The Challenge: Design, cook, and implement a dinner menu for a backyard wedding with 50 guests and a budget of $1000. The wedding is finally over! But, you might wonder, how did everything turn out?
The champagne bottles are empty. The food has long since been cooked, and consumed. Promises have been made. Gifts have been given. Yes indeed, the wedding is finally over! Matt and Kyra are officially still married (They were actually already married before the wedding, this whole shebang was a second ceremony to celebrate with friends and make parents happy.) and I’m very pleased to report back to you that overall things turned out quite well!
The ceremony was lovely, despite the light drizzle. (Remember outdoor wedding.)
The food was well received. (I did make too much, but the leftovers got used up, or stored by the bride for a future meal.)
There was plenty of alcohol. (Always important at a wedding!)
The guests seemed happy. (!)
The Bride and Groom seemed happier still!
I’d call it a success wouldn’t you?
Yep me too! So, let me tell you all about it!
The wedding was in a backyard. The yard, which I got to see for the first time the day of the wedding, wasn’t quite what I had envisioned, but was certainly very nice. It was green and BIG! In fact it was really big enough to comfortably hold all the guests. Of course, the downside to an outdoor wedding is that if the weather changes you could be in a pickle. It did in fact end up raining, but just a light drizzle. So that wasn’t too bad. We just ended up having the ceremony in the rain. It was actually kind of fun.
The bridal party was very colorful in rainbow duds and Kyra looked gorgeous in her dress. Plus I loved her and Matt’s matching footwear (blue converse). The whole look of the wedding party was very laid back and fun. Very Matt and Kyra. Admittedly some of the older generation didn’t quite know what to make of it. But, that’s ok, Matt and Kyra were happy.
Matt and Kyra wrote there own vows, which were charming and very sweet. A friend of theirs did the ceremony and did a really nice job. After the ceremony we put up some tables, opened up the buffet line, and got to partying! I got very busy at this point, refilling food, refilling sangria, pouring champagne for toasts, clearing tables, cutting and serving cake, etc… I feel like a proper caterer, in truth, after all of that. Also, I have to give my husband major thanks, he helped me with ALL of the afore mentioned tasks, plus many more. I could not have possibly got through all of that without him!
Actually well I’m saying thank you, I also should thank and mention my mother in law, who came over and helped me cook for 8 hours straight two days before the wedding! She helped me cook a huge amount of the food. It would have been ridiculously more difficult without her! At the wedding Charlie’s other cousin Athena, was also an amazing help, which is mucho impressive as she also happened to be in the wedding party. So much thanks to both of you!!!
I’m sure you’re wondering how the whole food thing worked out! (First thing I didn’t actually end up taking any pictures of the food. Stupid right? But I just got so darn busy I forgot!) First of all, the food was very well revived. I was paid many compliments, and happened to hear many positive remarks as I was walking around. So that was great. The estimating quantities thing worked out decently over all. Before I give you the down and dirty about that, I should mention that less then 50 people did show up. I’d guess-timate 35. That being said, I still did end up with extra food. Some of that was due to the fact that I planned for 50. Some of that truly was overestimating. Fortunately all the extra food did end up put to good use. Matt’s Mom took some home with her for a BBQ the next day. Kyra and Matt took home the rest, and were either able to use it up by feeding guest staying with them (who traveled out for the wedding), or by freezing it and saving it for later meals. So, the over estimating didn’t result in any waste, which I’m happy about! But, let me give you some more specific details so you can learn from my mistakes when planning your own event.
The meat, was estimated pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. The brisket proved to be the most popular dish. (No surprise there.) All but a few bites of got eaten. I did end up with leftover pork. However, I think the leftovers of the pork were reasonable, and if people had been a bit hungrier or we’d had more people attend (like the actual 50) it would have been needed. The veggie burgers also worked out ok as well. I ended up making 16. As I predicted no one but vegetarians went for them. Since we had accounted for 12 vegetarians I think 16 was the perfect number. We had leftovers, but not too many. The potatoes were also estimated more or less correctly. There were leftovers, but I feel it was a reasonable quantity.
The pasta salad, I way over did. Way too many leftovers, and less people attending doesn’t account for that much extra. If you recall, I chose to estimate 1 cup of pasta salad per person. In my research I had discovered that you should estimate between 1/2-1 cup per person depending on how many other sides you serve. I obviously served a few, and technically should have gone with the half cup. This worked out to making about 5 boxes of pasta. I’ve got to confess I just couldn’t envision five boxes of pasta being enough for 50 people. Pasta being one of the least expensive items on the menu, I decided to go for the generous 1 cup estimate. I figured it was way better to have extras then run out of food. It was totally unnecessary. But, no real harm done.
However, my after the fact tip, if you really sit down and calculate your quantities properly then don’t second guess yourself and make more food. You’ll end up with way more then you really need. It might not sound like enough but it probably is.
The green salad was also way more then needed. (With way too many leftovers.) I found the recommendation to go for 3oz. per person; which ended up working out to 8 heads of lettuce. We ended up using about 1/2 that at the party. I think what happened is that with the other sides, and people eating the meat so heavily, that not many people went for more then a tiny serving of salad. I think with less sides we might have gone through more. In retrospect I probably would have gone for 6 heads of lettuce.
The bread also worked out great. I ended up getting 125 rolls and probably had about 25 left. Very reasonable considering the guest count.
The quantity of cake also turned out perfect. I was able to serve nice sized pieces and not leave too much in the way of leftovers. However, if we had ended up with more guests we could have just cut the slices a bit smaller. I was really pleased with my cake planning! (Though I was not 100% pleased with the cake itself. More on this below!)
And alcohol.. we had way too much sangria and a bit too much champagne. However, here’s what happened. Many of the guests brought beer, champagne, and other alcohol with them! (Didn’t know that one was going to happen!) In addition to what I purchased there were a good 6 or more additional champagne bottles, plus a fair bit of beer! I think had the guests not brought alcohol my estimates would probably be really good. The champagne toast for example used about 7 & 1/2 bottles out of the 10. Again remember we were planning for 50. So, that was pretty good! I also think we would have gone through more sangria had there not been quite so many beer drinkers/more beer then expected. I feel like this wedding had a disproportionate amount of beer drinkers that wouldn’t necessarily be the case at most events.
The lemonade, didn’t work out ideally. Basically we had three problems:
- People didn’t know if it was an alcoholic drink or not.
- The way it ended up set up was confusing. The lemonade was out in several smaller containers rather then one large one. People seemed to think each one was a different beverage.
- 2 of the 3 containers ended up clogged.
Either way, I think we could have probably halved the lemonade to 2-2.5 gallons. Fortunately it wasn’t particularly expensive.
So that’s the estimating. Over 50 lb. of food total! I have to say I can’t believe I managed to fit all of it in my fridge before hand! (I ended up getting my fridge to near empty right before cooking with some careful planning!)
Oh, I should also mention I ended up doing a cheese, cracker, salami, tray for the bridal party who came early to get ready. This worked out great!! It was very appreciated by the bridal party; and as many guests started arriving on the early side, they also nibbled at it. Dinner ended up being on the late side, the ceremony started about 7:15 PM and dinner probably got served about 8. So I think a little snack was well appreciated by all, and certainly got used up.
Ok, so let me complain about the cake thing now. So I ordered two cakes, right? One from Safeway, a sheet cake supposed to feed 50 people. It was lovely. Very professional and neat. + it tasted good! I also went to a small specialty bakery and ordered a very small two tiered cake so that Matt’s Mom could get the traditional wedding cake cutting pictures. I’ve used this bakery before. They are generally very tasty, and usually produce beautiful cakes.
So I show up on Friday to pick up the cake. I can see it sitting out, in the lid of a cardboard pastry box when I walk in. From far away it looks lovely. However when I get a closer look I see the entire top tier of the cake is completely FLIPPIN’ crooked. And I mean seriously crooked. At this point I had no choice but to take the cake, there certainly was no time to re-do it, nor was a baker even present to do so. But, I have to admit I was completely steamed. Then to add insult to injury they sent me home with the cake IN AN OPEN BOX LID rather then a proper box. It was an absolute nightmare to transport the cake without the entire thing ending up smashed to pieces. I still feel this was ABSOLUTELY ABSURD! If I wanted a crooked cake I could have baked the stupid thing myself. I went to a professional bakery to get a professional cake!
Ok, thanks for bearing with me for that little rant. I just had to get that one out.
Actually I complained endlessly to my husband, Athena, and everyone else who asked about it already, so you got my cooled off, less steamed version.
:::sigh::: oh well, huh? I do have to say, I guess if that’s the worst thing that happened, then everything did turn out a-ok.
So that’s the story!
How about you, anyone planning on a major catering project? Did you cater your own wedding? I’d love to hear about it! Please leave a comment and share.
If you missed any of the articles or recipes in this series you can check them out here:
- So… I’m Catering A Wedding
- The Menu
- Farm Fresh Pasta Salad
- Layered Ratatouille
- Sweet and Spicy Pulled Pork + Bonus Recipe: Super Easy Creamy Coleslaw
- Tarragon and Thyme Lamb Burgers Topped With 5 Minute Tarragon Tzatziki
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Tangy Creamy Chicken Salad with Tarragon
- Roasted Potato Salad with Rosemary and Mustard
- Black Bean, Chickpea, and Quinoa Burgers
- Estimating Food Quantities for a Wedding or Large Party
- Breaking It Down: The Cost of the Wedding Menu
- and you just finished reading: The Wedding is Finally Over!