10 Tips for Self-Catering a Family Wedding

 

 

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.
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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.

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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:
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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.

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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.

My First Wedding Cake Experience

So I did something really amazing last week, something that I thought that I would NEVER do. I baked, frosted, transported, constructed, presented and served a wedding cake. This wasn’t any ordinary wedding cake, this was an apple spice cake with apple butter filling, cream cheese frosting and a caramel drizzle.

This cake was special to me because it was for my Stepson and new Daughter in law. The berries and apples are all handmade candy constructed out of marzipan and gum paste.

 

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The bride had the following requests: Apples, Cream Cheese, Minimalist Frosting, Berries, Greenery and some sort of drizzle. She sent me the following photos for inspiration:

 

This is my first wedding cake endeavor so I knew that my work would be cut out for me.  After trial and error and about 25 baked cakes total, I would like to give a quick how-to on the method to for making this cake.

The wedding was scheduled for a Saturday so I began on Monday morning, bright and early baking the cake. This is a traditional spice cake recipe, use whichever one appeals most to your taste.  I can say that after trying 4 recipes, including homemade, Betty Crocker has the highest rated in both taste and moistness in my family.  This cake required the following:

2 – 12″ rounds (4 cake recipes)
2 – 8″ rounds (2 cake recipes)
2 – 4″ rounds (1 cake recipe)
That’s 7 cake batter recipes total)

I overfilled the pans before baking so that I could have perfect 2″ cakes for my layers.  I sliced the tops off with a bread knife and chilled the cakes in the refrigerator until all of them were cool.

 

I made a whopping 7 batches of frosting for this cake with the following super simple recipe:

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1 stick butter
1 bar cream cheese
1 two lb bag of Domino powdered sugar
1 tbls vanilla

Once all of the cakes were cooled, I lightly brushed apple butter on each layer.  At this point I began assembling the cake. I inserted Wilton pillars into the 12″ layers and the 8″ layers at this for added stability later.
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After a solid coat of frosting….I placed the cakes in the freezer uncovered for 3 hours. After 3 hours, I wrapped in plastic wrap and left them until Friday.
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On Friday afternoon I removed them from the freezer to a cool and quiet area where they could slowly thaw.

When Saturday morning arrived I transported these little gems an hour down the interstate to their final destination. I assembled the cake about 2 hours before the wedding. I first stacked all of the cakes placing a cardboard base below the 8″ and 4″ layers on the pillars that had been inserted before freezing.

I then added the caramel drizzle. Any caramel recipe will do or even a jar of pre-made caramel sauce in the ice-cream section (so long as it is thick and not runny and you don’t warm it up!)

 

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All of the blackberries and raspberries were made of gum paste and candy beads, the blueberries were hand sculpted in gum paste and the apples were made of marzipan with a clove stem.

 

I used sage from my herb garden to fill in the extra space and add the greenery my daughter-in-law desired.

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In the end….it probably could have been a little more perfect and I probably made several rookie mistakes along the way. However, the cake was moist and both the bride & groom and guests were pleased.

Let me know what you think! If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line.

Spooktacular Halloween Goodies

Every year I host a Halloween themed carving party to get together with my neighbors and carve pumpkins.  These treats and goodies were all very simple to make and really impressed the kids!

Slice olives to make your deviled eggs extra creepy!
Slice olives to make your deviled eggs extra creepy!
Slice mozzarella cheese and add a pretzel stick. I tied these up with chives and served with mustard.
Slice mozzarella cheese and add a pretzel stick. I tied these up with chives and served with mustard.
These are Fudge Stripe cookies turned upside down with a little orange icing and a dark Hershey's Kiss.
These are Fudge Stripe cookies turned upside down with a little orange icing and a dark Hershey’s Kiss.
Cantaloupe and blackberry kabobs
Cantaloupe and blackberry kabobs
Graham cracker and cream cheese band-aids.
Graham cracker and cream cheese band-aids.
All set up for the carving party.
All set up for the carving party.
Mushroom
Mushroom “brains” pate
Finished pumpkins!
Finished pumpkins!
Husband meticulously carving his creation.
Husband meticulously carving his creation.
We'll talk about what to do with all of that pumpkin pulp later :)
We’ll talk about what to do with all of that pumpkin pulp later 🙂