Prev Next

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception


by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

When Liz offered to write a guest post on self catering her DIY reception, I had a feeling it was going to be great (if you don’t remember Liz’s wedding, go back and refresh, because seriously, I have such a soft spot for other a-typical traditionalists), But it turned out to be even better than I’d been expecting. I know if you’re not self-catering, you’re probably tuning out these posts by now, but seriously, don’t tune out this one. Because this list of tips is the list of tips I’d write for any DIY-ish wedding. We spent most of our wad on catering, but these rules held true for us 110%.  So here is Liz, reinforcing that Team Practical motto, “If you set your mind to it, it can be done.”Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical WeddingMeg called my version “Self-catering Lite” and I guess I kinda like that title. This is self-catering for beginners- for folks who aren’t used to spending hours in the kitchen for a party of 40. I’m gonna point out the obvious- if you’re not good at or used to doing something, your wedding is NOT the time to try. Whether that means sew your own dress or find a great deal on flowers- if your wedding is your first foray into some project, you’ll be far more stressed than you need to. Just cough up the cash.

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

For me, self-catering is all about finding your boundaries- which includes the “can’ts” as well as the “musts.” For some people, having a reception for 25 works. Not for moi, with “immediate” family alone totaling over 70 (FYI- “immediate” for a big Italian family includes aunts, uncles, and anyone else you called “aunt” or “uncle”). Having 150 guests was in the list of “musts” for me. Which meant having a sit-down dinner of filet and lobster was in the list of “cants.”

Believe it or not, Josh and I had toyed with the idea of a snacky reception long before butting against the budget wall. Something about sit-down dinners sounds so boring and promy to me. (not always the case, but definitely rooted in my own personal wedding experiences) My favorite parties involve lots of walking around, mingling, and serving yourself piles of food where no snooty waiter is judging your portions. Thus, the idea of the dessert reception was born. Dessert is a] cheap, b] fun, c] way easy to produce in mass quantities and d] always cute. (we indie bridal bloggers do love our wedding photos- and it’s just about impossible to have an ugly table of cookies and cupcakes, am I wrong?)

So the nitty gritty.

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

[1] Stay. Organized. It really, really helps cut back the stress. Anyway that you can chop that stress level- well, go for it. This includes listing everything that you need to bring to the venue and home from the venue, blueprints of where things will be on the table, labels on serveware of what kind of food goes in what dish… and on and on. Excel is your friend. So are labels and post-it notes, and copies of your many lists (for any awesome helpers).

[2] Don’t do it alone.
This could mean having volunteers make food. Or it could mean my latest discovery- Thaw n Serve. This stuff is amazing. You can buy frozen, ready-made desserts or appetizers in bulk and just let them thaw, and throw em on a tray. Really. We got ours from a caterer friend- if you know anyone who caters, works in a restaurant, runs a school cafeteria, etc. milk those connections, definitely. We bought ours at cost, direct from the source. And if you don’t have connections, I’ve heard they sell similar types of things at BJ’s and Sam’s Club and the like.

[3] You don’t need as much as you think. I talked to the same catering friend about amounts. He suggested I not worry so much about making sure there are exactly 150 brownies, 150 of each cupcake, etc. Assume each guest will have 10 “bites”. From there, it’s simple math. (a mini-cupcake would be one “bite” while, say, an eclair might be 2 or 3)
Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding
[4] You need more than you think.
When it comes to serveware, at least. Have tons of trays, bowls, serving silverware, etc. You’ll need much, much more than you’d think. Borrow from relatives, if you need to, and tape their names to the bottom of the bowl/tray so you remember who to return it to. Or, if you have those catering connections mentioned above, borrow the big ol’ commercial sized stuff.

[4] Buy, don’t rent. Thrifting. Ebay. Yard sales. Restaurant supply websites. Anything is better than dumping your cash into the wasteland that is rentals. When it comes to tables and chairs, you may just want to try to find a hall that has them for you to use. We had our reception in the church’s “fellowship hall.” Places where groups tend to gather anyway will have stuff like chairs and tables and (muy importante) freezer space. Luckily, if you’re doing a dessert, cocktail, or other type of snacky reception, you don’t need as many tables and chairs, anyway.

[5] Have a quit-time.
Being both event coordinator and bride at the same can only go on for so long. Pick a time before the wedding where you make a complete transfer of power. The day before, I delegated everything that needed to happen the day of the wedding. And then I shut down. I was done wedding planning. It was TOUGH. I’m a major perfectionist and I have a guilt complex about asking anyone to do anything for me. So not only did I wonder if things would be done the way I wanted them, but I felt bad asking someone to handle it. ….Get over it.

[6] Plan a set-up and clean-up time. Duh, right? But this is something that you not only need to coordinate with any nice helpers, but also the facility. Our church was nice enough to give us all day the day before to set up, and also let us leave our stuff after the wedding and come back later that night to pack it away.

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

[7] Don’t forget the details. I was constantly doing stupid stuff such as planning on serving coffee, but not realizing that this meant I would need cream, sugar, stirrers… you get the idea. Think it all through. Don’t forget trash cans, places for dirty dishes to collect (we used big galvanized pails) etc etc.

[8] Know what you want.
When I say this, I’m thinking of all of the little ways quality or aesthetics may suffer in DIY. For example, I knew I did NOT want paper plates. I also knew I didn’t want ugly metal chairs. Set those standards first, then look at how the numbers will fall into place. If all of the extras will impact the price tag enough, it might not be worth it to DIY.

[9] Hire help. Even if you’re not serving dinner, you’ll want someone to man the food. Just to make sure nothing runs out and there aren’t piles of trash everywhere. You can hire catering staff for this, but we hired some teenage girls- think like, the responsible kids your neighbors hire to babysit. They LOVED being at a wedding, plus, financially it’s a win-win. Making $100 for 3 hours worth of work is a sweet deal for a 17-yr-old. And it’s super reasonable for a bride to shell out. The key to this working out is delegation… and more of that”organization” stuff I was talking about earlier. Give each person you hire specific responsibilities and lay out a very detailed list of what they need to do- even down to a timeline, if you think it’d help.

[10] Have a plan for after.
You’ll have a ton of food leftover. Really. Either line up a shelter to donate to, or be ready to throw out a lot. If you’re going on honeymoon right away, your family or friends will be the ones handling this. So have a game plan for them.

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

Those are the tips, kids. Now here’s the emotional junk- I was worried that people would be offended that we weren’t serving dinner. That guests would be bored without an open bar. That I was imposing on the awesome awesome people who offered to help. There were a few, rare people (who don’t know me as well as they think) that seemed to pity me for “giving up on the dream” of having a big dinner-style wedding with an expensive caterer. With all of that- there was an itty, bitty, teensy, weensy part of me that wondered if maaaybe I was missing out on something by catering my own wedding with only dessert.

I could write novels on how wrong I was. So I’ll just leave it at this: I was wrong. My wedding wouldn’t have been nearly as meaningful without the hours spent in prep and clean-up with the tried-and-true family and friends that stuck through it all. And I don’t mean to say that everyone should cater their own wedding- that’s not nearly the case (ahem, refer to my first paragraph, please) but if you’re catering your own wedding, and your worried it’s gonna be a bust… don’t.

Self Catering Your Wedding: The Dessert Reception | A Practical Wedding

Intro photo by Gabriel Harber.

Wedding photos by Carina & Amanda of Love Me Do Photography

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

More in Food & Drink Recent Posts Staff Picks

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • http://anhonorableestate.blogspot.com A-L

    Thanks so much for this advice. We’re not exactly self-catering, but we’re sort of organizing the food arrangements. Meaning ordering bbq from one place, appetizer trays from another, drinks from Sam’s, etc. And we’re going to cull workers from our church. Either some kids from the youth group, some of the women from a shelter that our church sponsors, or some young adults (like Americorps) who work at the church/shelter. Between some combination of those it should work out, and we’ll like where our money is going. But you’re right, a dessert buffet can never look bad in pictures. It looks quite yummy!

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com Liz

      ohh, girrrl. that IS self-catering, in my opinion.

    • http://pamandaaron.wordpress.com Pam

      I’m doing the same thing! We plan to have 4 different cuisines for our wedding and we just knew a single caterer would not be able to pull it off. I’m now reading articles from people who have walked the same path. :-)

  • http://www.onecatperperson.blogspot.com Angie

    Seen this wedding so many other places and there’s always a little something I pick up from it. As someone who lives for list-making, I know I’m sick, it’s super helpful. I’m especially loving #5 and #8. It’s one of those things you don’t think about too much when you’re trying to get a bajillion whoopie pies and various yard games together. This wedding, like others I’ve seen here, are so beautiful and it doesn’t come easy. These couples and their loved ones work really hard to pull it off. I think that’s something I need to remember- (when I’m feeling especially lazy) it takes effort. A beautiful, inexpensive, super fun wedding doesn’t happen on its own, you’ve got to have serious people power behind it.

  • Leigh

    These are all great lessons about prioritizing, delegating, relaxing. I’m organizing a cake buffet in addition to the catered buffet dinner we’re having, so I’ll certainly be refreshing myself on some of these tips. I do wonder how far out other people “give up control”. I’m wondering if, for me, the day before is not early enough. I’ll have to talk this over with my helpers…(Also great to see Love Me Do Photography (my photographers!) and a Philly-area wedding featured!)

  • Krista

    I am so glad to hear about a dessert reception! We’re having one too (though not self-catered due to something about liability and licenses) but I am having trouble shaking off the guilt of requiring our friends and family, 90% of whom are from out of town, to find their own dinner. So I’d love to hear more about what time of day your dessert reception was, and how your guests dealt with finding dinner on their own. I’m still excited about our plan (because how can you go wrong with sweets, cheese, coffee & booze? favorite food groups, right?) but if you could provide any reassurance about the non-self-catering part…it would be greatly appreciated:)

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      Krista- We were lucky in that only a scarce few were out of towners, and they were all family. The majority of people lived anywhere from one block to 20 minutes away, leaving us guiltless about letting them find dinner themselves.

      But we were concerned about those few. So we held our dessert reception in the early afternoon (Emily Post and Martha Stewart both okayed this, haha, so I felt alright- kind of an “afternoon snack” idea… not during lunch, but before dinner)

      After the dessert reception, we took our family and wedding party out to dinner- which included those few out-of-towners. It sounds like a lot, but believe it or not, it was very cost effective. We just picked a regular old restaurant with a banquet room, and because it no longer had the W tag (it was AFTER the wedding!) we paid about $20 a person.

      If that’s out of the question, there are tons of other options- ask someone to host a potluck before the wedding, etc.

      • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

        …but even beyond that, I gotta say… they’re grown-ups. If you write “dessert reception” on the invitation, they know what they’re signing up for.

        • Jennifer

          This is what I am hoping. We are serving a meal, but at noon, and I am feeling some guilt about the fact that we are leaving the evening meal & entertainment up to the guests (mostly because the wedding is in deep suburbia and I’m stumped for suggestions on what to do on a Saturday night) because our guest list is heavily weighted towards people on the other side of the country. But they are grown-ups and capable of finding things to do without my having to arrange a packed schedule for every moment.

          • http://www.tbonelee.blogspot.com Jess (or T-Bone)

            People will all end up gravitating to each other and end up organizing their own evening plans. Don’t feel guilty if you are serving them lunch at lunchtime and then once the event is over leaving them to their own devices. If you were having a breakfast wedding would you still feel guilty about dinner? The event is over at that point! They’ll figure it out! But maybe, if you’re really concerned, make a list of restaurants, movie theatres and bowling alleys nearby so people can choose their own activities?

          • meg

            Lady. They are grown ass people! They can feed their damn selves dinner. ENJOY YOUR DAMN WEDDING AFTERNOON. Your job is to forget all guests the minute you leave your reception and bliss out…. you just got married. HOW CRAZY IS THAT?

            Besides, don’t you want them to find their own place to eat so they can have a good long gossip about the wedding? I mean, isn’t that always half the fun?

        • Krista

          Thanks Liz!

      • sarah

        meg, i’ve heard you mention a few times about the need to BLISS out after the reception. frankly, it’s starting to make me feel bad that i WANT to spend the whole darn day with everyone for as long as possible. for us, that will mean partying until last call at the after party. should i feel bad that i don’t want to bliss out with my guy after our official reception ends at 8? by the way, i love APW!

        • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

          we didn’t “bliss out” til 3am. no joke.

        • meg

          First, don’t feel bad (obviously). You need to do what’s right for you not what was right for me.

          Second, just be careful with yourself. I think going in people’s instinct is “I’m going to want to party all night,” and don’t give themselves room for needed some time to deal with what just happened, or needing alone time with their spouse (which could be not bliss but sobbing, if we’re being totally frank.) I’d seen so so many friends end their wedding night by calling cabs in their wedding dresses for their drunk friends, looking exhausted and let down,* and David and I were united in not wanting that. Did we miss an amazing night out at the bar with all our friends from every part of our lives drinking together? Yes. We did. But I wouldn’t change it for the world, because those post wedding moments are moments I couldn’t get back. So that’s my perspective. We made it work by spending so much time with people on the lead up to the wedding that we were DONE with it by the time the reception ended, and they were done with us.

          Oh. And I wanted to get laid on my wedding night. Call me old fashioned ;)

          *It’s obviously not always that way, we’ve just seen that happen a lot.

    • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Adventures Along the Way

      We did a dessert reception after our 8 pm wedding, and it started around 9-ish. Nobody said anything about not being able to find dinner, and all the guests from my side were out-of-country. So, my experience is…they will figure it out. One things we did to help was list a few of our favorite restaurants and the address and website in a out-of-town little booklet I made, and I know some people tried these out. :)

  • Liz A

    I might print out Rule no. 5 and tape it to my forehead until it sinks in. I am the exact same way, “major perfectionist and I have a guilt complex about asking anyone to do anything for me”–maybe it’s the name–but I recently appointed my no-nonsense, get ‘er done godmother to be my DOC and so I’m feeling good about that.

    And I love your dessert and champagne reception. It looks like it was loverly.

  • Jennifer

    Rule No. 5. !! That will be very tough for me, and thus it is probably impossible for me to hear that too much. I have trouble delegating at work, and that is with actual staff members whom I have hired and who report to me. Delegating to friends and family? Eep.

  • http://cuvikingadventures.blogspot.com/ Adventures Along the Way

    I wish we had heard the “10 bite” rule before we self catered our dessert reception. We spent a lot of time in Costco trying to figure out quantities and trying to have one of each thing for everyone. We had a ton of leftovers–the 10 bite rule is genius.

  • http://lilapuppy.blogspot.com Meghan

    My dad always wanted to do the food for both my sister and me. We didn’t let him- exactly. We worried that there would be too much stress, time, WORK. But the man had a dream and who were we to kill it? So for my sister’s wedding he hosted everyone back at my parents house and had breakfasty foods for the early arrivers and then pulled out lunch (brunch woulf have been too simple he says). For my wedding he and my mama had everyone to their suite and he somehow coordinated from 3000 miles away an amazing brunch. He carried pie dough on the plane in a cooler and made 5 or six different kinds of quiche. It was amazing. And so is he.

    And Liz- your dresses are so fantastic.

  • Gretchen

    I’ve seen the advice to buy instead of rent in a number of places, but I think it really depends on the rental prices where you live. I considered renting vs. thrifting vs. compostable throwaways for our plates, etc., and renting was the cheapest option for most things–even cheaper than the thrift stores I went to, and waaaaay less time-consuming. Our “venue” (a family barn) already had most of the silverware we needed, so I thrifted a little more of that, but we rented everything else. We also rented a tent/chairs/tables, so rentals were one of our single biggest expenses, but the locally-owned company we worked with was wonderful. I felt good that we supported a small business, didn’t create additional waste, and I didn’t have 100 extra plates and glasses to deal with afterwards. Get a list of rental prices for comparison–even if some items are a little more expensive, it may be worth it if you are going to a million different places to find all the things you are looking for!

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      good point, gretchen. i definitely suggest doing an excel sheet of this, comparing apples to apples. like other things, it’s sometimes surprising what the least expensive option is… and money isn’t always more important than sanity, obv. keep a running list of rental prices- so you only buy those things that would be cheaper to buy.

  • Sarah Beth

    I am soooo happy to see this post! The “cake & punch” reception IS the “traditional” wedding reception where we grew up. (Consequently, it was in much of the country during our parent’s & grandparent’s generations. I guess things just haven’t changed much in parts of the South. The WIC just got greedy-er. ;) ) Plus, I feel better when I realize that a sit down dinner (and no dancing, as per Southern Baptist rules) would be EXACTLY like prom. Eh….no thanks.

    The dessert reception is the route we’re going, because, like Liz, we have a guest list of 150+ and dinner just isn’t possible. And, at least the older, Southern folks won’t be bent out of shape about it, just Yankies/The Knot bitches/dinner-and-dancing-is-the-only-way crowd.

    I never imagined self-catering, though. But it would save us a lot of money, I think. And you make it sound doable. I must chew on this for a while…

    Thanks Meg & Liz for the dose of confidence this morning!

    P.S. How do you girls get your avatar pics with your comments?

    • Nina

      Meg posted this website a while back where you can sign up and create one: http://en.gravatar.com/

      Have fun!

      • Sarah Beth

        Thanks! <3

      • Sarah Beth

        Thanks! :)

  • alison

    Thanks so much for this post! I’m self catering our dessert reception in June, and have had so much trouble finding resources for this. So helpful – thanks!!!!

  • http://acupcakewedding.blogspot.com cupcake wedding

    Liz, I am, as always, the prez of your fan club

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      <3

  • Pingback: Great tips for self catering a desert reception <3 « shaynastarr()

  • http://chicncheapliving.blogspot.com/ Chic ‘n Cheap Living

    You rock darling – GREAT list and quite a few things applicable to those of us that didn’t even self cater (organization, having help, details)!

  • Nini

    Fabulous tips, Liz! Number five is definitely one nugget of advice that I think most brides can take. And Meg was very correct – all of these tips apply to me and I’m not even self catering. You’ve also solved my problem of what to do with coats – renting a coat checker was becoming a hassle – why did I not think of cash strapped responsible teens before? Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I also agree with an above commenter.. sometimes renting is the best option – money or sanity wise. So far, for me, what I’ve realized is that although we’re trying to keep a realistic budget, sometimes my sanity is worth the cost. When we first began building our budget, I left 3% of the total off to side and labelled it “Lifesaver”. It’s come in handy many times, most recently it was, “Oh, our venue doesn’t have a kitchen so we’d have to lug hundreds of dirty dishes home to wash ourselves? I guess we’re gonna splurge and make that the caterers problem.”

  • http://beerbudgetbridesmusings.blogspot.com/ Dancy

    Liz rules. Her wedding was simply amazing. She’s one of my wedding planning heroes. Her blog makes me happy. The end.

  • april

    Brilliant, and helpful tips! I’m a wedding grad, but recall the days some time ago when I toyed with the idea of a fancy, late-night dessert reception. Still adore the idea, as I love “the pudding” and sweets in tiny, cute portions even better so its great to see photos and hear from someone who pulled this off so magically.

  • http://www.mysanfranciscobudgetwedding.wordpress.com Sarah

    We’re not self-catering (see No. 1), but we have enough DIY pieces and parts to our plans that this list is still extremely helpful. Thank you.

  • Diana

    I love this idea–my fiance and I are planning to do it for our August wedding! Early afternoon wedding, dessert reception, the end. I’ve been wrestling with only one thing, and it’s kind of a stupid thing, so bear with me: I’ve always thought the cake cutting is the signal that things are wrapping up. How does one have a cake cutting when everything is cake (or dessert, whatever)? I’ve been toying with the idea of there being one particular dessert that we slice into near the end, but that seems kind of silly. It all seems kind of silly, but it’s my one dilemma!

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      we cut our cake about halfway in, and noone was confused. in fact, we totally rearranged the “normal and accepted” order of things in the reception.

      • Sarah Beth

        I was wondering the same thing….I’m glad Diana asked. :)

    • ddayporter

      we didn’t have a dessert reception but we didn’t cut the cake at the end, we cut it after dinner, before our first dance (I think we reversed order on a lot of things too, but it worked great). then it was just about an hour and a half of dancingfuntimes. we let the announcement of “last call at the bar” be the signal things were winding down.

      basically – cake cutting doesn’t have to equal end of evening. you could skip a ceremonial cake cutting, or you could do it right at the beginning, or in the middle, or just whenever. if you announce you’re cutting some kind of cake people will gather around to see! and then they will take their cue from you whether that means it’s over, or if there’s more celebrating to be done.

    • Lisa

      Thank you! I love that Practical Bride answers my questions yet again!

  • http://www.budgetwisewedding.blogspot.com Kerry McCullough

    I’m so happy to see someone say that it can be done! I’m always worried that I’m out of line for suggesting certain DIY projects because it’s too much to take on, but the truth is you can use your creativity and talents to do just about anything for your wedding. As long as you ask for help! Thanks for the great advice :)

  • http://newlydomesticated.blogspot.com Newly Domesticated

    I can never get enough of brides saying that in the end, it will all be okay. That’s like my mantra now. It will all be okay! I keep thinking about whether I can live with cutting anything from the budget and then I’m like, “ugh. it will all be okay.” We’re have a heavy hors d’oeuvres reception and I fretted so much about not having enough food. And then I thought about how even when I have 6 or 7 people over at my house, there is ALWAYS food left over. ALWAYS.

  • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

    i hate self-promotion-type stuff. but this post was written specifically about self-catering. more dessert-reception-specific things can be found here:

    http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com/2010/02/lazy-or-food-part-1.html

    if you scroll to the bottom, there are links to other dessert-specific places for tips.

    • Diana

      I’m in love with your link and might marry it instead of that guy who lives with me. Thank you for self promoting! APW + this post + that link = big sigh of relief.

  • C

    Thanks for this article; I was having a hard time finding tips for this topic! I think the one thing I need to remember is; you need less desserts than you think you do! AND you need more serving stuff. Luckily you can get really pretty metal dishes for CHEAP at thrift stores :)

  • http://www.loveatthelodge.blogspot.com Erica

    I read this post and stopped dead in my tracks – I’m self-catering and I didn’t even realize it! We have a caterer who’s providing the BBQ and fixings but we’re doing all the drinks, the appetizers and the cake buffet. We’re even providing the silverware b/c our caterer only provides flimsy plastic stuff (you know, the kind that comes pre-packaged in plastic with a tiny napkin to boot…you can’t cut tri tip with that stuff). Yikes. At least this post makes me realize that it is totally doable. Otherwise I’d be freaking out right now.

  • Jessica

    I love this idea! In fact, I think this might be my dream wedding…all that dessert! Drool…. Alas, kinda tough to pull off when you live in a NYC apartment the size of a postage stamp. :(

  • Vanessa

    Great rules!! We self catered our welcome picnic- well, bought storemade items and did our own setup/grilling- and I can not stress the importance of rule #3!!! You do not need as much food as you think. We had so many leftovers from the picnic that we had packages and packages of hamburger/hot dogs leftover. Thank goodness our wedding turned into an all day affair (noon to 11pm), cause at 10pm we were throwing the burgs & dogs on the bonfire for a nighttime snack!!

    Also, on the day of the wedding my mom and I were stressing that the 4 apps we had during cocktail hour werent going to be enough so we hauled our asses to Sams Club and stocked up on gourmet cheeses, crackers, pepperoni, grapes, and assorted berries. Again, total waste of money. People ate what the caterer brought, and we had leftovers on top of leftovers. Boo. I’d say to take a portion of the money you want to use on “extra” food and put it towards the booze, cause our beer ran out long before the food, and people made beer runs to stock it back up. lol.

  • http://sparklefishmarriespistolfish.blogspot.com/ Mandy

    I love this post. We’re also planning on doing a snacky-type wedding reception, and it’s something I KNOW I can do (with help, of course) because I’ve done similar things before…and yet I still feel like people think we’re insane when we say we’re self-catering. I am definitely not a person who cares much about what anyone else thinks; I’m even totally up front about how part of the reason we’re doing so much stuff ourselves is because we don’t want to spend any more money than absolutely necessary. But even I feel a little shy of telling everyone that we’re making the food ourselves. It’s nice to hear from others who have already done the same thing.

  • Sara

    I had an event at my work last night and the caterer brought those exact cupcakes! They are incredible!

  • http://www.kaylachism.com Kayla

    I am loving these posts! I come from a long line of Southern cooks who also made it through the depression and now recession, so self catering is a must for me. The advice so far has been wonderful, but I was wondering if we could also have a conversation about the details…recipes. What foods at your reception worked great and what did you get half way through and realize, there’s no way I can decorate 200 strawberries with mini chocolate tuxes? Self catering brings up so many issues with not having access to professional equipment and staff, so I’m desperately searching through the family cookbooks trying to find good food that won’t need to be made 10 min before being served.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      are we still talking only dessert? because cookies and candies are awesome in the freezer or fridge- they typically thaw well, and you can have an on-going process of making them (eg, with cookies, you can make a batter, throw in the fridge, make the cookie a few days later, and then freeze) we made white chocolate cameos over the course of a few weeks- a little tedious, but easy to do while watching 30rock reruns. held up in the fridge fantastically, and i placed them in some of those adorable mini-cupcake-liners you can buy all over on etsy.

      cakes and cupcakes were made 1-2 days in advance. i had a group of amazing volunteers, so we had a cupcake assembly line- borrowed tons of mini pans from family and friends, and banged em out.

      word on the street is that cake will freeze for a short time, but will only stay moist if you a)added some kind of alcohol to the batter or b)brushed on some type of sugar water after thawing. asking someone more used to baking would be a good plan.

      beyond that, i tried to think of things that a) would need little prep (a cheese-and-fruit tray is amazingly simple and elegant- you can buy cheese that is pre-sliced/cubed and toss on a pile of strawberries or hunk of grapes) and that would hold up well at room temperature (ie, no ice cream or flambe)

      i found great catering-type food tips on thekitchn.com. but also, ask anyone who throws large parties. my mom has a xmas eve bash each year, and usually starts the cooking in october. there are people who are used to doing this kind of thing that can offer tips.

  • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

    Absolutely wonderful advice, great pictures, and a great attitude. A joy to read, even though we are not self-catering (we do want to offer a meal and my parents generously offered to help make that financially possible).

    I want to note two things though:

    1.) buying your own plate and glassware/cutlery is not always the better option to sinking money into rentals. For some (like us) it’s a hassle to re-sell it all on eBay or elsewhere. We live abroad, far from our venue so it’s hard to collect or even borrow. As expats, it’d be far too complicated to sell it again as nobody is going to pay international shipping for plates and such. So it makes sense for us to rent these things.

    2.) a catered dinner doesn’t have to be Wedding Chicken in Beige Sauce (though it usually is just that, to be honest). Our “catered wedding dinner” is tandoori chicken, lamb kebab, vegetable biriyani…all sorts of crazy awesome stuff that you’d never expect at a wedding.

    • http://sochicsocheap.blogspot.com liz

      yeah, i think 1 was addressed in a few earlier comments… definitely depends. we do have boxes of linens, silver and glassware in the basement now- but rather than seeing it as a problem, we’re thrilled to have stuff to lend to other brides.

      also, i’m not anti-renting… we rented plates, because a 6-month engagement just wasn’t enough time to find a ton to buy, etc. but i AM sort of jaded by the idea that the same table cloths i bought for $8 a piece online, were being rented out for $20 a piece. hence “wasteland” etc.

      as far as boring chicken, totally agree. (have you seen meg’s wedding food photos? i get hungry just thinking about it.) but that’s why i sidenoted, it’s “not always the case, but definitely rooted in my own personal wedding experiences”

      • meg

        Mmmmm…. we had chicken bastilla in filo dough with cinnamon. That was just how we hacked our regular catering, of course.

      • http://laorencha.blogspot.com channamasala

        Fair enough – I read the article but haven’t had time to read the comments. I’m new to this blog (I normally hang out on Offbeat Bride) so I haven’t really read a lot of previous entries, so no, I have not seen anyone else’s photos of food.

        Our tablecloths seem to sell for about $10 a piece but are rented at $13 from what research I could do…not as bad as the $8/$20 differential! It doesn’t help that we want red and purple linens, which seem to cost more to buy and be less popular to sell.

        But then I do agree with you – if we had the time to buy / space to store / wherewithal to sell purchased linens, we would do so.

  • http://www.iheartkiwi.blogspot.com iheartkiwi

    love that liz! you rock lady!

    her dessert reception looked absolutely amazing… like some sort of fairy tale tea party.

    we also “hired” friends of my brother’s to help with things like set up/ clean up and bar tending. it was a much cheaper alternative and they loved getting to come to the wedding and make a little money on the side.

  • Megan

    I know this is almost a year later, but I was just reading this post and I am totally in love! We’re planning a low budget, DIY wedding and are having a dessert reception in the afternoon. The thing I’m worried about is having to sacrifice everything else because it’s not a normal reception. Everyone around me is saying that we can’t expect to dance and stick around and hang out like normal because it’s in the afternoon and there’s no dinner. Is this true? What was the activity like at your reception?

  • Elizabeth

    Where did you find $8 table cloths? I am looking for a good linen site to purchase from!

  • Annie

    I love this post! My fiance and I are planning a DIY dessert and finger foods reception and his mom has offered to do most of the baking (she is a baking FIEND). Plus a friend of ours has offered to make our wedding cake (score!)
    The bigger challenge we are facing in Toronto, is finding a venue that will allow us to bring in our own food instead of using their caterer that is big enough for our big guest list (250 people!)

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

    Happy Weddinging!

    Annie

  • Pingback: Wedding Catering: DIY Food | Stingy Bride()

  • Brittany

    Below:

  • Brittany

    We’re self-catering our dessert and trying to figure out how much of each dessert to have. I don’t quite understand the “bite” thing. For instance, we’re having 130 guests. 130 X 10 = 1300 total “bites”? How does this help me know how much of each dessert to serve?

    Thanks!

    • Liz

      Instead of buying 130 of everything, plan on exactly what you said- around 1300 total “bites.” It’s not an exact science, but rounding about 300 mini cupcakes, about 10 cakes that are about 50 bites each (10 slices-ish, 5 bites-ish each slice), and 10 pies that are 50 bites each = 1300 bites, or enough food for everyone. Even though you’re not getting 130 cupcakes, 130 slices of cake, 130 slices of pie.

      Does that make any more sense?

      • Brittany

        Yes! Thanks!

  • http://www.cateringeden.com wedding venues South Florida

    Catering your own wedding can be very challenging and stressful. You have to ensure that all the needed things are ready before the big day. Having this kind of skill is not applicable to everyone as most would be needing help from the professionals.

  • http://brancatoscatering.com/menus/ Neva Modzelewski

    Your tips are very helpful. It will definitely convince readers that having a wonderful wedding reception need not be expensive. For those with a limited budget, a simple yet memorable wedding reception can be possible by becoming the wedding coordinator and food planner of your own wedding. You need not pay the services of caterers; you can do it by yourself. Having your personal touch on the wedding and food preparations will not only make your wedding a memorable one; it can also give you a sense of accomplishment for having a successful wedding and reception.

  • Pingback: Important Tips for Self-Catering Your Wedding Dessert Reception | My Own Bridal Show()

  • Pingback: Best of the Week: February 25, 2013 | My Own Bridal Show()

  • Sarah Miller

    Great images and detailed tips you got there.
    I think many brides to be have picked up new ideas as finding the ideal caterer is really hard. But if you are searching for one, you might want to try
    http://www.onsitecaterers.co.nz.

    thanks again for these tips.

  • Jules

    down vote. It must be coincidence that a wedding venue site, who obviously has links to local catering companies, has only negative “danger” warnings to offer anyone interested in maybe catering their own event.

  • D. Ann

    This is also the “traditional” reception I grew up around. I’m from California, and also with a baptist (German Baptist) background. I’m planning on having a dessert only reception….and honestly, I haven’t thought for a moment of having it any other way….just way too pricey and showy for me. I’ve had people ask me if I wouldn’t feel bad for not feeding my guests a meal. Uhm, no. Why would I feel bad…? It’s just not something I understand. Maybe it’s because we come from such large (huge) families, and feeding all of them a meal…well, I’d have to take out a bank loan just for food….not gonna happen. Simplicity….less is more. :)

  • Pingback: Ten Desserts Are Better Than One | Backstage | The Williford Wedding()

  • http://LAFAYETTEPARIS.COM Nikki from Lafayette Paris

    Hello, Hello i’m Nikki owner of Lafayette Paris, a shopping agency from Paris where you can order from us delicious snacks, groceries, candies from upscale stores in Paris. I thought we could offer services for this desert reception concept which I found really great having not such money for my own weeding I would have definitely done something like that!! Anyway you can visit my website at lafayetteparis.com for more info.
    The treats here are awsome!!!

  • Pingback: Ten Desserts Are Better Than One | Weddingbee()

  • http://www.iwedplanner.com/ Kevin Harry

    it was cool idea for wedding reception and thanks free wedding planner android app

  • staceybeck01

    All these little deserts are so cute! I thought about doing a main dish but I think deserts are fine. I want a variety so they can have lots and try them all.

    http://www.marianscatering.com/services