If you’ve been following my series about my upcoming, frugal wedding, you know that my family originally decided to cook the food ourselves for the reception. We planned on a summer lunch with lots of fresh produce. I was excited about cooking with my mom and future stepdaughters and thought it would be a fun way to bond. I had this charming vision of us all picking out fresh tomatoes at the market and whipping up simple dishes. I also had read that food is your biggest cost in a wedding and figured this would be a good way to reduce costs. Now, it’s forty-seven days until the wedding, and I’ve had a change of heart. After researching all the costs and variables and considering everything else we have to coordinate, I think a professional caterer will actually be the more frugal choice. Here’s why:
When I started thinking through what we’d really need to do the food for seventy-five people, I realized we’ll need to rent or buy party trays, food warmers, punch bowls, coolers, paper plates, napkins, utensils, and linens. We’d also need some way to keep everything chilled before the wedding, and we’d need to borrow or rent a van to transport it all. Suddenly, there was easily $200 to $300 added to the cost of the food we’d need to buy.
We knew all along that if we cooked for the wedding, we didn’t want to serve. So, I’d need to track down, through word of mouth or criagslist, two to three people to serve at the wedding, plus a bartender. No one had come to mind by now, so I knew that I’d be interviewing and hiring strangers. Here, we’d easily spend another $200 or so.
I also toyed with just buying a bunch of sandwich trays or party plates and adding in what we wanted to cook. Then, I started thinking through how much food to buy. How much would people eat? What would we do with the leftovers? Where would we store all of it? How would we coordinate picking it up? Finally, did I just want sandwiches and chips at my wedding? A professional caterer would have a much better idea of quantity and could offer more quality, something special for the wedding.
So, I started doing some research. I found one caterer who would give us box lunches and drinks for $10.50 a person. This was OK, but not very special. Then I found someone who would do a nice variety of cheeses, vegetables, fruit kabobs, and sandwiches for $9.75 per person and half-price for kids. We’ll have at least ten children at the wedding, so this made a lot of sense. He added a bar with bartender and linens for another $280, and suddenly I had a professional caterer for about $1,000, the budget I had for us to do it ourselves.
There will be plenty to coordinate at the wedding without adding in the stress of food, especially because many of our guests will be coming from out of town. While I’m not saving any money, I’m still within my very frugal budget. Plus, we’ve saved ourselves the worry of buying the food, preparing the food, and transporting the food. When I worked through my charming vision of buying market produce, I saw there would be a point when we’d all be up to our elbows dicing tomatoes, arguing with each other about how to pack the food and worrying about who was transporting the food. The happy vision of bonding at my dream wedding suddenly darkened. I think going with the professionals will allow us to relax a little more and enjoy the day, and that’s what we really want!