A DIY Wedding Reception for 200: 3 Things I Would Do Differently

Gatherings from The Kitchn

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No matter how well-planned or orchestrated a party is, there is probably something you feel you could have done better. That was certainly the case at the wedding that I catered last month for my friends (see all the posts about it here).

So, in the interest of sharing, learning, and minor embarrassment on my part, let's take a look at the three things I probably should have done differently.

I wish I had...

1. Not tried a brand-new recipe the day before the wedding.

This is basically the equivalent of a land war in Asia — trying a new-to-me recipe on the one precious full day I had for cooking before the wedding.

I needed to make sure I had enough food for quite a few dairy-free and gluten-free folks. I decided to cater to both with a gluten-free macaron-style cookie from the Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams cookbook and fill them with a dairy-free chocolate ganache.

Clever, right? Too clever by half, and since I have never really made macarons, I don't know what possessed me. (I mean, we're talking macarons here — the treat people obsess over in pages of web instructionals.) My hundreds of cookies failed in spectacular ways — cracked, split, stuck, puddled, bitter. My sister managed to salvage about 100 cookie sandwiches out of the wreckage, but meanwhile I had lost an entire morning to a recipe that just didn't work. I like to think I'm pretty good at swinging my way through a new recipe, but here it was just too expensive of a mistake.

2. Had more help. A lot more help. Like, a lot.

As usual, I underestimated the help I felt I needed. I also was running on empty leading up to this event, and while I had my sister full-time, I didn't really work on getting the help I needed to round out the team. My husband graciously pitched in, as he is wont to do, but he couldn't help during the reception itself. It ended up being me, my sister, and two high-schoolers who pitched in with so much grace and energy.

If I could do it again I would find several more people. There is just so much hands-on work, especially with a menu of little bites that have to be skewered or set up one by one.

3. Set aside plates for certain dietary-restricted guests.

And yet, after all the work of making dairy-free and gluten-free food, I miscalculated and didn't set aside a plate for the bride's sister, whose kids are completely dairy-free. I just assumed she was there, but they came very late to the reception, and by that time the dairy-free sweets were all gone (the girls weren't much interested in hummus cups!). I felt bad that I hadn't thought to set aside a little plate for the kids. They were super gracious about it, but I'll make a mental note to consider that in the future.

Those were my mistakes this time around. All in all, it went so well, and while my mistakes may have added more stress to our plates, everything turned out just dandy in the end. But hey — learn from my mistakes!

(Image credits: Faith Durand)