Posts in the 'wedding food' Category

Real Bride Elissa: Catering to My Love of Food

Real Bride Elissa: Catering to My Love of Food

Food is very, very important to me in my everyday life. When I say things like “I love to travel!” it’s really because I love to try new food. When I say “Let’s go do something!” it usually means “Let’s go out to eat!” Because of this, I knew going into wedding planning that finding the perfect caterer was going to be a tall order. While all-inclusive venues are sometimes a better deal, in the long run, we knew we wanted flexibility with our menu. Then, the many venues that don’t require you to use their caterer still need caterers to be licensed and bonded by the city (understandably), but that rules out bringing ANY food of your own. One of my bridesmaids happens to be an amazing cake-baker, and we have a friend who makes the best stuffed mushrooms in the world, so we really lucked out finding a venue that didn’t have many rules regarding food.

Once ALL the choices were opened up to me, though, the search became a little overwhelming. At first I found a caterer whose food sounded amazing and was right at our budget. However, newbie wedding planner that I was, I forgot to factor in servers, tax, and gratuity. And that’s in addition to renting plates, silverware, and table linens! The out-the-door price doubled, and that caterer was off the list. Next I got a recommendation from some friends who had just booked their caterer, and who raved about how the company was both delicious and reasonable. This was the vendor who, as I mentioned in my first post, told me to come back when I found more money. So, no. MY BUDGET IS ENOUGH.

I reached out to a few of my favorite local restaurants. One came in right at budget, and I called my fiancé in joy. But (and there’s always a but), as I read through the menu in detail, I realized that for all the money we were paying them, they were only serving us four passed appetizers for two hours – not the big family dinner we wanted. The other restaurants were just way too much; at one point I calculated that if we could take everyone to dinner AT the restaurant, and all 80 guests ordered their very own appetizer, entrée, and drinks, with tax and tip, it would still be less than the catering department was charging for one, portioned buffet plate. That just felt wrong.

Finally, after months of searching, I found what seems to be the ideal caterer. They are perfectly within budget, service included with no extra fees, have worked with our venue before, and are even located a mile away from the venue. The food, BBQ, is perfect for us, too – both from the Mid-West/South, our second official date was to a BBQ restaurant, and we consider ourselves BBQ connoisseurs. Here is the but, though: they refuse to do a tasting, as the food preparation is so labor intensive, and are asking us just to trust that their food is delicious. Catering is the owner’s passion and hobby, not his full-time business, so what’s it to him if we don’t want to hire him? The Yelp reviews back up his claim that the food is amazing, but since BBQ is so close to our hearts, we do have some ideas about what we like and how it should taste. Plus, it is incredibly nerve-racking to put down a few grand on something I’ve only seen in photos.

Another of my bridesmaids didn’t get the chance to taste the food at her venue before the big day, and guests are still raving about it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, too, fellow BABs! Should we take a leap of faith and be done with it, or go back to the drawing board?

Ask Liz: Self-Catering Rules

Womans Hand Taking Food From Cafe Table With Dips And Drinks


Dear Liz,

How to do your own food (with a bit of help from willing friends/family) for your reception??? Food item suggestions and logistical tips especially!



Dear Self-Serving,

Funny thing is, I  talked to someone this morning who catered his own wedding, and he did not have fun with that.  Logistically, it’s a nightmare. You have to buy the food (for 100 people), then store the food before you can cook the food (for 100 people), wherever that’s going to be. Then you have to figure out when you’re going to cook the food (for 100 people) before or in between getting ready to get married, getting married, and whatever you have to do after you get married – take pictures, talk to your guests, and generally enjoy your wedding without worrying about the food. Plus, how you’re going to serve it, where you’re going to serve it, and who is going to serve/monitor it? A buffet will not relieve you of that responsibility. And, even if it’s for less than 100 people, you still have to figure out when and where you are going to do all these things. It’s not less work, it’s definitely not less stress, it’s just less food.

So, the first thing you need to do, way before deciding on a menu, is address each of the above points, every single one. When, where, how and who? And, remember that everything is going to take more time than you think. And everything takes longer if you have less people to manage it.

Menu? Keep it as simple as possible. No more than two entrees, no more than two side dishes, plus a salad. Stick with stuff you already know how to make, or that you and your family and friends can (and will) practice cooking before your wedding. Good but simple food. Not a lot of chopping, not a lot of ingredients, not a lot of steps.

Hey, you asked.

It’s doable, but obviously, I’m not recommending it! If you’re trying to save money, there are tons of restaurants – probably some of your favorites -that will cater less expensively. If you want to serve a particular dish, you can make that and add it to the buffet. But, if you are determined to do it yourself, don’t ignore everything you’re going to have to do in order to pull it off.

Does anyone reading have any experience catering their own wedding, or helping someone else do it? If you’ve got something to add, let me know in the comments below. And, if you would like to find out more about me and my part of Wedding World, visit


See you at the end of the aisle ,




Ask Heather: Receiving Line and Food Delivery Timing

Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 1.45.00 PM

Image courtesy of Simone

Dear Heather,

How much time should I plan for the receiving line immediately after the ceremony if there are about 80 guests? I really don’t know how to ballpark this. Thanks!


Dear Stacy,

A general rule of receiving lines is about 20 seconds per guest, so yours should take less than a half-hour. However, there are definitely alternatives to doing a receiving line, especially with such a small wedding. If you and your spouse are attending the cocktail hour, you’ll be able to talk to a lot of the guests during that time. Plus, during the reception, right after you finish eating your food (because you WILL eat during your wedding [Ed. note: See No. 3]), you can make the rounds and visit each table. Unless you’re having a super-short wedding, this should give you plenty of time to chat with all of your guests.

Dear Heather,

When should the food be delivered for an outdoor wedding?


Dear Tiffany,

In part, this depends on whether you’re doing a buffet setup or a sit-down meal, how much space you have on-site for food that needs to be kept cold or hot, how many guests you’ll be expecting and how much preparation needs to go into getting the food ready to serve. If you’re using a caterer, I’d definitely talk to them about how much time things will take. Since you’re asking the question, though, I’m going to assume that a lot of the food effort is DIY and you don’t have the option of asking a caterer.

If you’re doing any of the cooking on-site, I’d suggest having everything ready to go one to two days before the wedding, so you have time for any last minute errands to pick up something that was forgotten. Obviously, this will also require that you have the space to store everything overnight, as well as store items as they are prepared the day before and day of your wedding.

For food that’s coming in already made for a sit-down meal, you’ll need a kitchen big enough to accommodate all of the food, as well as a refrigerator to keep the cold stuff cold until the last minute. You’ll also need enough time to plate all of the food. This is probably the hardest option to do, caterer-free, for an outdoor wedding. If you’re going this route and are having a wedding of around 100-150 guests with salad, main dish and dessert, I’d suggest having things delivered about 4 hours before the wedding, to leave enough time to plate multiple courses and figure out which dish is going to what table; meaning that if 4 people from table 3 want chicken, you actually end up with that many chicken dishes at that table. If you’re having a huge wedding, you might need to adjust these times.

Last — the buffet, which I think is the preferred thing to do for an outdoor wedding, especially if you’re doing a lot of DIY catering. One of my favorite weddings I coordinated actually had their food cooked by Chipotle. I had to pick up the food, and the couple had hired two servers to set everything up (Sternos, food, napkins, etc). For that particular event, because picking up all of the food for a 110-person wedding would have been too much for one carload, I went in the morning to pick up all of the refrigerated items and stacked them into the one on-site fridge. The servers left just before the ceremony started to pick up all of the heated items and set it all up during the cocktail hour. If you aren’t hiring servers, I recommend nominating someone (an usher, perhaps) to pick everything up an hour or two before the ceremony, or asking the restaurant making the food to deliver it then. That should give you enough time to get it all set up, but still have the Sternos keeping things warm by the time the guests get to the food. Obviously, leave the refrigerated stuff in the fridge for as long as possible, and have someone in the wedding party put it out during the cocktail hour.

Did you do a receiving line? How long did it take? And, if you’re having an outdoor wedding, when is your food scheduled to arrive? Let me know in the comments below!

{Real Bride: Carrie} Veggie Tales: A Vegetarian Bride’s Revenge!

I’m about to tell you something you might find shocking.  But hold onto your hats, because our wedding is going to be a….MEAT FREE ZONE!

That’s right folks!  I am a longtime vegetarian and Zach rarely eats meat nowadays.  So we won’t be serving anything that used to breathe and have eyeballs at our wedding.  I think a lot of our non-vegetarian friends and family members are surprised we’re doing this.  But really, even if we were hiring a caterer, I wouldn’t want to pay for people to eat in a way I don’t believe in.  Because we’re cooking all the food ourselves, of course we’re not going to serve meat.  I don’t even know how to cook it!

I hope that people aren’t upset about not eating meat and I really hope they enjoy our food.  If it forces them to try something new, then good!  Maybe some will realize that it is possible to eat a satisfying and delicious meal without meat.  Maybe some will freak out and slam burgers before they come.  I don’t really care.  At least we’ll be showing off our values (and our mad cooking skills, hopefully) on our wedding day!As a side note, I have been to several weddings at which vegetarian options were not even offered!  Both times the couple knew that a few guests were veggie, but I don’t know if it slipped their minds or they just didn’t care.  Last time my friend and I (the only two vegetarians) couldn’t even eat the salad or pasta salad because both had bacon in them!  We ate only bread and potatoes and thus got extra drunk and rowdy with no food in our stomachs.

Vegetarian taco bar! (Photo source:

Maybe I have a slight vendetta, but after not being able to eat at weddings I’ve been invited to, I am super pumped to turn the tables on everyone and not serve any meat!  I promise that the food will be delicious and that there will still be lots of protein (beans, guacamole) and cheese (we’re not vegan).

Is it crazy to have a totally-veggie reception?  Do you think people will freak out or enjoy the food?  Have you ever been invited to a wedding you couldn’t eat at?


{Wedding Inspiration} Big Color on a Little Budget

Reader Request!

My name is Alicia and I am 20 years old. All my hopes of a wedding were lost until I found this website. Since I am a full-time student and my part-time worker funds are EXTREMELY limited, so the budget would be about $1000-$3000. I DEFINITELY qualify as a BROKEA**.

The colors will be hot pink, bright yellow, and a bright orange. I have done some research and found a dress I love for $250, decided to do a cupcake cake instead of a regular cake, use my church for reception and ceremony since it’s free (luckily its beautiful), and our rings will come from I am having trouble finding invitations, decorations, and ceremony food to fit into the budget. If you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated.

P.S. My view has definitely been stained by wedding shows on TLC (some of those women spend over $50,000) so I feel like there’s no way my budget can make the ceremony and reception look beautiful.

I think my first bit of advice to you would be to abandon the notion of these $50,000 “dream” weddings.  Yes, they are out there, but they are in nowhere close to the norm.  That said, less than $3K is a conservative budget, but that shouldn’t deter you from making your wedding beautiful because it can be done!

By the way, that’s a HOT color palette you’ve got going on!  It sounds like you’re up for a light-hearted affair, so I’d suggest ditching the formal invites and going with something more fun.  Fortunately, less formal invites are often less expensive, too.  BRIDES carries a variety of print-at-home invitation kits at Michael’s craft stores.  If you’d rather not worry about the stress that can come with printing your own, take a look at the wedding invitations on  They’re simple, fun and very affordable (plus, shipping is free!)  Take for instance this silhouette invitation design, which runs about $150 total for invites, RSVP cards, envelopes, and custom seals (50 of each).  Go even cheaper and forgo the RSVP cards by having guests note their attendance on a free wedding website (available through sites like Project Wedding and The Knot).   Just be sure to include your site’s address at the bottom of the invite!

Silhouette wedding invitation design at

On to the reception!  A great way to save money on food is by doing an hors d’oeurves or dessert-and-fruit reception in lieu of a sit-down dinner.  Doing this sort of depends on the time of day, so if you’re able to adjust your schedule so that the reception begins mid-afternoon, guests won’t be expecting a large meal.  If you prefer lunch or dinner, go potluck and ask guests to each bring a dish, while you provide the cake and booze.

I love the look of the dessert station below.  This is a cool example of how you can turn food into decor.  See how the cotton candy doubles as balloons?  Sweet.

Yellow and orange wedding desserts station:

And speaking of decor, you can make your own centerpieces on the cheap with store-bought flowers and paper.  Madigan Made has a tutorial for making vases out of paper and water bottles.  Pick up card stock and ribbon in your wedding colors, and insert a few stems of grocery store flowers inside.  Or arrange with artificial flowers way ahead of time.  Dana L. has an excellent tutorial on creating silk floral bouquets!

Paper and water bottle vases tutorial, by Madigan Made

Fellow readers, what other ideas would you suggest to Alicia?



Refreshing Reusables

Many thanks to Kerri, a local bride who generously gave me 15 dozen mason jars yesterday, left over from her wedding last weekend!

Since our ceremony will be outdoors in May, we thought it would be a nice touch to serve a refreshing beverage beforehand. However, renting 150 glasses for a 30 minute ceremony seemed a touch excessive, and getting disposables goes against our “Carbon Crusade” for the environment. Reusing Kerri’s glasses is the perfect answer, and I plan to pay it forward to another summer bride after my day! Let’s hope all that love infuses the glasses with good juju….
I work part-time for a local Tea and Home Goods shop, which specializes in inventing drinks and cocktails involving tea. Recently I sampled their “Mrs. Palmer” – lavender infused organic lemonade mixed with Double Happiness (earl grey and lavender tea) and a splash of lavender syrup. YUM! It seems like a perfect summer wedding beverage, no? And how apropos to include Double Happiness!
(image source) A cool glass o’ love.
I’m trying to come up with an inventive straw or stirrer that would add one more adorable touch – but more on that later.
What wedding items can you pay forward to future brides?

Le Menu

As foodies, it is really important that the food be a reflection of our taste, and surprise and delight our guests with its tastiness. That’s why we were so excited to have our expectations exceeded by the Bungalow Club’s delicious“middle-terranean” cuisine (thats Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fusion, yo.). Its even got a hint of Japan here and there. Perfect for our eclectic asses!

During each meeting with Anat, the owner, she’d periodically yell out to a member of the staff – “bring them the Moroccan cigars! Bring more hummus! Bring the spring rolls!” … and we lapped up every morsel like starving puppies.

I’d always dreamed of having a tray-passed hors d’oeuvre cocktail hour, but it always seemed like an unreasonable expense whenever I talked budget with caterers. But, Anat assured us that she’d have it no other way, so hooray! We’ll be having a mix of 6-8 passed appetizers, from tuna tartar to avocado spring rolls to lamb lollipops to sushi rolls. They have a great selection of vegetarian food, which is important because I (as well as many of our friends) are either vegetarian or very picky about their meat.


Having both worked in catering, we’ve never been big fans of buffets for groups over 50. They often seem to result in traffic jams and long waits for food, and often the food quality doesn’t hold up well in the chafing dishes. Table service doesn’t really fit the feel we’re going for either… it’s a bit too formal. Anat suggested family style service – which would not only encourage conversation and keep the energy up at each table, but also allow everyone to have a sampling of all the entrees and sides rather than being committed to just one. I think it’s the perfect answer for us!

We’re not 100% sold on the menu, but here’s what we’re thinking:

Salad course: Mediterranean Salad (a nod to my Greek heritage)
For the entrees, we need some advice:
-Organic Scottish Salmon
-4-Cheese Mac n Cheese with truffle oil (oh ma ga its soooo gooooood)
-For Chicken, We thought about going with East/West Chicken, since its boneless, but the last two times Hunter had it, he second guessed it. The other option is roasted chicken. He can’t decide, and I’m not about to get in on that taste test :)

Our sides will be the delicious Bangkok hummus with sweet soy glazed mushrooms, roasted asparagus, and maybe some parmesan-y cous cous… yeah baby.

All of this will be accompanied by some delicious cocktails from our bar – but more on that later!

But sweetest part (other than dessert!) is that a couple hours into dancing, we’ll all be served sliders (mini-burgers) and sweet potato fries! Nothing but grease to cut through the alcohol and refuel us for more dancing!

What do you think? Sound eclectic and exotic enough? How about those entrees – your input would be greatly appreciated!

Now I’m hungry… yum!