HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Afternoon Wedding Buffet for 40 on a BUDGET

Hey all,
So many of you were lovely enough to help me sort through the "make ahead" aspects of the bridal shower I did back in April, and now I'm doing a wedding reception for 40 on the 14th (yep soon). She did a real reception in NYC, but this party is for her friends in LA. She wants really simple, buffet style, and budgeted. Also, she can't have wheat, and that's easy for me to work around, but I'm aiming to have the majority of stuff be wheat-free. Not all.

I have some basic ideas of things I'm going to do, based upon what she liked and wants repeated from the shower.... But I have to give her a budget estimate tomorrow (no freakin' clue here), and hoping to propose a "simple" (that's her word, given how not simple her wedding reception was on the East coast. I'm definitely gonna do:
Salmon Croquettes or Salmon Crusted Tartlettes with a Creamy Cauliflower Whip filling and garlic dill sauce that I made up last weekend
Goat Cheese Mini Souffles with some sort of beet accompaniment (she had souffles at her wedding that she just LOVED, and I figured out how to replicate, but i fear I'm going to have to do these the day of, as I doubt they'll hold over well... thoughts on that?)

Other thoughts:
Probably roasted veggies of some sort
Maybe some sort of lettuce wrap buffet with leaves, a veggie filling, a chicken or beef filling, and some sauces and accompaniments
maybe some bruschetta with various toppings
maybe some cucumber cups with beet hummus
Salad? caprese?
Spring rolls - easy to make ahead
Oatmeal cookie bites (i'm known for mine)
gingerbread bites (her husband loves mine)
dark chocolate fleur de sel truffles

I am ISO other simple, easy on the wallet ideas. Really, what would YOU cook under the restraints? What would be your go to thoughts? I'll improvise off of those, and be very grateful! I'm most concerned about feeding 40 people in this manner... She keeps saying simple, but buffet style, simple and the number 40 is a tougher thing to manage than she understands. Hell, if she had to cut veggies up for a veggie tray for 40 people, she'd get it...

Thanks in advance!!!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. You've got a tough challenge ahead of you. I don't envy your job. I'm going to sort through my brain to see if I can come up with some other ideas, but to weigh in on your other thoughts

    Maybe some sort of lettuce wrap buffet with leaves, a veggie filling, a chicken or beef filling, and some sauces and accompaniments - Love this idea

    maybe some bruschetta with various toppings - yes, yes, yes

    Spring rolls - easy to make ahead - Great idea

    All of the below - great ideas, especially since you can make ahead.
    Oatmeal cookie bites (i'm known for mine)
    gingerbread bites (her husband loves mine)
    dark chocolate fleur de sel truffles

    3 Replies
    1. re: boyzoma

      I had a party a few months ago where I aimed for about 40 people afternoon - open house style. I spent about $250 on food and here is what I served (seems similar to some of your ideas):

      skewers of lemongrass beef and chicken satay
      marinated, baked tofu
      lettuce wraps with quick marinated cuke & carrot & radish, rice noodles
      quad of sauces: ginger scallion, hot, nuoc cham, satay
      "Asian" slaw
      Sesame green beens
      Also desserts

      Made the marinade and skewered ahead of time and then froze. You could totally cook ahead and reheat. Made all the sauces a week ahead and spent an afternoon w/ helper the day before prepping veg. Not easy, but not as bad as I thought it could be.

      1. re: corneygirl

        can i ask how much you allotted for the guests? poundage and whatnot...

        1. re: Emme

          I figured 1/4 pound of meat per person. I think I had 12 lbs of chicken and beef - my family loves to eat & I could have upped that to 16 lbs. I went with 2lbs tofu, 1 cabbage worth slaw, and 2 large (1.5? lbs bags of green beans). It was a little loosey goosey with the RSVP so I had to wing it. I also read that the more proteins you offer the more people will eat (ie 1/4 lb if 1 or 2 entrees, but 1/3 a person if 2 or 3).

    2. First thing I noticed is that all of your desserts are heavy; I'm sure they're delish but I'd add something lighter like a fruit display or watermelon basket with assorted fruits (I know, it may put a strain on the budget) or at the very least maybe individual lemon curd trifles with fresh berries or something along those lines.

      I'd also take advantage of the fact that it's fruit season and add some to my dishes...namely, the salad. A simple & delicious salad I've discovered this summer is arugula pairs well with peaches, nectarines and plums. One of my favorites is a simple arugula (you could also use a mixed blend, but the bitter arugula pairs well with the sweetness of the peaches), sliced peaches, cukes, shaved Vidalia onion & Sweet onion vinaigrette. Maybe add some cornbread croutons. Perfect!

      I love the idea of mini souffles, and you're right to think to do them the day of. Also like the lettuce wrap buffet. Perhaps add a zucchini slaw as one of the fillings. I made a few pints of zuke chow chow last week and two zuke cakes tonight so I have it on my mind but it would be light & perfect for a filling.

      How about cherry tomatoes stuffed with some sort of filling...maybe some smoked gouda & bacon (I don't see pork listed on your menu but you could use turkey bacon or even ground smoked turkey) then pop in oven for a couple of minutes or these would be good cold if you add a bit of cream cheese to the gouda to make it smooth. This is good stuffed into a sliced fingerling or baby red potato also. Good luck!

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cherylptw


        yes - fruit salad, i forgot that on my list, but is always a popular item, so i'll either/or do a tray and/or salad with a honey lime dressing on the side

        was contemplating some stuffed figs, and stuffed toms sound good too, but as i'm thinking about actually doing them for 40 people, i'm getting lazy about the individual tomatoes i'll have to do... maybe stuffed mushrooms...

      2. I do alot of catered weddings with budget restraints and here are some items I will use in those situations

        1) Sliders- regular beef, chicken or steak play with different breads/spreads/cheese
        2) Chicken or beef skewers- a little goes a long way and taking care of your no wheat
        3) 1 or 2 dips (crab and artickoke, spinach parm, or hummus, served with toasted pita, crackers and a assortment of raw and grilled vegetables
        4) Turkey or Smoked Salmon Pinwheels
        5) if you have access to Asian Spoons you can do some elegent things that go along way such as ahi poke or poached rock shrimp tossed in a upscale cocktail (3# of either will easily be enough for 40ppl),

        The ideas you mentioned all seemed good to me especially the salmon croquettes one of my favorites, mini dessert bites display will look nice maybe add some fresh fruit and berries with it to lighten it up and keep it looking fresh. Caprese looks good to, on salad buffets if you have the room I like to make large cobb style buffets where the salad is dressed lightly and all componets are on the side in line so guest can build thier own, I ussualy like to build on a glass mirror but a clean table top would work fine.

        2 Replies
        1. re: ZagChef

          pinwheels are a great idea... this actually came to me just now sitting outside, so i'm glad you included it.

          may do a variation on bonnie's buffalo dip with crudite too...

          i fear chicken and beef skewers may be expensive, no?

          i thought about roasting chickens, since i do that well, but really the bride isn't a chicken/turkey fan, but that would be for her husband and others... however, that has no place on a buffet line really of finger foods :)

          thanks for your feedback... very helpful, truly!

          1. re: Emme

            for beef and chicken skewers I meant more like a satay style just 1-2oz strip per 6inch bamboo skewer you'd be looing at $0.37ea for chicken and about $0.48ea for beef

        2. Cheap? OK.

          Close to a souffle, sorta--maybe some little bacon and leek quiches? I have an excellent recipe that is made in a mini-muffin pan and freezes ahead. They are good warm or at room temp. I tried making some shrimp claofuti for a party of 50 once and they didn't hold well. I think little souffles are hard to hold and not worth the anxiety they cause.

          I have a killer Brazillian cheese puff recipe that's gluten free. They are like gougeres.

          I have a good stuffed twice baked little red potato recipe that can be made 2 days ahead and then refrigerated.

          Homemade crackers and grissini. I serve these with a Moroccan carrot dip, red pepper hummus and a traditional white bean + tahini hummus (just cuz they're so pretty together). You've already got hummus in the cucumbers. A babaganoush would be cheap.

          Soft European fleur de sel caramels are cheap to make and they would pair nicely with your truffles.

          Oh, and there's that pretty little caprese on a toothpick things that you make with cherry tomatoes. You don't have to put them in a verrine glass, they work fine on a toothpick:

          I will gladly give you recipes for any of these.

          3 Replies
          1. re: runwestierun

            love to see your cheese puff recipe.

            i forgot to include my broccoli custard pie that i made at the bridal shower that everyone LOVED and is so easy to make in bulk and ahead, so i'll do that in place of souffle.

            i'd love to see your red potato recipe as well, as i might adapt it using another veg!

            i think one set of truffles is plenty for now; she loved the ones at her shower, and they're more labor intensive...

            1. re: Emme

              Tiny twice baked potatoes:

              Brazillian Gougere-like Gluten-free Cheese Puffs

              These can be made on parchment on a sheet pan, or they are crustiest made in a mini muffin pan. You can stuff these with a savory like chicken salad or crab salad, etc, or just eat them plain.

              Makes 24 appetizers

              2 cups tapioca flour (also sometimes called tapioca starch
              )1¼ teaspoons salt
              ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
              1 cup milk
              ⅓ cup vegetable oil
              3 eggs
              ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
              ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons shredded sharp cheddar cheese

              Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the tapioca flour, salt and cayenne. In a small saucepan, combine the milk and oil and bring just to a simmer. Pour the liquid over the flour mixture and then combine with the mixer's paddle attachment. Let the mixture cool for 5 to 10 minutes.

              Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. I temper each egg a little before I put it in, but I might be over-cautious. Stir in the cheeses to form a thick, sticky dough. Fill each cup of a mini-muffin pan with a heaping tablespoon of the dough. Put the pan in the oven, and bake until the puffs are browned and firm to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes.

              1. re: Emme

                Would you share the gist of (or recipe for) that broccoli custard pie?

            2. I have made these twice-baked souffles and think they are MARVELOUS. Really wonderful. And, since they just need 5 minutes for their second bake, they could be just perfect for the buffet:


              PS I have never done the sauce--souffles as themselves were fantastic.

              2 Replies
              1. re: miss louella

                that's funny. that goat cheese recipe is shockingly close to the one i'm doing! thanks! i'll definitely consider doing them two days ahead to reheat the day of...

                1. re: miss louella

                  I was thinking of the exact same thing. Twice-baked souffles. If you google "twice baked" and "souffle" you will find more. Although the goat cheese one seems to fill the bill precisely.

                2. I'd throw a brisket, nicely sliced on a tray. The menu is light but maybe a little too light for guys ... sliders or brisket served with small rolls might be good. (Had it over the weekend at a party and everyone loved it)

                  1. Kept meaning to report back, but I've been crazy busy. Event went swimmingly. Food was decadent given the budget... I even came in at 225. All items were gluten free (except the oatmeal cookies and gingerbread). Some items were also dairy free. All were pretty healthy... minus the desserts.

                    Chipotle Corn Soup Shooters (vegan)
                    Spiced Chickpea Soup Shooters (vegan)
                    Bite-Sized Salmon Croquette Tartlets with a Creamy Garlic Cauliflower Whip
                    Bite-Sized Goat Cheese Souffles with a Balsamic Beet Piping
                    Broccoli Custard Pie
                    Chicken Satay with Dipping Sauce
                    Shrimp Summer Rolls and Vegetarian Summer Rolls with Ginger Scallion Dipping Sauce
                    Fruit Salad
                    Oatmeal Cookies
                    Dark Chocolate Fleur de Sel Truffles

                    Everything was in bite-sized servings, including the spring rolls cut into fourths.
                    The bride and groom were thrilled. I was exhausted.

                    Thank you so much for all your input!

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Emme

                      Emme, your friends are so lucky to have you. What a beautiful, thoughtful and tasty menu! I am sure you were exhausted. Those of us -- like me -- who have had weddings much like a barn-raisings (no one gets in without doing something!) are so appreciative of the gift you give of yourself.

                      1. re: Emme

                        Wow, wish I had been a guest, that sounds like a perfectly fabulous menu! What a terrific friend you are and how lucky the bride and groom are! When you have the time and energy, would love it if you posted the salmon croquette tartlet anf creamy garlic cauliflower whip recipes. Also the broccoli custard pie.

                        1. re: GretchenS


                          gretchen i'll try to post something when i have a true moment, but honestly, i don't really have "recipes" per se. as my 11 year old neighbor has learned from me when he hangs out and i teach him to cook (i enlisted him to dip truffles in cocoa and press salmon into the tartlet pans), i do things "until they look/feel right." he repeats this incessantly. it's pretty cute. but like i said, i'll give you ingredients, technique, etc. :) and apologize in advance!

                        2. re: Emme

                          What i love about your concept and menu is how you incorporated the bride's request for simple while going all out. Having this be a cocktail party means that you can make some very elevate food without it feeling stuffy the way a reception with a carving station etc can feel. Good on you!

                          1. re: Dcfoodblog

                            lol it wasn't simple at all... she knew it too, but i don't know how to do "simple" unless i go to costco, buy some frozen stuff, cut into serving sizes and heat... oh well. it was a lot of work, but i'm glad they were happy. me, i need to not talk to her for a good week ;) (esp after i found out she cut food budget and paying me in order to hire "servers" to help at the site with set-up and clean-up... oh well, a lesson learned :)

                            but thank you for the kind words!

                            1. re: Emme

                              WHAT??? Emme, you are a saint for putting up with that behavior. I hope those servers actually made your life easier as opposed to being just another thing for you to manage. I also hope your friend sent you a killer thank you gift.

                              1. re: Dcfoodblog

                                a little... they poured the soup into the shot glasses, sliced the spring rolls, cut gingerbread, heated sauce, put out the platters... i still piped the croquettes and goat cheese souffles... they did the clean-up tho, by which time i was long gone... and this is not intended to come out as petty, just a response to your suggestion - no gift. this was, however, my wedding gift to them.

                        3. My sister makes twice-baked goat cheese souffles. You could prepare them and do the first bake ahead and then only have the second bake to do on party day. I don't have her recipe but here's a link to one to take a look at:


                          3 Replies
                          1. re: bon oeuf

                            thanks but the event is long since gone, evidenced by my report above. i did make my own goat cheese souffles; however, the recipe you link is also linked above by miss louella.

                            1. re: Emme

                              Oh, I'm sorry. I guess I became excited about getting that double-baked souffle idea to you and didn't even read all the way through the thread.
                              You have very lucky friends, what a wonderful wedding gift!

                              1. re: bon oeuf

                                no problem! the twiced baked ones i did ended up with two versions... ones that were earlier on when the egg whites were still fluffy, and a couple of batches where i tried to refinflate the whites, but didn't have much success... both turned out really interestingly, albeit different. i'll consider tweaking my recipe a little next time to incorporate some of the flavors of the recipe linked - the thyme and dijon - though mine were pretty good as they were.

                                thanks again for all the input and follow-up everyone!