A DIY wedding buffet is a budget-friendly option for a small, casual wedding. Weddings tend to be costly affairs, and one of the most expensive items at a wedding is the professional caterer. Food prep and service takes a lot of time and effort, so professional services are well worth the cost, but tackling the job yourself is a sure way to keep your wedding budget small. Before taking on a DIY wedding buffet, be sure to consider the amount of time and effort you have available before the wedding, the size of the guest list and who is available as potential help.
Recruit help. Even if you decide to take on all the food prep yourself, you will need people to set up and monitor the buffet at the reception. Friends and family are good options for prep and setup help, but consider hiring people to monitor and refill the buffet during the event so your friends and family can enjoy your reception.
Calculate how much food you will need. For traditional plated food, plan for at least one plate per person. For hors d’oeuvres, plan an average of seven to 10 pieces per person during nonmeal times and 10 to 15 pieces during meal times.
Select a venue that has a large-capacity refrigerator for storage, as well as a place for last-minute food preparation. Some locations won't let you serve your own food, so make sure to check that in advance of booking. Find out if the venue has plates, glassware, utensils and linens or if you will need to provide them yourself. These items can all be rented.
Plan a menu that is easy to prepare in advance and doesn't involve much work the day of the wedding. Take note of whether you'll have an oven for reheating at the reception venue. Cold appetizers, such as vegetable crudites and cheese platters, will involve the least amount of last-minute preparation. Food items that can be made well in advance and frozen, such as casseroles, will save you time in the days before the event.
Create a schedule. Some items can be prepped well in advance of others. Stagger the food purchases and preparation over a few weeks or days, as possible.
Deliver the food and all serving items to the site in advance. If possible, also set up in advance the buffet stands with gel chafing dish fuel canisters ready to go underneath them.
Planning your wedding reception for off-hours, as opposed to standard meal times, will reduce how much food people will expect or eat and save you more money.
Not serving alcohol, or serving just wine or a premade special cocktail, is another way to save money.
Splurge on one special item, such as the cake. You can't do everything and you will appreciate enjoying the fruits of someone else's labor along with your own.