How to cater for your own wedding
Catering your own wedding is often cited as an example of a way to keep spiralling costs down, but if you’ve got a burgeoning guest list and you don’t have much experience catering large events, think hard before you attempt it. If however, you fancy a challenge, are organised enough and have the right people around to help on the day, it’s not such a crazy idea. These three stories from women who have catered their own wedding share the highs and lows of doing it yourself (high: keeping within a budget of £10 a head; low: stress and emotions running high).
First figure out if you have the work top, oven and fridge space to cook for all your guests. You also need to think about cutlery and crockery. Disposable is easiest, so try to source biodegradable tableware. It’s a good idea to look for deals in the supermarket on meat, and stock up your freezer in the months before the wedding to get ahead. On the day, if you are short of fridge space, you can hire fridges from catering companies.
Chef Merrilees Parker catered for her wedding and she says, “Don’t attempt anything technically difficult. Concentrate on lovely ingredients, especially if it’s a summer wedding. I bought a selection of unusual tomatoes and potatoes to make two simple salads served with porchetta and slow-cooked beef. Shop for beautiful, seasonal ingredients and concentrate on stunning presentation. Think simply and visually”. Look at this collection of wedding recipes for inspiration.
Do get your friends to pitch in if they can; say have someone make some pâté or a soup to start with. At a wedding I went to last year, my friend asked selected guests to bring a homemade cake as a replacement for a traditional wedding cake.
My other friends were conveniently both food retail store managers at the time they got married, so knew the cost price of their ingredients and how much they could save in catering. They pieced the food together from lots of individual suppliers - pork pies and quiches from the local butchers, olives from their shop supplier and massive vats of hummus were a wedding gift from a friend who made them herself. A glorious spread of asparagus, broccoli, cheese, Spanish cold meats and French bread laid out on each table also saved on serving staff.
Another option is to ask your guests to bring a dish each - although this can be tricky if they have to travel far. I know someone getting married this summer who has organised her seating plan by the dish each guest will bring to the table. It’s a slightly risky method as you’re relying on other people’s organisation (and cooking skills), but at least it means you don’t need to put a cap on the guest list.
As for drinks, if the venue allows you to bring your own drinks, you can save quite a bit of money. Here’s a neat calculator to work out how much to buy - or there is always the option of making your big day BYO!
There are other ways to be involved in the food you serve, even if you don’t wish to cater the whole event. You could try making your own wedding cake, but remember you’ll probably need someone else to assemble it on the day. Meringue makes a cheap, crowd-pleasing dessert dish. My food store manager friends had a massive pavlova as their wedding cake. The meringue came from a local cake maker and they decorated it themselves in the morning.
As for me, I wasn’t brave enough to face catering the whole event, but I did serve a selection of cheeses late in the evening and brought out some homemade chutneys. I was happy to add a personal touch, including a recipe from a good friend.
Have you catered your own wedding? Or do you know anyone who has? Share your tips here. And even if you haven’t catered your own wedding, what would you make if given the chance?
Ramona Andrews is the host of the BBC Food Q&A blog and messageboard.