A popular option for weddings is keeping the catering in-house: you have a big family who wants to help so you might as well use the free labor, right? While you can save a lot of money there are a few pitfalls you can run into.
One of the biggest benefits of hiring out catering is that you can skip out on all the stress of orchestrating arrivals and delegating tasks to relatives and friends. You have limited time and enjoying the day should be your first and foremost priority. If you decide to cater your event the most important first step is to find a trusted friend or relative and assign them to be your catering lieutenant. Plan every part of the evening with them and have them coordinate with all the volunteers and report to you on the day of with only necessary information. The last thing you want is 15 people asking you where to put things on the day you’re supposed to be celebrating a marriage.
If you haven’t worked in the food industry you may not be fully up-to-date on guidelines to keep food safe. It is even less likely your relatives are up to date. These guidelines are designed to reduce food contamination risk to as close to zero as possible and include temperature guidelines as well as time constraints. That being said, these guidelines are not hard to follow, but they should be considered in your menu. Check out this page from the USDA for more information. This is a great use for crock pots or you can pick up a couple chafing dishes from a local restaurant supply store or warehouse club for cheap. The risk is small but better to be careful then sick on your honeymoon.
The question I get the most from clients, family, and friends is “how much should I make?” Family gatherings often have double what the amount of food that is actually needed, so the right amount for 200 guests can often seem too low. The standard assumption for small dinner parties is to have 1.5 servings per person in attendance-- this works great for small events but as you increase in size you can start to account for less people eating, especially if the party goes into the night. For parties of more than 100 we usually see about 120 serving consumed. However, keep in mind that the larger the party is the more likely you will have guests who are unable to make it at the last second.
It’s easy to get volunteers to help get everything ready but when it comes to the actual party your guests will usually want to join leaving your buffet unmanaged and guests wondering where to get more plates. Some weddings solve this by assigning friends shifts or by hiring friends, often teenagers, to manage the food. Ask them to arrive early so they can get oriented by your catering lieutenant and set clear tasks for them such as: always having at least 25 cookies on a platter, wipe up messes as soon as they happen, or refill the beverage dispenser when it is half empty. If all goes well you and your guests will be able to forget about the details of the food and just enjoy yourselves.
In the end remember that this is a night you want to enjoy with your friends and family--so always keep that as your main focus. Catering a wedding yourself is totally doable with the right planning and help but make sure to reach out and delegate as much as you can. If you do have friends and family provide food, don’t forget them in your thank you notes as they are typically donating several hours of their time to making your day go well!
If, after weighing your options, you decide you’d like to have some outside help, feel free to give us a call or email. Beehive Catering is happy to provide custom packages of various services (including drop off, non-staffed meals) and we will be happy to work with you and your family to make the day as low stress as possible.