5 Shopping Tips for DIY Wedding Receptions and Other Big Parties

Gatherings from The Kitchn

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Here's the last installment of the DIY wedding reception series I've been sharing with you this week (you can see all the posts here). Shopping for a big event like a wedding reception is not like a normal grocery run, and there are a few tips I've picked up to make it a little easier. These tips can be helpful for a range of parties, too — whether you're cooking for 50 at a graduation barbecue, or 200 at a wedding reception.

1. Don't go to the regular grocery store.

This might be obvious, but it bears repeating — if you're shopping for a big gang, it does make sense to use a discount bulk store, like Costco or Sam's Club, or a local restaurant supply outlet like GFS. I was a skeptic on this front (is it really cheaper?) until I got a Costco membership before catering my brother's wedding. Well, yes, a scant few hundred dollars later, I was a believer.

Compare prices, though, especially on more expensive items, as not everything is cheaper. Also, restaurant supply stores really vary from location to location; sometimes they are just not a good deal.

Bonus shopping tip: Take a buddy! If you're shopping for a lot of goods, you probably won't fit it all into one oversized Costco shopping cart. Take a buddy!

2. Ship as much as you can.

But why go to the grocery store and lug home enough soda or sparkling water for 100 people when you can have it shipped? I found that Amazon actually had better prices on some of the heavy goods I needed, and it was so much more convenient than loading my little car with hundreds of liters of soda water.

I also ordered all the plates, cutlery, and other supplies from online sources like Restaurantware. You'll get a much better selection and better prices for things like this online.

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3. And if possible, ship direct to the venue.

And if you have time to plan (and someone to receive it) try to ship anything you won't need until the day of the event straight to the venue. Less hauling!

4. Separate your shopping list by trip.

I planned out when I was going to cook each part of the menu, and ahead of time I separated my shopping list into trip segments. That way I knew exactly what I needed on each trip.

5. And whatever else you put on your list, include foil pans.

Every event I've ever catered as an amateur has really depended on a big supply of standard-sized foil pans. You'll use them to mix big batches, store food in the fridge, and prep at the event. They're bigger than any Tupperware in your cupboard (probably) and you'll want more of them than you expect. I also bring a Sharpie and freezer tape to label them clearly. Here are the ones I buy:

Any other tips on shopping smart for a big event or party?

(Image credits: D Squared Photo & Video; Faith Durand)