Practical Advice for Self-Catering Your Wedding

Guest Post from Meg Keene of A Practical Wedding

Entertaining is our main topic this month, and we wanted to give a little attention to that biggest of bashes: weddings! One of my favorite resources for planning a sane, practical, personal wedding is Meg Keene's site A Practical Wedding. We're swapping posts today — I will have a post there this afternoon on building a practical wedding registry. Here's Meg now with some practical advice for doing some or all of the cooking for your own (or someone else's!) wedding.

First of all, let me just throw this out there: the phrase 'Self-Catering Your Wedding' is terrifying. Even for serious cooks, this is enough to send you into the fetal position, weeping with fear. But there are lots of ways to do some self-catering at your wedding, and just as many reasons to consider it. Some people will self-cater their whole wedding meal, because of financial realities. Other people might contribute one or two items, because they want to share their love of cooking with friends and family. If you're pondering self-catering your wedding, here are a range of ideas to get you thinking.

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First, let's start with The Kitchn's own managing editor Faith. She wrote about her wedding for A Practical Wedding back in 2009. Even though Faith and her husband hired an affordable caterer to help them create a delicious fall menu, Faith baked and served her wedding cake to her guests, as the newlyweds' first act of hospitality and also as their de-facto receiving line (this idea still makes me tear up, two years later). If you're interested in trying this out, here is another couple's advice about how to make a wedding cake.

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Faith and Mike also had family contribute to their dessert table. This combines two excellent self-catering ideas: the low key pot-luck, and the dessert reception. The all-sweets reception is an excellent way to make self-catering lower stress. Liz, who got married in a church hall in Philadelphia, wrote an excellent list of tips after her super stylish low-budget dessert reception. She emphasizes that you'll need help, and lots of organization, but noted that everyone loves an excuse to eat sweets all afternoon, and photos of dessert receptions can't help but look stylish.

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Perhaps you like the idea of lower stress self-catering, but don't want to do desserts. Well, then consider the all appetizer reception. Marie-Ève did, and she found that it allowed them to prepare easily transportable food in advance, have a variety of types of snacks, and allowed for a happy mix-and-mingle vibe to the reception. She gave all her best tips for this kind of reception, with a serious-about-food and making-food-is-always-fun flair.

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Or maybe you want to go whole hog, and self-cater a whole meal. This is absolutely feasible, if you set some ground rules (ground rules that should probably apply to even the simplest self-catering projects):


  • Keep it simple. Now is not the time to show off, or to try to make elaborate recipes. Cara, who provided a helpful cost breakdown, focused on all simple summer foods for her reception. Britta focused on foods that required one step: either chopping, grilling or thawing.

  • Get help. Mandy wrote a no-nonsense comprehensive list of tips for self-catering, but her number one tip is get help. You can't take on this project without a lot of good people at your side. (Her number two tip is borrow platters from everyone you know).

  • Organization, organization, organization. Plan everything. Make spreadsheets. Make more spreadsheets. Now is not the time to fly by the seat of your pants.

  • Make sure you enjoy it. Chances are, if you are reading The Kitchn, cooking is a joy for you, and a way to express your love. That's an excellent way to start a project like this.

  • Remember food safety. This is my number one, be all, end all rule on self catering your wedding: be safe. While collective food poisoning will certainly make your wedding memorable, I'm pretty sure that's not the kind of memorable you had in mind.

  • Don't be scared. People have been successfully self-catering weddings since the dawn of time. You're joining one of the great, historic wedding traditions.

You can read all of A Practical Wedding's posts on self catering, including stories of couples that self catered and tips on how best to approach it, right here.

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Thank you so much for sharing, Meg!
Visit Meg Keene's site:
A Practical Wedding

(Images: 1: Christina Richards Weddings; 2: Bryan and Joleen Fenstermacher; 3: Love Me Do Photography; 4: Alexander Galan and Suzy Guévin; 5: Sarah & Rob Costa Photography)