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Best wording to offer chef services as a gift to bride & groom

My BFF's daughter is getting married next month and as an addition to a wedding gift I would like to offer the newlywed couple my chef services for am intimate dinner party for up to a party of 6. I've done catering for the family pro bono before, but want to make it clear that my services (planning, shopping, cooking) are free, but not the actual food costs. How best to word this offer? TIA.

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  1. That's weird. Just pay for the food or don't offer the gift. Also is this gift for you, seems self absorbing...

    5 Replies
    1. re: albatruffles

      Wow...really?! So if someone offered this to you you would take it as a slight? Don't understand how this would be gifting myself.

      1. re: letsindulge

        "Don't understand how this would be gifting myself."

        Since no one else took the time to reply...this gift could also be construed as "free advertising".

        I did like some of the ideas posted later in the thread, e.g. absorbing the food costs and cooking ~only~ for the couple. The idea of taking the couple shopping and then offering them a cooking-lesson is genius!

        1. re: pedalfaster

          I think the idea of offering a cooking-lesson could still be taken as 'offensive' to the couple because they might think.. "what is so wrong with my cooking? why does this person think we need lessons? who does this person think s/he is anyway.. telling us how to cook!"
          (Not to mention if they have dietary sensitivities or keep Kosher.)

          1. re: pedalfaster

            pedalfaster: a cooking lesson for a couple in their late twenties that didn't ask for such a lesson?

            taking a couple in their late twenties to the market as though they hadn't yet figured out how to shop for food? and on top of it asking them to pay for it?
            some of my daughter's friends in their EARLY twenties have already traveled the world and earned their masters degrees and have responsible jobs. these are not little kids anymore who are helpless in a supermarket.
            also, NONE of them want to spend their hard-earned money on higher end food--they'll happily eat it if someone else were to deliver a box of gourmet chocolate croissants or the like, but they'd rather spend THEIR money paying off their student loans or traveling or, or, or.

            by my late 20's i was a personal chef myself.
            one of my daughter's friendsm (24 years old) is already a professional baker at a bakery.

            by one's late 20's, the time for this sort of hand-holding by a member of your parents' generation is normally well over.

            what about this concept do you see as genius?

            1. re: westsidegal

              Lots of people sign up for all kinds of cooking lessons, well past their 20s. A cooking lesson doesn't necessarily mean starting from how to boil water. Base on the number of cooking classes available, I assume lots of people who cook quite well would still be interested in learning secrets and tips from a professional.

              I'd see the market trip the same way. I mean, yes, sure, I can go to the store and buy groceries, but I imagine professionals might have ways of spotting the best produce or an approach to thinking about shopping that's interesting and different from what I do as just an ordinary person.

              If either member of the happy couple was a chef, I'm assuming the original poster would have mentioned that.

      2. I hate to say it because it probably isn't what you want to hear, but I agree with albatruffles's post. If the newlyweds have to pay, then it just doesn't sound like a gift. Moreover, I guess if you can talk it out and explain it to your BFF first then maybe s/he could explain it to the daughter so that she understands she still has to pay.. but eh, I think with all of the wedding planning and then the day itself and maybe a honeymoon afterward, then the last thing she will probably want to think about is coordinating another dinner that ..basically she will also have to pay for. Not to mention, I am not sure I would want one of my parent's friends working in my kitchen and/or serving me in my own house... and I probably wouldn't want to drag my friends over to someone's house that was merely a friend of my parents (not really my own friend). I would rather have something off my registry and maybe just treat your BFF to dinner because s/he will surely also deserve it after the wedding stress.--Just my opinion though.

        1. Exactly the reason you asked if there is a good way to say this, I would say that this can come off rather confusing. I would not bring this up unless they are complaining about finding a good caterer.

          1. Do the bride and groom know how to cook? If not, consider, instead, offering to take one or both of them shopping for ingredients for a meal of their choice, then walking them through the preparation. It could be just for the newlyweds, or others could be invited, arriving for drinks and hors d'oeuvres but not to participate in the shopping or cooking - too many cooks, as the saying goes. For the shopping part, you'd be showing them how to select good pieces of meat and produce, choose an appropriate wine, etc.

            As newlyweds, the thought of throwing a nice dinner party may be intimidating. You would be teaching them how to prepare a meal for entertaining their friends, so they can do so with confidence at a later date, without your assistance.

            4 Replies
            1. re: greygarious

              Now that would be a great gift! And it's a gift that would keep on giving.

              If they know how to cook some things, ask if there's one dish they'd really like to learn how to cook at home.

              1. re: greygarious

                i don't know how old these "kids" are who are getting married.
                my daughter is 23.
                the whole idea of throwing a "dinner party" is not something that she nor her friends would have any interest in doing.
                the formality of a dinner party is seen as an imposition.
                she and her boyfriend will participate in them at my house as an accommodation to MY desires.
                when HER friends come over, it is a lot more casual.
                making a mess in the kitchen which will require a real clean up is NOT appealing to her crowd nor is having a fixed start time.
                maybe it's because she's in the health care field as are most of her friends. they all work 12 hour shifts and are never really positive about what time they will get off work. also, it takes two to three hours to drive from one end of our county to another. it's almost an act of hostility to issue an invitation that involves a completely fixed start time. (a movie is ok because if "things happen" you can just blow off the movie.
                a get together to go to the gym is ok because if some folks arrive sooner or later than others, it's no big deal. grabbing a big table at a very causal restaurant that can accommodate folks coming and going as they get off work is ok. but a dinner party that starts at a specific time would not be valued)

                also, i'm not sure about the assumption that the newlyweds don't know how to shop for food. really? (maybe so, when my daughter first went to college some kids arrived never having done their own laundry!) my daughter already knows how to shop for food but doesn't have the interest in creating a dinner party with that knowledge. if one of my friends insisted on taking her to the market(s), it would be very awkward.

                not everyone thinks of dinner-party shopping, cooking, cleaning (before and after), as a wonderful creative outlet nor as a critical or desired life skill.

                1. re: westsidegal

                  Neither you nor I nor the other responders have any idea what the newlyweds' circumstances are, which is why I began my suggestion asking if they already cook. If not, the OP would also need to find out if they have any interest in learning. Fortunately, s/he knows the family so can suss out the specifics.

                  If they have/aspire to high-level professional careers, throwing a grown-up dinner party is a skill that would at some point be beneficial. IF they are interested in learning, the OP's offer could be a godsend.

                  1. re: greygarious

                    Very true.

                    I know a good number of 20-somethings. Their entertaining style runs the gamut - as is true for any age range. Some are very casual. Others could but their elders classic dinner parties to shame.

                    The OP has known her friends child for years. I doubt she would be considering this offer is she didn't think it was a gift they would enjoy.

              2. I agree that it's better to either give it as a full gift - you pay for the food and the services - or give something else entirely. No matter how you word it, it's going to come off as very strange.

                1. How about your BFF pay for the actual food cost, and the gift to her daughter will be from the both of you?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Tripeler

                    I would think the BFF is probably shelling-out (possibly) for the wedding.. then on top of that: asking him/her to pay for something that is part of some other guest's gift would be kind of maybe not so nice to the BFF.

                  2. I have to agree with the general consensus here. Asking them to pay for part of the gift means it isn't really a gift. Unless they are the ones who brought it up to you, adding another party/event during an already stressful/expensive time might not be warmly received. If it were me, I wouldn't take it as a "slight" but I would think it was very odd and only indulge the idea because you were a friend of my mother's.

                    A gift is free with no strings attached. Pay for the food or treat them to something else you feel comfortable paying for.

                    1. Just chiming in that if this gift is to be given, it should be given as an all-inclusive. Imagine if a photographer offered up their time and expertise, and even maybe some darkroom materials, but required the recipients of the gift to paper for paper, matting, and frame. (And if that were offered, one would have to assume that the value of having such a photograph well outweighed any additional costs...)

                      Not a slight, just a bit weird. Although (just thinking aloud here) if you do have a professional company, maybe a gift certificate as you would also provide for other customers who wish to gift your services? Maybe that has it outlined?

                      Also would add that newlywed doesn't necessarily mean inexperienced adult any more. Many of my friends were married after years of co-habiting and throwing dinner parties.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: Lizard

                        If you don't want to pay for food for six, why not cook them a meal for two, paying for the ingredients also?

                        1. re: magiesmom

                          I think this is a far better idea. It could be for their one month, six month, or one year anniversary. All the stops: whatever fancy gourmet food they love but perhaps can't afford.

                      2. I have to agree with the others -- although I wouldn't be insulted by this gift, I would probably be confused. I'd also be deeply worried about how much food that was up to a chef's standards was going to cost me were I to redeem this gift. It would end up making me anxious about the situation, unfortunately.

                        On the other hand, as the only gift you gave me, a fully covered meal, whether for 2 or a small dinner party, would seem delightful, so perhaps you could save money by not buying them a thing and use that money to cover the food for your chef's meal instead?

                        If you do really want to go with 'you buy the food, and I'll cook for you', I'd suggest offering something like this:

                        "Help planning and preparing your first dinner party as newlyweds. We'll work on planning a menu to suit your budget and your guests' likes and dislikes, and I'll take you shopping to help you find and buy the best of what's available. Then I'll prepare the meal for you and your guests (you're welcome to help if you want to learn how to make the dishes) and best of all, I'll clean up after myself, so at the end of the night, most of the dishes will already be done!"

                        1 Reply
                        1. I've done this often. I detail what I'm offering, and end with "Your only cost is the groceries".

                          1. I agree with most others-either have it be all inclusive or let it go. Especially since you have done "pro bono" for the family before its just seem weird that this time there is a cost involved. I realize you are giving a gift in addition so just go that route

                            Of course it would be different if the BFF has hinted around to you on number occasions (Daughter SO loves to entertain and she always raves about your food!", "Daughter was just saying how she wished she could have dinner party that would blow her friends away!", "Daughter lost out on a bid to have XYZ come to her house and cook. You should talk to her!". Or if the daughter had given you any indication that she wished she could use you for a party and/or to teach her to cook. Were you considered for the wedding? The rehearsal dinner? The day after brunch? What make you think she would want this?

                            I have bid for things like this at school and charity auctions, usually for well known local chefs. The ones with caveats like that go for way less money because you have to factory in the food, etc. The cost of an "intimate dinner for 6 or even for 4 could be way outside their budget so it put them in a very awkward position. Who want to use a caterer if you can only afford spaghetti?

                            If you are dead set on the idea why not find another friend of the family to pitch in with you. You provide catering, they provide the food?

                            Better yet, if you truly want to gift them your cooking why not offer to deliver a romantic meal for two when they first get back from their honeymoon. It would be a wonderful gesture as they get back into "real life".

                            1. If they're getting married next month they have enough to worry about without feeling obliged to spend money on a dinner they may not have had otherwise. It's a nice thought but I agree that it should be all inclusive or if requested only.

                              1. Still considering doing this. Just to make things more clear my offer is for whenever, and where ever they would like to do it. This couple is in their late 20's and have a large group of friends that get together to do things including dinner. A chef-cooked dinner with an intimate group of friends is something I think they would appreciate, and sit back and enjoy.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: letsindulge

                                  You know the couple better than any of us do. But I would ask myself the following questions:

                                  1. Do the couple live in a place where they can host a dinner party for six or so people? Many 20 somethings don't. They tend to live in small apartments or houses. They may not even have enough chairs for the table!

                                  2. Do they have the requisite dishes and supplies for a nice dinner party? The young generation these days have largely disdained fine china and silverware in favor of a more casual lifestyle. Of course one can have a dinner on regular dishes, but the couple may feel awkward and not interested in having a "nice" dinner when they'd rather have friends over for a casual lasagna and salad dinner. Or a barbecue.

                                  3. Do they have the disposable income to fund the food (and presumably alcohol) expenses for a "nice" dinner? Many young people now pay at least partially for their wedding, and they may not want to spend a few hundred dollars on a meal so soon after their wedding and honeymoon.

                                  When I was in my late 20s all of my friends were in graduate school or had just completed graduate school and had large debts to pay off, or were saving for their down payment or had just moved to an expensive city with a high cost of living. Or most of the above at once! Many of us may have had nice incomes but high expenditures and spending a lot of money on a nice dinner party was not something that would have appealed to us, especially when a simple roast chicken and a creative pasta dish would have done the trick just as well.

                                  4. Last but not least, putting a cap of six people for the dinner party may cause problems you may not anticipate, especially if the couple has a sizable crowd of friends that are used to socializing together.

                                  In all honesty I agree with most people's sentiments. I would not be happy to receive this "gift" unless the food cost was included. Any gift that requires you to spend substantial money (and I assume this "nice" dinner you have in mind includes expensive ingredients and wine) is really not a gift but an imposition.

                                  How would you feel if you offered the couple this "gift" but they never took it up?

                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                    For example.. I am in my late twenties.. and I my answers would be:
                                    1. No
                                    2. No, sometimes I run out of forks. I have four forks. Four knives. Four spoons. I don't even have six of anything. (Not to mention if you were to cook at my house and wanted a blender... don't have one. Want a double-boiler? Don't have one. Want a pastry torch? Don't have one.) So before you cook there, you might have to bring your own tools and appliances.
                                    3. No.. I would rather pay-off my lavish wedding (the hypothetical one) and/or college loans then put a dime down on someone else's idea for a dinner.. (I didn't even think of this.. why am I paying for it?)
                                    4. Yes, that would cause an issue and the majority of my friends have at least one or multiple allergies and sensitivities.
                                    --So if you do cook for them then you might want to ask for a sum-total (scroll) of allergies

                                    If I just got married, I'd probably want to lay-low and not have a dinner-party at my house for at least some weeks or months (not to mention it seems common that a lot of newly-weds have a house full of boxes from all of the appliances and gifts from the wedding.. which also cuts down on room). So there is a good chance they wouldn't want to redeem the gift for some time.

                                    (I do think that giving it as a anniversary gift is a good idea. That way if you're still in good contact then there is a good chance they actually might want you over to their house. I just know many of my parents' friends I do adore.. but I wouldn't want them waltzing into my house and pretending to educate us in our inferior ways when I am still getting over the party-bonanza that was my wedding, returning gifts, writing thank-you notes, sleeping, returning to my job, picking out the pictures from the wedding, ... possibly even moving into a new home, etc. --that all could occur after the wedding. After the wedding, my first priority would not be to appease a random wish of my dad's friend. I would have a laundry-list of post-wedding items to attend to. Probably major bills to pay that ranked higher than someone else's proposed dinner party.)

                                    1. re: Roland Parker

                                      I would add to this - and again, the LW does know the couple better than we do - but the definition of "hosting" by the bride and her friends may not necessarily be uniform. Even when in our own places, it is a rare occasion where my friends truly "host" a meal in the definition of "buy everything and only expect a hostess gift from the guests". The most traditional version of this that my friends will do is the 'host' buys/prepares all the food - but there's a heavy expectation that the guests will provide all the alcohol. But more common is for varying degrees of potluck.

                                      Basically the notion of "we get together anyways - so why not have the treat of not having to cook" - may not necessarily be a gift if they're not used to paying for the entire dinner party.

                                      On the other hand, the LW knows the bride far better than we do - and all of these issues may not be pertinent. In that case, I feel that WNYamateur's wording is best.

                                    2. re: letsindulge

                                      There's just something about a "gift" that I have to budget for that I don't like.

                                      But if you think it's not a problem, then just state very clearly that you are offering your services as a cook, and will prepare whatever they want and purchase. Though remember, you'll have to think about every ingredient in the meal they want. Your pantry/fridge may always have ____, theirs may not. Are you comfortable with dictating a shopping list?

                                    3. Basically you are offering them personal chef services as a gift to redeem at their choice of time in the future. Frequently this sort of thing has two parts to the fee - the service itself and the food. So I don't see this as the problem some have voiced.

                                      However you word it do include that the event can be as fancy or casual as they wish and that menu consultation is included in the package. That should eliminate any worry about a menu beyond their budget.

                                      I think a gift which gives a part of you is very special.

                                      1. You cold offer to cook for their 1st Anniversary - either be present to cook and serve or drop off for them to warm up so they have some privacy. You will have control over the menu (for the most part) and can keep the cost minimal.

                                        I've been in the same situation and there really isn't a very gracious way to say - I"ll cook and you pay for the food, especially when it's a gift.

                                        1. Letsindulge,

                                          I don't know your relationship with your best friend's daughter. I have no doubt that your skills as a chef and caterer are very good indeed.
                                          But I will say that just because you can doesn't mean you *should*.

                                          The minute you extend this "gift," the couple may feel obligated to use it. What happens if a year passes--as the first year of marriage does, and quickly--and the gift isn't "used"? Do you approach the couple? Your friend? It may be awkward.

                                          As many others have said, I'd just offer the traditional gift for now. Down the line...if in a year from now the bride is entertaining her boss at home, or her husband's...and you get wind of it, or if there's a baby shower in a year or two, you can offer to cater...but not now.

                                          1. I actually think it is a really nice offer - to have a private chef for a party would be great for many people - since it is in addition to a gift - I think it is OK to be just services and somewhat of an informal arrangement

                                            I would include your business card (I am under the impression that you do this professionally right) and a handwritten and personal note explaining.

                                            If it does not interested them they just won't follow up - their loss but I bet they will

                                            1. What about modifying your gift a little? Like offering to cook (and provide food for) a *specific* party of 6 (or more) that is more labor intensive and more dependent on some specific cooking skills or specialty ( rather than expense) they might really appreciate.

                                              Like.... a tamale party, a french pastry party, dim sum, pulled pork sandwich party, real smoked BBQ, all duck confit appetizer party, okonomiyaki party, empanada or arepa party, turkish mezz, etc. none of these things would add much cost for you.
                                              I have a lot of "themed" parties and everyone loves them. As far as food allergies, easy to take care of with a few adjustments and an addition of a nice fresh salad (in the theme) or fresh beautifully plated veg. High skill, low cost, no pressure on guests and host. Most things are heavily prepped before the party, so low mess too.

                                              Easy to word.... My gift to you is an X party for 6 at your home, everything included but the beverages of your choice.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. Here's what I would want from you: an offer to come over and cook a fancy meal (for two) using only what I have in the house already. I'd get a free - and hassle-free - meal. I might also learn some new methods of preparation, and new ways to combine ingredients. And you'd look like an improvisational genius.

                                                1. my style would probably be way too casual for you, but maybe you can take something from this wording that would make sense:

                                                  "if you ever are interested in hosting an intimate dinner party for up to a party of six, i'd be thrilled to help out with the menu planning, shopping, and cooking."

                                                  (for a couple of reasons, i was trying to get away from the idea that you, as a parental-related figure who was not intending to fund the party, would be expecting to "be the boss" of their event.

                                                  i would try to communicate. in a collegial fashion, that you would be interested in supporting THEIR vision of THEIR party)

                                                  1. As a personal chef, I think your offer of an additional gift is lovely. Most of my clients understand that there are both the Service and the Supplies components in hosting a catered event. It's quite possible that the bridal couple is well aware of the cost of hiring a personal chef for a dinner party. And that they would appreciate your offer, as a family friend.
                                                    IMO, a separate card, with a certificate offering "Chef services for dinner party for up to 6 guests. We will plan the theme and menu together to suit your tastes. Your only obligation is to pay for food and wine!" It is up to the couple to accept or not accept your offer.
                                                    (I understand that your offer is in addition to a wedding gift; as per your OP)

                                                    1. I would just give them a small card that says:

                                                      "A Gift of an Intimate Dinner Party for 6: I will plan, shop for and cook an elegant meal for you and up to 4 of your friends. You set the food and wine budget, and I will do the rest!"