Once you know how many guests will be at your wedding reception, you need to figure out how to feed them all. Catering can be one of the biggest costs of a wedding. Serving as few as 100 guests can cost more than $2,000. If your budget is small, consider catering your own wedding. A do-it-yourself menu can help you save money on your reception.
Research your state’s health requirements for food. Some states insist that food served to large parties be prepared by professional caterers or restaurants. Even if your state does allow do-it-yourself catering, you may need to get a permit or arrange for your food to be cooked in a professional kitchen.
Book a reception venue that allows outside catering. Many reception halls ask that you use their caterers for liability purposes, but some will allow you to bring in your own food.
Look at the facilities provided by your venue. Your menu will be influenced by the space you have as well as the amenities in the kitchen. You may not have enough freezer space to store 15 gallons of ice cream, and one oven might not heat appetizers for 125 people.
Plan your menu, keeping it simple and inexpensive. Consider an appetizer or finger-food buffet. Dessert buffets including cookies, brownies, candies, cream puffs or ice cream work as well.
Calculate how much food you will need to feed your guests. For an appetizer buffet, plan on providing six to eight pieces per guest, per hour. With desserts, choose your own portions by having the food placed on individual plates beforehand. For example, each plate may contain two cookies, one piece of chocolate and one cup of nuts and mints. If you're serving a full dinner, plan to buy about 1 1/2 pounds of food per guest. Prepare more than you think you will need, to avoid running out. You and your family can always enjoy the leftovers after the wedding.
Recruit family members to help you prepare the food. (They may be more willing to help if you reassure them you will be paying.) Assign each volunteer a specific task such as bringing a certain number of cookies or preparing an appetizer. Splitting the work will make it easier on everyone.
Remind your helpers at least a week in advance of the wedding. You will be short food if anyone forgets, so check in with everyone. Don’t wait until the last minute, or some of your volunteers may feel stressed and upset.
Decide how your food will be presented. Will you provide plates and utensils and let your guests serve themselves buffet-style? If you chose a dessert bar, you can assemble plates with a variety of cookies and pastries and let guests select their own plate.
Provide drinks for your guests. Serve punch or even water in fountains or crystal serving bowls. Leave cups on the table for your guests to fill as they please.