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How realistic is it to try and self cater our own wedding?

(35 Posts)
KateTheClumsyStripper Sun 19-Aug-12 09:20:07

Just that basically.....

We're getting married May 2013 in a lovely venue with loads of outside space -about 50-60 guests including about 12-15 children aged 0-12.

15:00 Ceremony
15:30 Photo's and canapes
16:30 High tea style cold finger buffet
19:00 Speaches, cutting the cake and live band
19:30 Evening barbecue
00:00 Leave venue

Unfortunatly 2 of the caterers that work with the venue have returned quotes in excess of £4,000 and the other caterer who's just affordable (at a stretch) isn't flexable from their set menu's (high tea is interpreted as jam sandwiches and prawn cocktail) and won't do a bbq in the evening.

Both our families are very greedy food driven and will not have a nice time if there's not large quantities of the food they approve of available. They've already shown their disapproval that we're having a Friday wedding - attention seeking apparently hmm

Now our friends think we're mad but have offered their help whatever we decide. The venue are also willing to layout and clear away the buffet and canape's but not the barbecue, they also have all the table linen cutlery/crockery/glassware to hire.

We don't want anything special (no quails eggs stuffed with gold plated caviar) just standard sandwiches, scones, cakes folllowed by burgers, sausages, veggie skewers etc.

So what do people think? Has anyone done it or been to a self catered wedding (we haven't)?

All advice/warnings very welcome.

Ninjacat Wed 03-Oct-12 23:41:14

We catered for 120 - afternoon tea.
Scones (made by my mum and some friends the night before but do freeze well)
Finger Sandwiches (made by hubby and best man on morning of wedding - ordered the bread from local bakery and had it sliced length ways)
Cake (made by me - Ginger and banana loafs can be made in advance and madera freezes well)
All laid out on tables by a group of friends with use of a friends vintage crockery collection.
It does mean you spend the night before your wedding catering which we were happy to do but it wasn't a big white one.

Couldn't have catered for the evening as well I don't think. We needed to be able to relax and enjoy the actual day.

TeaDr1nker Wed 03-Oct-12 23:00:45

Yes it can be done but you must be organised. My brother did this for his wedding. Unfortunately after months of declining any help from family I got a call 24 hours before with pleas of help!!!!

If guests all bring a dish it can work well just make sure everyone knows what they are doing, and recheck they are still happy to help nearer the time too

Congrats, enjoy

KateTheClumsyStripper Wed 03-Oct-12 22:54:16

Thanks everyone for your advice - your weddings sound really lovely.

We've used your advice on what this could/should cost and got 2 caterers down to half price :D - get me with my hagglin' skillz.

Helps that the cake maker has agreed to throw in some cupcakes and macaroons so we've dropped the deserts from the caterers.


poppy283 Wed 03-Oct-12 14:16:09

My aunt got married last year and asked everyone to bring something simple,the invites explained their idea, and said:

If there is anything that you love to cook please do that. If not please make or buy ...

worldgonecrazy Wed 22-Aug-12 12:03:43

We managed it for 250 guests, but as a disclaimer, I do have experience of mass catering, as does my mum.

Our menu was:

stack of bread rolls, next to sliced meats and cheese so people could make their own rolls
wraps, variations on salmon, cream cheese and salad, rolled up and cut into one inch thick slices - looked very professional
potato salad - boiled new potatoes, lots of mayo and seasoning and some chopped spring onions
coleslaw - home made, very simple to do
sausage rolls - home made months before and frozen, but you could cheat and buy from the shops
crisps, dips, pickles etc.
greek salad - lettuce with some chopped feta, cherry tomatoes and and some olives
cakes - we cheated and bought these in
Can't remember what else but it was all very easy stuff.

We had large bowls which were restocked from large plastic storage tubs (the sort you buy for household storage)
Don't buy cheap paper plates, it's worth splashing out.
We set up the table in the centre of the room so that the queue could pass either side.
Don't forget cutlery!

Aldi, Lidl and the local veg shop are your friends. A couple of friends also helped mum ensure that the food was kept topped up.

We were eating coleslaw for a week afterwards! It can be tricky to work out quantities, we didn't run out of anything.

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Wed 22-Aug-12 11:52:28

Do it!
The best wedding I have ever been to was my friends' self-catered one. We (the bridesmaids, mothers of bride and groom, close friends) got together the day before and made loads of salads, breads and cold dishes. It was brilliant fun, and we all really felt more a part of the wedding than if we had just turned up on the day. At the same time the groom and his friends decorated the hall & set up tables and chairs.
As someone else said, rope in people to serve/clear up so no-one misses out during the reception (the bride and groom were teachers so borrowed some school children!).

CMOTDibbler Wed 22-Aug-12 11:44:22

BIL/SIl just had a hog roast for 80 with salad/new pots and it was £600. V nice too.

OP, with your times, I'd do a hog roast at 5, then some french bread, cheese, cold meat and pickles at 9.30 as then you could do the platters the day before with no hassle and just pull them out. I wouldn't do canapes as they are a waste of money with those times

TobyLerone Wed 22-Aug-12 11:32:59

Who's paying £2k for a hog roast?!

Last night I got a quote for a hog roast for 80-odd, with salads and potatoes, served buffet-style. It was under £700.

JustSpiro Tue 21-Aug-12 00:36:14

We self-catered our wedding for 80 people, but had the advantage that both DH and his best man are chefs, and the venue was the private school where DH worked at the time.

We had a fairly elaborate sit down buffet - dressed salmon & prawns, cold roast chicken, beef and ham, veggie quiches, assorted salads and buttered new potatoes. DH and BM, plus DH's colleague prepped most of it the day before, and we paid colleague £50 to finish off on the day itself - so basically just cooking the spuds and organising everything - and three of the catering assistants a fiver an hour to serve and help set up and clear away.

Evening buffet (for about 115) was typical finger food - tbh I can't remember who sorted that - I think DH and BM just popped off for half an hour to warm through the few bits that needed it, and the mum's laid it all out.

We also hired a bar which was great value and really kept our costs down - don't know if that is something you might want/need to consider. Am going back 9 years but they charged about £80 for mobile bar and 2 staff from 7-11pm including setting up and clearing away. My Dad put some money behind so everyone got a free drink or two and then bought their own. They charged standard pub prices.

It is do-able but you need to do your research thoroughly, be very organised and have enough people who you can really, really rely on to help out.

BackforGood Tue 21-Aug-12 00:30:49

YOu need to clarify with the venue exactly what is and isn't allowed. Some will only allow their own caterers, some will let linked caterers, some will allow a person to cater only if they have the right food hygiene certificates, etc., but not friends and family. That's what you need to clear up first.
After that, you really, really, really don't want to be making piles of sarnies on your wedding day morning ! If they are happy with food being brought in, then use one of the suggestions above - supermarket or M&S platters, or smaller, local catering companies.

sleepymum50 Tue 21-Aug-12 00:23:02

We did an evening bbq when we married for about 60/70 people and it was brilliant.

Buy in the food (keep it simple), and pay for a couple of people to run the bbq. That way there's hardly any work involved for you and they can clean up as well. Ask at a local pub so you've got someone with catering experience.

We more recently had a hog roast (complete with chef and machine) and that was really special and worth the money.

Go for it - its easy, cheap and people love the food.

melodyangel Mon 20-Aug-12 23:47:22

I catered for our wedding of around 60 guests including all ages and a handful veggies and a few vegans.

It was a lot of work and I think everyone thought, probably quite rightly that we were mad, but it was great fun and a hell of a lot cheaper. Our budget was £500 including drinks.

Good luck and delegate as much of the work as possible.

KateTheClumsyStripper Mon 20-Aug-12 10:17:54

Thank you everyone. Lots to think about.

ChuggaChuggaChooChoo Mon 20-Aug-12 07:12:46

I wouldn't try to do it yourself, you don't need the stress - but there's a half way point!

Avoid any business that has "weddings" in their publicity - they will be on the gravy train trying to milk you for all you're worth and will be intending to make a lot of profit from you. Instead, find a nice local small business that specialises in sandwich buffets - we have a splendid one which I use for work events all the time that will do sandwich platter lunches for £2.50 per head - somewhere like that will probably charge between 7.50 and £10 per head for a full "high tea" provision - and you can probably talk them in to manning the barbeque too (though they may ask you to provide the equipment. However - if you do this you must not go Bridezilla on them and start demanding that the sandwiches be cut in a particular shape or arranged in a particular way - expecting suppliers to cope with that kind of stress is only reasonable when you are paying "wedding" rates."

If that doesn't work out, then take your friends up on their offers - divide the work up into smallish parcels of tasks so that no individual has to do more than about an hour of work, create a "facebook group" that volunteers can sign up on, see the list and choose their task.

BellaOfTheBalls Mon 20-Aug-12 06:22:32

When I priced up hog roast for 60 guests with salads, staff & a small evening BBQ the cheapest quote I got was £2k. shock

Like the picnic basket idea or the bring a dish not a gift.

It would be a lot of work and stressful. You would inevitably spend your wedding morning making sandwiches or salad etc. It would be much better if you could do anything that can be made in advance & frozen or stored safely then handed over anything that needed to be done that day to someone else. Hassle more caterers, they are probably very busy this time of year hence not getting back to you. Our caterer was amazing and was more than happy for us to do puddings, linens etc ourselves to cut costs and save her time.

sashh Mon 20-Aug-12 06:10:07

What about doing picnic baskets? You could put mostly things that don't need to be refrigerated and then after the ceremony have someone top them up with cold meats / fridge stuff.

Things that do not need to be refrigerated

bread (baggettes, rolls, fancy bread)
cheese (it only hits the fridge when it gets tot he shop)
crisps / nuts / olives / cherry tomatoes
bread sticks
pickles / jam / chutney
pies / pastries / pasties

If it is fine then people can picnic outside.

Grumpla Sun 19-Aug-12 10:41:25

Do you know anyone with a Costco membership? Their meat is fab (both fresh and things like ham, chorizo etc) Also massive trays of Danish pastries / catering size cakes etc to bulk things out with.

I've been to a couple of self-catered weddings which were brill (guests all brought something) and my own wedding was partly self-catered, the caterers provided a cold buffet and we added fruit platters and vast quantities of cheese, a friend did our cakes etc.

It is the storing, setting out and clearing that is the big job - if the venue will do this then you should be fine!

AnnabellaFagina Sun 19-Aug-12 10:36:18

Get a hog roast.

KateTheClumsyStripper Sun 19-Aug-12 10:29:26

Charity you're a faster typer than me... grin

KateTheClumsyStripper Sun 19-Aug-12 10:28:38

Have PM'd you Charity. Not taken as a stealth boast at all, in fact i think wedding sounds lovely smile

I was hoping to have it all ready a day or 2 before and then just fill things/put them together etc in the morning. Can anyone think of thigs that I could freeze and could defrosh during the ceremony. My menu ideas aren't set in stone if anyone out there can think of something that would be easier!

charitygirl Sun 19-Aug-12 10:25:56

Sounds like the only thing that would have to be made on the day =
Sandwiches (simple but time consuming)
Scones (quick tO make)

Victoria sponges freeze and can be assembled on the day. All the BBQ stuff can be frozen and if you have salads, keep it simple.

The key is cast iron - organisation, a to the hour schedule for the 48 hrs in advance, and reliable people doing the tasks. And hand over as much as possible to the venue on the day - you simply won't have the capacity to direct proceedings yourself!

charitygirl Sun 19-Aug-12 10:13:07

Sorry OP didn't read properly, you're looking for sandwiches etc. wasn't laying out my menu as some sort of tragic boast. Have also catered a high tea for 60+. PM me if you want my tips...

KateTheClumsyStripper Sun 19-Aug-12 10:11:18

Thanks everyone.

We have a friend who regularly does great (but smaller) barbecues at home offer to cook the barbeque food on the day. Another friend makes amazing cupcakes and has already offered her service. My family can't/won't contribute to the cooking and i wouldn't really trust them to actually do it/not make people sick!

We're having trouble getting different quotes as the venue stipulates that if we use a caterer then it should be one of their approved companies. Apparently they've had damages to the venue in the past - fair enough. There's one more but they haven't returned any of my calls/txts/emails in over a month so aren't looking very reliable. The venue say the can store the food in their fridges and set it out but won't take any legal type responsibility for it - if that makes sense.

I'm feeling like this could be a lot of work

charitygirl Sun 19-Aug-12 10:10:34

We hired a mobile fridge by the way. I think we saved money by the end of

charitygirl Sun 19-Aug-12 10:08:27

We did it - cold buffet for ~120 guests. Hired caterers to make canapés (not essential) and to dish up and clear away (essential in my opinion) and serve drinks.

It was a lot of work on the morning of wedding but not too bad overall. We ordered big smoked ham, and big smoked turkey, and then poached 4 salmon in advance - they froze beautifully tho do need a big freezer to lay them flat.

Salads : asparagus, peas and beans w yog/mint dressing
Tomato and basil
Potato salad
Lentil and feta
Beetroot, orange, and fennel

Eton mess for pudding, then cheese, coffee and fudge (the homemade thing I was proudest of, which no one noticed!)

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