Budget Weddings

DIY catering

Has anyone catered their own food at their wedding?  We both have big families and they want to cook the food for us.  We are thinking there will be about 200 guests. The venue we are having the wedding at allows us to use the oven to heat food only so the food will have to be cooked before the wedding.  I have family who volunteered to help warm the food, set the food up, serve the food (buffet style) and clean up. They were thinking each person cooks one dish enough for 200 people.  I still have plenty of time to decided if I want this or if I should start looking for a caterer.  I like this idea because it will save us money (we are paying for the wedding ourselves) but I just don't know if it will be a lot of work and stress. 

Re: DIY catering

  • esstee33esstee33 Pittsburgh
    Ninth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    member

    Has anyone catered their own food at their wedding?  We both have big families and they want to cook the food for us.  We are thinking there will be about 200 guests. The venue we are having the wedding at allows us to use the oven to heat food only so the food will have to be cooked before the wedding.  I have family who volunteered to help warm the food, set the food up, serve the food (buffet style) and clean up. They were thinking each person cooks one dish enough for 200 people.  I still have plenty of time to decided if I want this or if I should start looking for a caterer.  I like this idea because it will save us money (we are paying for the wedding ourselves) but I just don't know if it will be a lot of work and stress. 

    Please read any of the many, many threads on this advising against it. Not only is it going to be a massive undertaking to actually cater for that many people, but you could also run into food safety issues and your family will spend your wedding day working on food and serving your guests rather than actually enjoying your wedding day. It's going to be an unfathomable amount of work and stress. 

    Adding to that, often food costs are going to make this not money-saving at all. If your event were only like 50 people, you might save money, sure. But for 200 guests? Probably not so much. 
    image
  • There are lots of threads discussing this topic, so you should be able to get a good idea what the general concensus is - and that's don't. 

    1. Even though they are volunteering, it's A LOT of work and your guests deserve to enjoy the party you are throwing for them as a thank you for attending your ceremony, not work it.

    2.  Lots of little things add up - and you really need to put pen to paper and do the leg work itemizing how much it will all cost.  Also include time and labor.  You may find out that it's really not cheaper, or that much cheaper, especially after you factor in the labor and stress.  Sometimes a little extra money is worth no one having to rush around and being able to enjoy the day.

    3.  There are lots of ways to save money that don't involve making your guests work.  Included would be having the wedding at a non-meal time and doing a cake and punch or dessert reception, have a daytime wedding where brunch and lunch foods are going to be cheaper than dinner, look into restaurants that cater as they will almost always be cheaper than a professional catering service and then hire some folks from a culinary school to help with set up and clean up or if you belong to a church, I'm sure your church high school youth group would be willing to help out in exchange for a small, but still decent donation to whatever their next trip they may planned.  Italian restaurants, especially small family owned ones, usually have great catering deals.  A local family owned restaurant here has baked mostaccioli, salad, meatballs, and bread for $7/pp.  If something like that is still too far out of your budget, a la carte might work out better.  Another restaurant here has trays of penne with red sauce that feed 40-50 for $50 and alfredo sauce for $60.  Five trays and you'd have the bulk of your main dish set for under $300.  You just need to do more legwork.

    Ultimately, your family will do it for you because they love you, but you should graciously decline and find an option that doesn't require them to work because you love them.
    theartistformerlyknownasesstee33cowgirl8238MGP
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado
    Moderator Tenth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    mod
    My DH is an exec chef.  He cooks for large banquets.   Cooking for our wedding was not even an option as we both know all the work it entails and we wanted to be able to enjoy our wedding.








    What differentiates an average host and a great host is anticipating unexpressed needs and wants of their guests.  Just because the want/need is not expressed, doesn't mean it wouldn't be appreciated. 
  • climbingwifeclimbingwife NYC 'burbs
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    member
    Cooking for 200 people is a freaking huge task. Please do not put this burden on your family. Hire a caterer.

  • We contemplated doing our own but I am totally against it.  I want to have fun at my wedding not be stressing over the food.  We will be having about 150 guests so i called everywhere I could think of for pricing. Restaurants, caterers, you name it I got a quote. I tried to give them all the same menu for the quote so it would be apples to apples comparison.  The best quote I got was from a restaurant for about $2400 and was very basic.  Last week we were at Olive Garden and I checked them.  They don't cater but they do provide what they call parties to go.  The combinations they offer will feed 10 people for $100.  We are considering doing that and setting it up family style.  
  • mikenbergermikenberger In a f'n cornfield
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Anniversary First Answer
    member
    100% agree with the PPs. Get a caterer. I was the MOH in a wedding where the bride and groom "catered" themselves. It was terrible. I spent (along with the MOB, grandparents, random aunts etc) most of the day prepping food, making sure the food didn't run out, refilling trays, shoving stuff into ovens etc. It was AWFUL. I had no time to celebrate with the bride (who has been my best friend for 15+ years) along with the others I was working with who didn't get to celebrate and share. and by the time I was done, my hair was flat, my dress stunk and my makeup had run from all the sweat and heat.

    Please, no matter how much they think its "not a big deal" or it will be easy, give them the gift of not having to cater your wedding.

    image
  • I think 200 guests is an overwhelming amount to DIY for.  We're considering going DIY for reception food, but we're only having 40 guests.
  • I've made homestyle mashed potatoes for groups of 80.  With lots of help.  It took hours and it SUCKED.  
    Formerly known as flutterbride2b
    image
    MGPfirebabe6519
  • It took me a couple of hours, and an achy arm, to make 5 pounds of mashed potatoes for my freezer cooking.  That's for a family of four.

    I cannot imagine doing enough to feed 100 people.  I'd probably end up in an arm sling.

    Or drunk AND in an arm sling.
    MGP
  • My brothers wedding was about a month ago and the bride's mom volunteered to overlook the food.
    Her mom is a teacher at the local college for restaurant/catering and hired her students to help with prep and to maintain the buffet line. because of her connections with the college she was able to use the school to prep everything, store the food in the walk-in coolers, and use the serving dishes.

    They had around 220 people at the wedding and the bride's mom did not get to enjoy much of anything during the wedding. The days before she was baking the cupcakes and their cake (which they didn't even cut at the wedding), overlooking the food prep, bringing everything over to the reception hall, and even going to the reception hall late the night before to tie the bread rolls. After everyone ate she was helping clean up since the hall was needed the next morning for a brunch.

    The brides mom works hard to accommodate her kids and I am pretty sure the bride didn't really acknowledge the work her mom put in. 

    Hire a cater for that many people and let your family enjoy the day. If they really want to help out and cook something maybe they could arrange something for the rehearsal dinner where there will be less people or someone could help with sandwiches for the a pre wedding snack (if you have pictures in the morning and there is a bit of downtime before the ceremony). 
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