks pitch in. People in rural areas rely on each other and are connected by that.

                                                                                                    Your beautiful cookies sound like a terrific contribution! Use her wedding colors either on the cookies themselves or the serving platter. What's not special and thoughtful about that? They'll love it. If these folks are anything like mine, you'll have one of the tastiest wedding meals ever.

                                                                                                    1. This is truly and interesting and entertaining thread.

                                                                                                      I was appalled the one time I was invited to a potluck wedding reception simply because I had never heard of any such thing. The majority of the other guests indicated they were equally as shocked, but we live in a very large metropolitan area and it is just not the norm. On the other hand, once past the shock the food was much better than what most caterers provide.

                                                                                                      I think the bigger picture here is that everyone today is taught that the wedding has to be a total event with the whole ball of wax, i.e. ceremony, meal, music, etc. In my younger days it was not unusual to go to weddings and the reception consisted of a brides cake, mixed nuts, butter mints, a grooms cake, and if it was very nice reception, a champagne fountain. Today you never see simple receptions like that. The wedding industry has done a good job selling the image of what a wedding is supposed to be.

                                                                                                      That said, if you love the couple, go to the wedding with cooler and dish in tow and enjoy it. You may be pleasantly surprised at how much fun it will be.

                                                                                                      3 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: swamp

                                                                                                        Ah, swamp, you must have lived an extravagant life! Wedding cake on paper plates, coffee or punch, all in the church basement or educational building. It was the really classy ones that put out nuts or mints. Alcohol? Never. My folks were teachers and consequently, we went to a lot of weddings compared to our neighbors, but no one would have dreamed of serving alcohol in such a setting.

                                                                                                        1. re: lemons

                                                                                                          It is very interesting ... growing up I had lots of wedding my parents and I went to. Always formal when I lived in Dearborn / Detroit. But up in northern MI, weddings were much different. Small northern town. They closed a whole street and had a street party for a wedding.

                                                                                                          Now in FL, I see everything. From ULTRA formal to a small country wedding in a barn. I catered a rather large country wedding (125) between a guy who was a die hard biker and an exotic dancer. I never judged them, but my point is ... what a variety of guests that were invited. Her parents in a 2 million dollar home on the gulf so their friends only socialized with the Rich and Famous. His parents in a trailer on a lot in the middle of no where and most of their friends were bikers. The couple was living in a small trailer, building their own log cabin and barn, they were used to BBQ's jand Fri fish fries with their friends and simple parties and get togethers. Her parents were used to ONLY 5 star dining. It was very interesting. It was a brunch, with grits, steak and eggs, jack daniels and tomato juice shooters, fried potatoes, bacon and sausage, you name it. The wedding cake was a long sheet cake formed into a motorcycle. All served in the barn with a small country band and the cows and pigs, right next to us if they were not running around. I just did as they asked, the food was good, not exactly what I would of done. And many people brought things, lots of crock pots. I did the majority, but people brought deserts, appetizers, rolls, lots of stuff... However, I have to say I had the time of my life. It was a total trip! I can't believe how much fun everyone had, simple times and great friends. No fancy tables, fountains, ice sculptures, we had paper plates, paper napkins (their request), but it was an absolute blast.

                                                                                                          So I guess I have to say that weddings like our shopping routines or our cooking is very much determined where we live, country or city, rurual or not, big town small town, remote areas, country vs city life with a store around every corner. But all in all ... I think anything that involves friends, family and good times is what it is all about.

                                                                                                          1. re: lemons

                                                                                                            Yes! That's the kind of wedding we still have in my family. Most of the food was/is made by the bride's family with help from close friends, which isn't too much work b/c the only foods are cake and maybe small sandwiches. If you want food, go to a funeral :)

                                                                                                        2. Where I come from, if I had requested potluck from my wedding guests, I would probably be well talked about behind my back, if not worse. However, here in NYC people spend OBSCENE amounts of money on weddings which I think is beyond ridiculous. Not to mention the food is never worth the $100/head these catering places charge. I did city hall and a small dinner. I think potluck sounds like fun! You mentioned you think a cake and coffee reception would have been a better idea to you, so it goes without saying that baking a nice cake is the obvious choice.

                                                                                                          I also suggest calling the bride/groom or close family to find out if power will be available at the site. If so, perhaps you may like to make your special chili, or pulled pork or ropa vieja. Some awesome crock pot dish. You can make it at home a day in advance, freeze it before you leave and let it defrost as you drive (I assumed from your post you won't be staying over night). Sure, maybe you have to schlep a crock pot with you, but I assume you have a trunk in your car. Then when it comes time to heat up, you can plop it into the pot. You can buy one of those Reynold's brand crock pot liners so you don't have to put a messy pot back into your car- or worry about cleaning it before you hit the road again.. It sounds like you really want to cook something because you enjoy it, I get it.