Catering a wedding for your family is a invaluable gift to the bride and groom. It doesn’t have to be stressful or unhappy. In fact, I found that preparing the food a week in advance with friends and family just extended the wedding experience. The love and laughter that filled my kitchen during that week was an irreplaceable experience.
Here are some tips for planning and executing a beautifully catered event on a budget while getting to enjoy the wedding too!
TIP #1: Plan your menu and get the bride’s approval 6 months in advance.
I came up with this menu for the bride based on her desire for heavy hor d’oeuvres that were both elegant and appealed to a variety of tastes. I hosted the bride and groom 2 months prior to their wedding for a “tasting party” where they sampled every dish. I ended up making a few changes to the original menu…I used dill instead of chives on the smoked salmon, used Apple BBQ instead of Southern BBQ on the Meatballs, added Grape Jelly and Mustard cocktail wieners. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just have a solid plan and really try to stick to it.
TIP #2: Secure your help and assistants ASAP
Let’s face it, good help is hard to come by. I recruited one of my best friends, my husband and my mother-in-law for the Monday-Friday prior to the wedding. I let them know months in advance that I would need them for all sorts of jobs on these 5 days. Knowing in advance that everyone is on the same page helps to alleviate stress once it is crunch time.
TIP #3: Get organized – LISTS LISTS LISTS
There are two crucial lists that you will want to make sure you prepare in advance: The grocery list and the food prep list.
This is my preliminary food prep list for the week leading up to the wedding. I literally went through every menu item and considered how far in advance it could be made and then scheduled accordingly. Even if this schedule isn’t followed perfectly and things change, there is a solid list of everything that needs to be done.
To prepare the food list, you will want to go through each menu item and calculate exactly how much you need of each ingredient. There are many helpful food calculators online to help you increase the serving size to accommodate your guest list.
This is the updated list as the week went on:
TIP #4: Make time for your family!
After all, you are doing this as a loving gesture. Don’t lose sight of the real reason for doing all of this work! I made sure to schedule breakfast and morning time with my kids and family in addition to dinner, homework and even some game time in the evening.
TIP #5: Prep all veggies, fruit and relishes in advance and place them on the trays the day of the event. This will eliminate hours of preparing trays and tons of frustration when you realize that your tray will not fit into your fridge. When your trays are put together at the venue, cover in foil and lay a gallon bag of ice flat over the foil to keep it cool.
TIP #6: Use your garage as an extra fridge. With family and friends surely to be visiting prior to the event, you will want to make as much space as possible in the fridge. We used 2 coolers set up in the garage as additional cold storage.
TIP #7: Use 2.5 Gallon plastic bags to transport EVERYTHING. These shape shift to fit in a variety of coolers and you don’t have to worry about water from ice getting into your food. We also put our ice in gallon and 2.5 gallon bags so that we could alternate food and ice layers to keep things cold. The ice and water in the bags can be used later to ice down the groomsmen’s beer.
TIP #8: Arrive at the venue early….I mean really early. Our wedding was at 5pm and I was setting up with my helpers at 10am. We had plenty of time to fix any problems that came about and were able to take an hour for a celebratory cocktail and get freshened up.
TIP #9: Bring large Tupperware tubs to throw all serving trays in and transport those home for cleaning tomorrow. You don’t want to be in the kitchen scrubbing while the bride and groom are getting their send-off.
TIP #10: Don’t forget to eat! I lost 10 lbs in the week leading up to the wedding and arrived home after it was over to realize that I didn’t taste a single item on my buffet.