Today we are going to tlak about the things that you should consider before you decide to DIY the catering portion of your wedding day.
Catering tends to be the largest part of most wedding budgets, and for good reason. Food is a big part of any wedding day. Caterers will provide and serve appetizers during cocktail hour, the dinner, sometimes late night snacks, and often they will also be your bartender and serve desserts. They have a big part in your day, they are on site for a long period of time, and that's why it's a big budget item. Because of this, though, many couples consider DIYing this part of the wedding day to save money.
There are a few ways to do this:
1) You can order food from a restaurant that will deliver the food, and then you manage serving it on your own.
2) You have a family member or friend cook all of the food and manage serving it.
There are some big things to consider before tackling this part of your wedding. After reading this, you'll have a better sense of the questions you need to ask yourself to decide if either of these options are a good fit for you, or if you actually should bring in a professional caterer.
First, you need to determine if you know someone that has the ability, and wants to cook on your wedding day. Now, there is a big difference between finding a family member that is used to cooking for 10 or 20 family members and an actual chef that is used to cooking for hundreds of people at one time. Try to find someone that is a chef, or has experience working in a commercial kitchen.
Then, find out if they actually want to cook on your wedding. Keep in mind that the person cooking will not be participating in the rest of the wedding day activities. They will be in the kitchen cooking and prepping food during the ceremony, and won't be available for pictures, and certainly won't be enjoying dinner with the rest of your guests.
Next, you need to consider staffing on your wedding day. I recommend having designated individuals that are solely focused on being in the kitchen, stocking the buffet lines, and clearing plates after dinner. Keep in mind, again, that if someone is working in the kitchen, they really won't be enjoying the other parts of your wedding day, like the dinner, toasts, first dances, etc. Try to set really clear expectations and responsibilities between staff and guests at the wedding day, especially if you are using family or friends to help. You need those individuals really focused on the food service piece, otherwise, things can fall behind schedule and serving the meal will start to feel disorganized.
If you DIY the meal for the wedding, that also means that you'll need to handle all of the rentals and serving ware. Often times, catering companies will bring everything they need in the kitchen and to serve the food, but if you have someone cooking, you may need to rent these items on your own, like heating ovens, chaffing dishes, tables, linens, and serving utensils. For the serving ware, like plates, silverware, and glasses, you have the option to rent glass or china, or purchase a disposable hard plastic or paper, but you are still responsible to order or purchase the correct quantities and have a plan for how those items are getting to the venue, and for rented items, you'll often need to make sure they are cleared of any food scraps and returned on time to the rental company afterwards.
Finally, and this is a big one, you need to consider what your venue allows. Some venues will allow anyone to come in a serve food, while others will require it's a licensed catering company. And the same is true of bartenders. Some places will allow self-serve, and others will require a licensed bartender serves all alcoholic beverages. On top of that, though, you should also consider the amount of liability you want to take on for your wedding day. You may know someone that is a great cook, but what if someone got sick or got food poisoning? Again, cooking for small groups is different than cooking for large groups, and it's important you have someone that knows how to cook all of the food safely. Ultimately, you need to make sure you know how much liability you are willing to take on for the event. If you are going to DIY the meal, you are responsible if someone were to get sick or if something were to happen. That's true for the food, and also the bar. If you have self-serve without a licensed bartender, then you would be liable to manage your guests' intake.
I've seen weddings that have successfully DIYed the meal, where they had restaurants deliver food and had designated servers, and it all went really smoothly. Not to mention, the couple saved a ton of money! But, it definitely took more planning on the front end to bring those pieces together and make sure all of their bases were covered to ensure it all went well. If you're willing to take that on, then DIYing the meal may be a great plan for you. If not, then I'd recommend hiring a professional catering team to handle all of this for you.