Self-catered Wedding Menu and Timeline
For my wedding, I was extremely fortunate to have my mom head up the catering. In our family it is sort of a tradition to serve our own food. At least that’s what happened at 3 of my cousins’ and my brother’s weddings. I helped prepare food at most of these because they’re family and I think it’s fun. If you saw my last post, The nautical wedding I would have had, you’ll know that we even catered a wedding outside of the family.
The two main benefits of self-catering are cost and quality. Catering is expensive, especially for weddings and plated dinners. Caters around Tacoma, WA seemed to be between $10-$75 per plate (even if you’re serving it buffet style). The $10 offerings are often burgers and hot dogs… yeah right.
If you love your family’s cooking, like I do, then you know the quality will be good too. How many weddings have you been to where the chicken was dry or the potatoes were cold? If you know what you’re doing and have crock pots and roaster pans you can avoid most of these mistakes.
The downfall to self-catering, is just like any DIY project. It takes a lot of time. During the wedding I suggest hiring someone (or multiple people) to refill the buffet line so your family doesn’t have to worry about it. We did this at my wedding, but we didn’t do this at all the weddings. I don’t mind helping refill the buffet at weddings, but most parents and family want to enjoy the wedding rather than worry about food. Talk to your family about how they want to help.
1. Accept help. At first, I didn’t want to ask people to bring food or help with things when they offered because I still wanted us to ‘host’ the wedding. But, I have an awesome, close family and grew up in small town where I was basically “raised by the village”. It’s natural for the people in my life to help each other out, so we accepted. Plus, that made it a little easier on my mom.
2. Buffet lines work best to get a lot of folks through quickly.
3. Crock pots and roaster ovens work well if you know there is enough power. There were power issues at my wedding at the Foss Waterway Seaport in Tacoma, which is an old building. They figured it out in time for the wedding though.
4. Start the food line with inexpensive items first like salad and snacks…save meat for the last. Our last item was shrimp (my favorite).
5. You need 2x as many serving spoons as you would think. They get dropped/broke throughout the day.
6. Do a “test” dinner for 10 to double check your quantities. It is easy to multiply by 10! Although I had basically the same meal as my brother’s wedding, we did a test run of the menu at my brother’s graduation party to make sure the quantities and cooking times were accurate.
7. Don’t forget snacks for the day of! Anyone helping you make food, set up the venue, or run errands will be hungry.
If you are planning on self-catering like we did, here’s my mom’s timeline:
3 months before cook pulled pork then freeze
2 months before make food labels
1 month before cook chicken then freeze
2 weeks before cook mashed potatoes (full fat version for freezing)
4 days make pin wheels (tortilla wraps for appetizers)
3 days thaw shrimp and chop veggies
2 days prepare eggs and potatoes for potato salad, fruit & cheese trays
1 day before make potato salad and green salad
On the day of make Cole slaw
QUANTITIES FOR 225
- Popcorn bar (multiple types of popcorn, seasonings, and candy)
- 5 small cheese and crackers trays
- 10 fruit trays
- 10 veggie trays
- 4 Pinwheel trays
*stash olives, peppercinis, chips, pickles veg somewhere in case you need them
- 4 tubs green salad
- 15 gallons potato salad
- 10 gallons fruit salad
- 15 gallons pasta salad
- 500 meat balls
- 500 rolls
- 6 large pans of mac and cheese (had 3 left)
- 10 gallons of mashed potatoes
- 8 gallons cole slaw
- 100 pounds of pork (had 20 left)
- 100 pounds of chicken
- 10 really big jars of Sweet Baby Rays sauce (had 4 left)
- 15 pounds of shrimp
- Water plain and flavored/infused
- Iced Tea or Lemonade
When this many people eat together, there’s obviously going to be waste. Here are my tips for making wedding catering more environmentally friendly:
- Use glass for drinking cups (we used mason jars)
- Use real silverware and wash it. We used plastic because the venue didn’t have a dishwasher, but use real if you can
- Compost. Our venue had compost for food, paper plates, and napkins. I’ll admit, I have no idea how well it was executed, but it was available. You can buy compostable cups, utensils, plates, and napkins.
- Recycle. If you have plastic, paper, or glass at your wedding, ask the guests to recycle