Self-catered Wedding Menu and Timeline

how to self-cater your wedding. catering timeline and quantities for 225 guests. self-catered saves money. |

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.

how to self-cater your wedding. catering timeline and quantities for 225 guests. self-catered saves money. |


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



  • 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

Buffet Line

  • 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
  • Coffee


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

If you’ve self-catered a wedding, what tips and advice do you have for accomplishing this feat? What was your menu?

8 comments on “Self-catered Wedding Menu and Timeline”

  1. Maegan Tremblay Mclellan says:

    I am looking into self-catering as I am on a tight budget. I am planning to do pulled pork as well with all different types of salads, veggies platters, cheese platters, etc. I was curious to know what type of chicken you made as I am also looking to make a chicken main that would be easy to prep before hand.

    1. Becca says:

      Hi Maegan! Thanks for the comment. We had a lot of questions the first time we self-catered too so it was helpful to talk to other people. My brother’s wedding was self-catered by my mom the year before my wedding.

      We did shredded chicken just like the pork with the same BBQ sauce. You could probably do any sauce you want (salsa, Italian dressing, etc. which I have done in the crockpot). I also helped with a wedding where the father of the bride grilled marinaded chicken on the BBQ and then kept it in a warmer. As the chicken ran out, we refilled the roasting pan on the buffet table.

      I’d love to hear how your event goes!

  2. Mary Ann says:

    Hi! I’m looking at doing this for our wedding. About how much did you spend on food for the event? Thanks!

    1. Becca says:

      Hi Mary Ann,

      Sorry for the late reply. I just saw this! I think it was about $1500. Some of our family members raise cows, so costs are lower there.

      I’d love to hear how yours goes.

  3. Angela says:

    Do you have recipes and instructions on how everything was prepared?

    1. Becca says:


      We used family recipes that I haven’t yet posted, but the slow cooked meat ratio was one 5 lb roast with 16oz of sauce. Hope that helps a little!

  4. Susan Hale says:

    When I got married 30+ years ago, my mom spent all summer preparing yummy finger foods, then freezing them. The day of the wedding she hired someone to set up, serve, clean up. It was a wonderful reception. Now it is my turn to be Mother of the Bride and the budget is beyond tight. I am handicapped and cannot do the cooking myself, but I’m not afraid to use minions. The bride and groom are very leery about self catering. Currently I have proposed, out sourcing the entree, then making the sides ourselves. A friend and her young adult genetically related minions have offered to serve ect., she has never done this before but is one of those women who can do anything 🙂 . Running the numbers itlooks like we will save about $1,000. (150 people). We have access to catering equipment. Any Advise?

    1. Becca says:

      Hello Susan!

      It does sound like you can do it. I helped cater a wedding last year where the father of the bride grilled chicken and my family made the side dishes. Even just making the appetizers can help cut costs.

      The number of people needed to help with food depends on their serving experience. More help the better, especially to ease the bride’s mind. Have both sides of the buffet open with serving utensils to make the line move faster. Always have someone ready to refill the food. Place as much food on the table as possible to reduce the number of refills. Overestimate the amount of food you’ll need, although not everyone will show.

      Good luck and you can do it!

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