How to cater your own wedding.

We are catering our own wedding this August. 165ish people. Grilling chicken and beef kabobs. Suggestions for easy, fresh do ahead sides. Our theme is local. Stuff from our garden is what's making it on the menu. Also, how do you figure out quantities for a group this large? Thanks!

Madame Sel


Bevi May 4, 2013
Do you know some *young* people who are local who can pass around trays of apps, and serve behind a buffet line? If you can afford to pay some college age or culinary students to help out, it would be so great to have those extra hands. i would also recommend, it you an get some help, to have a pre-party planning meeting.
nutcakes May 4, 2013
Portion estimates can be mind boggling at that amount of guests. Go to the library and see if you can get a Professional Chef Manual or Caterer's book. That helped me just deal with amounts for a spaghetti and meatball dinner for 100. I also used a book called Parties for Less to Work up quantities for larger groups. That will help a great deal. You might purchase a good for for this occasion. I think it is crazy that you can't come to terms with a caterer or kitchen manager who will use your produce and coordinate the food prep and keep it safe. I have no idea how you will house all that food safely before you can cook it. All this talk abouve about a 'big bowl' of something or other is not going to feed 165 people.

There is nothing wrong with platter after platter of grilled and creatively dressed individual vegetables, Italian style. Some can be dressed with lemon and olive oil, others with various vinegars and herbs to make each a bit unique and these are often served room temp, but August can be even too hot for that many places. You can do zucchini platter, eggplant platter, bell pepper and cilantro platter, roasted onions, and whatever else you have. If you will have corn available a grilled Mexican style corn station manned by someone would be fun, made to order dish that is manageable. I'd have warmed pita or flatbread available to serve with the kabobs or even to slide the kabob into with squirt bottles or yogurt or tahini sauce. Tabouli salad keeps well when made ahead. Use tons of parsley, mint, lemon and some tomatoes.
lloreen May 4, 2013
Try the quinoa, zucchini, dill, and currant recipe on 101 August you will probably have tons of zucchini and people begging to give you their excess! There are also some great squash gratin recipes on that website that you could prepare the day before and reheat.
Or what about making lots of fresh pickles from your July and August garden and serving them with some creamy cheese and bread....
If you have a slightly middle-eastern palate in your menu, there are a few Moroccan carrot salads on food52 that would be lovely and easy to prep the day before and then throw together.
Patti I. May 4, 2013
Sounds like you have some great help to make it happen! Food Safety can be addressed with lots of ice to keep cold food cold and buffet trays with sterno or roaster ovens that can keep hot food hot. Amazing what your friends may have. You can create your own cold table with some boxes lined with plastic, filled with ice with serving dishes set in them. I am making a mixed green salad with strawberries, kiwi, toasted pecans and raspberry vinaigrette for 100 in a few weeks for a friend's birthday. Good luck
Sam1148 May 3, 2013
Wouldn't this be like being your own lawyer?
Pegeen May 3, 2013
For food safety reasons, it's just not a good idea to ask strangers for recipes that you'll serve to large crowds. I agree with Chef June above.
dymnyno May 3, 2013
You might want to hire someone who cooks at a restaurant that you like to prepare/help with the food. It might be the breakout moment for a future caterer. When I am cooking for a large party I usually decide how many portions each dish will make by calculating by ounces and pounds, for example, I usually plan on 6 to 8 ounces of meat per person .
Madame S. May 3, 2013
Wow! I wasn't expecting so many great responses, thank you. The reason we chose to cater our own wedding was for sheer lack of caterers that used local produce. I didn't want to hire a caterer that was going to source the tomatoes from CA when our garden was producing more than we could use last year. Between our garden, our families gardens and the farm next door we have PLENTY of produce. We know someone who owns a beef & seafood shop and gave us a discount on meet for our kabobs. We are saving close to $2000 in food alone. Win. We are fortunate that we have a lot of great cooks that want to help out. We are doing the flowers and decorating ourselves as well. So far so good and plenty of family and friends offering to help. Any recipes that are great made a head of time are welcomed! We don't want the conventional potato salad and coleslaws and I thought my fellow Food52 cooks were a perfect source!! Thank you everyone for all your help!!
Pegeen May 3, 2013
Hey Hilarybee - people sometimes welcome alternative ideas. What's that saying? "You don't know what you don't know." There's nothing wrong with expressing an opinion on a public, open site. These threads are self-editing. Madame (et Monsieur) Sel will choose for themselves. I don't want you or anyone else to think I wasn't trying to be helpful... that's one of the things I love about this site... the incredibly helpful, diverse information and support. Cheers!
dymnyno May 3, 2013
Unless you are a professional chef , I would hire a caterer. Give yourself the gift of enjoying the day without having to worry about a million little problems that you might/will encounter...not to mention the dishes and glasses to wash!
Hilarybee May 3, 2013
I understand that Pegeen, but Madame Sel stated in the question that she was going to cater her own wedding and was soliciting advice for that particularly. It is hard to plan a wedding, with lots of things involved. I hope that we can all give advice that is going to help her on her path, not tell her that she can't or shouldn't do it.
creamtea May 3, 2013
Hilarybee, I don't think anyone is trying to be negative or unsupportive. It is reasonable and responsible to lay out the pros and cons. Especially since there's such a depthe of experience amongst the members here, many of whom are professionals. I think people are trying to be helpful in spelling out the pros and cons of such a big undertaking. And I bet Madam Sel can handle it.
creamtea May 3, 2013
er, "depth".
Pegeen May 3, 2013
Hilarybee, I was indeed trying to be helpful in suggesting an alternate view, based on experience at self-catered events (my own and other people's). Yes, it's often very true that finances are an issue with entertaining very large groups. But for all the time and money the hosts (bride & groom in this case) may spend, they may be surprised at the quality and convenience that can be had for the same amount, with much less stress on them, on their important day. I mean this to sound practical, not crass, but lots of unnecessary wedding gifts can be returned to generate additional funds. In any case, I know all of us offer our VERY BEST WISHES to Madame Sel. And however she and her partner choose to handle the day, it will be a lovely event!
beyondcelery May 3, 2013
Here's what we did for our 1pm ceremony, followed by reception. I made the cake the day before, since that's my thing and I knew it'd be relaxing for me (it was). Then I passed off some recipes and instructions to friends, asking them to take care of the rest of the food, which was a variety of hors d'oeuvres. I gave them an idea of what I wanted, then told them to run with their own ideas if they needed or wanted to (they did a fabulous job).
- cucumber rounds topped with dollops of hummus, or cherry tomatoes, or basil, or mozzarella balls, or some combo of the above
- strawberries toothpicked to basil leaves, some left plain
- bowls of hummus with crackers and pita on the side
- meat & cheese plates
- fresh fruit plates
- prosciutto-wrapped cubes of melon
- deviled eggs
We had about 75 guests. Good luck!
Hilarybee May 3, 2013
Here is specifically the Offbeatbride link I was talking about:
Hilarybee May 3, 2013
I think there will be challenges, but the OP may need to cater her celebration for financial or other reasons. I think if she does her research about food safety, gets help from family and friends, then it will be okay! I think we need to be helpful, here on the hotline. What she is asking is not impossible! I helped one of my best friends cater her own wedding, including flowers and everything! Here's an inspirational story from Sherry & John Petersik, of the Young House love blog. The have a step by step on DIY wedding; I used it to cater my husband's infamous Beatles birthday party. Here is that link: I'd also recommend the DIY link at
travelergirl May 3, 2013
Lentil salad with lemon, evoo, feta and halved cherry tomatoes. Simple, delicious.

Voted the Best Reply!

Pegeen May 2, 2013
Wait a minute... isn't the answer, "don't" ?! Seriously, I would make it a pot-luck meal before I'd take on the responsibility of feeding 165 people the day I was taking vows. Unless you're Martha Stewart and have that kind of staff at your disposal. This should be a day when you get to swan around and enjoy your guests, not cook! imho :-)
arcane54 May 3, 2013
I agree! This is where your REALLY good friends step up. I once made a three tier, carrot cake with cream cheese frosting for an outdoor wedding in late may and I'm not a pro. We improvised a "cooler" with chairs and bedsheets draped over them with their ends stuck in bowls of water. Rely on your community to support your big day. You'll have enough to keep you busy, getting hugs and kisses from everyone and basking in them celebrating the two of you.
creamtea May 3, 2013
I completely agree. I'd leave it to friends, or better, the pros. There's plenty enough to do in the lead-up and on the big day. I wouldn't want the headache or the responsibility for food-safety issues, figuring quantities, etc.
Hilarybee May 2, 2013
I agree with June--and you might want to stay away from foods that are notorious to spoil. I'd avoid potato salad made with mayonnaise; opt for one that is made with dijon vinaigrette or another light dressing. I'd also avoid cantaloupe altogether, as it tends to incubate bacterial pathogens when not kept really cold or served immediately.
Daria F. May 2, 2013
may be different spreads: hummus, baba ganoush, bean spreads, lentils, pesto... since they work great with veggies or crackers. also different salsas might be good. 'raw' pasta made from garden veggies..
aargersi May 2, 2013
I would also add a big bowl of cut fruit - whatever is best at the moment. Depending on temps you could add a nice lemony or limey yogurt dressing on the side (perhaps resting in a bowl of ice)
jsdunbar May 2, 2013
The above all sound delicious. If you're having children (or anyone) who might not want pre-dressed salad, carrot, celery etc. sticks & cherry tomatoes with a yogurt based dip like tatziki would be a tasty option.
petitbleu May 1, 2013
We did the food for our wedding, and it turned out really great! I would recommend a nice vinegar slaw with lots of vegetables other than cabbage (carrots, apple, celery, and even beets).
What are you planting this year? If tomatoes, then you should do a simple tomato salad--maybe a caprese or even just some tomatoes with really good olive oil, balsamic, s&p.
Panzanella is awesome--tomatoes, stale bread, cucumbers, basil, simple vinaigrette.
Green beans vinaigrette.
ChefJune May 1, 2013
Be careful that you have adequate refrigeration and heating elements at your reception site. August can be very hot, and keeping cold food cold can be a problem. Especially if you are preparing fish or seafood, be very careful of spoilage. It can happen sooner than you think.
ZombieCupcake May 1, 2013
Different kinds of cold side dishes are easy to make ahead potato salad, coleslaw, broccoli slaw, gazpacho, since you are doing kabobs you can make whatever vegetables you want hot on the grill. Some grilled fruit (don't know what your area provides) with greek yogurt and carmel would be good too.
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