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Catering for approx 120?
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# 1
Maddie
Old 06-09-2008, 9:24 AM
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Default Catering for approx 120?

Hi all,

I'm hoping I can get some useful opinions and advice...

We're getting married just before Christmas and for several reasons I don't want caterers.

What I plan to do is have two buffets.

First one will be a hot buffet with people sat at set tables and bridesmaids telling each table when it is their turn to get food.

The hot aspect will be a few simple things in slow cookers, eg 2 x bolognese, 2 x chilli con carne, 2 x vegetarian curry (in 6.5 litre slow cookers). These dishes I will cook myself before the big day.

The rest of the buffet will be cold items brought along by guests, salad, rice, vegetable dishes etc. I'll organise how many of each by having an online gift wish list.

In the evening they'll be a cold buffet of cold meat sandwiches. I'll get a load of yummy breadcakes (rolls) made and either buy the joints or again have them on the gift list. Also any "leftovers" from the big buffet.

I've suggested this to loads of people. Some say its a brilliant idea and a lovely way for people to get involved in the day and give a present we want rather than just money/bedding etc. Others think I'm totally mad and we need caterers to avoid loads of stress on the day.

What do you guys think? :confused:

Mads
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# 2
moo2moo
Old 06-09-2008, 10:00 AM
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If you pre-book with your local Asda they will bake bread rolls to order so you can have as many of the 36 packs as you like.

You can hire soup cauldrons relatively cheaply which will allow you to keep your food hot. Also borrowing a heated hostess trolley would come in handy assuming your venue doesn't already have these things. Check your venue has enough electrical points as 6+ slowcookers may cause problems if theres only 1 socket in the area you want to serve food from. Also whilst 36 litres of slow cooker space sounds a lot it isn't enough for 120 people. See if you can get hold of a copy of Crackenell and Kaufman "Practical Profesional Cookery" from your library as it gives quantities for that number of people as well as a lot of time and money saving tips.

You're not a Jehovahs Witness by any chance? as their weddings tend to be like this only without a guest list as anyone can turn up to celebrate with you.

Yuo could try your local catering college and see if they have any students who would be available to assist with your prep, serving and clear up. It would make a great project and look good on their CV.
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Last edited by moo2moo; 06-09-2008 at 10:02 AM.
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# 3
parsonswife8
Old 06-09-2008, 10:16 AM
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You're very brave to take on catering for such a large number!

I would do it for 10 or 20, but I couldn't manage it for that amount of guests.

Your ideas sound great though.

Good luck!

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# 4
moanymoany
Old 06-09-2008, 11:06 AM
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I think this is a fab idea.

Not knowing what kitchen facilities you will have available I think your choices are good.

My wedding reception - which was 40 years ago this weekend! - was typical of the time and simple.

There was a turkey and a ham which was carved for people. With that was salad, bread rolls and all the other buffet bits.

The dessert was trifle in those little waxed, oblong, frilled dishes.

It was simple but really nice.

I think that weddings have gone mad - though there always were people who spent a lot. Our friends wedding was smashing. The bride made the dresses herself, she and her sister made the cake, the reception was at their home and they made the food themselves. It was typical food for the time, simple and delicious. I don't think it would have been more enjoyable if it had cost an arm or a leg.

Last edited by moanymoany; 06-09-2008 at 11:10 AM.
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# 5
paddy's mum
Old 06-09-2008, 12:36 PM
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At our wedding 'do', we had two friends set up and run a bbq. It worked really well, especially as both sets of family and friends got chatting together as they waited for their burger or whatever to finish cooking.

It was economical, offered a large degree of choice (chicken pieces, burgers, sausages, mushrooms, onions, bap or french bread, non-meat burgers for vegetarians) as well as sheer good fun - it's hard to be toffee-nosed Great Aunt Agatha when you're trying to stop the juices running down your chin!

I realise that yours is a winter wedding but would there be a covered space anywhere at your venue where a similar arrangement could be set up? We catered very easily for well over 100 people and by using paper plates and plastic cutlery, there was little or no washing up afterwards either.

Hope your day goes well and well done in planning your wedding by the size of your bank balance and not by the amount of keeping up with the Jones' so many people make the expensive mistake of doing.
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# 6
Larumbelle
Old 06-09-2008, 1:01 PM
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Congratulations!

I think it is a brilliant idea. A friend had a DIY wedding where they asked friends to contribute to the wedding rather than buy them a gift - they made it clear that they would appreciate 'effort' rather than 'financial cost', most people entered the spirit of things beautifully! The dress was altered by a guest, the cake, decorations and flowers were done by guests, as well as a big buffet by lots of us. Even the venue was a gift from the landlord, and I think that the only real expense was the registry office in the end. What happened with the food was, some of the evening guests gave an 'organisation' team as their gift and people took the food etc to them during the day. Then when the rest of the evening guests arrived, we chipped in with putting everything out. It was a wonderful ice-breaker for a disperate group of people as well. There was no little groups hiding in corners and families not mingling, everyone went round asking what others' contributions were, and trying to find who had made that delightful whatever and how did they do it?! And the cleaning up was covered by a lot of the older guests, who seemed to take great delight and satisfaction from it. Instead of wedding favours, there were chupachup lollipops (a gift) and postcards asking for tips and advice on marriage life, these made another album to go with the photos (taken by guests - the offical 'photos' by a photographer friend and by a local journalist who'd asked to write a piece about it, plus amateur photos from guests)

When the speeches were made, there were tears from pretty much everybody, as the groom thanked everyone from halping to make a wedding that was more wonderful than he'd have ever dreamed of. He said that most weddings are a lot of expense for a lot of people you never really wanted to invite, but that every single person in the room was a dear friend, and that they'd never foget all the friends who helped to give them the best possible start to their married life. By this point even big butch rugby boys had tears in their eyes! Then they went off to Cornwall to honeymoon in a guest's caravan, and they now have a bona fide honeymoon baby

It's not for everyone, and it's a lot of hard work (but aren't all weddings?) but if I ever planned to get married, that's how I'd choose to do it too. They've already started a big trend - loads of people I know have started to take aspects of the big day, although not to that extreme!

Whatever you decide to do, remember that it's your wedding, and that anyone whose going to stop you from doing what you want to do is thinking of their own issues, not yours
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# 7
Maddie
Old 07-09-2008, 12:54 AM
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Thanks for all the tips and encouragement

Nope, I'm not a Jehovah's Witness. We're not religious at all so didn't want a church wedding. But as the day we want (our 10 year anniversary) is a Sunday, we couldn't just do it at a registry office.

However we managed to find a fantastic venue - a village hall where we can pretty much do what we want. We asked them to apply for a license so we can have the ceremony there and they got it .

The hall's got cutlery and crockery etc and an industrial dishwasher, but other than that, only basic kitchen facilities (ie only as much as in a household kitchen).

Given that it'll be cold and its going to be a long day (ceremony at 12:30), I think we need a proper meal - but I'm trying to keep it simple by having only a bit of hot stuff.

I think we should be ok for plugs, as can always use extension leads and as slow cookers don't use much electricity so I wouldn't have thought that'd be a problem.

So I just need to work out how many cookers we need to give everyone a generous dollop and ensure I communicate well with the guests!

Cheers
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# 8
elle_gee
Old 07-09-2008, 1:25 AM
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Just a quick thought, obviously it depends on your guests (if they all have internet access) but you could use this site - www.whattogive.co.uk - to create your online list / menu and everyone can mark off what they want to pledge for the day I found out about it from others on these forums (haven't used it myself tho, but it looks good).
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# 9
piglet6
Old 07-09-2008, 2:06 AM
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Maddie, I think that your wedding plans sound great!

We got married 12 years ago, and although we did have a local catering firm to do the "sit down" meal after the service for 120 people, my Mum organised the buffet in the evening for nearly 200 people. (The local catering firm was actually a local butcher, who saw a niche opening in the market and went for it - this means that they had lovely meat for their roast dinners, but their evening buffet was mostly made up of a mixture of bread rolls, cut in half and buttered with a slice of meat on - again, lovely quality meat, but not very exciting...and basic cream cakes for dessert - I think the butcher's wife had taken some kind of course in cream cakes, because you could have cream horns, cream doughnuts, cream slices, and profiteroles filled with...cream!!!).

12 months before our wedding, Mum "rescued" and "re-homed" a big chest freezer that one of her friends was getting rid of. She then took advantage of BOGOFs and 3 for 2 offers in different supermarkets throughout the year. Admittedly, on the morning of the wedding, various friends of my parents took different bits out of the freezer to cook and prepare, but our evening buffet was fantastic (12 years on when we meet up at other mutual friends weddings, people still comment on our buffet!) - we had cold meats, bread rolls and french baguettes, jacket potatoes (Mum bought a sack from a local farmer and different friends cooked some each), pizzas, quiches, rice/potato/pasta/couscous salads, coleslaw, green salads (lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, celery, etc), crudites and dips, sausage/cheese & onion rolls, mini bhajis, mini samosas and mini spring rolls, sausages on sticks, cheese & pineapple on sticks... The list is endless - basically all manner of "party" food.

I'm sure that my Mum bore the brunt of the organisation and co-ordination, but she still maintains that she loved every minute of it, and loads of friends/family joined in with setting it out and making sure it all looked lovely and it was a huge success!

I have been to many weddings over the last 12 years (including several "fancy" affairs where I know my friends paid 15-20+ per head just for the evening buffet for something which was not nearly as good as ours). With careful planning and taking advantage of offers, our evening buffet came in at about 2.50 per head (and even in 1996 that was not bad!).

I hope you have a wonderful wedding day , and congratulations on concentrating on the real meaning of the day, rather than just throwing loads of money at the occasion unnecessarily...

Piglet
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# 10
debbiemc
Old 07-09-2008, 5:44 AM
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Hi there

At our wedding in 2004 we married in a hotel but skipped the formal meal in place of a carvery-style buffet. We got married at 4pm and invited everyone from 4pm, no evening guests, so only one round of food. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the informality of it all, no seating plans, just everyone sat where they wanted and were called up a table at a time to eat. It went down really well and I'd thoroughly recommend it.

We also did the speeches straight after the ceremony and before we ate - this meant everyone was so much more relaxed and could just get on with enjoying the event!

Good luck with your wedding, it sounds lovely and I'm sure with the organisation you have in mind it will be a wonderful day.

Debbie.
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# 11
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Old 07-09-2008, 6:43 AM
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It sounds really lovely! Just a couple of additional thoughts from me. If you'll be needing 6-8 slow cookers that you probably won't use again, why not ask on Freecycle if people have one you can have (then Freecycle on afterwards) or even borrow for a few days?

Also are you having someone supervising the buffet? A parent, ushers? I think that would take the pressure of you and OH.

Hope it all goes well. Can't wait to hear.
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# 12
ubamother
Old 07-09-2008, 8:45 AM
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sounds great - I think a lot depends on your venue. I will play devil's advocate and add a few words of caution though - there is a risk you end up managing your wedding day, not enjoying it on the actual day. You are the one who should be having fun, not mentally ticking off a list and removing clingfilm, decanting tupperware etc. Do you really want to spend the days before your wedding up to your elbows in onions etc. Who is moving all this food, setting it out, making sure cutlery and crockery is out, clearing it away, washing it up etc. etc. etc. Will you be able to enjoy your wedding preparations on the day before and the day itself - all that make-up/dressing/giggling/hairstyling that needs to go on! Please understand I'm not being anti - just thinking of a few things that may or may not be worth thinking about in your planning.

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# 13
Pitlanepiglet
Old 07-09-2008, 9:24 AM
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We did this in February 2007 with 120 people in our local village hall....ours was fantastic, didn't cost us a fortune and gave everyone a chance to pitch in and help..

We got married at 3pm, had cream teas, mulled wine and wine at around 4.30pm - this was easy to set up in advance, you could make and freeze scones in advance but I found a local lady who made them for 20p each, bought a big vat of jam from Makro and clotted cream from Costco. I had a vision of a 1940's tea dance but then forgot to put the music on - nobody noticed though and I took the still wrapped CD's back for a refund!

We then had a hot food buffet at 7.30 with chilli, veg chilli and fish and chips. Hubby made the chilli's in advance (you'll need more than the quantities you've noted above, work to 100g of meat per person) and our local chippy delivered fish and chips - we got them to cut the fish into two bit so that they were a more manageable size. Our chippy was glad of the business in a quiet time of year, we got a good deal that meant we weren't trying to cater all of it.

BUT I was pretty determined that my friends and family were not going to spend the whole of my wedding cooped up in the kitchen, cooking, clearing and washing up so I hired in a lady my aunt knew who put together a team of girls to come in and help. They cooked the rice, re-heated the chilli, set out the teas, coffees, mulled wine etc (my friends made the mulled wine in the morning and it was just re-heated in the afternoon). I've done outside catering and it's hard work and involves someone really being in control and organising. I think we paid them £5 or £6 an hour and I think it was about £100 all in - it was well worth it in my book.

We all went to the hall in the morning to set up the tables and deliver vast quantities of wine, juice, sparkling wine, bottled water etc., don't under estimate how long this will take - I doubt you can achieve this in time to be ready for a 12.30 ceremony, especially if your ceremony is in the same location. I'd go for a later ceremony if you can, this might avoid your two buffet scenario as well...We then left the "staff" to sort out cutlery, glasses, cups and to set out the cream teas.

Even with "staff" it still meant quite a lot of organising on our part throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening to make sure things happened as we wanted them, you'll need to be fairly relaxed about how things go unless you are going to spend the whole of your day being absolutely in control of everything which IMO will spoil your day.

Cold buffet - these are harder work than hot food, sandwiches are especially labour intensive and take up a lot of space in the fridge. I'd go for something more rustic than sandwiches and just put out sliced meat and loaves of bread so that people can DIY.

Don't assume that when people say they'd like to help that they actually mean it and that they will turn up and do what they say they will do! People say it because mainly everyone says "no thank you"!! They don't entirely expect you to say "yes please" and put you on the list. I'm a bit of a control freak and we (with close friends and close family) sorted everything ourselves because that way we KNEW it would get done...my cousin was supposed to contribute salsa for the chilli and it was a nightmare, hours of calls for a very small ball of salsa that was lovely but didn't go around!

I liked the idea above of re-homing a big chest freezer, we struggled for fridge and freezer space, not helped by it being unseasonably warm so that my plan of leaving the wine outside overnight to chill it didn't work as it was 8 degrees!

I'd recommend using Costco if you have one as they will take back anything that is unused, I took back a box of plastic cutlery, some banqueting roll, tea-lights, foil trays and some other stuff that we didn't use BUT you have to make sure people don't open all the boxes....we are still working our way through vast amounts of plastic cutlery as someone opened a new box that wasn't then needed!

Are you paying corkage at your hall? Oh and don't forget the wedding cake "cheat", the pretty cake people see, doesn't have to be the one you serve them...you can have a small'ish pretty cake and keep a slab of just iced cake in the kitchen to serve up, firstly this gets cake out quickly without waiting for someone to chop it up as you can do it in advance and secondly avoids having to produce large amounts of pretty cake!

Sorry for the hugely long post! Drop me a PM if you want to.
Piglet
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# 14
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Old 07-09-2008, 9:41 AM
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The best buffets at weddings and celebrations I have been to have always been the ones which have been done by the hosts themselves (or the hosts and their friends/relatives).

The best wedding evening event was a cold buffet where the majority of the guests seemed to be bringing along food to contribute to the buffet. My only regret was as only colleage mates, we had not been asked because I would have happily bought along a contribution as I love to cook.

Hope you have a great day, just remember to Delegate, Delegate, Delegate, you should be enjoying your day and not managing everyone else.

I used to help cook for about 50 - 60 people over a weekend (2 lunches and 1 evening meal). There were only 2 of us cooking, but it worked because the lady in charge wrote a list of the food which needed to be prepared for each meal. I could then just get on with it and pick a 'task' from the list. You could create a list beforehand and if people have already volunteered put their name against it. Put it on the wall and then people know what needs to be done (and possibly by whom). I like the idea about hiring people to do the final preparations (and especially the washing up)

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# 15
tessie bear
Old 07-09-2008, 9:44 AM
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piglet brilliant advice
i did catering for my wedding in 1998 and it can be hard work.i found the hardest thing was fridge space to keep things cold but your hall sounds well equiped.i think u should find someone to oversee things..put the coffee maker on etc.....an aunr did it for us but perhaps u could pay someone
m and s do nice wedding cakes quite small looking but reasonable price (in wedding cake talk)
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# 16
Maddie
Old 07-09-2008, 12:42 PM
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Thanks again all!

Very good to hear all the possible things that can go wrong - at least then I can do my best to avoid them or at least be aware of the risk.

I'm definitely using whattogive.co.uk, can't remember how I found it, but had it in my favourites for a while - and the new look site is much better!

For the slow cookers I'll try to borrow some, otherwise will put them on the wedding list but as a buy and lend, but then you get it after type gift (after all - everyone should have a slow cooker right!).

I'm going to put the bridesmaids in charge of telling tables when to get up for the buffet and generally managing that side of things. For other tasks I'm going to put them on the gift list - i.e. one gift can be to get there early and help put the chairs out in rows, and another to help lay out the tables etc. Then I'll put someone in overall charge for the day, to avoid people asking me what to do (possibly chief bridesmaid, but would need someone else for before we arrive there).

Some of my sisters friends have offered themselves up for the day as general helpers, so I think I should take them up on the offer. I guess it will be good to have extra hands who aren't feeling like their working instead of enjoying themselves..

I am very relaxed about the whole thing, so hopefully won't get stressed on the day. I really don't care that much about how things look etc, although I do want all the guests to enjoy it and to feel like they are at a wedding.

Foe the cold buffet sandwiches, I was thinking diy - just have a load of breadcakes from a local bakery and carved meat joints (need to check if I have any vegetarian guests!). I originally planned to have a hog roast, but was quoted 700 for 200 sandwiches!

We're ordering some wine for the tables from the halls supplier, then there is a reasonably priced bar at the hall. We're not having a tab as don't want people to feel they have to drink loads before it runs out etc. Hopefully people will think its fair to just provide some wine to get them started.

My fianc!'s mum is making the cake, no idea if she's any good at icing, but so long as its bug and tasty I don't care!

I'm hoping that if most people bring something, it will be there best and favourite dish, so it will all be really yummy and varied.

I'll work out how many slow cookers I need by working out how many ladles each person will want and what volume that it (so the maths degree has been useful!).

Better stop writing now!
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# 17
shaz_mum_of _2
Old 08-09-2008, 4:50 PM
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If you wanted guaranteed quality control(always risky with bring a dish )M&S and Sainsbury do platters you can pre-order you could get everyone to bring one of those

Hog roast ,you can hire the rotisserie machines and do it yourself and much easier to manage as its just sandwiches really

most butchers will sell you a whole cooked ham/turkey etc why not do cold meat with hot new potatoes and a few differrrent salads which can be prepared in advance when i was a caterer this was my most popular for large functions

loved the mulled wine idea

Have a great day

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# 18
suec
Old 08-09-2008, 9:47 PM
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Hi its a great idea but it is a lot of work.
I got married 12 years ago and we had a humanist ceramony and held this in a marquee in my aunts garden.We did hire caterers but we had to organise everything else our selves. It was amazing day we did have alot of help from friends and families.
I also went to catering college along time ago and while we were there we used to get hired for various events etc.

If your local college has a catering dept it might be worth asking them if you can hire a coule of students ,Yes it is money but they could help with displaying the food ,clearing up and generally help with serving drinks etc
The more help the better to take the stress out of the day. It also helps out broke students

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# 19
SmileyS
Old 08-09-2008, 9:56 PM
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I havn't read the rest of the thread so forgive me if I am repeating others here..

The idea of the hot buffet sounds fab!

I would suggest that in the evening you get a cuple of big George Formans (try freecycle of littlewoods/addisitions direct have a huge one with about 50 off at the moment plus there are loads of codes flying around) ,rope in the best man/ushers/friends and get them cooking bacon barms!

We went to a very posh wedding a month ago at the best hotel in town and this is what they served,so much better than a big huge buffet that gets wasted!
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