Friday, June 19, 2009

Catering Your Own Wedding: 6 Month Check List

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Go Back to the Cater Your Own Wedding Index
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:Part 6: 6 Month Checklist



We're not stressed. We've got tons of time; the wedding is still months away. Here is the general overview of the tasks we want to achieve in the next 3 months:

3-6 Months Ahead
  • Finalize event space
  • Invitations
  • Manpower:
    • begin assembling a list of volunteers and assigning tasks to friends and family.
  • Food:
    • begin estimating a guest list to help with planning your menu
    • make a rough menu list of sandwich fillings and condiments
    • begin working on any preserves you'd like to serve like homemade pickles, pesto or chutneys.
  • Catering Supplies:
    • Begin researching options for dinnerware: renting china and linens vs. disposable options.
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Now we'll work our way down the checklist and tackle each task as it comes along.

1) Finalize Your Venue


  • If you're looking at formal event space:
    • Do they require you to go with a specific list of caterers?
    • Find out if they require insurance?
    • Find out if they have a liquor license or if they will require you to hire bar tenders who supply their own?
  • Does the space have any kitchen facilities. Is there a refrigerator and/or running water on site?
  • Will the space provide tables, chairs, and dinnerware like plates and eating utensils?

Selecting your venue is your first priority 1, because it will form the framework which your event will be created around. Keep the food in mind when picking a space. Some formal event spaces will not allow any food except from a list of pre-approved vendors. If you want to do your own food, you'll need to avoid these spaces.

Insurance issues may be your biggest setback for providing your own food. Many formal event spaces require food providers to hold liability insurance to protect themselves and guests in the case of food poisoning. Because you are probably not a professional, lack of insurance may pose a problem. You may wish to avert this by having your wedding at a private space like on a friend or family's property where this won't be a concern. If you must use a formal space, perhaps you have friends or family in the food business who might be able to help cover you with their insurance. In any case, to be safe, you should read up on food sanitation guidelines to help you make smart conscientious decisions during your food prep.
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2) Send out your Invitations


  • 6 moths ahead
    • prepare your guest list with addresses
    • send out your save the date cards
  • 3 months ahead
    • send out the invitations
      • Include an RSVP due date at least 1 month before wedding
      • With your method of RSVP, ask for a number of guests of each party
Once you have an event space finalized, its time to prepare your guest list. I suggest sending out save the date cards. This gives your guests extra time to plan for your event and gives you extra time to get the final invitations out. You'll feel more relaxed if your invitations are taking longer to get out then you anticipated knowing your guests already have the date marked in their calendar.

Getting an accurate head count for guests who will attend your wedding is very important for planning your food. A rough guest list is OK for now, but I suggest asking on your RSVP CARD the number of guests in their party who will be attending. This will help you have a more specific idea of your final headcount when writing calculating the final food amounts later.
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3) Manpower


  • Make a list of all tasks you will need assistance with
    • shopping
    • food prep
      • days before
      • day of
    • Event set-up
    • Event clean up
  • Make a list of all friends and/or family members who will be available to help
  • Find one friend or family member who can be the manager/foreman of all food efforts the day of the wedding.
    • someone with catering experience or food service is a plus!
    • avoid anyone directly involved with the wedding (direct family members/wedding party)
    • pay this person what you can afford so they won't feel taken advantage of
In order to accomplish this huge goal of catering your own wedding, you are going to need A LOT of help!! Start drafting a list tasks you'll need help with and a list of people you know you can count on to help out. Share your list of tasks with friends and family and ask for volunteers. People know weddings are a lot of work and want to help you. Finding small tasks for people to do can create a very inclusive welcoming environment. People love to pitch in and be part of your experience. The more people you can include in your wedding, the more a feeling of community you'll create.

During this time, the most important role you need to assign is a person you can count on to be the manager or foreman of your food. You DO NOT and CAN NOT do anything the day of your wedding, so you need someone who will be as well acquainted with all the food plans as yourself. You'll want someone who can be involved with the food prep before the wedding so they know whats going on, and can take over the reigns for you the day of to supervise volunteers and direct all the efforts of getting the food out and cleaning up afterwards. A person with catering or food service experience is a plus!

Do not ask anyone who will need to be very involved with the actual wedding, like any direct family members or people in the wedding party. This is a huge job which will take up most of their time during the wedding and it will be too difficult to take care of everything behind the scenes and be on the front lines. I also suggest agreeing to pay this person whatever you can afford, even if it is a small amount, because this is a HUGE job and you don't want your friends or family to feel taken advantage of.
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4) Food


  • Start drafting a menu list of sandwich toppings and condiments you would like to serve.
    • Keep it simple: more options=more work
    • Keep in mind seasonal produce surplus or restrictions
  • OPTIONAL: Begin working on any preserves you'd like to serve
    • pickles and chutneys/jams can be canned
    • pesto can be frozen
There isn't too much of actual food prep we need to do at this stage, but you can start drafting an initial menu to give you an idea of what you want to have. Make notes on what meats, cheese, vegetables and condiments you will probably want. More unique condiments such as various kinds of chutneys or pesto can help give a more sophisticated appearance to your buffet. You can easily make these items yourself ahead of time by canning or freezing them.

Keep you menu simple. Don't fall prey to thinking the more selection the more fancy. I had tons of options which guests could have gone without. The more options of toppings and condiments the more work involved for prep and set up. Plan for simple solid foods with nice clean flavors.

Keep in mind what produce will or will not be in season and plan accordingly. Things in season will taste better and be cheaper. This is a huge reason why a harvest wedding is such a good idea!

OPTIONAL: Making your own pickles and preserves can add a very personal touch to the food. You can begin making these now, since most pickled vegetables need a month or two to mature and can be preserved indefinitely once canned. If you do not have much experience making these preserves, or would like to cut down on some work, you can skip this step and purchase these items pre-made later.
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5) Catering Supplies


  • Make a list of table service and dinnerware items you will probably need
    • Dinnerware
      • plates
      • glasses
      • silverware
    • linens
      • table clothes
      • napkins
    • serving equipment
      • platters/trays
      • tongs
  • Research options for acquiring table service
    • Fine China/linens/silverware
      • rental
      • borrowing/thrift
    • Disposable
      • purchasing paper and plastic items as needed

If you'll be doing your own food, you may need to provide the dinner ware and serving pieces. Find out if your event space has any items available for your use. If not, the big decision you need to make is china/disposable. Make a list of what you think you may need based on your notes you wrote for your menu plan. If you plan to do only sandwiches, potato chips and pickles you may not need any silverware. However, if you want to serve side salads, you'll need to have some available. If you plan to do your own bar, make sure you keep in mind any glassware you'll need.

I have a real aversion to disposable dinnerware and had planned to rent formal ware for our wedding, but I found the cost for China, linens, glassware, and silverware to be prohibitively high, even for a wedding of only 150. If you really want to go with formal ware, you have two options:

1) Rental: You can call around to your local party/event rental houses and hopefully you'll be able to find something which works in your budget.

2) Borrowing/Thrift: You can get really grass roots and see if you can scrounge up extra plates and silverware from friends and family or start collecting from your local thrift stores. You will end up with a hodgepodge but you can always make it look funky-chic. While this may be time consuming to do for every item you need, I definitely suggest asking friends and family members to borrow large platters and bowls to use for the buffet table.

All in all, disposable dinner ware is probably the best way to go.
It will save you money as well as a lot of time and energy running around collecting random plates and silverware. Because of the sandwich buffet and deli theme, paper trays lined with parchment and plastic table clothes can actually look stylish not tacky. If you are environmentally conscious, there are lots of different eco-friendly options you can look into. Here are some suggestions for disposable dinner ware options which can fit your budget without making your event look trashy.
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This should give you a good start into your planning. We'll check back in at the 2 month marker.
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Continued Reading in the Cater Your Own Wedding Series:
2 Month Checklist
Final Month Checklist
Final Week Checklist


Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about my plan or about how to plan your own event.

2 comments:

Catering Equipment said...

Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again.

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