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March 19, 2020 3 min read

The cost of a traditional wedding often comes as a surprise. Everything from the aisle decorations to the invitations has a price tag, and you may find yourself scrambling as the guest list expands.

In short, you’ll want to save money where you can, especially when it comes to the reception meal. Catering companies and restaurants work with brides to figure out menus, but that doesn't mean they're affordable. It almost makes you wonder if you should make the food on your own.

If you're thinking about breaking out your chef's hat, read on to learn a few of the subtle details of catering your own wedding. There are pros and cons to consider, so take your time evaluating your budget to decide what course of action is best for you.

1. Consider Your Guest List

When you speak with a caterer, they'll need to know how many people they'll have to feed. It's best to wait on this step until you have a good idea of how many people RSVP. Lists with more than 50 people may be difficult to feed on your own. That's at least 50 plates — or 100 servings if you expect most people to get up for second helpings. You'll need to bring a lot of food from home for a group that large.

2. Think About Cooking Skills

What can you cook? Think about your skills and if you can make popular wedding food. Mac and cheese, pulled pork and steak are standard options. If you want to keep costs down, consider offering bar snacks, such as nuts, pretzels and dried fruit. The more people fill up before the big meal, the less they'll eat.

3. Check the Grocery Store

You may think buying your own food is the cheaper alternative to catering, but that might not be true. Head to the grocery store with a clipboard and a list of everything you think you'll need for your reception. Don't forget to check prices on things like alcohol, soda and bottled water. Write down the expenses and do the math when you get home. Once you have a total in mind, it's time to get some quotes.

4. Get Multiple Quotes

The first catering company you reach out to may not have the price range you're looking for, but that doesn't mean others don't. Contact multiple caterers and ask essential questions. For instance, how many weddings do they cater per year? What are their signature dishes? Compare the final price tag to what you added up from the grocery store to get a more accurate idea of what each option will cost.

5. Decide on Portion Sizes

Brides sometimes wonder how much food to buy if they cater their own reception. You'll need to figure out portion sizes to finalize your grocery list. A guest will need one to two cups of pulled pork per plate, but may not want as many vegetables. Caterers will estimate portion sizes for you, based on their past experiences.

6. Remember Serving Staff

How do you want to serve your meal? With an American service, plated meals get brought out to seated guests. With an English service, however, the staff brings larger platters to tables to dispense food to each person. Either way, you'll need workers throughout the night. They'll make sure no one sneezes over the food or leaves items over a burner too long. You can also ask friends or family to help pass out food to save money.

7. Check Your Schedule

The days leading up to your wedding and the morning-of may seem like a lot of free time, but you'll have plenty of last-minute things to do. Adding cooking to that schedule could leave you with little time to enjoy the experience. Think about how long it will take to make enough food for everyone and how many people can help so that you don't feel like you're working when you should relax.

8. Talk With Your Venue

Venues differ when it comes to rules about catering. Before you start recruiting cooks or signing proposals, read about common venue restrictions that may change your mind about a few things. For instance, your venue might not allow off-site caterers, so you have to use their services. They may also have a health and safety rule that prevents you from bringing food onto the property.

Weigh Your Options When It Comes to Catering

There's no easy answer when you're considering catering your wedding. You have to think about things like how much food and beverages would cost you, if caterers would have a lower price per person and if your venue requires you to use their on-site catering services. Weigh your final options against your budget to make the best decision for your wedding!