food, part 2.

by Liz on 02.25

I think it’s a straight JOKE when people act like having a DIY wedding is just as easy as throwing a ton of cash at the day and letting it fall into place. Hilarious.

See, it’s a trade-off, really. You don’t hafta pay as much money, sure, but in exchange you need to invest a ton of time, energy, and sanity (and paper cuts, hot-glue burns, or whatever). I think it’s well worth it (obv) because the end result is much more personal and intrinsically meaningful.

But I’m just sayin.

Consider yourself warned.

That said- here’s how I did my own food. I should start off by letting you know, I HIGHLY suggest considering either a dessert or “cocktail” reception. Or a brunch. Or something. Dinner can get so damn complicated- and expensive. This food needs to stay hot, that food needs to stay cold… do we have enough options for our vegeterians? Vegans? Is there enough of the entree to go around? Yadda yadda yadda.

the breakdown…

(all photos via the awesome ladies of Love Me Do)

[1] Thaw n Serve. This stuff is amazing. You can buy frozen, ready-made desserts 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.

And I know it sounds like frozen pastries could be pretty gross, but keep in mind this is restaurant-grade stuff- the stuff that catering companies use.  If you’re unable to buy some good thaw n serve stuff, and need to bake a lot yourselves, be sure to research what kinds of food freeze well. Most do, but some is absolutely inedible after thawing.

[2] 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)

[3] 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. Nuff said. 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.
(see our thrifted punch cups?)
[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.

[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, sweet n low, 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.

Unfortunately, we just didn’t hire enough. For 150 guests, I tried to hire 4 girls, and ended up with 2. No. Good. It didn’t ruin the day, but I do remember seeing bridesmaids carrying dirty dishes to the kitchen, which I wish wouldn’t have happened.

The key to this working out is delegation. 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. (I’m not a fan of doling out responsibilities for the day of the wedding to family and friends. It’s great if they help before and after, but during the wedding they should be enjoying themselves, in my opinion.)*

(see the stacks of plates and junk?)
[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. I’ll tell you what I did in an upcoming post. (I know, edge of your seat, right?)

One of the other things you gotta realize when planning a budget or DIY wedding, is there’s a certain amount of risk. It’s kinda part of the exchange you make, in return for saving a chunk of cash, you sign up for a ton of work and you risk some things getting effed up. You’re not dealing with professional waiters- you’re dealing with teenagers. You don’t have a contract. No security deposit. There are a LOT of ways things can go wrong. (…but there are also a lot of ways things can go wrong when you’re dealing with “professionals”)

The actual numbers: For 150 guests, we stocked 200 of everything. So, 200 dessert plates, salad forks, clear glass coffee mugs (that doubled for serving water or hot cider), and thrifted punch cups. 300 paper napkins. We didn’t use spoons- wooden coffee stirrers were cheaper. No knives necessary. 10 round tables of 8 chairs each and two long tables with 12 chairs each.

*I’ve heard of a TON of brides who felt a Day-of-Coordinator was a good investment. But, Philly area DOC’s are ridiculously expensive. The best quote I got was over a grand- after they gave me a super-huge discount. That said, you may be in a situation where your family and friends aren’t as willing to help as you’d like or you don’t want to hire teenaged slackers. Really consider if this is a good plan for you.

Previous post:

Next post: