Jessica and I have experienced, shall we say, frustrations surrounding the issue of catering. As excited as we’ve been about landing such a sweet deal on such a sweet venue (and we’re still thrilled about it, bien sur), we’ve encountered a certain amount of sticker shock when it comes to catering. The Bridezilian Room has a list of approved caterers that range from semi-cheap to very expensive, including one that justified its minimum of $90/person by claiming that they use only organic ingredients.
I wonder if they know that I’ve actually been shopping before? Like, at a farmer’s market?
In any case, it’s becoming more and more clear that we’re not going to be able to afford a traditional catering job for the wedding. We had some promising leads, but whether it was caterers not getting back to us or being unwilling to cut the price by allowing us to, say, provide our own linens and tablewares, fitting food for 150 into our $10K budget has become untenable.*
*[Recent joke from Drew, which you unfortunately already know the punchline to: Did you hear about the guy who wouldn’t accept Hamiltons as payment? He was untenable.]
The benefits of using a caterer include more than just the food. They do all the set up of chairs and tables, for both the ceremony and the reception, they either serve the food or (if you choose a buffet meal) maintain the food, and they clean up. Since there’s a $1,000 cleaning deposit on the line, this is a major benefit.
Luckily, because we are having our wedding on a weeknight, we have other options available to us. As far as we can tell, these are the main permutations we can choose from:
- Catered wedding. Not looking good at this point.
- Drop-off. We’d use an approved caterer, but just for the food itself – they would drop it off and then high-tail it out of there as fast as their little caterer-legs can carry them. This would reduce the cost significantly, but we’d have to figure out how to do all the setup, breakdown, and cleanup.
- Potluck. Or some sort of variation thereof. On weeknights, the Bridezilian Room allows you to skirt the approved caterer list, for a $600 fee. The main requirements are that you cannot pay another caterer, and the volunteers who help set up and clean up and serve food must attend a meeting or two with the staff. We’ve gotten more and more excited about this option and are exploring it – would we get, say, 10-20 friends and family to cook up big batches of delicious food? Could I make enough pulled pork in advance to feed 150 people (minus a couple vegetarians)? Does pulled pork freeze well? Would we just buy food from a restaurant? A combination of bought food and prepared food? Who’s going to do all the work?
- Secret Option 4. Secret Option 4 is one we only recently discovered, after Jessica called the Room to inquire about all this. It turns out that we can do the following: Officially use the “non-catered option” (so, $600), but hire two staff from an approved caterer at $30/hr each (so for 8 hours, $480), and get whatever food we wish. Even though we’re already down $1,080 in this case, we could reduce the food costs by a TON and probably come out way ahead, and it would settle the issue of setup and cleanup. A lot of questions remain, of course: Is two staff really enough? (AG Ferrari, who Jessica called afterwards and who are familiar with the Room, seems to think so, but we’re a bit suspicious) Who’s gonna make the food? How did Carrot Top ever get famous, and why does he look so odd?
After a period of moping and kicking things and generally feeling sorry for ourselves, when we decided to actually embrace the non-catered option, we started to get really excited. We love to cook, and so do many of our friends and family. We can pretty much choose whatever we want – a hamburger bar, a taco station, or even a hamburger-taco fusion bar. Or something else, if that’s not your thing. When seeing proposed menus from caterers, we just weren’t all that excited about rosemary chicken breasts and arugula salads and pomegranate polenta and stuffed this on a bed of grilled Chilean that. It’s not that we don’t like that food – we do. It’s just not thrilling, especially because before we got into all this we had dreams of barbecue, which is very thrilling.
So, there’s a lot of work to do yet. But we’re feeling much better about our options – and the fact that we have options. I do love the idea of Jessica and I actually making some of the food for our own wedding, as well as having our loved ones contribute some as well. I keep having to remind myself that we don’t need that many different items – a main or two, a salad, a few appetizers – we just need a lot of actual food.
Any thoughts or suggestions, dear readers?
I’ll leave you with a few photos of stuff Jessica and I have made in the past, to whet your appetites: