Friday, June 26, 2009

Catering Your Own Wedding: Final Month Check List

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Go Back to the Cater Your Own Wedding Index
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:Part 8: Final Month Checklist



Mr Right by Boopsie.Daisy"

Wow, only 30 days until "the big day". We've still got some time, but the stress is slowly creeping in. It starts with one zombie clawing for your brains, but you can easily fend him off. As we get closer and closer to the big day though, the zombies start multiplying until you're locked in the attic, shaking and screaming because your fiance just got turned into a zombie too and he(she), along with all the rest, are trying to beat down the door to eat your brains! AHH!!! Don't worry, though. Zombies feed on chaos and despair so they are easily fended off with lists and organization.

You're getting into crunch time, and the more you can do to keep organized, the more you'll be able to keep your head on straight. There's no way to avoid it, as this month ticks away, you'll be getting more and more stressed out. Everyone will be calling you about everything. You've got to be making final decisions on everything from decorations and flowers to figuring out how your wheel chair ridden great grandmother is going to get to the bathroom. The food won't be the only thing you're working on, so its important to make detailed schedules, integrating your food in with all your other obligations.

A word to the wise,
keep to my check list... or live to regret it! Mwa ha ha!

Final Month Overview:
  • Food:
    • Meet with your Food Foreman and together begin to make plans for your event
    • Price out different shopping options
    • Write up your final menu
    • Write up your final shopping lists and from which stores you will purchase your items.
    • Schedule your shopping trips to coincide with food prep needs.
    • Prep as many vegetables as you can possibly roast and freeze ahead of time.
    • Arrange for your meats and cheeses to be sliced
  • Bar:
    • Make arrangements with your liquor store on your order
    • Arrange for bar tenders
    • Select final bar menu
    • Organize your final bar shopping list and schedule any shopping trips
    • Arrange for bottled water.
    • Order ice.
    • Finalize any rentals you may need
  • Catering Supplies:
    • write up a list of misc. you may need during food prep and/or at the event space:
    • coordinate coffee service:
    • coordinate the borrowing of platters and other serving pieces with friends and family
    • Make final decisions on dinnerware, linens and serving ware.
    • Order/arrange for all necessary items to be shipped or brought to your house/event space
  • Manpower:
    • Confirm with volunteers specific tasks.
    • Prepare schedules for volunteers and share time frames with them so everybody knows your plan.
    • Compile a contacts list of all individuals involved with wedding including cell/email info and share with all volunteers

*please note: You'll want to complete this checklist BEFORE the final week, so you have three weeks to get all these things done, not four.

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1) Food:


  • Meet with your Food Foreman and together begin to make plans for your event
    • work closely with them through all final stages of the food
    • share all lists and schedules with them so they are as knowledgable as possible as to all the food details.
  • Price out different shopping options
    • research different grocery stores or food wholesalers to try and get the best bulk price.
    • make sample shopping trips to stores and make notes of:
      • price of item
      • size/weight of item
  • Write up your final menu
    • pick your final food selections
    • write up your ingredient list
      • all sandwich ingredients such as...
        • meat
        • cheese
        • vegetables/toppings
        • condiments
      • all side ingredients such as...
        • any side salad ingredients
        • potato chips
        • pickle spears
      • any bar necessities such as...
        • lemons and limes
        • olives
        • maraschino cherries
      • coffee service supplies such as...
        • coffee
        • creamer
        • sugar
    • Calculate the final amounts needed for each item using final rsvp head count
    • Calculate total food cost based on your sample shopping trips
  • Write up your final shopping lists and from which stores you will purchase your items.
  • Schedule your shopping trips to coincide with food prep needs.
  • Prep as many vegetables as you can possibly roast and freeze ahead of time.
  • Arrange for your meats and cheeses to be sliced

Meet with your food foreman. The time has come to start making final decisions and, if you haven't already, conferring with your food foreman to go over all the details of your plan. I suggest going over together all your prep work and sample menus you've made based on your head counts. If you (and your partner) have been working on this stuff alone up until now, there's a good chance you may be very inside your own plans. Its good to have a second person look over your work and give you objective critique to make sure all your plans make sense and are realistic. Be open to your foreman's ideas and edit if you need to. Being organized is great, but be flexible to making changes and edits if they make sense and help your overall scheme. Besides, something always goes wrong and you can never plan what that thing is. The more flexible you can be, the better able you and your food foreman will be able to work all the last minute kinks.

Share all your lists and schedules with your food foreman.
This person should know everything as well as you do, so they can be your number 2 until the big day, when they will become the go-to person for all your other helpers while you will be frivolously enjoying yourself and being completely overwhelmed by how awesome your wedding is.

Go on a sample shopping trip at the beginning of the month with your sample menus
you made in your last check list. If necessary, go to a couple of different stores to price out goods. This will help you select the stores you will use. I suggest shopping at a food wholesaler if this is an option for you. I went to Restaurant Depot to purchase a lot of my things. However, you need to have an account (be an approved food vendor) to shop there. My food foreman had an account, so we did our shopping on her card number. However, there are places such as Gordons, who don't require a membership, or Costco who offer memberships to the general public.

It will be cheaper for you to buy whole roasts of meat and loaves of cheese from a wholesaler, instead of buying them by the pound from the deli which will mark the prices up. If you have any friends or family who are in the food business, work at a restaurant etc, perhaps they can help you get connected with a food wholesaler. This person may also have access to a deli slicer which you could use to cut your meat and cheese. If you can't find or get access to a wholesaler, talk to someone at your local deli and ask them if they will give you a discount if you buy a couple of whole roasts and loafs. Conversely, you may be able to buy the meat and cheese from a wholesaler but you don't have any way of slicing them. Ask your deli if they can do it for you and what they would charge.

While shopping, make accurate notes with each food item, the weight/amount of the item and the price.
This will help you greatly when figuring out the amount you'll need to feed your whole group.

Get final head count. By now you should have your final RSVP head count in from your invitations. This is the number we will work from when coming up with the final menu and the amounts of items we need for our shopping lists. I suggest blanketing your total head count by 10-20 people. There are always those unreliable guests who don't RSVP but show up anyway.

Make final menu choices. Once you've priced out your food items and have your final head count, the time has come to sit down and make a final decision on your food menu. According to your tastes and your headcount, make a detailed list of all your menu items and figure out how much of each item you will need. Figuring out amounts may be difficult if you are not familiar with feeding this many people. I've come up with a sheet of equations to help you figure this out. Once you've got your amounts, figure out what they will cost, according to your sample shopping trip. Edit as necessary to work within your budget.

Write up your final shopping list and divide the items into separate lists by the store you will be purchasing the items from. Remember, if you'll be serving your own bar, you need to add any items you need for this to your shopping lists so you don't have to make extra trips. Check your catering supplies list as well, and if any items on your list there can be purchased at the same stores along with your foods, budget that in as well.

Make a schedule of when you'll be prepping different foods throughout the month and final week. Vegetables to be roasted, like the eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes can be done at any time and frozen, so the sooner the better. Things like slicing the meat and cheese should be put off until only a couple days before the wedding.

Make a schedule for shopping which coincides with your food prep and can be integrated into your schedule of all of your other obligations. You'll want to make a special trip out to get the veggies you want to prep earlier. You can purchase all the other items in the final week to ensure freshness.

Roast any vegetables you may want in the first week or two
. I suggest going on your shopping trip to purchase any vegetables you wish to roast and freeze and getting this out of the way in the first couple of weeks. The more you can get done ahead of time the better.

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2) Bar


  • Decide on final bar menu
    • select drinks you wish to have
      • beer
      • wine
        • red
        • white
        • champagne
      • cocktails
        • liquor necessary
        • mixers necessary
          • soda
          • juice
      • bottled water
    • decide on amounts you'll need of each
  • Make arrangements with liquor store on your order
    • call around for pricing
    • ask if deliveries are available
    • ask if they accept returns for unused merchandise
  • Organize your final bar shopping list and schedule any shopping trips
    • arrange this to coincide with your food shopping
  • Arrange for bar tenders
  • Order ice.
    • confer with bar tenders on how much ice they think you will need
    • order for a delivery to be made the day of
    • if you need to pick up, arrange for friends or family to take care of this for you the day of
  • Finalize any rentals you may need
    • if you require glassware
    • if you require any Lucite tubs/coolers for ice or bottles of water and/or beer and wine
    • if you require any tubs for kegs

Decide on your bar menu including a list of all drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) you will have available. You'll want to make a list of beer, wine, liquor and any mixers you'll need to accommodate your drink list. Remember mixers will do double duty to be used in cocktails and as non-alcoholic options, so keep this in mind when coming up with the amounts you'll need. Here is a sample list of our bar menu and a sample shopping list to look over as a guide. Now you'll need to decide on the amounts of what you will need. Here is the alcohol shopping list I came up with for my wedding, divided by type, size, price and where we were planning to get our alcohol from to give you a better idea of what I mean.

Don't forget about water!! I suggest serving either bottled water or getting one of those large coolers with a spigot and cups. If you go with bottles, you should have at least one bottle for every guest. People drink a lot of water and if you'll be serving alcohol and people will be dancing, water can help people from dehydration. It is very important!!

Make arrangements with a liquor store with your order and ask for the items to be delivered the day of or the day before the wedding. Call around to price out different stores. As you could see from our shopping list, we chose to purchase the wine separately from the alcohol because we could get the best deal on wine from Trader Joes. They sell their cases of three buck chuck for $36 a case, which is pretty much unbeatable. The wine is a good quality. The downside was we had to pick it up ourselves, but we scheduled this in for a couple of weeks before. The rest of our liquor we purchased from a liquor store who could deliver it to our event space the day before. Also ask and see if your liquor store will accept returns on unused liquor. They often will, so you don't have to worry about ordering too much. Just make sure to ask what the conditions of the return are so you know all your facts.

Make your final shopping lists including garnishes and budget this shopping list into your schedule
. Add any grocery items you may need such as juices or sodas for mixers and garnishes like lemons, limes, olives, etc to your food shopping list.

Arrange for bar tenders. If you are having a full or partial bar, I suggest hiring a bar tender or two (depending on the size of your event) because it will make the bar more efficient, clean and organized. If you are having your event at an informal space, perhaps you have some friends with bar experience, or you can go to a local bar and ask around if you can find anyone you can hire freelance. Depending on the requirements of your event space, you may need to go with bar tenders who have a liquor license. If this is the case, your event space should be able to give you names and numbers of companies who do this sort of work in your area. You can also ask the liquor store.

Arrange for ice. If you're going to be serving cocktails, you'll want ice for your drinks as well as chilling any white wine, champagne, or bottled water you may be serving. If you go with a bar tending service, they should be able to advise you on how much ice you should get. You can also ask the liquor store. Hopefully there is a service in your area which can deliver the ice to your event space. Call around, ask your local gas station where they get their ice. If you can't find anyone who does deliveries, arrange for a friend or family member to pick up as many bags as possible before the ceremony. The amount you'll need depends on your guest list, but I imagine you'll probably want to have 1lb of ice for each guest. Confirm the amount with a professional.

Finalize any rentals you may need. Are you going to go with real glassware as opposed to disposable? Will you need to rent any Lucite tubs or coolers for your beer, wine, champagne, or bottled water. Are you getting kegs? Will you need keg tubs? Ask the bar tenders or the liquor store, what they would suggest you rent for the liquor order you are putting in and ask if they have any suggestions for rental houses. Perhaps you're already renting tables and chairs to be delivered to your event space, and you can just add the items onto your existing order.

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3) Catering Supplies


  • Finalize (as a continuation of our last check list):
    • Make final decisions on dinnerware, linens and serving ware.
    • Order/arrange for all necessary items to be shipped or brought to your house/event space
    • coordinate the borrowing of platters and other serving pieces with friends and family
  • write up a list of misc. you may need during food prep and/or at the event space:
    • zip lock bags for freezing roasted vegetables
    • garbage bags for on-site
    • toilet paper for on-site
    • cleaning supplies for on-site
    • etc.
  • coordinate coffee service:
    • rent or borrow coffee makers
    • purchase/rent coffee cups

Your final decision on dinnerware should be made by now. Make arrangements for the items you require to be delivered to your house and/or the event space. Now you'll have a better idea of how much food you'll be serving you can start to guess how many platters and serving items you'll need. I just asked friends and relatives coming a few days ahead to help me prep to bring everything they had and whatever we didn't use we could just set aside. Its better to have too many platters then not enough.

You will probably need to purchase some miscellaneous items depending on your food prep and your event space. Try to be as detail oriented in your planning as possible. You'll probably need a lot of garbage bags to handle the garbage from this big party. Do you need to provide your own garabage containers as well? Do you need zip lock bags for freezing your roasted vegetables? Does your event space provide toilet paper or do you need to bring some along, it would suck to run out! Ask yourself as many questions as you can think of and add any needed items to your shopping lists so you can get everything at once.

Coordinate coffee service
. You'll want to get the big coffee urns, like the 30 cup ones. Ask around and see if any friends or relatives have one or two available for your use. You can add this to your rental list if need be. You could also ask a local coffee shop if they could make coffee for you and if they have any urns available for rental. If worse comes to worse, you could just serve it in the cardboard container most shops sell their coffee in. You'll also have to arrange for coffee cups. Make sure you have enough. We ran out at our wedding, and thank god for my cunning aunt, who ran across the street to the gas station and bought every cup they had from their coffee area. I suggest purchasing 1 cup for every guest. You will probably end up with extras, but better to have too many then not enough.

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4) Manpower:
  • Confirm with volunteers specific tasks.
  • Prepare schedules for volunteers and share time frames with them so everybody knows your plan.
  • Compile a contacts list of all individuals involved with wedding including cell/email info and share with all volunteers

Your goal is to have every helper as knowledgeable as possible with your plans.
Confirm with volunteers and make a schedule which is doable for them. If you haven't already, compile a list of all individuals involved, what their task is and all contact info you can share with other volunteers so everyone will know who is doing what and how to contact each other if need be.

Try to schedule as much as possible before hand, but sometimes you won't be able to know who can actually help until the last minute. Some people may agree to help but can't or flake out at the last minute. Expect this and make a few back up plans. Stay flexible and remember people are doing you favors, so be gracious and kind.

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I know this list seems really long, but just take it a day at a time. We're in really good shape and things are moving forward nicely. We're almost there. Planning a wedding is like a marathon, especially in the last month. You've got to pace yourself. Take a few breathers and don't get too obsessed with any one detail. Something will go wrong at the last minute and you won't know what it will be until it happens. If you're this far in, its pretty clear your working your ass off to make the day as wonderful as possible for yourself and all your guests. Your effort will not go unnoticed to your guests and that is almost the most important thing. They'll have a good time no matter what small details go wrong, so don't worry if some details don't work out. Your wedding day will be so hectic, you won't even notice those small details when your caught up in the whirlwind of it all.

Stay focused but don't get sucked in. Keep looking at the big picture. This is a tone of work, but you obviously enjoy it or else you would never have been so stupid to take this on in the first place. So remember to stay relaxed and have fun!

We'll check back in for the final week. Ahhh!
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Continued reading
in the Cater Your Own Wedding Series:
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.

3 comments:

Ira said...

I know you're in there Barbara... I can smell your brains!

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