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DIY Wedding ideas?

Hello all Chowhounders ,

For our wedding , we are renting a large wedding venue on Gabriola Island for four days in June 2012 and will be doing up our wedding dinner for apx 80 people.

I am looking for ideas for a wedding buffet that can be mostly prepared in the two days prior to the wedding. the lodge is elegant rustic. the lodge does have two ovens a dishwasher, two BBQs, a large commercial fridge, ice maker stand-up freezer and regular fridge. So the facilities are great? I have many family meners and friendas willign to help and will hire servers to scrape plates and replenish the buffet so we can a;ll relax and enjoy the dinner/WEdding night.

So far we are thinking grilled salmon, big green salad and .......

I would love to hear from any of you who have catered your own weddings or have been privy to an awesome DIY experiance,

Much appreciated
The soon to be stressed out Bride to be

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  1. Have you given any consideration to the fact that Salmon always tastes better cold the next day?

    Could save a lot of work.

    1. While I haven't catered my own wedding, I've catered some for friends & family so I can suggest some dishes that will hold up well on a buffet. You don't mention a particular theme or cuisine that you're leaning toward or whether there is a budget for the food so not knowing if that matters to you:

      Grilled salmon can be served room temp and will be fine. I disagree with serving yesterday's grilled salmon today unless you make it rare because it will dry out if over cooked. You may want to consider poaching or smoking it. Another idea is to serve a whole roasted fish, which can be roasted & served room temp. Stuff with herbs & citrus (oranges/lemons/limes)

      Grilled lemon chicken which is glazed with a homemade tart & tangy lemon bbq sauce. You can use any part of the chicken; I suggest leg/thigh quarters because they stay moist better than breasts but it works with whole chicken, split and grilled. These can be done the day before and pop back on the grill or in an oven once they're glazed. This dish is better room temp or warm as opposed to straight out of the fridge.

      Cold oven roasted shrimp with remoulade. Ina Garten has a really good recipe, which you could find online. These are good the next day, wrapped tightly & refrigerated.

      Indonesian Noodle Salad: Assorted vegetables mixed with spaghetti or other similar noodle (don't use linguine) in a soy vinaigrette. Excellent cold & recipes online

      Shaved Artichoke, Mushroom & Fennel Salad with a roasted garlic vinaigrette & shaved parmesan. You could serve this salad in butter leaf lettuce cups for guests to pick up & eat out of hand.

      For other vegetarian dishes, I suggest portabella mushrooms stuffed with spicy bread crumb salsa and grilled corn in their husks (remove silks, spread with a flavored butter, pull up husks and grill) these should be done prior to the reception.

      If interested in any of my suggestions, I'd be happy to post recipes.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cherylptw

        Hi Cherlptw,

        Thank you for the great suggestions! The budget is $1500 to 2000 dollars for food only.
        (Beer and wine has a seperate budget.) i would love the recipies if you could post them i would appreciate it.

        As for a theme, I guess something elegent and in line with the spring -time season. There will be a few vegetarians, so the potobello mushrooms sound great for them.

      2. I read an article in delicious magazine just yesterday, about catering your own wedding. I've no experience of the subject so have nothing to add, but here's the link so you can read for yourself:


        Hope it goes well!

        1 Reply
        1. Memories, nice. 30 years ago a small group of us did a DIY wedding for a friend. We still talk about it. Here are the things we learned.

          Somebody needs to be in charge, let's call her your friend, Jane. Jane plans what goes in the ovens when, and how the buffet is replenished by the servers. When people volunteer to cook a specialty that everyone loves, take them up on it -- if they can do ahead of time. If it has to be prepared on site, say how much you'd loooove to have that, followed by, "We only have two ovens and two BBQ's. Jane's doing a timetable of what can go in the oven when. Let me ask her if we can do it." Or if she knows Jane, tell her you sooo want that dish, but to please speak with Jane because she's handling timing and you don't want to get in trouble with "the kitchen boss". You and Jane can talk later, and decide what YOU want. And don't fib and say there's no oven time if there is. Just go back to the person and explain that you really need their help -- you don't have enough side dishes, or whatever, and ask if they can do something else.

          Put out the food in stages, rather than all at one time. Quantities available have nothing to do with how fast people devour the food. Putting out piles and piles of one item just ensures that everyone loads down their plates with that item. Put out a single layer of that item on an artfully arranged tray, and people will take two or three, and the food will last for hours.

          If the lodge says they have plenty of serving dishes, ask how many. If they don't know numbers, call them back when you know how many and what kinds you'll need. Surprise, they may say, "Oh, no, we don't have THAT many." Then you can ask people to bring a few.

          It won't be perfect, you're not a caterer. Lighten up and have fun with the food.

          6 Replies
          1. re: sancan

            Putting out the food in stages won't work for a buffet..it's not a passed finger foods sort of wedding where you can put out a tray of one dish. If the OP wants to limit the food served, she should have people serving at the buffet.

            1. re: Cherylptw

              Maybe she means put out 25% (or whatever) of all the dishes you have at once instead of putting out 100%.

              Rather than putting out all of one dish and then all of another dish.

              Which kind of makes sense to me. Because if people see overloaded platters they may overindulge. I think to the extent possible, people will take into account that other people will be coming through the buffet and load their plates accordingly.

              1. re: karykat

                "Put out a single layer of that item on an artfully arranged tray, and people will take two or three, and the food will last for hours."

                Regardless of how it was meant to come out, what makes absolutely no sense is to have 80 guests and only put out enough food on a DINNER BUFFET line to serve 20, which would be 25% percent. Again, it is not a finger foods reception where the food might sit for hours or a cocktail party where people just nibble. It's meant to be a meal; a tray of each dish still won't feed 80 people what with everyone getting the same.

                Holding food back is only going to make people run to fill up their plates when more food comes out. Instead of guests enjoying themselves, the only thing they'll remember is that the hosts were too cheap to feed them and I'm sure that's the last thing the bride wants to ruin her day.

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  You're right. I got off track remembering what we did. She is planning a dinner buffet, and for a meal it will work differently. I stick with the other ideas we used. A "kitchen boss" is essential when you get a bunch of cooks in the same place. And servers/staff need a single person as their "go to." That's still important. Good catch!

                  1. re: sancan

                    Definately agree with your other suggestions; it makes things run smoothly otherwise there will be too much confusion.

                  2. re: Cherylptw

                    True i don't want people to go hungry or wonder why i only cooked enough food for half the people there.

            2. are you planning to offer more than one entree choice? i might also consider adding a chicken dish, as well as a vegetarian option... but you know your guests best :)

              it's not poultry or veggie, but vitello tonnato is great because you can serve it room temp or cold

              easy might be to roast some turkeys, or some chickens. or do a baked dish like chicken marbella.
              would you be interested in something like paella or jambalaya? roasted pork shoulder maybe done in a few crockpots (if you could borrow from others)?

              trays of grilled and/or roasted veggies are easy to prepare and always popular (whatever is in season)

              roasted red potatoes with rosemary and olive oil

              fennel and radicchio salad
              spinach, feta, sundried tomatoes, roasted red pepper, blue cheese and fig salad

              don't know if any of this works with your vision...

              1. What flavors are you considering for your wedding cake? I swear, dessert is all I ever think about sometimes ;)

                2 Replies
                1. re: lilgi

                  I am hoping to make a large slab version of Magellan Lawson's Chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese icing. This cake is super easy - I've made it many times before.
                  Super moist , almost damp - so will keep if made the day or even two before.
                  It's my fiance's favorite and uses his homemade Stout.

                  Any buffet ideas with that in mind....

                  1. re: ruthie1980

                    I wouldn't know how to translate that recipe for the occasion, but others might be ale to help. My concern is the refrigerator space, with of course all the cooking that's going on and the cream cheese frosting. I had a recipe for a frosting with a caramel base that doesn't require refrigeration; let me know if you'd like something like this unless you're definite on the cream cheese frosting.

                    For many the cake is the highlight of the wedding, if I had the choice (and given that I love to bake) I would leave it to a professional, of course within budget. I also like the idea of making "individual cakes" (not cupcakes). If I had to do it for myself this is what I would do. I have seen some that are spectacular. Most of the pastries could still be made by you for the buffet, even if you decide to have your cake done by someone else.

                2. Can anyone custom-smoke some salmon for you right before the event? Also if you had some pre-made dough for bread that could be popped in the oven occasionally. It's a little rustic but chili is a great slow-simmer option, or for something fancier roast baby lamb kleftiko with roasted potatoes. (Greek and literally thieves' lamb, buried in a pit over coals all day.)

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Cinnamon

                    That lamb dish sounds amazing ! I actually really wanted to do a whole roast lamb or a whole pig but I doubt that the owners of this lodge would be down with that on their well manicured lawn! LOL

                    1. re: Cinnamon

                      My fiance can smoke salmon! great idea.

                    2. I'm glad to hear that you guys are so hands on. We just got married 2.5 months ago and used a caterer that we are not familiar with. He is a family friend (once removed), therefore when we were interviewing him, we are too shy/embarrassed to do a tasting or through menu suggestions. the food was "ok" but i was not happy about it; i find it too "commercial" and seems like Americanized Chinese food, rather than the banquet type i was hoping for. I didn't end up eating any of it because it just didn't appeal to me. I made the truffles and candy boxes, those, i'm pretty happy with. so, yeah, good call - and you'll save lots of money =)

                      for the bar and dessert area, we used these chalk fabric to write instructions (like- "help yourself" , "bottle caps in the basket" , "sign in" , "take some candy home" etc.

                      people are always impressed with things that are stuffed, tender braised, come with nice sauce or contrast in flavors. So maybe~
                      a stuffed salmon dish with a nice sauce,
                      some lamb leg roasts that are stuffed with cheese, tied, roasted on the grill drizzled with herbed oil/salsa,
                      coq cu vin with risotto cakes warmed in the oven
                      braised beef thing with creamy potatoes and truffle oil on top
                      roasted veggies, glazed turnips etc with quinoa for the veg

                      platter of cheese with local honey and charcuterie
                      and spicy tuna cubes tossed in sesame oil, soy and sirracha
                      braised beef ribs, rib removed, on a little bun with pickled onions.


                      1. We did the food for our wedding with the help of a couple of friends. We made cheesecakes and froze them, thawed starting the night before. IIRC we did a greens salad that just had to be assembled on site. We also did venison with morel mushrooms and a red wine gravy sort of sauce. It was prepped and put in large heavy foil pans then cooked on a campfire. We had other dishes but I can't remember what they were right now. We did a spiced lemonade, about half the people commented that it "tasted funny" so that one was probably too adventurous for a wedding.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: blackpointyboots

                          i see it all the time, but, what does IIRC mean?

                          1. re: jeniyo

                            "if I recall correctly"

                            This link helps me when I can't figure out the meaning of some of these:



                        2. Thank you so much for all of the suggestions. I am thankful to hear from those of you who have catered your own weddings. I'm happy to learn from your experience!
                          Another question for the caterers and professional cooks out there if we are serving two or three side salads, How much meat/salmon do we need per person in order to cook for 80 people. I'm having a hard time figuring out how many sides of salmon/How many legs of lamb I'll need to buy in quality .weight.

                          Anyone an expert on cooking for an army?

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: ruthie1980

                            There is some good info here http://homecooking.about.com/od/holid... and they link to several cookbooks I have browsed in the library. I did an anniversary party for my parents a few years back and had similar trouble figuring quantities until I just sat down and figured out what a normal plate full of food would contain. So a normal serving of meat or fish is somewhere around 6 oz, etc. Then multiply by 80 and add in some extra (but not too much). I definitely had leftovers (would have been horrified if I had not!) but not a crazy amount. One tip: have containers to send leftovers home with others, especially if you are leaving on a honeymoon. Good luck, enjoy, I still have exceedingly fond memories of a very casual DIY wedding I attended a good 30 years ago, with the bride and groom grilling on those grills made of 55 gallon drums cut in half, each with beer in hand, and mayo jars filled with wildflowers on the tables.

                            1. re: ruthie1980

                              I'm a bit scared to answer because I'm only a home cook but, I have been married 3 times and did the food for all of my weddings plus, I have lots of parties. Lots depends upon how formal you'd like things to be. I can't imagine cooking salmon 2 days ahead. I can only imagine that it's informal. A good dish for a crowd is buy whole pork loins in Costco or wherever, put garlic slits in, marinate overnight in mojo, and cook on the grill, if it's a gas grill, do it on the off side and on charcoal on the cool side. Brisket is great too. If you're buying salmon/lamb/meat, it's 1/4 lb. per person. Salads, make sure you don't make salads that need individual dressing. Cucumber salad, coleslaw, potato salad can be made ahead and no dressing. That stuff, it seems everyday but people really like it. And a baked bean dish too. And homemade rolls or bread.

                                1. re: Floridagirl

                                  too funny! my the husband to be is a home brewer and there will be many kegs! LOL

                                  1. re: ruthie1980

                                    What kinds of brews will he have? (Always like to think about beer!)

                                2. re: ruthie1980

                                  I might add bacon wrapped chicken, everybody loves it, forgot to add I did my nephew's wedding last year and the chicked went like crazy. And, I hate to say this, deviled eggs.

                                  1. re: Floridagirl

                                    People love, love, love deviled eggs. I've never seen any left over when they are served at parties!