DIY wedding afternoon tea at Barnutopia

Many couples choose a DIY wedding and venue because it is lower cost and there is more flexibility and freedom to create the wedding they want. This may include the option to self-cater. Here are five tips for avoiding a self-catering disaster at your DIY wedding.

1. Don’t self-cater your DIY wedding

Okay, this a joke but with a big dollop of practicality. Self-catering for up to 45 guests may be manageable if you have a capable chef along with a band of helpers. For the wedding reception meal (aka wedding breakfast), a couple of pots of chilli and rice, large bowls of salad and a batch of garlic bread followed by (wedding) cake and a cheese board may work perfectly. What about more traditional wedding breakfasts and other meals? If the venue is residential, who will provide breakfast? What about snacks and supper?

Even for weddings with under 45 guests, consider using mobile caterers or ask if the venue can cater any of the meals or snacks for your wedding.

If you are having a larger DIY wedding for more than 60 guests and you’re sure you want to self-cater, here are a few more things you should think about.

2. Get a handle on how much food and drink you’ll need

We have never (and I mean NEVER) hosted a wedding where too little food or drink was provided. Without exception, DIY wedding parties over-estimate the amount of food and drink and much of it ends up being lugged home again or, worse, wasted. Of course, you don’t want your guests to go hungry, but it’s pointless to have far more than you need. The general rule of thumb is to cater for 85% of your headcount. However, you must tell caterers and your venue the actual headcount. They will calculate how much food to make as it does vary depending on the type of meal and service.

Think about a small to average portion for one person and multiply that by your headcount. Trust it will be enough. Add a few extra portions if you must, but don’t go wild “just in case”. You’ll have food left over at the end.

3. Ask about storage and refrigeration capacity

All the unprepped supplies, food and drink must be stored somewhere until it’s used (and afterwards in the event you have lots of leftovers). How much space is there for food storage at your venue? If you buy 50 bags of ice, is there freezer capacity for it?

Plan your menu using dry ingredients and fresh veg that’s okay for a few days unrefrigerated. Use a delivery service for ice on the day and put it straight into barrels with the beer.

4. Check on kitchen facilities and catering equipment supplied

If the self-catering kitchen is tiny with 2 gas rings, you probably won’t want to cook for 100 guests. If you fancy pizza, but there’s no oven, you’re in trouble. Be ready to change your menu if the kitchen isn’t suitable for your first-choice wedding breakfast.

Plan the menu around the kitchen facilities available. Bring or hire your own equipment as needed.

5. Don’t underestimate staffing needs

We cannot stress this highly enough. Catering requires staff for planning, buying, prepping, cooking, serving, clearing tables and washing up. Either you pay caterers (mobile or venue) to do this for you, or you and guests at your wedding must be willing, ready and capable of taking on the tasks. If you are going to rely on friends and relatives, are you sure they’ll be up for bulk shopping, washing glasses between meals or clearing supper tables at 10 pm? If your venue provides staff to help you, keep in mind that 2 or 3 serving staff cannot man the bar, serve the food, clear tables and wash up everything.

Don’t begrudge paying for catering, service or clearing up. Someone must do it and it is, perhaps, better to let professionals do the job, so your guests don’t have to.

5 tips for successful self-catering at your DIY Wedding