Broke-Ass Category: Uncategorized


Affiliate Disclaimer NewWelcome to another episode of Broke-Ass Advice! Today’s question is about what to serve guests at a casual reception:

Womans Hand Taking Food From Cafe Table With Dips And Drinks

I love your website. Not just this one, but all of your blogs. So helpful and inspirational. While I was reading your book, I continually would read passages out loud to my fiance and say, finally, someone who gets it!

We are paying for our wedding ourselves. This is a first wedding for both of us.

I guess I’m writing to seek advice or validation for my food idea for our reception. My family is huge, cutting back the guest list is truly not possible. We are inviting around 200, I assume 100-150 will come. We have our venue set at a farm in November 2016; hopeful for an outdoor ceremony, barn reception. We are going for relaxed, informal. It’s important to us to have good music, good drinks, and for everyone to just have a great time. Our venue only allows wine and beer, so we want to provide as much of that as we can. It’s an evening wedding. So here’s my trouble:

I know it is impossible to please every guest. And that it’s my day, etc. But I guess I’m nervous about my idea for food. I was thinking we should have a cocktail hour where we start serving drinks and provide meat, cheese, and fruit trays. For dinner, I was thinking we could have Panera bread cater. I think it would be cost effective. My fiance loves sandwiches. We could serve soup, salad, bread, sandwiches of all varieties. And we are having a pie bar for dessert.

Is this too informal? Is it tacky to only serve sandwiches? It’s my opinion that a lot of typical catered food is overpriced and underwhelming. But, I guess I just want to make sure that my older guests won’t think we’re just trying to be cheap…

I’m so confused! Please help!

– Sandwich Connoisseur


Dear Sandwich Connoisseur,

Aww, shucks. Thanks for the sweet compliments. You are precisely why we do what we do!
Back to the sandwiches, I LOVE IT! I have more to say, but I figured I’d put the most important part of my response right up front.

Logistics: First up, you’re right. If you can’t reduce the guest list, you’ll have to get creative about cutting back in other places. But who says sandwiches are 2nd class food, anyhow? Sandwiches are marvelously flexible, in that you can create custom gourmet options or stick with classics like grilled cheese and cold cuts. I only have two warnings about sandwiches:

1. On a cold November evening (it’s usually cold here in Ohio in November … despite our unusual heat wave this year), guests might appreciate something warm. But you already thought of that! Warm soup is a perfect compliment to room temperature or cold sandwiches, and if any of the sandwiches are grilled like paninis, that’s got you covered as well.

2. If you have any guests with Celiac disease, they will appreciate a gluten-free option. Find out if your caterer can accommodate guests’ food allergies, if necessary.

Chalkboard Table Tent Cards

Chalkboard Table Tent Food Cards available from Etsy seller ThePaperWalrus

The way to impress guests isn’t with the food type (although they will be underwhelmed if they are not fed at all), it’s through your presentation. Put your own unique spin on things by asking if the caterer will create a signature sandwich option for you. Put out DIY labels or mini-chalkboards for the sandwich and soup types with personalized names (try “name of place you met” Tomato Soup, or “your sweetie’s name” Favorite Autumn Soup). Let your guests in on the “secret” — that this food was selected in part because it’s your favorite! Work with your caterer and venue to design multi-\level displays for the different food options, and think about “homemade / comfort food” as part of your overall theme and design inspiration.

Another way to ensure happy guests regardless of your menu is to offer them a variety of options. If you go with sandwiches the same rule applies: have 3-4 options from which guests can choose, whether that’s a preselected meal on their RSVP card, stations for spontaneous selection, or a buffet of soups and sandwiches to choose from. Then let them customize their meals by adding a dips, sauces, and soup toppings station with crackers, shredded cheese, diced onion, fancy dijon and whatnot. Personally, I think guests will appreciate something a little different! (And bonus: You save on silverware rental, too!)

Spicy Mustard With Local Beer

Spicy Mustard With Local Beer by BrownleePreserves on Etsy

If Panera is your fave, go with that! Other options might be your local sub joint — and then you can make a ceremony out of “breaking bread” when a giant sub is cut into smaller slices for your guests. Or schedule in time to share a unity sandwich! One local couple in my area had multiple food chains present stations so that their guests could sample from a few of their favorite restaurants. (Chipotle was one of ’em! Guac-4-Evah!) Whichever route you take, I always recommend getting three quotes before finalizing your decision.

I can’t forget to mention that that pie bar idea is rockin’. Please tell me there will be pumpkin pie. And banana creme. And cherry. OMG PIE. (Mini-pies and pie pops are adorable, too!)

Emotions: You’ve got it exactly right — all the stuff about it being your wedding, and that you can’t please everyone. (Someone’s a quick study of the BAB book!)

I can tell you’ve thought it through, and that’s pretty much what it’s about. If you weren’t considering the comfort of your guests I might have to set you straight — but you are. Now here’s where I stand on my soap box for a sec: Almost nothing about a wedding is required. You must have a partner, a legal document and someone legally recognized to witness and sign the document, and that’s kind of about it. Everything else is subject to interpretation.

And what really is “tacky,” anyway? Ignoring your guests is tacky. Being a poor host is tacky. Individual choices about what to serve, how and where to serve it, etc. are not tacky, although they might be different from what someone else has experienced before. What’s wrong with that? (For more, check out this article on Offbeat Bride.)

My last thought for you is this: You and your partner are the ones who need to feel comfortable with all of this. It’s your money, your wedding … you know the story. I can tell you I love it or I hate it, and my opinion just doesn’t matter. (Sidebar: The opinions of family may matter because you care about them and want them to enjoy your wedding, but they shouldn’t deter you from doing what you want or convince you to do something you can’t afford.)

But I do love it.

You do you. 😉 And let them eat sandwiches!

Party on!

– Lisa 

Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio? Here’s where you can find me for wedding planning assistance.

Got a planning question? Ask us in the comments below!

  • 8/6

    Real Bride Tiffany Chalk This Up as a DIY FTW.jpg

    One of the few wedding trends I embrace is chalkboards. Mostly because they complement our space really well; otherwise I would’ve shunned them like I do everything else. I originally liked the look of stained wood signs, but with our venue remodel we are now surrounded by a lot of awesome reclaimed wood. Which led to the official chalkboarding decision.


    Colorful chalk monogram from Green Wedding Shoes. Chalk wedding program from Style Me Pretty. And my own photo of the glorious reclaimed wood in our remodeled venue.

    Once again, using my exceptional (and excessive) online shopping skills, I quickly came to the conclusion that holy sheesh sandwich-board chalkboards are NOT budget friendly. BUT WAIT. My mom is crafty! She used to toll paint in the ’90s! She hand-saws and everything! We could totally do this.

    I reserved a weekend with her (because that is what I have to do so my other sisters don’t snatch her up) and sent her a few options for our DIYing. A simple one, and one that was a little more jazzy. The Friday prior to our DIY weekend extravaganza, mom went to Home Depot to get supplies so we would be ready to go. My youngest sister’s boyfriend, Logan, accompanied her and very carefully helped her choose all of the supplies we would need for the weekend.

    And what happens next 1) proves that he is awesome and 2) saved mom and I a TON of time and stress.

    You guys, he built them all by himself.

    At first I thought, “well shoot there goes my DIYing.” And then I remembered that I’m not really good at DIYing and became totally thankful for Logan’s entire existence.

    He didn’t just build one — he built four, as not to waste any supplies. My picture does not even do them justice, but we ended up with two large sandwich-style chalkboards and two small ones all for approximately $120, aka nearly the price of one of these bad boys on Etsy (yes, it would have been cheaper if we had used reclaimed would but ain’t no one got time for that).


    I am really bad at that whole “bloggers taking pictures of everything” thing. But this is his final masterpiece.

    So my advice to you — not-so-DIY brides-to-be — make sure there is a handyman in the family willing to take on these projects for you. So you can tend to more important things such as jewelry shopping!

    Now who wants to come hand-letter these for me? Anyone? Bueller?

  • 4/18


    The weekend is almost upon us, Broke-Asses! As you head out to celebrate this weekend, be sure to take advantage of some of the killer deals being offered for Easter and Mother's Day! From eco-friendly yoga gear to DIY flowers to much-coveted Le Creuset bakeware, there's plenty of savings to go around! 1. Still looking for that perfect dress for your cousin's wedding this summer?…

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    Got a question for Liz? Go to the Contact page and let us know what's up! Dear Liz,  I have a burning question! My  fiancé and I have been engaged for over a year. We are so ready to get married but we just don't have the financial means right now. So a friend of mine who is ordained said that she would marry us.…

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  • 1/10

    Got a question for Liz? Go to the Contact page and let us know what's up! Dear Liz, We live in Los Angeles, and I'm planning my wedding in Lake Arrowhead on Labor Day weekend, about three hours away. We're both from New York, so most of our guests are coming from the East Coast. I'm worried about how to keep everyone entertained and make…

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    Got a question for Liz? Go to the contact page and let us know what's up! First of all, I want to give a shout out to the all the Newbie Brides and Grooms out there. Welcome to Wedding World. It's very pretty, you're going to love it! Dear Liz,  My partner and I are deciding between having our wedding at an upstate location or…

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    Editor's Note: Today, we continue our "On Marriage" series with another poignant essay about divorce. I can't stress how essential it is to read pieces like this, and to encourage your partner to do likewise, in order to avoid falling into the same relationship pitfalls, year after year.  Obviously, I’m not a relationship expert. But there’s something about my divorce being finalized this week that…

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  • 8/1

    I am generally all about DIY projects; if I see something I like, my gears start spinning as to how I can recreate it for myself, and wedding planning has provided ample opportunities for me to build and tweak and tune every detail to my heart’s content. It also has provided me ample opportunities to go overboard. At one point, I read an article criticizing…

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