Reception Ideas

is this a bad idea for inexpensive dinner?

Hi, I really want an early evening wedding, just as the sun hits the beautiful stained glass in our chapel. This however means serving a dinner reception, and I am not so sure we have the budget for that...catered anyway. I am thinking a pasta bar, with two or three types of pasta, and a meat sauce, alfredo sauce, and a cheese sauce. I was thinking of a just a serve yourself, add a salad and voila...inexpensive dinner for 120 people. Is this a terrable idea? My mom points out that it can be messy...and that eating out of disposable chafing dishes looks like you are eating at a mission. My Fiance is worried about who is going to run the whole thing...and I am just worried abotu how to give my guests a memorable evening. I want to have the beautiful spread, feed everyone til their full...and pasta is the only way Ican think of to keep feeding, and probably feed everyone for under $100 total. I know it probably won't work, but we can't do a pot luck because most people are coming from out of town, and won't have access to a kitchen. Not feeding everyone would mean just a cake/punch reception either early afternoon or after dinner. I have been the part of a party who did the after dinner thing before, and there was no time for the wedding party to eat and come 10:00pm we were STARVING! I don't want to do that to my guests. I look forward to your feedback. Thank you.

Re: is this a bad idea for inexpensive dinner?

  • This is very similar to what my fiance wants so I've put a lot of thought into it to try to compromise what I want.. so....I think you are fine with a home cooked buffet, not catered, not a potluck.1. Assign some friends / neighbors who can bring out the food and keep an eye on it, replenish when needed.  (If you are able, you can rent a 'hot box' to keep the food hot at all times.2. For the chafing dishes, you can get creative and use some greenery, vines, anything from the woods to wrap around the bottom to hide the wire stands. Or use linen, napkins, or a tablecloth and poof it up instead of greenery. Keep in mind, the sternos (fire) last 2-4 hours and may need replaced.3. Yes pasta sauce can be messy, but people will be cautious and place their napkin in their shirt :) You could also serve bread and butter.. good filler.Hope that helps!
  • I would not ask your guests to do any work (refill trays, set up/clean up, etc.). I would hire some people to help you ... maybe some waiters from a local cafe, local college kids that you know, look on Craigslist. Or, pick up the catering menus from a local restaurant, deli or supermarket, and see if you can afford anything. Don't do a potluck. It's rude to host a reception for your guests (the party really is for THEM, not you) and then make them bring the food. In addition to being rude, there are a lot of factors that just give it the potential to go over very badly.
  • The pasta bar could be nice if you hire people to run it.  You could also look into having inexpensive restaurants cater: Boston Market (they rent nicer chaffing dishes if that is an issue), local BBQ places, etc.
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  • Ditto to everybody that said "hire people". Really, it's actually not a bad idea for the food ... but don't ask friends and family to "work" (And yes, refilling dishes and keeping an eye on food levels counts as "work") at your wedding.I would ask around on your local board to see if there's any catering companies in the area, or if you're having it at a hall, ask whoever runs the place if they can recommend people to you that can do this.

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  • Agreed. Do not have your guests do the work. Hire someone if you need to. Worst case scenario, post an ad on Craigs List. College kids are always looking for a few extra bucks.
  • Where are you having your reception? If it's at your church, ask the "church lady network" or see if they have a guild or committee that handles the food/hospitality. Ask if you can "hire" them in exchange for a donation. To set up, serve if needed, and clean up afterward. If it's somewhere else, try to hire some help, I wouldn't ask family or friends to help unless they were volunteering, and if I trusted them to do a competent job. You can also order "take out" catering, where they bring it in, set it up, and leave.
  • the reception is at my hospitality committee though...small poor church. I am not worried so much about who is going to do the work...I already have a volunteer to coordnate the reception simply for an invite to the wedding... I was working more on seeing what you all thought of the pasta bar idea? I am not so sure it will work, but I would like to try if I can...after doing this post I spent most of the night researching it. I think it might work...if you have any suggestions on how this could work, please share your knowledge. Thanks so much.
  • I think the pasta bar would be O.K. Pasta seems to go over well with people, especially since you're offering choices, and it's filling. I'd add some bread or breadsticks in addition to the salad, to flesh things out a bit more. Maybe you can have another chafing dish with some grilled chicken or shrimp that people can add to their pasta if they wish.
  • great ideas thanks. I guess my sis has a great bread recipe she wants to use, and I was thinking about the chicken thing. :)
  • I think a pasta bar is good idea- but if I read your post right and your meal budget is $100 I think that is very unrealistic for 120 people- even for pasta. You'll definitely save money compared to having a caterer but not that much. I ditto PP on looking at inexpensive restaurants to cater. Even if it is a little more to go that route than DIY- it could be worth it in sanity as you or a loved one are trying to cook pasta (Keeping it from getting sticky and gummy) and keeping suaces warm on your wedding day.
  • What makes a great wedding is being true to your budget. $100 does not a meal for 120 make :( I hate to say this, but I really think you're being extremely unrealistic and unless you can supersize your food budget, I don't see serving a meal (of any sort) for 120 as a possibility. That's less than $1 per person... I'd much rather go to a cake and punch reception at your church with good cake. Have the type of wedding that you can afford - there's just no way you'll pull this off and have it be nice with a food budget of only $100. Sorry :(
  • Personally, I would go with a cake & punch reception OR have finger foods (such as sandwiches).  The pasta bar might work, but whenever me and another girl hosted my best friend's baby shower, we did a pasta bar for only 30 people, and between all of the ingredients we bought, the bread, and the hassle of getting it all together, I don't see how you are going to do it with about $100 for 120 guests.  I'm not knocking the idea at all though.  If you feel that it will work, then go for it.  It's your wedding :)  I wish you the best with whatever decision you go with, and the rest of your planning.  Congratulations!
  • Thanks for all the feedback everyone. I will look at all of it very carefully before proceeding. Yes my budget seems pretty unrealistic, but after looking around my church this morning and seeing that they already have some beautiful glass dishes, cups, and accessories way more amazing than I had thought, I think now instead of wasting money on that kind of stuff, we can add a little extra to the food budget. Honestally, I wrote the post before even doing any research, the idea had just occured to me at that point. I have done some research now and if I proceed, I think my ideas are a little more realistic. Thanks again
  • I would look at catering menus from a few local places - Italian restaurants, pizzerias, delis, supermarkets, small cafes - and see what their prices are for trays of food. The website for a Stop n' Shop supermarket near me says that a tray of stuffed shells will feed 10-12 people and costs $25. The Publix website says that you can get a party sub to feed 8 people for about $20, and you could flesh that out with store-bought potato salad, potato chips and bagged green salad. Just some ideas.
  • Thank you, we are going to look into some catering options, and just see what is out there. We just pretty much assumed we could not afford it so we didn't look. We also have a culinary school that we are going to check out as an option. The college student idea is on the table for us as the ceremony will be on my fiance's old college campus and he still knows some people there. Thank you all for the ideas.
  • A pasta bar is something i'm at this point considering also. I had come up with a couple differnt ideas of things i might want on a buffet ( taco bar, favorite foods etc.) and the pasta bar seems the most cost effective and filling for the guests. I'm thinking of doing 3 differnt pastas, 3 sauces, 3 protiens and 3 differnt veggies to add in. I'm also trying to figure out how to include a salad and bread w/ differnt butters. my bff is a social butterfly and knows tons of people so she'll be finding out soon that i need to have her ask some of her friends if they could help me out. (i'd pay them of course, idk what yet though)
  • there is a local restaurant that has a great pasta bar.. they have three main entrees and a make your own pasta bar (basically you tell the chef there what you want in your pasta with either marinara or alfredo sauce) they also serve both garden and ceaser salad with different types of rolls and it's very filling for your three entrees you could have meatballs in marinara, lasagna roll ups (very inexpensive), and a baked ziti type casserole. Check with the local high school and college.  Most high schools have a vocational school that has some type of culinary program.  If you can't hire the students there may be a teacher looking for some side work. $100 is unreasonable but for several hundered it can def be done.  Food isn't an area where we wanted to skimp.  More people care about how the food tastes rather than the type of plates they're eating on.
  • Hello, Yes I get that $100 is unrealistic. Thank you. Like I said, I had said this before doing any research. What is the restarant that has a great pasta bar? We don't have several hundred to throw at it which is why this is the suggetion to begin with. We have decided to look into caterers and hiring help, but we don't know yet. I am trying to find who to contact at the local culinary school to see if we can set up a deal. thanks again for the ideas and I would love to know the name of that local pasta say local, I assume you are in Portland, Oregon?
  • Local to me...WV sorry.. But here is their buffet menu...they've changed the buffet items (they change them seasonally) but the idea is the same.
  • sorry it's not clicky...It has a TON of great ideas especially recipes and how much food you will need if you decide to cater your own reception.
  • For my end-of-season volleyball banquet, I have a local lady cater dinner for my players and parents.  It usually is about 70 - 80 people, and we spend approx $350 per year on food, drinks, cake & nice disposable plates/silverwear.  Last year we served pulled pork BBQ, potato salad, green beans, cake, and soda.  This year we served lasagna, salad, garlic bread, cake, & soda.The caterer shops mostly at Sams & her fee is usually $100.  If you don't need to include plates/silverwear, you should be able to do something similar for $300 - $450, depending on if you pay someone to help with the food - less if that amount doesn't have to cover cake.
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  • lyndausvilyndausvi Western Slope, Colorado mod
    Moderator Knottie Warrior 10000 Comments 500 Love Its
    I do not have a problem with the menu.  but your budget of $100 is unrealistic for 120.  Your wedding is in 7 months.  Even if you save $50 a month you will end up with $350.  That is $12.50 a week.  Surely you and your FI can find away to save that a week in order to have a bigger budget for food.

    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. 
  • Sounds fine to me. I don't see any problem with it. If she's worried about it being messy, then get a pasta that is eaten with a fork that doesn't require swirling, etc. There's countless bite-size pastas that will work and all of them go with the sauces you mentioned.
  • Honestly, different strokes for different folks.  People come to your wedding because they love you and they want to be there to witness your special day.  Anyone who sits down and complains about the food when a couple is on a tight budget perhaps shouldn't have gotten an invitation in the first place.  Don't get me wrong - I feel that being a good hostess and being considerate of your guests is the most important part about hosting a wedding but at the same time, your budget has to dictate what you can and can't do - a pleasant guest will recognize that and and leave their complaints at the door.We would all think it was rude if someone was invited to our homes for dinner and then sat through the meal lamenting about what he would have REALLY liked to eat that night - why do we put up with it at weddings!?
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  • At our wedding we had ten hostess, their jobs were to bring food out, keep the buffet stock, and assist us. They were friends and/or family members that were more than willing to help out with our wedding. That allows family and/or friends that are not in the wedding still be a part of the wedding. Just make sure they know the job prior to wedding.
  • Hi, I am a college student and in one of my there are four of us who are engaged, long story short we talk a lot about weddings. One of us is an event planner so we run ideas by her to see if she thinks they would work / how well. This came up a few days ago and she said she had had a number of parties do this and it went over great! You will need people to run or at least keep an eye on the stations. If you have friends/family who have offered to help you, I would say, feel free to ask them. They want you to have a beautiful wedding and want to help you achieve it. All in all I think it's a good idea, but will require a lot of work on your part. Best of luck!
  • You could still do an evening wedding, and do a really fancy coctail/dessert reception which will cost much less than dinner. It will still be formal enough for the evening. If you decide to go that way you should include it on your envites so people know they won't be served dinner. "please join us afterwards for a cocktails and dessert at...."
  • Thanks to those of you for the encouragment and suggestions. I do now have one person confirmed to work the buffet is a long time family friend who wants to be invited and knowing space is very limited will work for an invite to the ceremony. What a blessing! She used to set up all the chruch events, fund raisers, and huge community events when I was a kid...and she has got mad skills! Might still get a college kid or two to help her out, especially if we wind up using the church's dishes (which we would have to wash) but I have help and a willing and FREE spirit to take one thing off of my plate on that day! YAY!
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