Wedding Cakes & Food Forum

Casual reception, need help with food!

So I thought I had the food situation all planned out. I want it to be casual, light, not fussy, etc. It will be an outdoor wedding (unless it rains, and then the reception will move inside) and I am not sure that there will be enough FORMAL seating for everyone (around 100 ppl) to sit down and eat a big meal. So my idea was to have finger foods, and a lite dinner that people could eat while socializing.

We're on a budget, so we're trying to avoid going with a caterer for all the food options. Here was my initial thought for appetizers (which would be provided by us): fruit kabobs with a cinnamon yogurt dip, fine cheese trays with good crackers,  veggies and chips with dip (my FI is obsessed with chips!!!). However, my SIL said she and my brother have been to many weddings and these dishes often go untouched, which would be a waste of money. She said people want different foods than they are used to at a wedding - speciality apps I suppose. What are your thoughts? I think if this were what was offered, people would eat it, but maybe that's just me.

I'm also struggling with the lite meal to go with. My first choice was a gourmet pizza place in town that also serves fresh gourmet salads. I was thinking a salad bar and hiring their traveling wood oven to make pizzas. Another thought was a lite German meal, but I can't seem to find someone who can make this.

In addition to all of this, my mother is insisting on paying for the wedding and she's also quite controlling. That said, every idea I come up with she poses an issue of money or inconvenience. She doesn't want people to have to wait long for their food; she wants something that will work inside in case it rains; she's pushing us to utilize our family's barbecue restaurant to save money but I don't want this... I see her points but it seems like she's steering me into a corner and I can't decide what would be best for our guests and for our wallets.

So given all these factors, can someone PLEASE give me some advice? What are some successful light & casual dishes that you've had? Did you or someone else do great food on a budget and how did you handle it?


Re: Casual reception, need help with food!

  • In my family, trays of veggies and dip, crackers, etc. are a big hit.  I think those can be nicer for guests than passed apps (if you're not doing both), because guests can just go fill a plate and not have to try to track down someone that is carrying a tray of apps.  

    I personally think that pizza place with the traveling wood oven sounds delicious.  That plus the salads would be a nice meal.  However, if your mom is paying and insists on using the family restaurant, you have to go along unless you pay for it yourself.  If you price out the pizza place versus the BBQ and factor, how do they compare?  Can you show her that the pricing is comparable?  Would family members have to work if you had the family restaurant cater?  

    Honestly, your mom does sound pretty controlling, andif you are able to graciously decline her offer, that sounds like it might be the best thing.  Sorry you're dealing with that.  
  • You really need a chair for every tush.  It's impolite to ask your guest to share chairs or to eat standing up.

    If your mom is paying, she gets a say in the food.  If that means she wants barbeque, that may be what you have.  I think the best you can do, like jessica said, might be to talk to her about the costs of various options and the logitistics involved if guests would be serving barbeque.  If you don't feel comfortable with her conditions, decline her money and host what you and FI can afford on your own.

  • I took the OP's not enough "formal" seating to mean that there would be different kinds of seating--cocktail tables, lounge furniture, etc.--and not standard banquet tables, but you do need to have a seat of some sort for every person.
  • Yes, there are plenty of seats around the venue. There are enough tables and chairs for 80, but there are plenty of benches, couches and other chairs around the place. Thanks for the help so far! More food advice is still appreciated! :)
  • We are just doing the finger foods! Finger sandwiches fruit tray veggie cheese and crackers. Of course cake and punch. Thinking of having bottled water for those who don't enjoy punch like myself
  • I think there are a few things going on. Let me summarize what I hear:

    Mom is insisting on paying, you disagree with what she wants and she wants to save money. This is a controlling issue. You say your Mom is insisting on paying, but wants to direct the menu. Can you and your fiance afford to host this wedding? If so, then you get to grab control back by doing so.

    You want something light and "different", she wants to push you into BBQ from family restaurant. This wedding is for you and your fiance. You do get to decide what to serve if you are paying for it, or sharing in the cost of it. If you absolutely don't want BBQ, can you negotiate something in between the vision of the pizzas you want, and what she wants? Does the family BBQ restaurant have NO other foods than BBQ? Can you do both? I think this sounds older person may not "get" how cool it is to have oven baked pizzas, and you don't want the standard meal she seems to envision. If it's possible to compromise, I'd go through the BBQ restaurant menu and find things you can live with, and have the pizzas as well.

    You wonder if people will eat your selections of apps. People will eat what you serve. You don't say how long you anticipate the apps to be out before the "meal", but buy enough to cover at minimum the cocktail hour before dinner is served.

    You want other ideas. Many people go with BBQ foods to save money for an outdoor reception. You could lighten up that portion of your menu by using fresh veggie side dishes.

    Easy appetizers:
    pita bread rollups or bruschetta with fresh tomato and mozzarella slices
    Swedish meatballs, sweet & sour meatballs, or Italian style meatballs in a marinara sauce

    Traditions die hard. It sounds like you are trying to do something more fun & maybe tastier than standard BBQ. You are gearing your food selections to your friends. Your Mom is gearing her food selections to the older guests. If it were me, I'd try to find a compromise with a little of both.

    Good luck.
  • Thanks for the detailed advice, Sue!

    Her idea was using the meats from the family restaurant to make sandwiches and things like that, not necessarily barbecue. My issue is that I've eaten this food all my life, as will have nearly half of my guests, and both I and nearly half of my guests (including the older ones) have worked at this restaurant for some part of our lives. I will fight against it tooth and nail if I have to. LOL!

    Unfortuantely, I priced out the catering of the pizza place and it's pretty much out of the question for our budget.

    I did manage to remember a little local German restaurant last night, and looked them up online. Not only are their menu items reasonably priced (and delicious) they also cater!! So my fiance and I are going to check them out.

    My mom and my fiance both think that we shouldn't have to pay for the wedding, but I agree that if we truly want a say then we might have to help with the cost. I'm hoping we can negotiate something...

    Thanks for the help! If anyone else has appetizer ideas or other suggestions, I'm certainly open to them.
  • I think the appetizers would get eaten.  But I absolutely love appetizers to the point that I would rather have those than anything else at my wedding.  Maybe you can compromise on something.  I got lucky in that my FMIL is doing bbq for the rehearsal dinner, so my mom no longer wants to do it for the reception.  Look into the german food option, but remember not everyone is going to be okay with trying new foods.  Maybe have some German food and some of your family's restaurant food? 

    I do follow the "If the parent is paying, they get the sayso" rule of thumb.  I also think your fiance should agree or at least understand that if you want something your way for  y'all's wedding you should pay for it.  If not, then you do give up control on that topic.  I mean it's nice of your parents to offer money, but you should be willing to pay for it yourselves in case your parents hadn't offered. 

    Long story short, people will eat the appetizers.  Try and talk to your mom and see if you can come to a compromise that makes both of you happy, but since she's paying she gets final say.  If you want final say, then you may have to find a way to pay for the food yourselves.
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  • A light, appetizer bar is what we are doing for our wedding and I really like the idea of it. However, we are doing the fanicer appetizer thing instead of just dips and food like that. If I was having an outside wedding though I would do exactly as you are. Maybe mentioning the seating thing would help with your mom?

  • It is nice to have a mix of familiar foods and upscale options.  Some guests (like my Dad) are loathe to try anything new.  Some guests like my MIL have a number of allergies where unique food ideas could be lethal.  

    Could you mix BBQ style apps in an upscale way?  At one wedding that I went there was mashed potato bar served in martini glasses.   This bar had a ton of toppings for the mashed potates (or mashed sweet potatoes) such as cheeses, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms, broccoli in cheese sauce and BBQ sauced chicken. 

    I went to another wedding that had a backyard BBQ (pork ribs or chicken) with the freshest upscale salads:   Watermelon-jicama salad, Strawberry spinach salad with toasted pecans and rosted corn-tomato-scallion salad.  
  • I think the pizza and salad bar sounds really unique - and comfortable, not too formal.

    I personally think that if parents are paying for a part of the wedding, that's very gracious, however, they shouldn't do it expecting you to do what THEY want - that doesn't seem right.  If they want to donate their money as a gift, it's just that - a gift - and it doesn't come with any strings attached.

    Good luck!
  • My fiance and I decided to do the same thing. We want our guests to have enough food but we wanted to go with something light. Our wedding is taking place mostly outdoors. We wanted to go with a local restaurant called the Mixx, which has salads, wraps and sandwiches but they were horrible on responding back to me so I looked other places. Finally we decided on a great local caterer (Shining Stars Catering, LLC) and we told Deb our vision and she gave us exactly what we wanted. We're doing two Salad Stations with 4 different kinds of salads, that guests can add toppings too. Then in the middle we're having a mini wrap/sandwich area with cheese and fruit display and a hummus trio. Our caterer is also providing a lemonade bar. I'm really excited about it. I'm happy the food feels very light and summerish.
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