Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wedding Catering on a Shoestring

I'm on an event committee for a nonprofit and the issue of catering costs came up and spurred a lot of debate. In these tough economic times, I understand that spending $10 per person may be a lot but I have to admit, I balked at the thought of using the local bakery's sandwiches and crudite for this signature event. Like it or not, the quality of taste and presentation of food you provide at a special event sticks in your guest's memory and sets the tone of the occasion! But you don't have to spend $30,000 on catering or serve foie gras, caviar, etc to make it "rich." Taking Anthony Bourdain's great wisdom, "The engine of gastronomy is poverty" and therefore, it's okay to throw a wedding reception on a budget as long as you embrace the spirit of creativity!

Here are some ways I addressed this issue for my own wedding:

1. Find a venue that will allow you to bring-your-own (BYO) caterer. This will be challenging and requires compromise because a majority of venues have preferred caterers, who can be quite costly. If you bring your own caterer, you can find someone on Craigslist who might be willing to do it within your budget. We were able to find a lovely historic hall and garden in Sausalito for only $1,800, with only a $500 deposit. The venue has tables, chairs, state of the art kitchen, and allows me to bring in my own chef!

2. Consider the style of service. Buffet or appetizer stations are extremely cost effective because they cut down in terms of labor and service. Reach out to friends of yours and see if there's someone in your network, such as friend or colleague's nephew who's in culinary school, and can do a seated dinner at cost or as a wedding present.

3. Consider the season. If you like asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, don't expect to have it in the fall -- I mean, you can, but the quality won't be so great and the cost will be a lot more! Check out CUESA's season chart here>>

4. List your priorities. Do you want to splurge on meat or fish? Would you like variety of options, so that appetizers would make sense vs. a sit down meal? Do you really want 200 people at your wedding, or do you want your 90 or less closest friends?

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