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  1. How We Did It: The Self Catered Wedding | A Practical Wedding
  2. Recent Stories
  3. Do-It-Yourself Feast / How to cater your own wedding without losing your peace of mind

Limiting the choices reduces prep and plating costs as well as the likelihood of service errors. For your meat option, consider poultry instead of hoofed proteins; chicken is cheaper and more eco-friendly than beef, lamb, or pork. Besides, when push comes to shove, how many guests are really going to turn down free pizza?

Rather than accepting pricey in-house catering or opting for a custom menu by an outside caterer, consider ordering bulk takeout from your favorite local restaurant. With enough advance notice — a week or longer, most likely — most decent-sized restaurants should be able to accommodate catering for or guests. Fast-casual chains like Chipotle are safer bets and may be amenable to day-before or even day-of orders.

If you decide to go this route, you can further reduce the cost by purchasing discount gift cards through Raise. Well-marinated flank steak or sirloin tips are nearly as tasty as your basic filet mignon, at a fraction of the cost. Why not break the mold and trust your guests to enjoy their cocktail hour drinks with dinner? Local, in-season menus may wind up costing less than luxe menus with ingredients sourced from the four corners of the world.

Bear in mind that your local-only requirement may affect your choice of caterer; you may even need to purchase and prepare some menu items yourself using guests as labor. Compared with a take-it-or-leave-it main course, a six- or eight-course tasting menu means greater logistical complexity and higher prep costs. Think of this as a creative alternative to heavy app-only dinners, with similar results. These ideas could reduce your final beverage service bill — a massive, often overlooked outlay for most nuptials.

If you can find a venue that does offer bulk pricing to parties pouring its own supply, jump on that deal. For single-serve containers, such as beer cans, corkage policies may be laxer; you might not have to pay to serve your own beer at all. Even after accounting for corkage fees, buying booze in bulk at your local liquor outlet will dramatically reduce your alcohol bill. Traditional cocktails, which may contain two or three 1-ounce liquor servings, are particularly pricey.

Not only will you find better prices and bulk quantities, but you can save even more when you use the Ibotta app. Just make sure your arrangement complies with local regulations; servers will probably need to be at least 18 years of age and may need to have a pro forma safe-serve certification. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. If local regulations permit guests to serve themselves, or the owner of the private property hosting your reception is willing to assume all attendant liability, do away with bartenders altogether and allow guests to serve themselves.

Nothing complements a casual daytime wedding reception like tubs of beer on ice and chilled, pre-mixed cocktails in spigot dispensers. If you plan to offer self-serve cocktails, be generous with non-alcoholic mixers. Compensate for the lack of choice by dressing up the drink.

Ways to do this include:. Remember to:. Even if not, forgoing alcohol ensures guests leave early — ideal for daytime weddings at venues booked for a night session. If you can clean out your local liquor warehouse on the morning of your reception, you can surely head next door to the supermarket and grab a couple dozen pre-baked cakes off the shelf.

Ditch the pomp and go with sheet cakes for all. If you can crowdsource elaborate appetizers, you can surely crowdsource desserts. In fact, since most of your guests are likely to have ovens big enough to bake a few dozen cookies or cupcakes at a time, your bring-your-own-desserts campaign may well get more buy-in. Simple, mix-based desserts are cheaper than scratch-made, protein-rich appetizers too.

Should you balk at sending out an open call for dessert contributions, task each member of your wedding party with supplying a dessert of their choice.

Crunch the numbers on popular desserts and sweets, such as:. When all else fails, exercise portion control.

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Who said a proper wedding needs baked desserts, let alone a traditional wedding cake? Most people want their wedding invites to stand out and look amazing. You can still get that custom looking invite without the huge price tag. Websites like Shutterfly frequently run great promotions that will help you drastically reduce your costs. The surest way to reduce your total food and drink bill is to cap your guest list, even if it means making some tough choices about who to leave out of your big day.

Use thematic food and drink menus that rely on fewer, cheaper ingredients to achieve economies of scale. A consistent theme may boost the appeal of basic or boring menu items; for instance, fried chicken is a lot more appealing as part of a coherent Southern-themed menu than as an apparent afterthought at the end of a long buffet table. Skip costly add-ons, which tend to be upselling opportunities for wedding venues, not true value-adds for knot-tying couples. Cake cutting is an egregious example; asking a couple of guests to slice and plate your cake achieves the same result at a much lower cost.

The champagne toast is another costly add-on worth calling out specifically.

How We Did It: The Self Catered Wedding | A Practical Wedding

As memorable as your first wedding toast should be, the cost is simply not worth it. Toast with whatever you and your guests have on hand, instead. If you have a say in the matter — and, for this and other reasons, you may want to avoid venues that deny you one — opt for eco-friendly, single-use serveware. That includes:. Many caterers cut kids under 12 a break; some particularly generous providers go all the way up to age This is a valuable negotiating point. Daytime weddings are cheaper than afternoon-into-evening gatherings on multiple counts.

In particular, reception venues generally charge less for daytime events, as long as the party can clear out in time for the evening block. Daytime-specific venues tend to be cheaper still.

A city park pavilion with a nominal reservation fee is a great place to take advantage of natural light, for instance. Even after implementing every cost-cutting strategy that makes sense for your special day, food and drink costs are sure to account for a significant share of your wedding reception budget. By simplifying or doing away entirely with other aspects of your wedding reception, you can further size down your wedding budget without adversely impacting the guest experience.

All Rights Reserved. Money Crashers. About Money Crashers. Recent Stories. Read more. Travel 18 Best Dude Ranches in the U. Affordable Family Vacations Brian Martucci. Advertiser Disclosure X Advertiser Disclosure: The credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which MoneyCrashers. I kept imagining all those plates and glasses -wouldn't fit in the rental van. As it turned out, the van was much too big for the number of rentals , and platters crashed down while my manager drove them to the site.

In the end, the food was amazing. The guests marveled at the spread of fresh salads, the succulent salmon, the six types of hoppy home-brewed beer. Many said it was the best food they had ever had at a wedding. This was all extremely gratifying. But there was a price to pay. Our brew masters admitted they had been spending almost every weekend for months making the beer.

At the last minute, I talked my brother and sister-in-law into doing the bouquets as well as the potted centerpieces. They were still fashioning boutonnieres while guests arrived and barely had time to get dressed. I had a wonderful time at my wedding, although I was in a bit of a fog. In some of the photos I look piqued, maybe even grumpy. Don't all brides? These antipasto recipes are all great choices for a wedding potluck because most of them can be made ahead and served at room temperature.

All of the recipes can be multiplied for large groups. If you're serving the antipasti with a main course and a starch, each guest -won't need a full serving of each dish. Plan to have enough total servings for the number of guests you plan to serve. For example, for guests, prepare four different recipes serving 25 each, or five recipes serving 20 each. Each guest will get a few little bites of each dish, adding up to a full side-dish serving. For a light meal, make two or three antipasto servings per person and fill out the table with bowls of olives, breads, cheeses and dips.

This great addition to an antipasti table can be made up to two days ahead, then refrigerated until ready to serve. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, for a few minutes. Increase heat to high and add the mushrooms.

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Saute, stirring frequently, until the mushrooms are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the wine and reduce for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place the mushrooms in a large bowl and toss with the vinegar, salt, pepper and parsley. Serve at room temperature. This recipe was adapted from "Fields of Greens," by Annie Somerville.

For simplicity's sake, it's prepared casserole-style rather than in the traditional stovetop frittata method. Place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over high heat. Boil until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion over medium heat until it begins to release its juices, about minutes.

Add the peppers, garlic and bay leaf. Stew the onion and peppers together for about 15 minutes, until the peppers are juicy and soft. Scrape the vegetables into the prepared glass baking pan, removing the bay leaf. Distribute evenly over the bottom of the pan, and let the vegetables cool. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cheeses and basil. Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. Bake for minutes, until set. Brush the reduced balsamic vinegar over the frittata.


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Fennel is a great choice for a make-ahead salad because it holds up very well after being tossed in the dressing, but it is still light and delicate tasting. You can marinate the fennel in the dressing overnight.


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  • Add the blue cheese up to an hour before serving, then toss again. Whisk in the olive oil. Trim and quarter the fennel. Chop any fennel fronds the green wispy part. Cut out the core of the fennel bulb, then thinly slice the rest. Toss the slices and fronds with the dressing and orange segments, then gently toss in the blue cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Do-It-Yourself Feast / How to cater your own wedding without losing your peace of mind

    This is a great choice for a late summer wedding, when heirloom tomatoes are in season. Using heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella as well as baby bocconcini balls and tiny cherry tomatoes adds a visual twist to the salad and makes it more affordable. You can prepare this salad up to 2 hours before serving, but do not refrigerate it or the tomatoes will become mushy. Add some fresh thinly sliced basil at the end for bright color. Thinly slice half of the basil leaves, and reserve the rest for later. Toss the bocconcini balls, cherry tomatoes and thinly sliced basil with half of the vinaigrette.

    Place this salad in the center of a large oval platter. Form a ring or two around this salad by layering the slices of mozzarella with the slices of heirloom tomatoes in a large oval, placing a basil leaf between the red and white slices. Sprinkle the slices with salt and pepper, then drizzle them with the remaining dressing. Serves To say that catering your own wedding is a lot of work is a vast understatement.

    It demands much of your friends and family, assuming they're willing and able to help, and it might not save as much money as you think. But home-grown weddings can be much more meaningful than the cookie-cutter events pictured in those dreaded bridal magazines.

    Whether you do things yourself or hire someone, he points out, "the energy needs to be expended, no matter how - if in the form of money,. Weddings require enough of your energy just to deal with the emotions. Your entire circle of friends and family will be in town all at once; the last thing you'll probably want to do is worry about where the cake plates are. The engaged couple should never plan to do any work during the wedding, caterers say, and should not expect their friends and family to, either.

    They're going to want to enjoy the party and they don't always make the most reliable bartenders. It's best to hire others for things like that. The next most important thing to realize is you don't have to do anything. Depending on the time of day the event will occur and how long you would like your guests to linger, you don't need to serve an entire meal.

    Up until a generation ago, it was not unheard of just to serve punch and cake, as my grandmother reminded me. Champagne and finger food can also be very elegant and festive. After all, the food is often the biggest cost of a wedding. This estimate usually includes food, nonalcoholic beverages, staff and rentals. It does not include alcoholic beverages, taxes, gratuities and service charges.

    The price also depends on the number of guests, the type of food, the style of service, the venue and many other factors. With a huge amount of help from our friends and family, we were able to bring our food costs pretty far below the Bay Area average. If you want to try this feat yourself, here are some things to keep in mind:. Facility: Confirm that your reception venue allows outside caterers to come in; some places present you with lists of appropriate choices.