Wedding costs have gotten out of control for many couples. Some newlyweds choose to cut down on costs and make their wedding a more personal affair by hosting a potluck reception. Provided guests are willing to take part, a potluck is a fun, casual idea that eschews fussy catered food for favorite family recipes and comfort foods.
Pasta and Casseroles
Few dishes are easier -- or cheaper -- to mass produce than pasta and casserole dishes. A tray of stuffed shells or lasagna, for example, can be prepared days or, if frozen, even weeks ahead of time. Many pasta dishes are popular because they're filled with gooey cheese, and appeal to both vegetarians and meat-eaters. Casseroles also make an ideal wedding potluck dish. With an unlimited number of combinations, casseroles appeal to people who like blander food -- try a tuna casserole -- as well as those who like a kick -- such as from a chili-heavy concoction.
The key to making a meat potluck dish for a crowd is aiming for ease of preparation. So, rather than cooking a huge number of pork chops, make several pork roasts, slice the meat and serve it in its own juices or gravy. The same goes for roast beef. Meatballs also are easy to prepare for a crowd and can be prepared with various kinds of meat -- beef, veal, turkey, even lamb -- for different flavor combinations. For chicken, thread pieces on skewers for an easy kabob potluck dish.
A huge bowl of salad with traditional dressings is a surefire potluck choice. Salads are nutritious and, if ingredients are purchased in bulk, can be inexpensive to prepare, even for hundreds of people. Consider putting at least a half-dozen dressing choices alongside the salad so wedding guests can make the salad to their tastes. Serve other kinds of salad, too, such as green bean, three bean or cold pasta salad. Use presliced or thawed frozen vegetables in salads to cut down on prep time.
Food served slightly chilled or at room temperature is ideal for a wedding potluck because it can sit out during the ceremony and requires no additional preparation. A caprese salad is a crowd-pleaser and can be put together the night before the wedding. A fruit salad also appeals to a wide range of people and can be made the night before. For a different take on the fruit salad, lightly sprinkle cinnamon and several tablespoons of finely chopped basil over the fruit, or stir in a ranch dressing mix for a sweet and savory dish.
Potluck food usually sits out over several hours. This is especially true at weddings, which tend to run longer than other parties. Avoid food that congeals or looks unappetizing when it cools. Mashed potatoes, for example, can develop an unappetizing crust and most people don't enjoy them at room temperature. Instead, stick to starches such as rice dishes, potstickers or pasta salad that taste good at room temperature.
Tips for Serving
Keep ease of setup and cleanup at the forefront when planning your wedding potluck. Ask guests to use disposable cookware, such as aluminum trays, and use heavy plastic serving spoons that can be tossed at the end of the party. Remember that you'll likely need chafing dishes or butane stoves to keep food warm. You also may need big bowls of ice to keep mayonnaise-based salads from spoiling. Gather all materials well ahead of your reception so you don't have to stress about it on your big day.
Tallulah Philange has worked as a journalist since 2003. Her work has appeared in the "Princeton (N.J.) Packet," "Destinations" magazine and in higher education publications. She also has edited and produced online content for those publications. Philange holds a Bachelor of Arts in print journalism from American University and a Master of Arts in communication, culture and technology from Georgetown University.