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Catering my wedding and need ideas!

s
spainter May 26, 2010 06:55 PM

I'm getting married in July and need ideas for dinner food for around 60 people. Because my family and I are preparing the food and we don't want a huge time gap between the ceremony and the dinner, we are looking for dishes for which a lot of the prep work can be done in advance (in the morning or the day before) and then served buffet-style. (Maybe one or two hot dishes and then the rest either cold or room temp) It is an outdoor wedding, so not super formal, but I want it to be more special than a back-yard bbq. Any ideas?

Thanks!

  1. j
    julesincoq May 26, 2010 07:17 PM

    My brother catered his wedding too. I have to say.... you are completely nuts. Like you don't have other things to worry about ?? Dress? Flower girl crisis? Maid of Honour crisis? Crazy Aunt crisis? Flowers? Decorations? Your brothers messing filling your car with confetti (maybe that's just my family)?

    Ok if you are going to do it anyway.
    Cold buffet: poached salmon, cold prawns, muscles and clams, green salad, pasta salad, amazing cheese platter, cold grilled veggies, cold roast beef, bruchetta, buns, baby potato salad.

    The trick is good quality and good sauces and presentation. Cold potato salad screams picnic but baby potato salad with sd tomato, fresh basil and asiago is gourmet. Poached salmon served with a lime burre blanc is yummy.

    1 Reply
    1. re: julesincoq
      a
      Analisas mom May 27, 2010 07:53 PM

      You really have to be careful if your doing a buffet outside with seafood. In July I woud not entertain doing seafood out side. It can spoil very quick in heat.

    2. souschef May 26, 2010 07:37 PM

      Don't forget to keep food safety in mind - mayonnaise in potato salad sitting around, etc.

      4 Replies
      1. re: souschef
        goodhealthgourmet May 26, 2010 08:14 PM

        @souschef, the mayonnaise isn't a problem - that's an old wives tale. in fact, it can inhibit spoilage.

        @spainter, congratulations! you might find some ideas here:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/690740
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/616780
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/375575

        1. re: goodhealthgourmet
          souschef May 27, 2010 12:32 AM

          The mayo may have been a bad example (unknown to me), but the point I was trying to make is that leaving food out for hours, as could well happen, could be an issue.

          1. re: souschef
            shaogo May 27, 2010 12:46 AM

            I'm certain, souschef, that it's been raised on these boards before, but the issue with mayonnaise was concerns about salmonella but they're rendered moot by the amount of vinegar that's contained in that emulsified sauce, which brings the pH of the whole dish to a point where it can actually remain outside the refrigerator (i.e., above 40 degrees fahrenheit) for longer than one would think.

            Additionally, even though the OP mentioned a buffet, how long would one want to leave the food out after the first line's diminished and the second "wave" of big eaters has passed by? Yes, the scientists at the local health dept. may be averse to longer times not-at-temperature but, unless you're putting out half-shell oysters, I don't think that it's going to be an issue.

            Unless they're in the desert.

            1. re: shaogo
              souschef May 27, 2010 01:19 AM

              I have already conceded the mayo issue, so let's not get hung up on it. My concern was that unless the event is being held in a place where there is adequate refrigeration, food for 60 people is a lot of food, so stuff can be left out for a while before the party. 'Nuff said !

      2. d
        dixiemist May 26, 2010 07:56 PM

        I catered my daughter's weddiing reception and we did it very simply. We had chicken salad croissants, fresh fruit with dip, cheese and crackers, cocktail weiners in grape/bbq sauce, mints and a chocolate fountain with assorted fruit, pound cake and pretzels to dip. You could also use meatballs and make any type of croissants that you think would be appetizing to your guests. Wr had about 250 people there and it turned out beautifully and was very simple to prepare lots of the food ahead of time.
        . I wish you all the luck in the world with your wedding and reception and may God bless you in your new life.

        5 Replies
        1. re: dixiemist
          d
          DreamaR50 Jun 2, 2013 02:25 PM

          I hope you still check this site's emails....I'm catering BOTH my daughters weddings (June 15 & August 4) this Summer. Along with all the other planning - very budget minded. Did you keep any of your notes?? We're having almost the same menu, and I'd love to check my amounts, estimates with you!! We're doing Chicken salad on a bed of fresh greens, croissants, cheese trays, veggie trays & layered fresh Fruit cups - plus wedding cake (which I'm not making!). Would love to hear from you!
          Thanks, Dreama (better known as Mother-of-the-Brides)

          1. re: DreamaR50
            chowser Jun 3, 2013 08:55 AM

            Hey Dreama, congratulations on both upcoming weddings! You might want to start a new thread (maybe adding a link to this one) and ask the same question. Since this thread is three years old, the PP might not be around but I think you can get a lot of good advice, if people read a new thread. Since this is older, your question could get lost.

            1. re: chowser
              d
              DreamaR50 Jun 3, 2013 11:09 AM

              ...afraid I do not know how to start a new thread!
              Just hoping this person would receive an email about her (long ago) post, and be kind enough to reply.
              Thanks for the 'heads up' if I can figure out how (without wasting too much time) I will post new,
              Dreama

              1. re: DreamaR50
                chowser Jun 3, 2013 11:54 AM

                Try this. Click on the link. When the new page opens, look for the blue pill shaped button that says "Post." To the left, you can post Title and below it, what you want to ask.

                http://chowhound.chow.com/boards/31

                That was dixiemist's only post here so there's a good chance she's no longer around.

                1. re: chowser
                  d
                  DreamaR50 Jun 3, 2013 01:06 PM

                  Thank-You!

        2. c oliver May 26, 2010 08:33 PM

          A couple of years ago, we had a party for about 50 the day after our daughter's wedding. We cooked almost nothing. Mr. Costco did most of the work. But it shocked me how long it took with several people helping us just to get everything on platters and bowls, set out etc. I'd just recommend that you give some thought to the logistics of that. I think julesincoq has great recs.

          And, yes, mayo isn't the culprit. It's the potatoes themselves evidently. A lifetime of missed opporutnities due to old wives' tales. Dang.

          1. shaogo May 26, 2010 09:16 PM

            I'm of the same opinion as some of the others, here. By all means, it's a once-in-a-lifetime day; have someone who's got experience at least help out... with a few staffers, too.

            That being said, if you think that on such an emotionally-charged day you can create a dinner party for 60, I'd cook chateaubriand the day before and serve it sliced cold with a couple of lovely sauces (yes, mayonnaise-based!). Let that spectacular dish be the "centerpiece;" then surround it with lovely asparagus (cold) and perhaps an interesting pasta dish (if you insist on a hot dish).

            As a professional in the business, if I were catering it, given your description I'd include:

            lots and lots of passed canapes including smoked salmon, tuna tartare and caviar.

            Caprese salad
            Black bean salad with corn and red onions
            Tomato aspic with appropriate garnishes

            A vegetarian alternative to the beef -- perhaps just a roasted vegetable melange in a vinaigrette with a cold rice salad.

            Give the more "traditional" palates something to identify with... superb sliced ham or gourmet smoked duck or turkey beside the beef.

            Corn pudding's always a pleasant surprise unless you think that that dish, even if served at room temperature, would be too rich.

            And for the end of the fabulous, colorful, outdoor wedding reception, serve a very simple cake -- wedding cake, of course, but make sure there's plenty of whipped cream and lovely strawberries to "gild the lily."

            1. roxlet May 27, 2010 12:36 AM

              My husband and I catered my sisters wedding several years ago. #1 get help! You need to have a minimum of three servers and maybe a bartender as well. The last thing you want to be doing is serving food in your wedding dress, even if it means just replenishing the buffet table. We began with a cold soup, made a hot smoked salmon and prime rib rubbed with herbs de Provence and done on the grill with a little smoke. We did cold salad sides like potato salad, corn salad, caprese, etc. We had a very limited number of hors d'oeuvres like cheeses, nuts, chips, and crudites, and dessert was a purchased wedding cake. Even given that we weren't the ones getting married, and that we had three helpers, it was an exhausting experience. And, oh yes, in the driest September we can remember, it poured rain. Fortunately we had the foresight to get a tent, which I recommend no matter what the forecast is. We are veterans of 15 years of outdoor BBQs and we now never plan an outdoor party without getting a tent.

              1 Reply
              1. re: roxlet
                shaogo May 27, 2010 12:50 AM

                "The last thing you want to be doing is serving food in your wedding dress" ++

                Tent +++

              2. Cherylptw May 27, 2010 02:03 AM

                I've worked in restaurants for over 30 years and we've done many such events. First, I would not do passed appetizers or canapes. It takes more of your helper's or server's (I hope you're going to have servers or at least someone else to put out your food) time to walk those trays around that could be utilized in other areas.

                Instead, set up an appetizer table if you want to serve those. Small cups or shot glasses of a cold soup like potato & leek garnished with dill or a garden vegetable gazpacho, crispy french or italian bread crostini with a couple spreads; stuffed baby red potatoes and maybe a cheese platter could be set out for the guests to serve themselves with cocktails before the meal. You'll need one person to man the table to replenish. Later, you can turn that table into a dessert or cake table.

                I'd follow that with a plated salad at the table. Something summery like a mixed greens with arugula, sliced peaches & shaved mild onion like a sweet Vidalia would be nice; serve with a peach or sweet onion vinaigrette in bowls on the table. This leaves your helpers time to set up the buffet uninterrupted. Once salad plates are removed from the table, invite guests to help themselves at the buffet.

                You can do a mixture of hot & cold or room temp items for your dinner by displaying a large cold meat item such a smoked ham or beef tenderloin with accompaniments that could be carved at the buffet or sliced & put in chafers. Add things like garlic shrimp, mini crab cakes, lemon artichoke stuffed manicotti, etc. Salads that can be done ahead include marinated cucumber, fresh green beans with cherry or plum tomatoes, grilled sweet potato salad, etc. Easy to refill at the buffet. Congrats on your upcoming wedding.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Cherylptw
                  ChristinaMason May 27, 2010 02:09 PM

                  Madame, I want you planning my next party. Those are great, tasty-sounding recs!

                  1. re: ChristinaMason
                    Cherylptw May 27, 2010 02:47 PM

                    I would be honored Christina...

                  2. re: Cherylptw
                    s
                    spainter Jun 8, 2010 11:22 AM

                    Cherylptw do you have a recipe for the lemon artichoke stuffed manicotti? It sounds delicious! Thanks!

                    1. re: spainter
                      Cherylptw Jun 17, 2010 09:01 PM

                      Sorry, I hadn't checked back on this thread but here's a recipe for the manicotti. Of course, for a wedding you'll need to multiply the recipe.

                      Lemon Artichoke Manicotti

                      1 pound manicotti shells
                      Non stick cooking spray
                      1 small sweet onion like Vidalia or Walla Walla, chopped
                      14 ounces frozen artichoke, drained very well & chopped
                      1 teaspoon kosher salt
                      ¼ teaspoon white pepper
                      2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
                      1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
                      1/2 cup ricotta cheese
                      1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
                      1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
                      Cook the manicotti according to package directions but just slightly under to allow for baking and setting in a chafer when you serve at the wedding. Drain well & lightly spray with non stick cooking spray to keep from drying out. Spread about 1/3 of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. NOTE: You can use whatever sauce you like here but I use a simple lemon white wine cream sauce and add chopped lemon basil or spicy basil as a garnish OR a light pesto cream sauce would be nice.

                      Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a large skillet, and over medium temperature, saute the onions for five minutes. Stir in the artichokes, salt & pepper; continue to cook for another five minutes before adding to a colander to drain, pressing out the liquid.

                      Add the mixture to a bowl; mix in the lemon zest, lemon juice, ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese and thyme. Spoon mixture into a pastry bag with the tip cut off large enough to fit the end of the manicotti. Fill the manicotti with the artichoke mixture and line them up in the baking dish. Spoon remaining sauce over top and bake for 30-40 minutes or until hot. Makes 8 servings if you serve two per guests.

                  3. d
                    dfrostnh May 27, 2010 05:01 AM

                    Our son and DIL had an outdoor wedding but town hall reception. We lucked out, sis and her family had a lot of chicken bbq experience, the town hall had a pit and they did the work and serving as a wedding present (we paid for the chicken).
                    DIL liked the idea of decorated glasses holding dip and some crudities. I found small glasses, larger than shot, at a bargain store. DIL's aunt and her work team prepared the crudities.
                    Some of the salads and homemade rolls were purchased from two professional caterers. One of them was hired to manage the kitchen and putting things on the buffet. Buffet table, head table, outdoor decorations were set up the night before. I made one of the salads. A table of crackers and cheeses was put in the middle of the small dance floor. Don't worry too much about timing, wedding guests like to visit with each other before the eating starts. Big mistake was corn on the cob. Town hall had the commercial stove and big pots but the corn was picked day before, husked in the morning and maybe overcooked. It was tough and not the spectacular local corn we usually had. Salads were potato salad, DIL's favorite broccoli salad, and ? Baked beans were considered but nixed as too much more work. Town hall had large glass door commercial frig so food storage wasn't a problem. I made punch but water, sodas, wine and beer were also provided.

                    Small wedding cake. Guests got cupcakes which a friend picked up on her way to the wedding. Bride ordered ahead but supermarket had a saturday sale.

                    The bride needs to be free in the morning to relax and get ready.

                    I think the hard part was the clean up and what to do with all the leftover food. Most of the small wedding party and family members did most of the work. The couple weren't going on a traditional honeymoon since wedding party friends came a long ways and were spending the week.

                    Figure out the logistics, Map it on paper. Have plenty of helpers whether paid or free family. Most problematic was a florist who wasn't on the same page, like telling us as flowers were delivered that bouquets were highly perishable and needed to be kept in water. Tried to use as head table decorations but vases weren't large enough. It's too bad bride had her heart set on that particular flower.

                    I thought DIL did an outstanding job with the logistics. We had 80-100. Everyone loved the casual atmosphere. Best wishes.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: dfrostnh
                      s
                      spainter May 27, 2010 06:38 AM

                      Thanks for all of the good ideas everyone! I know it's not ideal to do it ourselves, but the economic recession isn't ideal either and we simply can't afford to pay someone else to make the food. But, I'm confident that if I keep it simple enough I'll be able to pull it off. Thanks again for the help!

                      1. re: spainter
                        a
                        aggiecat May 27, 2010 12:20 PM

                        Seriously consider going with a cake and punch, coffee, tea and champagne /sparkling wine reception, perhaps with lots of elegant little tea sandwiches made ahead of time. It makes for a for a refreshing change of pace as the big overdone theatrical wedding is frankly becoming a bit of a cliche. It isn't at all necessary. Ceremony at 3:00, reception tea at 4:00 and no one expects a full sit down meal, or an alcohol fuled frat party. Tasteful, elegant, restrained and mindful of the happy couple's means. A friend had a lovely & delicious but, small wedding cake and ordered petit fours in an assortment of flavors. Dhe had hommade mints, nuts, cake and punch, coffee and tea. (tee-totallers) Friends were asked to serve cake, tea and coffee, a traditional friend of the bride dutiy. Sorority sisters usually are pressed into service for this. Ask 'em if you got 'em. I always get asked to cut the cake since I know how to properly cut a wedding cake. Don't mind a bit as along as someone else can spell me so I can get some punch.

                        Well, think of sandwich petit fours made in advance and look for a fresh way to make a twist of traditional cold sandwich fillings - say a buffalo blue cheese instead of pimiento cheese, prociutto, and a thin slice of tomato with a pesto spread and a thin slice of fresh mozzarella for a margarita sandwich. Make a cucumber spread with a tzatiki type base, add in feta and good diced kalamata olives. I've seen a cobb salad dip recipe on this site which could be repurposed into a sandwich filling. And let's not leave off the humble PB & J redone with a gourmet almond butter or other exotic nut past and some equally decadent homemade or gourmet jam; apricot- brandy, raspberry-port or lemon curd. You get the idea? Going open face, top with a fresh piece of fruit and a bit of nut. Use fancy cookie cutters, cut into fingers, squares triangles, make triple decker, etc. and plate on trays lavishly covered with curly lettuce and fresh inexpensive flowers and/or sliced lemons. Explore a variety of breads form a favorite bakery but be sure to order your loaves in advance: rye, parmesan garlic, marbled rye, potato, get as creative as you do with the fillings.

                        You could always make them into open face canape's but making up sandwiches let's you do more ahead of time so that all that need to be done the day of is either to take out the platters, or open up the wrapped packages of sandwiches and tray. Serve with crudites, pickle and olive platters (mini sweet, sour, exotic olives, pickled onions, carrots, pepperoncini), and fresh fruit trays and you should have happy well filled guests, minimal equipment rentals needed (little or no silverware rental, no need to rent big hot/cold serving contraptions, tables fill dinner service rental, reduces but doesn't eliminate the need for wait staff to refill the buffet etc.) and no worries about playing sous chef on your wedding day. Most fillings can be prepped 2-3 days ahead, assembled the day before and pulled out of the fridge to come to room temp right before the ceremony. While the ceremony goes on, someone sets up the buffet and gets the coffee, tea, and punch out.

                        Dont' forget to round up every friend or family member's ice chest as you will need them all for icing beverages, and keeping extra sandwiches and fruit cold.

                        Oh, If you get fruit/crudite trays from the store, yes costco or sams, have them put the fruit into big containers and give you the trays to put together later. It's easier to find room in a cooler or fridge for the containers and then later assemble the trays or simply refresh the existing trays.

                    2. f
                      foiegras May 27, 2010 08:36 PM

                      My sister did this & it turned her into Bridezilla. And, as if I didn't have enough to do as maid of honor, I was chopping cheese cubes late into the night. I only got out of cleanup duty by being in charge of airport duty. My sister expected to be able to use the refrigerators at the church, but hadn't discussed that with anyone & they were mostly full of other stuff. So she & the security guard trooped through all the buildings looking for space in various refrigerators. What a nightmare ...

                      Pay someone ... it will be the best money you've ever spent.

                      I will also say this ... I grew up in the Midwest in a Dutch community, and virtually every wedding I ever went to as a child had this menu: wedding cake, punch, butter mints, nuts, ham and butter sandwiches on potato rolls, and fruit salad. Sometimes I'll get a craving for those ham sandwiches & go in search of potato rolls.

                      Btw, these weddings were all catered by good Dutch caterers ... this was not DIY.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: foiegras
                        souschef May 27, 2010 09:30 PM

                        I once attended a wedding where there were 300 guests, and family and friends did the serving etc. As the evening wore on the bride's sister was so exhausted from working during the reception that she was in tears; she was a bridesmaid, but the wedding was anything but enjoyable for her.

                        1. re: souschef
                          roxlet May 27, 2010 10:23 PM

                          Been there, done that. Also, because it was at home, people thought that it was OK to show up early! We actually had people arrive an hour before it was supposed to begin, and I wasn't even dressed. We were having the ceremony in the backyard, so there was no going to a church first. I give a lot of big parties, but I have to say that although this wasn't the biggest I've ever given, it was the most stressful. I like the idea up thread about tea sandwiches and champagne. When my DH and I got married 24 years ago, we did it spur of the moment and were just going to go to a restaurant for lunch. But then a friend of mine we called the hors d'oeuvre queen said she wanted us to come to her house for hors d'oeuvres. We bought a pile of champagne, and my sister made a couple of trays of baked ziti, and it was an absolute blast. Very casual and really fun.

                          1. re: roxlet
                            l
                            lawmann May 28, 2010 01:24 AM

                            As others have said, you're doing a gutsy thing. About 8 years ago I catered my daughter's Bat Mitzvah by doing a buffet for 350, and I'm sure there's much more pressure in doing your own wedding. Having said that, here are a couple of things I learned along the way. I strongly agree with the people that have suggested you get help. I have a client that owns a catering hall and he allowed two of his best workers to "moonlight" at my event. Also, lots of kids in my neighborhood have worked as waiters and waitresses--some of them in catering halls. I hired a couple of them for the day. The "hired help" did the setup and did just about all the cleanup and it saved a lot of trouble. After the emotional and exhausting double-barreled wedding/catering event you're going to want to collapse in a satisfied heap with your loved ones when it's all over and you're not going to want to clean up. BTW, whether you go the route of hiring people or getting help from friends, assign one person as the "crew chief," who will have the big picture in mind after you've sat down with him/her and worked out in detail how you want things set up and run. This person should have the "last word" in how to do things at the event. You will be using a small group of people who have never worked together as a unit and you don't need each of them trying to impose his or her well-intended ideas about how to make it all look great on a bunch of other people, each of whom also has his or her own ideas. (Worse yet, you don't want to be bothered with questions about how to fold the napkins when you've got more important stuff to do that day.) Another important suggestion is to get some help in figuring out how much of each item to cook. We can all calculate how much beef or chicken or fish to serve if we are serving that one main course to 300 people. But calculating how much to cook for 300 people when you are doing a buffet and serving several main dishes, several salads, appetizers, etc., is a different kettle of fish. Budget your time. I took 2 days off of work to get it all done (which was more than made up by the money I saved by catering myself). Get organized. If you're doing this at home you probably don't have the refrigerator or oven space to store or heat all the food you'll be preparing. I had a chart worked out showing in which neighbor's refrigerator I had the carrot salad and in whose oven I'd be re-heating the chicken wings. If you can rely on these neighbors (in my case I could) we set up beforehand at what time they'd be bringing the stuff they were storing for me to the event and (for warm items) or at what time and temperature they'd be putting stuff in their oven to warm. Also, putting a little extra effort into your presentation can make it all look great. I went to one of these places that rents out chafing dishes, serving platters (10 of the same kind look more elegant than 10 different pieces I have in my cabinets), etc., and they also can give you some pointers to help make your party nice. I opted for buying pretty disposable plates, but these places also rent solid, elegant looking plates, bowls, etc. I rented tables and chairs so that my guests could relax and enjoy themselves instead of playing the game of trying to eat and socialize while holding a plate of food in one hand and a drink in the other. Again, rented tablecloths made it all look nice .Also, spend a little time and money on garnishes. My home-smoked sides of salmon looked much classier sitting on a bed of romaine lettuce leaves with lemon slices and red bell pepper slices all around the edge of the oval platter than it would have looked on a plain white platter. I don't know what your knife skills are (mine are better now than they were then), but you might want to invest in a mandolin. The uniform slices of fruit or vegetables in the dishes I served and, particularly, in the garnishes, made for a more elegant presentation. In this discussion you've received some great menu suggestions. Some of the things I served that worked well are: home-smoked sides of salmon (I made 6 of them and could have used another 2), chicken wings, brisket of beef -which I sliced on a simple home-model electric slicer (again, this makes for a much nicer presentation than hand slicing). Brisket actually tastes better if prepared in advance and you can de-fat the gravy before serving, so I found it worked really well. I served about 7 different salads, some of which the crowd liked better than others. I had the helpers put a bottle of red and one of white wine on each table and they were instructed to keep their eyes open to see if one of the tables needed another bottle (we had 8 or 10 at a table). If you're seving liquor, it's best to designate someone you trust to pour, rather than leaving a bunch of bottles on a table for people to help themselves (at least for my crowd!). For dessert I assume you'll be serving wedding cake. I also served a nice "centerpiece" bakery cake, but added lots of other cakes (some made by friends and relatives) and bowls of cut-up fresh fruit. Whatever you wind up doing I'm sure your guests will love it (they will be in awe of the effort you put into all this and enjoy the change of pace involved in a home-catered meal). Try not to obsess and do be flexible. You may have a carefully planned shopping list, but your guests aren't really going to care if you serve red grapes because you couldn't find the green ones you wanted. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding and good luck with this major project.

                      2. LukesBride May 28, 2010 01:22 PM

                        i catered my own wedding and i would absolutely recommend it! THat way, you can take the money you save and invest it in your future together (or your honeymoon) instead of blowing a bundle on a meal you honestly probably won't even have time to eat.

                        We had one friend who sat at the back of the church and skipped out early to go check on the food. She didn't mind and everything was great. We had: 2 giant Lasagnes (in the oven during the ceremony) rice pilaf , 2 or 3 large salads, Some sliced turkey and rolls and an array of desserts (and wedding cake too, of course!)

                        People raved about the meal. And it didn't add a moment of extra stress to our day.

                        Congratulations! And good luck :)

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LukesBride
                          a
                          aggiecat Jun 1, 2010 03:48 PM

                          This can be done but only if it's a very small wedding and you have a reception location right there AND you are absolutely positive the ovens and fridges and freezers will be available for your use. You can't make ANY assumptions. Plus if you start renting serving pieces, tables, chairs, linins, plates, forks, napkins glasses etc. those costs will add up quickly and can easily become astronomical pronto. We did the math and my fully catered buffet reception for 200 at the local country club (where I was not a member and paid nothing extra to use) was cheaper per person than just the equipment rental alone would have been for tables and serving pieces if we'd tried to have the reception at our church or at a local venue. Let's not get started on what it would have cost to add a tent or other stuff. Waitstaff, well, I'd have been trying to round up a sorority or fraternity that wanted to do a fundraiser or hire out for extra $. This is a smallish college town and the options for waitstaff hiring outside of a caterer is Not good. We had the budget to have 200 people but if it came down to numbers, we'd have trimmed the numbers to make it match or changed the menu to match what we could afford. The whole luncheon (key word for cost effectiveness here) was in our budget and the entire wedding cost less than $12,000 including pre-wedding trips for my Mom from Phoenix, my dress, bridesmaids dresses, flowers for church, flowers for attendents and reception flowers, professionally printed invitations, favors, service programs for the church, reception programs, reception hall, jazz pianist for the reception and pinaist and soloist fees for the church music, wedding cake and groom's cake for 200 slices each. Of course this was 8 years ago, but still. Key to cutting costs, we had a lunch on Sat. and we did not have a bar, just soda's tea coffee and punch. Other than the toast with champagne, no liquor. this is a nod to my tee-totally parents and a practic choice. Honestly, who expects a full bar at lunch? And anyone who just couldn't cope was able to go to the club bar and pay cash for the matrini or bloody mary they couldn't function without.

                          I had standing roast, chicken oscar and a grilled salmon with 3 assorted salads, 3 sides, Olives, cheese, fruit trays, ice sculpture and 290 degree floor to ceiling views of the golf course, treese etc. This included a champagne toast, wait staff and all the tables chairs, lovely linens, tableware including candelabras, hurricane lanterns for the tables and whoopla I could possibly have wanted. Plus there was already plenty of parking (don't forget that little item if you try for a home wedding.) I'f you want stress free, then it will take massive amounts of planning and some fully committed freinds and family to make it work. Even then, there are still family stories of my uncles cake and punch reception that ended with 1/2 of the cake sliding off the table because the A/C at the little "charming" church couldn't cope with the church actually being filled to capacity. icing melted and cake slid off the table. It was pot-luck but his 4th wedding so I'm not going give him grief on hosting a pot-luck wedding. Just on poor planning for the reception. a. make sure the site can cope with what you are planning to do in it and b. make sure there is someone there to keep an eye on everything while the service happens. c. make sure that person really truly doesn't mind missing the vows 'cause thats what is going to happen. I never minded serving cake or pouring out tea, that a perfectly respectable duty for a friend of the bride, but schlepping lasagna trays and roasting in the curch basement kitchen? Not so much.
                          And good luck.

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