The challenge: My fiancee and I are trying to throw together a wedding without going broke. We've got a guest list of 160 (!) and will be partying it up outdoors at my parents' house next September. The reception will be light and casual, like a fancy picnic.
We love food, and really want to serve up creative options. But we can't afford pricey caterers. Does anyone have any tips on good, creative food sources? Affordable caterers would be great, of course, but we're also game for serving up a mix of eclectic take-out. We're in Alexandria and are willing to make trips, though most of what we'll get will have to survive a trip to Calvert County (75 mins. SE of DC) and at least a day or two storage.
Also, we've got ready & talented volunteers to man grills and such for outdoor cooking. Any ideas for luscious big-batch cooking?
Thanks in advance for your genius.
I've been part of creative groups like this and seen others. Around here I think you could do quite well, but with the gas, time and hassle expense, I'd really consider a caterer and be done with it.
About 4 years ago we went with Festive Foods. At that time, anyway, they were incredibly flexible. The biggest thing to account for is liquor, and they (at that time) didn't bring theirs or restrict by that. They can and will (or would) provide a tender, but not the liquor. In VA at least, if you buy from ABC and return unopened within a month they'll refund without a restocking fee if under $100. That - for me - was the kicker. I can either stock the bar or return for a refund.
I think you could getting pretty economical with Middle Eastern platters from some restaurants in the area or some jerk chicken/Southern places on Georgia Ave. However, it might be a lot easier if you just bite the bullet and get a caterer. Do you really want to think about these logistics on your wedding day. Or if you have some good friends who can and want to cook, head to Costco and get some of their food. They have lots of prepared food in their fresh food section.
It's lovely that your friends want to help out. I suggest you post this also on the Home Cooking board or do a search on there, because there have been many similar questions about semi-self-catering a picnic style wedding, and there have been a lot of good ideas and recipes there.
As for what's in the DC area, I keep hearing about the Rocklands BBQ's beans, so that's a good source for one side dish.
And I'd add that my best friends wedding they did Grill-out for the pre-party where the groom manned the grill, then used a caterer and friends for the wedding.
Being - in a past life - a wedding photographer - this is YOUR DAY AND YOU DO IT THE WAY YOU WANT IT. srsly. Just think about what you want. Write it down. Think then about what you can afford. Write it down. You'll find the answer quickly. I think answers will still come from this post, but you might also be able to more narrowly define what you're looking for.
I still think you need to make sure everyone's having a good time. This sometimes excludes certain caterers, sometimes having friends do things. There should be minimal pressure on you on THAT DAY.
Dennis had a good point re liquor as in some places there are 2 ways of doing this and both have their pitfalls.
caterer provides and the more they pour the more they make.
or host provides and may run short or may end up with extra.
the return option he mentions answers that question.