You may know that traditional wedding catering isn’t for you even before you find out how expensive it can be. Getting married without worrying about paying for full-service catering or booking a restaurant is understandably appealing for many couples. But of course that doesn’t mean skipping food entirely, since caterers and restaurants are not the only options out there. While non-traditional wedding catering options can present certain logistical challenges, they can also be lots of fun and highly rewarding. From food trucks, to potlucks, to doing it yourself—here’s your guide to non-traditional wedding catering options.
Food truck weddings are becoming more and more popular, and they are an excellent, cheaper alternative to traditional catering. That is, if you’re having the kind of wedding where food trucks make sense. Food trucks are a lot of fun—you’ll just need to consider a few things before deciding they are right for your wedding.
First off, you’ll need to check with your venue. Unfortunately, many venues won’t allow food trucks, so it’s important to know before you delve into the planning. If there’s no rule against having food trucks, you’ll still need to work out where they’ll park. Be sure to check to make sure you have the proper permits and you’re following local ordinances. Some food trucks may also require power generators, so they’ll need to have space for those as well. And as with any outdoor affair, you’ll want to weigh the risks of the weather not being ideal.
If you’ve decided the conditions for your wedding are right for food trucks, figure out how many you will need. Remember that your guests will be standing in line to get their food. You can avoid having a mob of hangry people by making sure you have at least one truck per 75 guests. This is also an opportunity to give your guest more options to suit different tastes. If there are food trucks in your area that sell tacos, Korean barbecue, or pizza, your wedding could have all three!
Depending on how formal you want the occasion to be you may also want to account for rentals. At the very least, you’ll probably have to rent tables and chairs. To get started, you can search Yelp to find food truck options and call them to inquire about catering.
Potluck weddings are a great way to save money, of course, but they can also bring a sense of community to the meal. The first thing you should consider is if your guests will be into the idea. You should also be confident that a potluck is what you want, and you’re willing to do the work to get everyone on board. If you aren’t fully committed to the idea, your guests won’t be either!
Many of your guests may just not be able to provide a dish, so you should make it highly encouraged but optional. Guest who are traveling far for the wedding should be able to bring something store-bought, or nothing at all, for example. If the majority of your guests are traveling for the wedding, you may want to consider if you can provide most of the dishes yourself (see self-catering below).
Even if your guests are local and totally on board with a potluck wedding, it’s a good idea for you to supply at least one or two of the main dishes. To avoid having dozens of desserts and only a couple of entrees, you can have guests say what they are bringing in their RSVP and coordinate with them if need be. Joy lets you customize your RSVP questions and makes it easy to communicate with your guests so you can make it clear how important it is to bring a dish.
DIY catering can work out wonderfully. But make no mistake, it is a monumental task. Do you have experience cooking for lots of people? Are you willing to spend hours and hours preparing food in the days before your wedding? Do you have plenty of friends and family who can help with the preparation and clean up? Of course, the smaller you wedding, the easier it will be to handle all of this yourself. If you’re relatively sure you can pull it off—by all means, go for it!
- Find the right mix of hot and cold dishes. It’s great for variety and also helps you manage your oven use.
- Mix in some store-bought foods. To provide a full meal without getting overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to have some ready-made items.
- Preparation is key. Anything that can be done ahead of time should be. That includes making dishes that can be refrigerated a day or two before the wedding and doing some prep work beforehand on dishes you want to make fresh the day of.
- Know how you will be transporting the food to the venue. If anything needs to be heated up, is there an oven at the venue you can use?
- How much food will you need? Make the calculations per person, but add in extra. It’s better to have more food than you need than to run out!
The logistics of non-traditional wedding catering
The tricky part of non-traditional wedding catering is often the logistics of getting everything set up beforehand and cleaned up afterwards. Here are some tips for making this part easier!
- One catch to many non-traditional catering options is that you’ll have to factor in the cost of renting tables, chairs, plates and anything else you may need. See our guide to rentals for tips!
- You may actually need to purchase some items, such as serving platters and utensils. Be sure to factor that in as well.
- Unless you’re planning on hiring servers, you’ll probably want to go with buffet or family-style service.
- Cleaning and taking out the garbage is another area where you will need help. You may have plenty of friends and family who can help, but you may also want to hire some cleaning staff for a larger wedding.
However you choose to feed your wedding guests, remember that planning ahead is the key to getting it all done with a minimum of stress and maximum of fun!
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