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Self Cater Wedding Menu

Due to multiple factors, my fiance and I are going to have to have a self catered afternoon wedding for 120. We have a hall booked that has a commercial kitchen, but we are not able to prepare the food there - only serve it. Because it is self catered, we are going to have a cold buffet. I have read the posts regarding cold buffets, and would have loved to do hot, but it truly isn't a possibility here. The wedding is an afternoon in June, with the reception from 2:30 to 5:30, and our families are on board with the type of reception we are planning. While the moms, my fiance and I are doing the cooking, we do have other help lined up to serve. I would love some critique on the menu we are planning:

Vegetable tray with tzatziki dip, snow peas, grape tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, summer squash, carrots, green peppers, cauliflower, broccoli.
Fruit tray or fruit salad
Cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto
Deviled Eggs (must have family favorite)
Baked Ham with a maple mustard glaze on the side, precooked and sliced on trays
Baked Turkey with a cranberry orange compote on the side, precooked and sliced on trays
Finger rolls and butter
Some sort of starchy salad, not mayonnaise based. Thinking of a rice confetti salad or something like that. Families are not adventurous eaters, so a wheat berry salad, while I would love it, would be untouched.
Salmon mousse served with cucumber rounds, my grandmothers recipe
Cheese tray - Vermont cheddar, brie, smoked gouda, bleu, boursin, gruyere, with crackers and grapes
Hummus and pitas
Grilled antipasto salad (got the recipe from Chow, but closed the page before I remembered to bookmark it)

Lemonade and Iced Tea bar with raspberry, lemon, mint and mango simple syrups

Dessert table:
wedding cake is vanilla with raspberry filling
grooms cake is chocolate with chocolate filling
Chocolate chip cookies
PB cookie pies (pb dough in a mini muffin tin, mini reeses cup pressed in at the end)
Sugar cookies
Cocoa crinkles
raspberry and lemon bars
oatmeal scotchies

We are not providing liquor except for a champagne toast. The venue is a hall with a bar in a separate room on the same floor - if anyone wants liquor, they are free to go to the bar and bring it back into the reception room. Essentially, I'm not providing, but I can't stop anyone from drinking if they want to pay for it. Not my ideal situation, I would prefer to host a beer and wine only bar, but it's not available on the budget.

Thanks so much for any help you can give!

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  1. Sounds like a daunting task ahead, I wish you well. You could probably cut out a couple of dishes and no one would go hungry. The desserts alone are way over. Most people will only want a piece of cake and that will be to take home. I hope more people step up and offer to help.

    1. Looks great, but thats a lot of cookies. (and this is coming from someone who makes 15 kind of cookies for christmas) I always put at an excess of desserts, and people usually just want a taste of something sweet

      3 Replies
      1. re: sunangelmb

        Unless you are in the Pittsburgh area where cookies are expected tradition, then I agree with limiting them.

        1. re: melpy

          But doesn't that tradition include contributions from extended family? Lots of cookies, but the bride is expected to provide all of them.

          1. re: mpjmph

            Only attended weddings as such never helped plan so unsure.

      2. I'd cut down on the cookies/desserts and maybe add a few appetizers or and antipasto platter. By the end of the ordeal, most people just want a bite or two or something sweet and then they are done.

        1. Sorry, forgot to add, the reason for so many cookies is that they are the favors as well - we are having bags for people to choose some to take home.

          2 Replies
          1. re: pinkrose

            Lovely menu. Sounds like it will be pleasing.

            I agree with opinions above, lots of lovely sweets, but lots of work. Since you're using those as favors (nice touch!), consider serving only three to four varieties, and have maybe three new ones to choose as favors. Or maybe 6 flavors total, and pre-assorted bags for take-home, no choice involved.

            Also, and I speak as a concerned 'auntie', please get some aunties, sisters, cousins, and cookish male relatives enlisted for prep, cooking, setup, and buffet supervision, now, lol. You've chosen a lot of dishes that can be safely delegated to family, please do consider how you (and hubby, and mom and mom) want to be spending your wedding day. :)

            1. re: DuchessNukem

              I agree with DuchessNuken - lots of aunties and sisters would be happy to help! I know you wedding is over and I will continue to read to see how everything turned out! One of our friend's daughters did cookies as a favor, but packaged two of them in small glassine bags tied with ribbon and had them at each place setting. Then that would cut back on the amount of cookies/desserts that you are offering at a table for people to help themselves.

          2. Skip the some kind of starchy salad and ixnay about half of the cookies. You could maybe even skip the hummus/pita. I would skip the flavored syrups and just serve lemonade and the tea sweet or un, and provide lemon wedges and mint leaves.

            Basically, you just have too much stuff here. Too much stuff will be a nightmare to coordinate and serve, and 120 isn't really that many people!

            1. I also think there is too much food, but for the reason that the guests will have had lunch before the ceremony and will be getting dinner after they leave.

              In addition, what will the weather be like? If you are in hurricane country and there is huge humidity or rains or if the hall is not air conditioned, people won't be very hungry.

              The whole menu could be the veggie tray, salmon mousse(a nice nod to your grandmother) and the rolls with ham and turkey (with sandwich condiments). No need for fancier beverages than lemonade, iced tea and iced water (you can put cucumber and or fruit slices in the water) (one will be sweetened, one will have caffeine and one will have neither). The wedding cake will be dessert. The idea of mixing so many ingredients and baking cookies in June ...limit to three really good/favorite/family recipes and package up ahead as the favors.

              1. Thank you all so much for your responses. We are up north, and in a nicely air conditioned hall, and have families of heavy eaters, to address some of the concerns. I am truthfully afraid to cut too much, as many of our family weddings lately have been a full sit down at the same time of day, so many people are expecting a full meal but won't get one. And some will come expecting full meals even though the reception card will specify hors d'oeurves.

                Regarding the cookies, I will look at reducing the numbers. If anything, the sugar cookies will go, as they take time to decorate (I used flooded royal icing, and am a tad OCD with it, and don't think I'll have time the week of). Many of the cookies can be made ahead and frozen, well wrapped, which is something my mother does often, to save time the week of. So, it'll be chocolate chip, PB cookie pies, gingersnaps (Father of Groom fave), Oatmeal Scotchies (ode to a deceased grandfather), lemon bars, raspberry bars, and brownies. Only the fruit bars can't be frozen.

                The lemonade/ice tea bar is our signature drink - that is one of the must haves. I realize that it will be a little more involved, but we are thinking of ways to make that easier.

                My fiance is a Navy cook, so he is used to cooking for crowds and can definetly help with ideas there.

                Again, thank you all so much for all the responses. I truly appreciate all the help!

                2 Replies
                1. re: pinkrose

                  As a 'grazer', your menu sounds utterly delightful! I wouldn't change a thing. I'm also of the mind that feeding your guests is one of the great pleasures of a party, be it a wedding reception, birthday, holiday, etc.

                  My one concern would be to make sure all the dishes are held at the appropriate temperatures, i.e., hot foods really hot and cold foods really cold. Nothing can spoil a beautiful memory like a bad case of food poisioning!

                  Congratulations on your nuptuals. May you and your beloved share many, many years together!

                  1. re: pinkrose

                    What I meant was cutting to just have a lot of a few food selections instead of doing so many items with 120 (or 240 or 360) portions of each.

                    Having a few things done really well is better than a bunch of things done in an average way. In the long run, it will cost less and not be as much work.

                  2. pinkrose, I do wish you well, but for your own bridal happiness, and the sanity of your family and close friends(who will be helping cook), please DO limit your menu - too many items. This would be a groaning board of food for a cold buffet meant as an early dinner, and as you are having your wedding at nearly the ONLY time of day when you don't have to provide a meal (you are between standard mealtimes), go easier on yourself.

                    Keep the meats, rolls, condiments (add mustard:), cake of course and grandma's salmon mousse

                    then: do the cookies ahead and get some pre-teens to be your packaged cookies. And choose freezable doughs or cookies so this can be done ahead a bit.
                    either melon w/ proscuitto, OR fruit tray
                    either Antipasto salad OR veggie tray/dip
                    Hummus can go - you have cheese tray if any veggetarians come, and the starchy salad, which I would keep.
                    For that, perhaps something compromise-y like a more modern pasta salad, or at least if you do the rice; put 1/3 wild rice in it for a little nutty taste and visual contrast...

                    You could certainly simplify the beverages as well, and only offer a couple of syrups. To make this beverage service easy, I highly reccomend buying/borrowing a few of those wonderful large containers that hold a gallon, up on a base with an ice well in it, and a spigot, so no one has to be constantly switching pitchers. Those were a gotsend at my dad's 75'th birthday this summer I self- catering for my folks.

                    Keep us posted on your plans

                    1. As one of my restauranteur friends would say, "that's quite an ambitious menu!". I love that you have included family favourites, must haves and your grandmother's salmon mousse. It's unclear, to me, whether you are providing enough of each item for every guest to try; I truly don't think that is necessary. In my experience, the smaller the menu, the lower the cost. So, if it's possible for you to reduce the number of different items (and make more of each), I think the cost will be lower. As an example, I might omit the starchy salad, minimize the selection of vegetables, and not go overboard on buying pita. But that's just me :)
                      Good call on including brownies and oatmeal scotchies; bar cookies are quick to make LOTS of.
                      My one piece of advice, if you are able to accommodate, is to use smaller platters. Smaller platters are easier to put into cooler chests for transport, less daunting for "helpers" to assemble, and easier to keep fresh-looking throughout the reception.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: KarenDW

                        I'd agree that's a big menu and your motto should probably keep it simple. Given the time of day you are serving the foodYou could probably get away with just serving cake, cookies and punch if you wanted to, or just light hors deserves.

                        That said, I can understand that you would want your special day and eat well too.I'd echo what others said and cut down a dish or two or three.

                        Also are you a member of some kind of big scale store like costco or sam's club? This kind of situation almost begs you to have a membership so you can buy things in bulk.

                        I know you weren't specifically asking for a starchy salad recipe but this one is great: Roasted Potato Salad, it has a mustard vinegar based dressing. http://www.grubreport.com/kissthecook.... It's delicious and pretty simple to make for a crowd, (well you'd have to roast the potatoes in batches)

                      2. I would cut that amount of food down to half of what it is now and offer wine and beer with the overflow. JMO but I hate, hate, hate a cash bar at a wedding and every single one I have been at, people at the table complain about it. People in general will grumble much less about an appetizer only menu if you were to at least offer wine and beer (which is what we did at our reception by the way). And remember only about 60% of your invitees will attend so will you REALLY have 120?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: rockandroller1

                          I agree. it is the middle of the afternoon, you don't need all this food, imo. I'd stick with the appetizers, eliminating the two major meat dishes and have at least some beer and wine.

                        2. I'd cut the zucchini, summer squash, green peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli
                          skip the fruit salad
                          skip the melon/proscuitto
                          skip the starchy salad
                          on the cheese tray I'd add pineapple spears dipped in chopped pistachios along w/the grapes
                          I'd add dishes of marcona almonds on the tables and bowls of mixed olives
                          skip the grilled antipasto
                          I like the cookie table, recruit volunteers to take over that job completely

                          Maybe now you have enout $$$ for wine or a wine punch or spritzers

                          1. Sorry to share this but, I have been married 3 times and did the food myself for all of my weddings. I would skip the fruit tray since you already have cantaloupe and also the hummus if they are traditional type eaters. Paula Deen has a good recipe on the Food Network website called Italian potato salad that requires no mayo and people like it. You can tweak it if you need to. It has to be served at room temperature so that's good. I have also found that, at buffets where there is ham and turkey, people are looking to make sandwiches out of it so maybe you could have some sandwich bread or slider type rolls instead of finger rolls. I could never understand that because clearly it's not a sandwich situation but it happens. I agree with prepackaging the cookies to save money. Maybe instead of antipasto salad you could make a cucumber/tomato salad to save money and pay for a beer and wine bar. Everyone loves deviled eggs, don't apologize. I think your menu looks great, if you try to make appetizers only that's too hard. I think finger foods are harder than roasted meat for sure. And I also agree that everyone wants to eat no matter what time of day it is.

                            1. My friend self-catered her wedding and one thing she did was hire students from Craig's List to help with the serving at the event. They were food services or hospitality type students and they did a decent job getting the food out, maintaining the appearance of the trays (so they weren't 3/4 empty or messy), and serving some food and drinks from trays, for less than $20/hour or so. Then perhaps you can delegate one of your helpers to direct them and be their go-to person. The less people have to ask YOU what to do at the wedding the better.

                              Fruit and veggie trays can be purchased of course. More expensive but less work. I would honestly look at the work you have to do the week before and the day of and aim to cut it in half if at all possible. Just a rule of thumb I follow when planning parties because I tend to be overly ambitious and I would rather relax and enjoy, which helps my guests relax as well! Getting rid of the fancy sugar cookies is a good call. Are you sure the fruit bars can't be frozen? A local grocery chain does a frozen French-style lemon tart that is very good so I think it is possible. You want to enjoy your day :)

                              1. I see a good number of fruit tray dissenters. I'd keep the fruit tray. June is nearing the height of some special fruits, and they will be dirt cheap, beautiful, and tasty as hell. I would make fruit trays a mild focal point. KISS method with fruit trays- maybe buy four watermelons, hollow them out, and then fill them with assorted cheap - in season fruits. Place these in different spots on the food table(s)

                                LOL - As I was reading your post, when looking at the planned menu, I was thinking, "sounds like somewhere up in Wisconsin."

                                Also,just a thought for easy-peasy - served cold buffet food which may still be abundant (cheap) in June.
                                SALMON - poached. I know you've got the mousse, but a few salmon sides are fancy lookin, and easy to do. add a few fancy cut lemon slices, and a sauce or two, and bingo. Lake trout from the big lake (Michigan or Superior) will probably be abundant and cheaper still.

                                Got a place for mini pasties?

                                1. I'm of the opinion that it is much more difficult to make a large variety of appetizers than to make a small assortment of actual dinner foods. Considering the issue of not being able to provide hot foods, it is understandable to serve only appetizers--but please cut down the variety, for the sake of your sanity and happiness on the wedding day!

                                  I would serve:

                                  -Fruit tray AND/OR vegetable tray--the veg tray sounds great to me, but if you need to save time, pick the fruit tray, imo, since more people would angle for that during summers, I'd assume
                                  -Deviled eggs
                                  -Baked ham + baked turkey--you can include some bread or pitas with this, instead of keeping the hummus, unless you have vegans in the group; cheese tray can be combined with this, please
                                  -Finger rolls
                                  -Starchy salad
                                  -Salmon mousse

                                  Make sure you plan for how many people RSVP, not just for how many are invited!

                                  Non-adventurous eaters will appreciate the "sandwich" options and the familiarity of several of the served foods.