Today, times are tough. We are seeing traditions broken daily and hard decisions have to be made. Maybe you really want to get married but know that your venue bill will be 15 to 20 times the size of what the DJ bill will be, and you know you can’t afford it. That’s right. Your average wedding venue bill with food is $10,000-$30,000 today! Weel, what can you do?
POTLUCK! BRING YOUR OWN FOOD?!
Before you dismiss this as an unacceptable option, let’s look at history. One hundred years ago, there was no prime rib. There were no candy tables. There was no open bar tab. Almost every wedding reception was catered by the guests!
Part of the wedding gift was your loved ones sweating over a hot oven. Then, they would show up with their labors of love bearing a covered dish for all to partake, in the name of the bride and groom.
Another trend of guests bringing their own food to a wedding reception to be shared by all happened a little more than only fifty years ago. In the ‘60s, dematerialization and sharing also was a big part of that generation’s mindset. This bled over into the matrimonial ceremonial trends. At this time, Potluck weddings were about sharing all kinds of things.
Believe it or not, the idea of guests bringing the food to the reception was not low-brow at many points in history. It actually used to be the norm. However, in the “instant gratification” materialist world that we live in, and now with the economic state that our country is in, this trend is making a comeback at weddings.
Here are a number of tips to keep in mind, in order to make the idea of covered dishes work at your reception:
PLANNING A POTLUCK WEDDING – While this is a great idea, there may be some materialistic money-grubbers who will oppose your quest for crockpots. Many wedding halls will not allow you or guests to bring in food or alcoholic beverages. In most cases, this directly affects their bottom line, as providing high end dishes is an integral part of their income and overall profit. In order to have a potlock reception, you will first have to locate an appropriate hall to your liking that allows self-catering, and one that still fits the atmospheric-setting role that you are looking for.
PROMOTING YOUR VISION – Whenever you can, consider a theme! For our house warming, we held what we called a “cultural covered dish party.” You couldn’t just show up with hot dogs and chips. We challenged our guests to recreate and share their favorite ethnic dishes from all around the world.
For our cultural covered dish party, we communicated with out friends and family to see what area their cuisine would come from. Once we heard one country or area was being represented, we might mention that to another person. Then, each guest would bring some really cool things to the table.
One friend could represent Mexico, another could represent Italy, and so on and so forth, so that many different and fun dishes were represented. We then put little flags in front of the dishes, upon receiving them. It felt like Disney’s “It’s a Small World” ride, but much tastier!
CHEF TO IMPRESS & RESTRICTIONS – Tell your people to all bring entrees, not side dishes. Push the idea of “CHEF TO IMPRESS!” You always have the handful of loser relatives who want to only bring soda and chips. Make it clear that side dishes will make for a poor spread. Side dishes are very lame and that each guest needs to try and provide at least one entree, with any amount of supporting sides that they wish! If you get entrees across the board, there will be some really great food and fun for all!
TAKE INVENTORY & COMMUNICATE – It is crucial that you make an ongoing list of what guests would like to bring so that you don’t get a dozen meatball dishes, for example, and nobody shows up with some succulent shrimp or chicken! (Gotta have chicken!) Consider using facebook to make communication easy.
TIMING & STORAGE – Let the people plan early. Put your food information/request right on the invitation. When the wedding day finally comes, the best way to organize is to put someone in charge of receiving the food, before the ceremony actually starts.
CROCK POTS – Rule. Enough said.
PREP TEAM & CLEAN UP TEAM – Since there are no caterers waiting on your guests, this does mean that there will be more work that will need to be done on your behalf. It is best to ask for volunteers to man food prep & clean up. With two separate teams, the brunt of work doesn’t fall heavy on one or two people’s shoulders. You will need one group to organize and set up the food, and also another to break down, preserve and get the containers ready to go back to the original owners.
MUSIC – Everybody knows that music makes it better. Food is best consumed with music, so get a DJ! (I know a good one!) Your savings on food allows for even more fun to happen!
DISH PRESENTATION – We don’t want this to look like your average party. Since you are potentially saving thousands on the food bill, you may want to make everything look as classy as possible.
To avoid the stigma that a hodge-podge potluck wedding reception could receive, try and create some kind of uniformity in presentation. Another trick is to elevate entree dishes on your buffet tables with some kind of milk crates or soda riser-trays, then cover the boosters with linen.
If you really want to change people’s minds about being thrifty, stay away from dollar store table cloths to avoid cheap presentation of good food! To remain classy but still save money, if your hall does not provide linens, you can always purchase sale fabric at a discount fabric stores.
POTLUCK DESSERTS – Maybe you still want the dinner catered, but love this idea. How about potluck desserts only?!
ADDITIONAL GIFTS ARE OPTIONAL – Remember, since guests are providing the food, it is customary to accept the fact that the dish could be considered the only gift to you, or at least a portion of the gift. Encourage this and embrace it! You are saving thousands of dollars!
Food is love and when prepared by your friends and family, love as well as scrumptious scents will be in the air. The possibilities are endless. People will go out of their ways to really show off their skills, and at the same time, impress you.
Having a successful covered dish wedding reception is all about cooperation and fun with people who are important to you. Your friends and family will love the idea and probably go out of their ways to really make it a spread that will impress everyone.
If done correctly, your wedding reception could turn out to be much better than any catering company could ever deliver.
Albany Weddings DJ Kenny Casanova is an event disc jockey for "The DJ Service.com" out of Upstate, NY. He has been DJ’ing for over 15 years transitioned out of sports announcing into becoming one of the best Wedding DJs in his area.
Winning awards and "BEST OF" titles from Capital Region Living Magazine and Metroland, DJ Kenny Casanova is well sought-after and is booked solid with a few gigs every weekend. For booking information, call 518-506-3305.
Visit www.theDJservice.comDJ Kenny Casanova for more information about how to keep everyone happy at a wedding reception.
Oh my God! These are like really great ideas … THANKS!
Thanks Sarah! Every weekend we see some really great ideas, so I try and share them here.