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Food and Cakes

Make your own food for reception???

My fiance and I are on a budget, like many people are. We're considering foregoing the caterer and doing the food ourselves, with help from friends and family of course. 
Has anyone done this? What was your experience? Was the cost-savings worth the headache? 
Our guest list is looking small-ish, 60-70 people altogether, including children. 
And this question does NOT include drinks or cake, JUST food. I'm leaning towards a good old-fashioned buffet style serving set up...Thanks in advance!

Re: Make your own food for reception???

  • Yes and it didn't go over well. Many of the food items ran out before everyone was able to go through the buffet line. Because no one that helped with the food brought enough of their dish to feed that many people.

    First of all do you really want to spend the day of your wedding making food? And if you do it the day before, do you have a way to store the food so that it won't spoil & then who is going to heat it up? Who is going to do set up. I know caterers can be expensive. My suggestion is to do some of the desserts if possible yourself, like bake a couple different variety of cookies & some brownies. For the food, contact some local resturants, especially pizza places, to see about ordering full pans of food. Many mom pop pizza places can do full pans of pastas, chicken, and salad and sometimes other types of meats & sides. Then all you have to do is have someone pick it up right before the ceremony (unless they offer delivery). Also don't forget to check your local grocery store for catering options. Again, you just need to have someone pick it up & set things up. But you can get everything ready in advance that morning so all the food has to be is put out on the table. This way you don't have to go through a lot of working doing food yourself or having family/guests cook either, you've saved money and you've reduced your stress a ton. But if anyone offers to help make desserts or go pick up the food, by all means, take them up on the offer.

    adwks
  • IMO, this seems like a bigger headache than it's worth if you're trying to do it for cost savings.  When you serve food for an event you need to be real careful about keeping hot food heated to proper temperatures and cold food kept and served at safely cold temperatures.  Caterers are already totally prepared for this and have the proper equipment like coolers and chafing dishes, where you would have to rent these.  They are also equipped to cook for and serve crowds.   

    There are lots of options you can look into to save money, including brunch receptions, cake and punch receptions in the afternoon, limited alcohol options (by this I mean dry wedding, beer/wine only, not cash or partial cash bar).  You could also eliminate favors, pare down on other expensive decorations like flowers, lighting, etc.

    60-70 is a manageable size to throw an affordable reception but unless you're a professional caterer, it's A LOT to cook for while you should be focusing on and enjoying getting married.  If your family offers to help, that's great but I would not solicit anyone's help to prepare the food.  Although they may say yes and be willing to help, the only ones responsible for hosting are you and your FI.  Let them enjoy your ceremony and reception, don't put them to work.    
    [Deleted User]
  • http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2015/04/home-canned-potatoes-served-at-church-potluck-probably-caused-botulism-outbreak/

    This is why you should not do a potluck. Since your wording is vague I'm not sure if your soliciting your friends to work for their "thank you for coming to the wedding" meant making them cook their own food to bring or making them cook all day in your kitchen. 
    image
    OliveOilsMomAmanderson1290[Deleted User]sparklepants41
  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
    Moderator 5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its
    I agree with PPs. Also, have you ever cooked a full meal for 70 people? How would you even do that? Even if you made a dozen lasagnas a few weeks before and froze them, how would you reheat them all so they're all warm at the same time? 

    A lot of places can cater things like pasta, chicken, Mexican food or BBQ for like 10-15 bucks a person. I don't know the exact costs but I would think that the groceries needed to feed 70 people would come pretty damn close to, if not exceed that amount.

    And unless you've had family members offer, I wouldn't count on help. The last thing I wanted my mom or grandma doing on my wedding day was cooking - they should be having a good time!

    Also, think about things like refilling empty trays or removing garbage during the reception. Who is going to do that? Where will this food be during the ceremony?
    Image result for someecard betting someone half your shit youll love them forever
    [Deleted User]lc07
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    Your guests will remember very few things about your wedding day.  They will forget what colors you picked and what flowers you used.  But they will remember the food.  And they will especially remember if it sucked and they got food poisoning because of it.

    Hire a professional.  There are many non-expensive options, but seriously, unless you are in the catering business and have the appropriate experience and equipment and time and space, just say no to DIYing the food.

    southernbelle0915OliveOilsMomPrettyGirlLostlc07
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers

    If there are any two areas where DIY should not be done, it is photography and food.

    There are those, like yourselves, who think that they can do the food (with help from family and friends).  But what if your family and friends refuse to help because they believe (rightfully) that that's not their job?  And do you really want to spend your reception cooking and serving food and drinks to your guests? 

    Hire professionals to handle food preparation and service for you.

    sparklepants41
  • I think it's really easy to fall in to the trap of "I can manage this" with DIY - especially food. Planning a wedding is stressful enough, you don't want to be overwhelmed with food details in the weeks before your wedding should it turn off to be a case of biting off more than you can chew.

    Catering doesn't have to be expensive. I have been to several weddings that were catered by a local bbq place and the food was to die for.
    image
    MesmrEwe
  • MesmrEweMesmrEwe member
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    edited July 2015

     


    stuck in box

    The basic translation is that you want your guests to be worker bees at your wedding instead of being guests at your wedding.  This one is one that the etiquette boards would rip you to shreds on.  Your family/friends/guests are to be hosted, not put to work!

    I've cooked for large groups before with church and for groups I've been involved in.  This thing you're talking about with cost savings - yea - good one!!!  Your ingredients, supplies, time (that nesco isn't going to clean itself!), and time (value of your time leading up to the wedding is more than doubled) add up.  Especially since the "big box" is your cheapest option for large quantities of raw ingredients, that's still a lot of food to purchase and make. 

    Cooking for 6-7 is a doable option, 60-70 ... Just hire it out!  If you can't afford a caterer before you've even priced it, you're already not considering your options and what you get for the money.  A caterer is going to do all of the basic set-up/prep and provide the napkins/linens.  That means, "just add people"..  Most caterers will provide a basic centerpiece with their catering package thus, you save hundreds or thousands right there.  Caterers will provide plates/silver/napkins - unless you want food falling off of paper plates, this is going to save you at least another hundred or more for a group of 60-70 (you'll need 100+ dinner plates, 70 cake plates, 200+ forks, then knives and spoons, cups/glasses, etc.)...  Many restaurants (Subway, KFC, Famous Dave's, Pizza joints, Ethnic restaurants, etc.) and grocery stores offer a catering menu, some even provide full-service catering for larger events.  Even if they provide a single staff-person for your event, it's far superior than asking your guests to work.  It also saves you money over trying to DIY to consider your options carefully because you never know, you may be able to afford a nicer meal than you thought just by hiring it out!  A $15 meal catered for 60 plus tax/tip comes out to about $1150...  Just something to consider..

    Then - the big one - food safety!!!!  If you aren't familiar with this aspect with cooking for large groups then take it off the radar now!  Fridge space is at a premium, hot foods need to stay hot and cold foods cold.  Why risk the liability that this would bring if someone or many get sick (or worse) at your event because something wasn't kept to proper temps.  Then comes the allergy risks/liabilities.  AND, what happens when a guest calls you up and needs a special menu because they can't have (wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, vegetarian, vegan, low carb, etc.)... 

    This is all stuff to think about!  On top of "DUH!  Big white dress!!!!" You are hosting guests, which is enough work in and of itself, would you rather spend your time in the kitchen making and serving food, or getting to be out with ALL of your guests enjoying yourselves and having a great time.  Do you want to remember your having WORKED at your wedding, or having enjoyed your wedding?

    Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker Baby Birthday Ticker Ticker
    [Deleted User]
  • arrippaarrippa Sam Adams Craft Commonwealth member
    Eighth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    I have been to a wedding where it was self-catered. It was a church wedding that had a full kitchen. They got pans of lasagna, salad and rolls from Costco and were able to heat the food up in the full kitchen attached to the church. And by they, I mean a couple of volunteers from our church did it.  The couple literally had no time to do it.

    adwks
  • Neither you nor your guests should be worrying about getting food ready for your wedding. If you are concerned about money, get an inexpensive local restaurant to cater, or if your budget is really tight, get some sandwiches/cold cut platters and salads from a deli or supermarket. Please don't make your family and friends cook for your wedding.
    image
    MesmrEwe[Deleted User]
  • When I married exH, I had half catered, and my Mother and I did the other half. One, because we wanted some of our favorite things there and we wanted it exactly the way we like it (control freak...maybe) :). 2, I am a chef and food critic, so feeding that many people isn't unusual to me. It was fine. We had plenty of food. People enjoyed the food. I was happy to share what I love to do with people I love.

    HOWEVER, if you are not a chef/caterer, I strongly recommend against this. There are so many things you won't consider in advance about feeding that many people at once in a strange kitchen environment. Prep will be a nightmare while you are trying to finalize wedding details. Also, there is NO WAY I would have done this without having the other caterer on hand who agreed to platter and serve the half that I brought. Even so, keeping me out of the kitchen the last 2 house before the wedding was a chore since that is where I love to be. They were shooing me out to go get my makeup on. I am glad I did it, but am NOT doing it this time. I want to relax and enjoy my guests. We are serving gourmet pizzas at the restaurant on site at the brewery where we will be married. Even something as simple as pizza can be a great meal. You don't need it to be fancy and expensive to be delicious, and take it from someone who has done it that you just don't need that added stress.
    MesmrEwe
  • Cost is the #1 reason I'm doing BBQ food.  The cost of the actual food is $12/pp and that includes all the plates, utensils, 2 mains (brisket and chicken), 3 sides, and iced tea and lemonade.  So basically, it's almost as cheap as DIY.  My cost pp went up because I'm having extra waitstaff to help keep things tidy, but my wedding is much larger than 60-70 people.  

    So yeah, don't do DIY, there's plenty of cheap food options available that don't require you and your family members to be in the kitchen the day of.
    Married 9.12.15
    image
    MesmrEwe[Deleted User]
  • Forgot to say that at my mom's wedding, they did catered food from a local italian place... so salad and a couple pasta options and bread, and their total food cost was around $400.  They had like 40-50 people.  
    Married 9.12.15
    image
    lc07
  • JoanE2012JoanE2012 Exit 21 (Jersey!) member
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 5 Answers
    I'll be honest, food is pretty much the only thing I remember from a wedding and how I judge a wedding to be good or bad.  You don't want people to remember your wedding for the wrong reasons.  Leave the food to the pros.
    PrettyGirlLostsparklepants41
  • PrettyGirlLostPrettyGirlLost A Land Filled with Unicorns and Cat Hair member
    5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its First Answer
    The reception should be 50%-60% of your total budget, with food and beverages the main and largest portion of your reception budget.

    If you can't afford to hire a caterer for your wedding, then you can't really afford  what you are planning.  PPs gave good ideas on areas where you could save money in your budget, or you could extend your engagement to allow you to save up enough to hire a caterer.

    As Joan said:

    JoanE2012 said:
    I'll be honest, food is pretty much the only thing I remember from a wedding and how I judge a wedding to be good or bad.  You don't want people to remember your wedding for the wrong reasons.  Leave the food to the pros.


    "Love is the one thing we're capable of perceiving that transcends time and space."


    MesmrEwe
  • sugarunicornsugarunicorn member
    First Anniversary First Comment
    edited July 2015
    Don't do it. Time is money, and unless you've done it before.... its hard to fully appreciate just how exhausting it is to prep, cook, and serve a full meal for 60-70 people. Keeping food at safe temps, serving, replenishing food, rental costs for proper equipment... just spend the money and save yourself the headache. Do you want to spend the morning of your wedding cutting veggies for 70 people in a tiny household kitchen? 

    Hell, I agreed to make cupcakes for a friend's baby shower of 60 people, and that alone was an ENORMOUS job I'd never do again. 
  • edited August 2015
    When we first got engaged (3.5 years ago.. ive had plenty if time to rethink my original ideas) we thought yeeahh we could DIY food and everything. Yeahhh.
    No.
    We've had a few cookouts since then with just 15-30 guests. I was STRESSED TO THE MAX. Every time. So even tho our wedding is "only" 50-60 people we will hire a caterer. I want an on site BBQ pit. It'll probably be $8-$13 a guest, and honestly I'm not sure we could do it that cheap on our own. Caterers get stuff at wholesale, besides the time and servers that you'll need so you and FI can kick back and enjoy.

    Another option is to host your wedding between meal times. A friend if mine is doing this and will just be serving finger foods(deli trays, veggie trays, small sandwiches etc.), punch, and cake. Not sure, but i think thats only appropriate when doing a dry wedding and short reception.
  • Do you have someone in your family that is a caterer/chef by any chance? If so, they would be able to help you out with the amount of food, food safety, storage, etc. This would be your only way to "possibly" get away with catering your own reception.
  • Do you have someone in your family that is a caterer/chef by any chance? If so, they would be able to help you out with the amount of food, food safety, storage, etc. This would be your only way to "possibly" get away with catering your own reception.
    This is a bad idea. You do not want your family working your wedding day. They are your guests, not your employees. 

    Hire a caterer. Give them your budget, they will work with your budget. You have been given some very good advice from PPs about how to do low-budget meals. DO NOT self-cater.
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    Do you have someone in your family that is a caterer/chef by any chance? If so, they would be able to help you out with the amount of food, food safety, storage, etc. This would be your only way to "possibly" get away with catering your own reception.
    This is a bad idea. You do not want your family working your wedding day. They are your guests, not your employees. 

    Hire a caterer. Give them your budget, they will work with your budget. You have been given some very good advice from PPs about how to do low-budget meals. DO NOT self-cater.
    DH would be happy to help as a consultant on how much to order, how to store and even helping get things at cost through his own proverors.  Actually he did with his best buddy.  He did all of the above.  Helped with creating the menu and he gave them contact information on staffing.   

    He draws the line there though.  He would not help with prep, transporting, setting up or serving the food.  Not that his best buddy wanted him too.  They wanted him to have fun.






    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. 
    sunflowersandcurlslc07
  • I never said to hire the family member that's a caterer. I said if you have a family member that's a chef or caterer get them to help you figure out the portions of food, talk to you about food safety, and storage, etc. Besides, OP explained that she has a small budget and if she were to hire a caterer, it would cut into her budget. Many of the pp feel that self-catering is just the worst thing in the world, but if that's what your budget allows, go for it. There's no point of skimping on everything else just to have a caterer. There are quick and easy menus that you can make based on the venue or wedding theme. I feel as long as you know about food safety (i.e. thoroughly cooked foods, keep cold food cold and hot food hot), you should be just fine. Have you talked to your family about their assistance with your menu? If you haven't, now is a good time. They're going to rip me to shreds for saying this...oh well. Go ahead and self cater honey. :)
  • MobKazMobKaz Chicago suburbs member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    I never said to hire the family member that's a caterer. I said if you have a family member that's a chef or caterer get them to help you figure out the portions of food, talk to you about food safety, and storage, etc. Besides, OP explained that she has a small budget and if she were to hire a caterer, it would cut into her budget. Many of the pp feel that self-catering is just the worst thing in the world, but if that's what your budget allows, go for it. There's no point of skimping on everything else just to have a caterer. There are quick and easy menus that you can make based on the venue or wedding theme. I feel as long as you know about food safety (i.e. thoroughly cooked foods, keep cold food cold and hot food hot), you should be just fine. Have you talked to your family about their assistance with your menu? If you haven't, now is a good time. They're going to rip me to shreds for saying this...oh well. Go ahead and self cater honey. :)
    Have you not read any of the responses?  There absolutely IS a point of skimping on everything else to have a caterer.  FOOD is what guests will remember.  Stomach poisoning is what guests will remember.  I can read and "know" everything there is to know about food safety.  Having the skills and tools necessary to properly execute that knowledge is NOT the same thing. 


    Maggie0829TheCheeseWench[Deleted User]lc07
  • You're right. It's not the same, but food safety, sanitation, and a well executed plan are the most important things whether professionally catered or self-catered. I did read the other responses and it's just my opinion that she should do what she wants as long as she knows what comes along with it. I know she asked for our opinions...you have yours and I have mine. That's all I'm saying.
  • That's true. I guess I just wanted to stick with her budget. I'd hate for her to go over budget or have to cut back on other things that she really wanted just to afford a caterer.
  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I will renew my first reply.   Even with an expert in the house it's not a great idea.  Sure it might save money, but it also adds a LOT more stress to your planning.    Prepping food for 60-70 is no joke.  It takes a lot of work at planning.   

    Finding a caterer withou going over budget is the way to go.  Cut out things like favors and flowers if you have too.   Pick less expensive CP, inviatation even attire.   Or change your time line to have a simple cake and punch reception.  Move it to mid-morning to have a brunch or lunch recpetion (often less expensive).    Being an adult means making hard choices.  Sometimes that means you can't have the fairy tail even reception.






    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. 
    sunflowersandcurls
  • I was going to suggest that too. There's nothing wrong with a cake and punch/coffee/tea reception love :smile:
  • Maggie0829Maggie0829 Ravens & Bohs & Crabs & O's member
    Eighth Anniversary 10000 Comments 500 Love Its 25 Answers
    That's true. I guess I just wanted to stick with her budget. I'd hate for her to go over budget or have to cut back on other things that she really wanted just to afford a caterer.
    But these are the hard decisions one has to make when they are hosting an event.  Things that the host may want needs to be put on the back burner while the comfort of their guests come first.  Food is incredibly important when it comes to any event.  It is really the main thing people will remember from your wedding.  So yes, pretty flowers and nice decor and those cute favors may be something that you want, but good food that won't make you sick is something that you need.  And she doesn't have to spend an arm and a leg on it.  There are many options out there that the OP could do that will keep her within her budget but still provide a wonderful meal for her guests without her having to become fluent in food safety.

    lc07
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