Self-Catering Your Wedding Reception

Friends and family members can help you prepare cold food early.

One great way to cut the costs of your nuptials and maybe even guarantee that everyone likes the food is to have a self catering wedding reception. While this can involve some extra work, it can also be a lot of fun.

Styles for a Self Catering Wedding Reception

Food can eat more of a wedding's budget than any other consideration. But options like not having any sort of meal at all have limited appeal. That means a much shorter wedding and since it's a big day, you want to make the most of it.

Obviously, a self catering wedding reception works best for smaller groups. You have to really know what you're doing - or have a friend or family member who does - if you're going to try to feed 300 people without professional help. It can be done, but it might end up being more trouble than it's worth.

Theme meals are a popular choice in self-catered weddings. Aiming for a food that either complements your ethnic background or is something you both love makes the menu simpler and can keep costs way down. An Italian meal is a popular way to go because you can buy a lot of pasta cheaply in bulk, cook it ahead of time and keep it warmed up, and let guests choose their own sauces and toppings.

For a more casual wedding, getting the guests involved is another great way to feed everyone cheaply and yet have a lot of fun. This idea works really well for a beach wedding if you have access to a few barbecues. You can also do such things as having everyone build their own tacos or roll their own vegetarian sushi.

Planning a Self Catered Reception

Whether you ask everyone to pitch in or cook everything yourself ahead of time, you can't plan enough. You have to expect that any one of a number of things might go wrong, but the more prepared you are, the less likely it is that anything will be a disaster. Be realistic about your menu and the amount of prep time involved. Remember that not everything reheats nicely, but this doesn't have to be a problem. You can serve a mostly cold meal if you are having a summer wedding or a lunchtime reception - or both. In fact, a selection of salads, cold pasta, and sandwiches can be nice and refreshing.

Be sure to test everything. This is not a time to be trying a new dish blind. Make samples of everything you might use for the menu well in advance and assess what will be involved in enlarging the recipe.

Don't be afraid to ask for help. In fact, it's the only way you'll pull this off. Close friends and family members will usually be glad to be part of such an undertaking. Just make sure either you or someone else is acting as an overseer so everything gets done.

Special Considerations

Sometimes, dietary needs are better met with a self-catering wedding reception than one with a fancy sit-down meal that only allows for two choices. In fact, you might find it's far easier on the budget to have an all-vegetarian menu, but be sure to account for allergies, kosher preferences, and diabetic dietary requirements if necessary as well.

If you have a dish like a casserole, be sure to list all the ingredients beside it. In addition to your vegetarian and vegan guests, people may have allergies and need to know what's included in case there is something they should avoid.

One thing you don't have to include as part of a menu is dessert - that's what the wedding cake is for. If you are concerned about people wanting something more, provide a fruit salad or, if your budget allows, a selection of cheese, cookies, or a fondue fountain.


A self catering wedding reception meal is not only budget-friendly, but it can be a lot of fun to prepare and serve special dishes for your special day. Bon appétit!

Self-Catering Your Wedding Reception