When Heather Augustine decided to cater her own wedding, it was a matter of dollars and cents.
The 27-year-old bride-to-be had trimmed her guest list to 500 and, allowing $20 per person (an estimated cost of a hotel reception for dinner and room rental only), she figured her expenses would be an amount usually reserved for a down payment on a home.
There was no one she could eliminate from the list. She would just have to hope everyone invited wouldn't attend.
"What now?" she thought.
She had, on occasion, helped out as a waitress at a friend's catering business. And, there were those lavish parties she used to give for friends and relatives on Christmas and the Fourth of July. But carrying around trays of hors d'oeuvres and Champagne or making nibbles to serve party-goers couldn't compare to the massive wedding reception undertaking she had committed to on this occasion.
How did she finally manage to feed 1,000 hungry wedding reception guests? Well, she was, in fact, so successful that she started her own catering business, the Rolling Gourmet, which accommodates everything from intimate Champagne dinners for two to children's parties in the park, to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Press Room for the Los Angeles Cobras of the Arena Football League (indoor professional football).
In talking about her own reception, she revealed a few of the problems in catering your own wedding, including: professional servers versus friends and relatives; the costs--having to pay retail prices for ingredients because food companies often refuse to sell wholesale to persons without a license; rental versus home equipment--trying to accommodate a large number of people with borrowed dishes; and taste versus time--making foods so far in advance to save time that they have a frost-bitten taste.
In addition, she offered the following suggestions for those who do want to prepare the food for their own wedding reception.
--Avoid hors d'oeuvres and finger sandwich foods because they are too tedious. Opt for bulky things that will satisfy.
--Always have a buffet with servers to control portions. Never have passed hors d'oeuvres, French service or a sit-down dinner--not with that many people.
--Servers can be friends or relatives but only if they are reliable. Professional servers are salaried so their job is to serve the portions you request. This is more economical because portion control saves money.
--Use professional bartenders when possible, especially with drunk driving laws. A friend or family member might let people overdo, but a professional remembers faces and how many drinks that person has had.
--Rent holloware, linens, tables and chairs, lights, canopy, dance floor, Champagne fountains for punch and bars. Many companies offer payment plans that make budgeting easy.
--Substitute good quality, heavy-duty plastic and pretty paper products for dinnerware, stemware and linens, if a budget doesn't allow rentals.
--Have plenty of seats.
Question: Why did you cater your own wedding?
Answer: I decided it would be the most economically feasible thing to do to serve 1,000 people.
Q: Did you have any help?
A: I paid professional service providers: bartenders, servers, waiters and waitresses, but not as far as the food preparation was concerned, or purchasing and planning.
Q: Would you encourage others to cater their own weddings?
A: No. Most people don't have a working relationship with produce companies, meat companies and fish companies that will allow them to go in and make these purchases without the proper licensing. It took us a year to establish those relationships. Most rental companies will work with anybody as far as planning. But most food companies won't, so most people are forced to purchase retail. They (food companies) are in a fraternity with caterers so they discourage the public from making wholesale purchases and recommend caterers. It's the same with photographers, bands, florists. They're all in the same fraternity--party planning.
Secondly, most brides are really nervous and they need to concentrate on the details of the ceremony rather than the catering.
Q: Would you say that catering your own wedding was stressful?
A: Yes, definitely. I cried once a week and I lost friends because you depend upon people to do things for free. When you're planning for your own wedding you'd like someone to stop by and pick up plates, roll the napkins, bake some bread in their ovens. You'd like people to let you borrow their barbecue pit to sear meat, borrow their serving pieces. Of course people say yes because they're your friends, but they can't be depended upon, their schedules don't allow it.
Q: So whom did you depend upon?