How We Did It: The Self Catered Wedding

Andy and I were married on August 22, 2009. Here’s a quick account of our self catered wedding preparations. After mulling over different catering options and hitting more than one roadblock (money, availability, & quality), and taking heed to the many offers for assistance in preparation, we decided to DIY everything food-wise. We knew this would be a huge endeavor, but knew we would have the support and control over we needed and wanted. About two months before the wedding, we gathered for a meal with our parents and a few wedding party attendants to discuss meal planning and delegating jobs. Our overall theme was summer foods (kebabs, salads, cupcakes, kids food, and local beer), and we were able to decide on a wide range of options for all.

We had a team of 12 people preparing food, which included skewering kebabs, preparing cold salads, baking cupcakes, fetching kegs of beer, and assembling food for the kids table. The cupcakes were made a few weeks in advance, frozen, and then thawed and decorated the day before. Andy and I even got our hands into the mix, working on a few salads and kebabs in the days prior. I was told more than once that I shouldn’t be cooking, working, or lifting a finger the week of the wedding. To me, food and service go hand in hand and have been big components of my life, so making food for our guests seemed like a great gift in return. Plus, it was fun trying out new recipes which provided for a little stress relief.

Chaffing dishes were rented from a local party supply company to keep the hot foods hot, and we used family dishware for salads and kids food. The cupcakes were placed on vintage china plates borrowed from Andy’s grandma. Drinks were stored in kegs, coolers, and bottles. The napkins, plates, cups and silverware came from Ikea and Party City. Set up took place by the wedding party and friends of the family prior to the reception, while we were off having photos taken. Tear down took place after the band quit playing by family, friends, and the wedding party.

Overall costs

(A caveat – some of the estimates are rough, granted that our wedding was almost a year ago!)
  • Widmer Beer – $210 for three pony kegs + $18 tap rental + $140 refundable tap deposit + $300 refundable keg deposit = $228 (after refunds)
  • Cupcakes – $21 cupcake pan from Michael’s (purchased with a coupon) + $12 cupcake papers + $50 baking supplies = $83 (display plates were borrowed and decorative stamps were from my childhood collection)
  • Kebabs – A lot of the ingredients were purchased in bulk, which helped to cut down the cost. Andy and I spent about $100 when we purchased supplies for the food we prepared (two sets of the kebabs). I’m giving this a rough estimate of an additional $200 for the remaining kebabs, as the rest of the food was prepared by family who contributed out of their own pockets = $300ish
  • Pita Bread & homemade yogurt dip = $15
  • Salads – $40 farmer’s market fruits + $20 green & tropical salads + $10 for orzo = $70
  • Supplies – $10 Napkins + $7 beer cups + $10 beverage cups + $10 plates + $15 silverware + FREE butcher paper to cover the tables = $52
  • Kids’ food – $5 peanut butter sandwiches + $7 cream cheese & corn dog kebabs + (price included above) fruit kebabs = $12
  • Beverages – $20 bottled water + $7 lemonade + $20 soda + donated wine from family = $47
  • We also had use of the full kitchen space for food storage and preparation, which included free garbage/recycling disposal, garbage liners, brooms, mops, tables, and chairs.
Overall total = $807

What we learned

When in doubt, make more food! When you serve food at a gathering of any sort, people WILL eat! Our respective moms repeatedly told us that people don’t generally eat at weddings (we love you moms!), however, we now know this is not true. On the contrary, any wedding in which I’d ever participated or attended, I ate. In a nutshell, my advice is to prepare twice as much food (especially if you’ll be eating around dinner). We had prepared about 300 kebabs (beef, chicken, lamb, veggie, shrimp and antipasto), plus 4 salads (fruit, orzo, green, and tropical), plus provided some pita bread and yogurt for dipping, but the food went FAST for about 80-100 people. We had enough food for everyone (including our photographers and band), but there wasn’t much for leftovers (save for the cupcakes).

Have a list (or two) and check it twice (or three, four or five times)! About 10 days out, I emailed everyone involved with the wedding to give them a day-by-day planning guide for everything. It was very helpful to know when food and supplies would be rented, purchased, and prepared, and who may be free to lend an extra hand. Some confusion arose over when the repception hall would be open the day of the wedding to deliver food, and who would be setting up the food prior to the guests arrival. There were also moments of frantic cell phone calls to this or that person, expecting me or someone else to be wherever they were, but once someone was in touch with me or Andy, things fell into place.
Trust your wedding party and your family (and your Mom’s BFF from high school). This can be hard, especially if you have a take charge nature. Hopefully, your people want to help you and your partner, and by golly they will as long as you tell them what to do! Don’t mull over how it will be done or how long it will take. If you need someone to grab a few bags of ice on the way to the reception, shout it out. If you need someone to make sure the photographers have been offered food, put that person to work. No matter what, take up your friends and family on their countless offers to help, and let the rest fall into place. They are here for the happy couple and want to take away the stress in whatever way they can.

Be sure to eat! I know how hard it can be to take a few moments to sit and relax during a big event; especially if all the attention has been placed on you and your significant other. But when you’ve said your vows and made an entrance, it’s now time to eat! My matron of honor did her best job to “make conversation” with us while we were eating (to deter anyone else from distracting us from our few quiet moments), but no more than two minutes after that happened, more and more people stopped by to wish us well. No complaints here, of course, but in the end, we were still able to eat and enjoy our delicious food that we’d helped to prepare and share with our friends and family.

The one downside: I think a few people who were late to the reception didn’t get to select from as many food options as those who came before, but what can you do? As Andy’s Grandpa once said, “There’s the quick and there’s the hungry!” Which one will you be?

Pictures by Sarah & Rob Costa Photography of Vancouver, Washington

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