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Reception Ideas

Several questions about food and drinks

Hello ladies,
This is one of my first posts.  I'm realizing that my wedding is close and I need to get a move on in my planning!
So, I'm paying for my entire wedding myself (on a part-time, student budget), so I only have about $4000 to spend.  I found a gorgeous, inexpensive location of an old hall with wooden floors, tables, chairs, silverware provided, along with a huge kitchen, bathrooms, it's pretty much perfect for only $1200.  So, I'm going to get a caterer and plan on doing a buffet - probably Italian food, as that seems most cost-effective, and I figure most people like Italian?
My question is how buffets "work" in terms of how they're set up, who sets them up, do guests scoop their own food?  It seems counterproductive to pay for wait staff to scoop food for guests, as I'm doing the buffet to not have a waitstaff. 
My second question is about drinks - alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Due to my very limited budget, I plan on providing 2 beer options, 2 wine options, and alcoholic punch.  I'd like to have some sort of set-up for guests to make/pour their drinks themselves, but I have no idea how to set this up or how it would work?  Then there's the issue of the regular drinks - water, soda, juice. 
All of the food/drink seems like so much to just place on tables and have guests do themselves, but I really can't afford a "wait staff," and I'm having a buffet, so do I need one?
Anyway, I'm pretty lost, and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Re: Several questions about food and drinks

  • I would recommend a bartender to serve just the alcoholic beverages. Guests can serve themselves the food and plain beverages. Your venue may even require a bartender, as that will be the person checking IDs so no one underage is getting alcohol, and the person to cut people off if need be. Other than that, I think your plan is fine, but remember to check with your caterer to see if they will set up the buffet. Otherwise you'll need to hire people for that part. At a friend's wedding this summer, the caterer dropped off the food and left. The wedding party wound up jumping in to stock the buffet and I felt terrible for them.
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  • When you talk to caterers, ask them what their pricing includes.  Some include set up, clean up, staff to refill the buffet, plates, etc., and others don't.  Don't forget to see if gratuity for the staff is included or if you'll need to add that as a separate expense.  

    I think those drink options sound good.  Check with wherever you buy the alcohol, they may let you return unopened bottles.  I think having guests serve themselves, given your options, is fine, although a bartender is never a bad idea.  You could also have wine glasses at each place setting and 2 bottles of wine on each table, so people wouldn't have to get up if they wanted wine with dinner.  I would also have a pitcher of water on each table.  

  • In Response to Several questions about food and drinks:
    [QUOTE]So, I'm going to get a caterer and plan on doing a buffet - probably Italian food, as that seems most cost-effective, and I figure most people like Italian?sure but be sure you have options for everyone-vegetarian, etc.. also include foods that wont blow my entire calorie allowance for a month please!! you can easily do a vegetarian pasta with grilled veggies in a garlic and oil sauce, baked ziti etc.. just have a good variety and you'll be fine.
     My question is how buffets "work" in terms of how they're set up, who sets them up, do guests scoop their own food? This will be answered by the caterer. you may want to consider paying someone to be there to clear tables throughout the night etc..
     It seems counterproductive to pay for wait staff to scoop food for guests, as I'm doing the buffet to not have a waitstaff.  My second question is about drinks - alcoholic and non-alcoholic.  Due to my very limited budget, I plan on providing 2 beer options, 2 wine options, and alcoholic punch.  imo-skip the punch. up the quality of the beers and wine instead.

    I'd like to have some sort of set-up for guests to make/pour their drinks themselves, but I have no idea how to set this up or how it would work?  hire a bartender. you'll be glad you did. imperative.

    Then there's the issue of the regular drinks - water, soda, juice. at the bar.

    All of the food/drink seems like so much to just place on tables and have guests do themselves, but I really can't afford a "wait staff," and I'm having a buffet, so do I need one? Anyway, I'm pretty lost, and any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
    Posted by meganlovespurple[/QUOTE]

     

  • I don't agree with PP about skipping the punch and upping the beer and wine quality. We served beer, wine, a red sangria, and a white wine, raspberry lemonade.  The sangria and lemonade were HUGE hits. We had plenty of beer and wine leftover, but none of the sangria or lemonade.  You can buy the self serve dispensers from costco or bed bath & beyond.  We had those for both cocktails as well as iced tea and regular lemonade. 

    We actually hired a brother of a friend to sort of bartend.  Of course, he didn't have to mix any drinks, but he did the pouring.  He made sure the kegs were pumped and the beverage dispensers were always full through the evening.  We paid him $20.00 an hour. That was money well spent.  We also hired another "helper" person that cleared plates/tables through the evening and generally kept things cleaned up.

    We had a buffet also, and our caterer sent over one person to keep the buffet stocked and all of the food at the right temperature.  Guests generally served themselves, but she was there during the entire dinner service to make sure we had everything we needed.  Talk to whoever is doing the food for you, and see if this is an option.  I realize you don't want to pay waitstaff, but someone is going to have to do all of these chores.  It's not something you want to try to assign to family or friends. 
  • cmgilpin: that lemonade sounds delicious!  I agree with you that I would keep the punch, too.  



  • Just out of curiosity, how many guests are you planning to invite/host?

    If its under 50 you may want to consider reserving a private banquet room at a nice local restaurant. You can set a custom menu and bar package to keep the cost within your budget without having to worry about the logistics of setting up, serving, cleaning up, etc. 

    In my experience the idea to rent a space and bring in outside catering with the intention to cut costs usually doesn't pan out that way. Anytime you are responsible for furnishing an empty space with all the elements you'll need it usually ends up costing more than if you just look for a nice restaurant willing to work with your budget.

    Good luck :)

    Anniversary
  • To save money on wine, we did boxed wine and then bought these dispenser: https://www.etsy.com/listing/122270805/box-wine-barrel-dispenser-with-letters which look fantastic at any party we have had since.
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