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How To Self Cater Your Wedding, Part I


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

How To Self Cater Your Wedding, Part I | A Practical Wedding

So. As promised, we are going to begin our foray into discussing self catering your wedding. I’ve gotten approximately a billion posts from y’all on the subject, and over the next few weeks I will be treating you to a few at a time. Before we dive in though, I wanted to outline my basic rules on self catering. Seriously kids, these ones are important:

  1. Is this cooking for large groups thing something you enjoy? Do you throw dinner parties? Do you, um, know how to cook? If the answer to these questions is not yes, PLEASE STEP AWAY. There is nothing wrong with a cake and punch reception. So pick up the phone, order some cake (and maybe an ice cream cake or two? Yum!) and buy yourself some punch and bubbly. Done. Your wedding is not the time to A) Take on a massive project that makes you feel like gouging your eyes out, or B) Learn to cook.
  2. Do you have help? Seriously. I’m going to ask again: Do you have help? Because you’re not going to be self-catering your wedding yourself, nuh-uh. Please see cake and punch, above.
  3. Food Safety. I’m a hippy kid. I’ve been to many a self-catered and community catered wedding/ party. When you hear people on the interwebs talk about it they are always like, “Blah, blah, blah, sharing food is sharing love, sharing love is sharing a community.” And whatever. That’s nice. But if sharing food means sharing a dubious fish and mayonnaise dish that was carted in a hot car for six hours… well… I’m pretty sure the communal act of vomiting was not what you were going for, yeah? So. If you’re going to self-cater, self-cater. But self-cater with safety. And that’s my final word on the subject.

But wait, that’s not even CLOSE to all. All APW posts on self catering are here. Hooray!


Picture: Best-picture-ever from Team Practical member Jill’s self catered wedding. taken by valkyrieh116

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://happynappybride.wordpress.com happynappybride

    Good advice! I'm not up to the task…flowers are enough. Can't wait to hear from folks who did it though.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06008386302876377978 Lyssachelle

    I am in love with that photo. It makes me want to go, "RAWR!" and then shove some cake in my mouth without my hands.

    That may also be phase one of the South Beach diet talking, though…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14936955574739153053 JOC

    I think the only thing I hate more than cooking is scrapbooking, which means I'm not making my own invites, either (seriously, I'm the girl with the photo-quality printer that just goes to CVS to make prints, because I inevitably end up going through 5 pages of photo paper before wanting to kick my printer).

    However, I am a little jealous of the great DIY invites, and also DIY catering … mostly because I'm Type A and wish I was good at All Things. :)

  • CJ

    Please, please, please be very careful if you cater your own event! My mom and allot of other people got sick at a potluck event and she ended up in the hospital. I went to a wedding that was potluck/ self catered and ended up not hardly eating anything because it had been sitting out for the entire looong ceremony.

    • meg

      And that’s why the first rule is food safety. That said, we all go to dinner parties all the time, and we often survive.

    • Jess

      It really comes down to common sense. Don’t serve things with dairy, or mayo, keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Use the same rules that you apply in your own kitchen. Unless you sicken yourself and your family on a regular basis those procedures should keep puking to a minimum.

  • http://kateharrisonphotography.com kate harrison

    I love the ambition of this idea. My second shooter is growing all the food for her wedding. A good compromise. :)

  • http://www.budgetweddingsite.com Diane Owens

    At my son’s wedding, which I planned and hosted in 2011, I used a hybrid approach to the buffet. We bought a selection of ham sandwiches and turkey sandwiches, side dishes (baked beans, potato salad), and drinks (tea, lemonade) from the local Honeybaked Ham store. They have delicious sandwiches! And my friends and I prepared a whole lot of side dishes to supplement that — lettuce salad with tomatoes and a variety of dressing, pasta salads, two large fruit bowls carved from watermelons, a variety of cut-up fruit of all types – to go in the watermelon bowls, nuts, dinner mints, and more. The key was that everything was a cold food, so we didn’t need to worry about heating anything. And it could all be prepared in advance. …And the wedding was held in the deep South in the middle of the summer, so a cold buffet was especially refreshing.

    The key to everything, though, was having help to serve the food. I hired four servers from a local culinary temp agency, and they were wonderful. They wore formal attire (black and white outfits), and they artfully placed food for both the before-dinner hors d’oeuvres and the dinner buffet in containers (a variety of beautiful, old-fashioned, clear glass serving platters and bowls I’d bought at thrift stores and garage sales), kept the buffet area clean, replenished food, cleared guest tables of used dishes, washed platters/serving bowls, packed leftover food in foil, and more. They were fantastic – and worth every penny.

    We also served wine, soda, and other drinks, and hired a bartender.

    The whole wedding and reception was held at the best venue in town for less than $10,000, and there were 125 guests.

    Diane Owens, author of the 120-page ebook Budget Wedding Secrets: How to Have a $30,000 Wedding for Less Than $10,000

  • Tres chic

    Thanks for advice..! Food is an important part of the day so be very careful for that..