Saturday, August 21, 2010

A catering compromise

Original plan- 175 guests, serve a meal (preferably dinner).

Plan A- hire a cater. The first few quotes I received for food, service, beverage (excluding alcohol), and rentals were in the $14,000 range which was way too high. They scoffed at my hopeful requests for $15 per person (which I thought and still think is high) and even after brokering some great deals, it was still too high.

The wedding industry offers this advice:
1.) cut your guest list
2.) have the wedding at an inconvenient time or place to discourage attendance
3.) exclude children
4.) serve only dessert or appetizers

I was chuckling a little as I read this advice. I mean really, this is great advice if you're comfortable cutting family and friends so you can have a nicer dinner, cake or venue but in our case, we started with our guest list as the priority. Everything else takes a backseat to our guests because my great aunt, cousins, and mom's best friend are more important than more stylish linens. Option No.4 is a good option and I have many friends who've done it but I've found that appetizers often cost about as much as a full meal so I ruled that out. Also, we really wanted to serve a meal since so many of our guests will be from out of town.

With all of this in mind, I set off determined to find an affordable way to host all of our nearest and dearest in the least complicated way.

As far as I could tell the only other option was to cater ourselves and we could definitely do it but  I decided to look into some more options- why does it have to be all catering or none? 

Plan B was to go back to my top two caterers with a "what if I..." list that included:
  • provided my own beverages (buy in bulk)
  • provided my own clean-up staff (paying your own staff is hundreds less than paying catering staff)
  • provided my own rentals (rent everything for less from the local warehouse that all the caterers use)
  • simplified the bar to eliminate a need for bartenders (wine at the tables, 2 serve yourself cocktails, lots of beer options in metal tubs filled with ice)
  • simplified the menu (not your typical fancy entrees, cut the extras)
Removing these charges from the catering estimates certainly made the price come down (Note: if catering estimates come in just a few thousand above your budget then try this) but it still wasn't low enough for us
The thought of catering the wedding ourselves is very intimidating. It's mainly the thought of trying to cook or heat anything on the wedding day that made me nervous. So we could either serve cold food only or heat just one thing. Also, fridge space would be an issue so we'd need to figure that out. Trying to answer these concerns brought me to plan C.

Plan C- I went to a local gourmet grocery store for an estimate on two entrees for delivery on wedding day. The price was shockingly affordable. They offered an amazing menu (that far surpassed the standard catering menu) and the estimate was thousands less. In fact, the estimate for two entrees came in around $1200 and if you cut the meat option then it'd be even less. This looks like the best option, it's still a lot of work because we'd be catering ourselves but for an extra couple hundred we've eliminated the hassle of creating, preparing, and cooking the main entrees. 

If you're planning to cater your own wedding consider ordering some of the food from a gourmet store for delivery or take-out. It's not as expensive as you might think and it's one less thing that you'd need to prepare. 

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