DIY Wedding Food: Worth the effort?

by DIY wedding planner on December 11, 2011

Being that my fiance & I are young & therefore don’t have large incomes, we have a really small budget for our wedding; about $4000 I was wondering if instead of paying to have my wedding catered if my family could make/provide the food, is this practical? & is the ammount of money I will save worth all the time & effort? I was thinking that we could buy food in bulk for cheaper at a store like GFS, etc.

In addition, any ideas or advice about the subject in general would be helpful.
I’m expecting around 200 guests.
I’m not planning on MAKING the food. Only preparing it. I’m planning on purchasing bulk foods that are already prepared. For example, potato salad, heat & serve entree style foods, thaw & serve deserts, etc.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Blunt December 11, 2011 at 8:25 am

It is fine for a small wedding, if having more than 50 guests it would turn into a nightmare and the family members involved would be slaving over the hot stove, stressing and working instead of enjoying the wedding.

You can save money, but hire someone else to cook, heat and serve’ otherwise you won’t see your relatives in your wedding day.

ETA: 200 people? IMO, is not worth the stress.The logistics at that scale are tremendous. You and your family should enjoy your wedding day, and not worrying about heating meatballs and spilling the baked beans.

Good luck


killerkitty December 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

Yes my friend saved tons of money by doing this and the food was better than catering because we all cooked it and it was exactly what we wanted. My friend had a big wedding 10 people serving in it and 300 invited guest. Everything we did in advance like we made meatballs the month before and froze them. We made sandwiches the day before and refrigerated them and we had someone to tend to the buffet line and everyone got to see family and enjoy the wedding and it was a lot less stressful knowing the bride and groom were not over budget.


In that case get it catered no one wants all that processed food yuck! the food is one of the main reasons people enjoy going to weddings and if that is what you are planning on serving then I as a wedding guest would assume you are just cheap and looking for a present.


Roz December 11, 2011 at 9:48 am

I attended my cousin’s wedding in Colorado and she had the reception in her large backyard. Friends & family brought large casserole dishes of food. By the end of the night I was stuffed.
My contribution to her wedding was the I made the wedding favors which were chocolates in a heart shape. I feel that those standard wedding favors that people give away usually stay around the house for awhile and then just become dust collectors. Why not just have chocolate and people can keep the custom ribbon as a momento, if they want. I just hate keeping those little dust collectors that people give their guests at weddings. I know that the wedding couple love them, but for the average guest it just becomes another dust collector, sorry to say.


C_lodhop December 11, 2011 at 10:29 am

I think its a brilliant idea. Maybe consider asking reliable friends so you dont put the pressure on close family but I think its good.

Look up foods that can be prepared a day or 2 before, there will definately be stuff to do on the day but this can help out. Also go for a relaxed menu/buffet and delegate to several people not just one.

Alternatively my friend had a disaster with her caterer so rushed out and bought metal catering trays and put postit notes on each tray of what she wanted and handed them out to friends. You could do this for example: ask in advance and then give your friend 2 trays one with a note asking for potato salad and one with a note asking for cheese sandwiches. This is a brilliant way to involve everyone so they all have a part in your wedding you could offer to pay each person per tray they bring too if that makes you feel better.


planner December 11, 2011 at 11:25 am

as long as your wedding is small, you can do food yourself and it will be okay. it is still lots of work though. figure on spending about 10 dollars per person for doing something really nice yourself.

depending upon where you live, you can get it catered for about 15 to 20 per person for a simple menu….and not have to do the work, so you will need to decide on which is better for you.

it is entirely possible to have a very lovely small wedding for the money you have to spend. i could offer you more help if i knew the state and town or area where you are planning to have your wedding, but in any case, check your local parks and recreation department. they always have nice venues for rent for weddings which are extremely reasonable.


melouofs December 11, 2011 at 11:45 am

Have you ever tried to cook for 200 people? It is a tremendous amount of work, and I’m saying that as someone who hosts many parties every year. I would try to come up with some other option than asking family to cook. Even preparing 1 dish for that many people is a huge job, never mind a whole party’s worth.

Can you possibly start by cutting that guest list in half? That will go a LONG way towards getting your wedding to line up with your budgetary limitations.


fizzy stuff December 11, 2011 at 12:36 pm

How many guests do you have?

Basically, I dont recommend anyone to self-cater their wedding. The bride should be doing nothing other than greeting her guests and stealing kisses with her groom. And family and best friends, should be enjoying themselves, not slaving over stoves or acting bartender.

More important, the logistics of self-catering are too daunting. Caterers and restaurants are set up to do it, thats what they do! I would cut my guest list and go with a caterer before I would DIY to save a few bucks. And in the end, how much do you really save? Cooking on a large scale requires chafing dishes and large roasting pans, etc. Do you have commercial sized equipment in your kitchen?

There are inexpensive caterers that will do a simple but tasty (and hot!) meal for a song. Baseball teams and company dinners hire them all the time. Chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and a salad. You do not need to serve prime rib.


oryx_krissy December 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I’ve been to a couple of weddings where they had family served food and I thought they were just as good, if not better than some of the catered weddings I had been to.

One wedding had buns with cold cuts, cheese and a couple of different salads to choose from. They didn’t have to do much but set it up in a buffet style way. It was great!

Another one had her family members each make a bunch of one thing. Her Mom was from the Phillipines and made the most delicious spring rolls I have ever had. Total success!

I think as long as your guests are fed, and not going hungry, they will love it. And if you plan accordingly, it shouldn’t be that much effort from you and your family to make it all work.

Best of luck!


Garnet Glitter's No BS Zone December 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm

I catered my second wedding/marriage BUT it was a home cold luncheon buffet for 20 people…

Ordered veggie & dips, cheese & assorted crackers, fruit, deviled egg, sliced sandwich meats,sliced cheeses for sandwiches, assorted sliced deli breads & rolls, even condiments, pickles, olives, lettuce platters from a local deli. A friend with an italian pastry shop supplied mini pastries and cookies, I made my own dips and salads ( potato, cole slaw, macaroni, fresh tossed with dressings).
my second eldest who trained in my bakery made our wedding cake. I bought the chips, beverages, and champagne. since it was casual I opted for really nice paper/plastic ware from a local party store to make clean up easy (my sister donated her home lol).

I stayed organized…..but for 200 guests?

Not by myself.

The only way your plan will work is if all involved have ‘assigned’ duties and dishes otherwise you could end up with a lot of one dish and not enough of another…..check into deli party platters-they can give an idea of prices..the more some one else does the less you have to.


shelcatsmom December 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm

The wedding I was maid of honor, the groom and his mom did all the food, about 150 guests. I don’t think they slept for 3 days before the wedding. But they knew how to do it, but it was a great deal of work.

People who have done their own food for a large party say, if they had it to do over, they would have spent the money.


phantom_of_valkyrie December 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm

The simple answer is no. The stress is making food for 200 is definitely not worth it. You’d be cooking food for days just to feed that many. Where will you store it? Yes casseroles can be frozen ahead of time but practically it’s nearly impossible. A large pan of pasta usually feeds about 8. So that’s 25 trays. Say 4 hours to make each one and cooking 20 hours a day (which isn’t possible), you could make 5 trays a day so that would be 5 days of cooking. So the first days must go in the freezer and I know I don’t have room for 10 trays of lasagna in my freezer. Then of course heating them up the day of the wedding would be an all day event. But everyone has to get ready to go to a wedding as well.

Have you ever cooked for 200? I’m not sure it’s a cost savings at all. That’s a LOT of food. And a lot of stress.

Consider something cheaper like getting a caterer to just do spaghetti and alfredo. Or bbq. At least here you can do that for about $15 a head so that’s $3,000.

Then just only spend $1000 on decor and the dress. That’s hard but doable. If you have the wedding at a beautiful place already, the decor would be done. Borrow vases from a bride that just got married. I bet you can find someone who bought 25 vases that would be willing to rent them for $1 a vase.

I really just think it will ruin your wedding to try to cook for 200 the week of the wedding. Even if your family helps you, even just making a salad for 200 is incredibly difficult. Look into a local Italian restaurant to see about their catering and see if it’s cheaper if you pick it up yourself. Then you could just get a pretty pan to drop the metal tray into from your relatives.

Perhaps get relatives to donate wine to the event instead of a wedding gift. You can save HUGE amounts of money on alcohol that way as you can pick a nice bottle for about $5 a bottle. Then that’s about 9 cases (108 bottles). You get a case discount which brings the total roughly to $500. I’d say 3 or 4 couples might all chip in for that for your wedding. I think people would be fair more able to do that then cook for 5 days straight.

You’ll be stressed enough as is. I wouldn’t add catering a huge affair to your list of things to do, especially if it isn’t already on your list of skills that you’ve done before.


Messykatt December 11, 2011 at 1:53 pm

Here are 2 statements that do not go together: “really small budget” and “inviting 200 people. Is $4000 the budget for your whole wedding, or just for food and beverages? You said wedding but I truly hope you meant food.

I would recommend you get some sort of professional guidance for a crowd this big, especially if your $4000 is supposed to cover the whole wedding. I have a feeling you don’t know how much all this food will cost, or you won’t buy enough. And that doesn’t even get into the beverages, plastic cups, ice for 200 people, tableware, condiments etc you’d have to purchase.

Fifty is easy to manage – I’ve done it myself for friends. I wouldn’t even know where to begin with 200. And if you meant $4000 total for wedding, you need to cut your guest list in half, and it still won’t be easy.


Craftygirl7 December 11, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Yes you can have a DIY food at your wedding! I suggest you check out this website:

Weddings are expensive nowadays and so hiring a caterer can be expensive as well. No matter how many people you have at your wedding you can still have DIY food at the wedding.

I plan on having a beautiful wedding on a small budget… way less than $10,000 dollars. I plan on having 100 or so people. So do you think I can pull it off? I truly think it’s very possible! I want to prove to the wedding industry that I can do this! 2000 Dollar Wedding Website inspired me to want a DIY Wedding.

I’ve already found a wedding reception hall that is way under $1,000 and the place is beautiful. The reception hall will provide us with tables and chairs. I might have to rent chair covers and table cloths. (Which I don’t mind.) The reception hall will also provide us with plates and few other kitchen items.

I think I’m going to recruit a lot of my family members and friends to help me out with the wedding. I want a family oriented wedding where my friends can feel as if their apart of my family. I don’t want a huge expensive show. That’s why I’m choosing to have a DIY wedding reception that looks expensive. Everyone I know is pretty creative. I’m a very crafty person so I plan on making all the wedding favors, wedding programs, boutonnieres, decorations, wedding invites, wedding pillow, etc. I found a beautiful scrapbook in my room that I plan on using for my wedding as a guestbook. The cost: Free! I’ve got beautiful picture frames in my room of my fiance and I. Those pictures will be used at my reception. I even might have my finance and I grow our own flowers for the wedding. The more things that I can make by hand for our wedding, the more money my fiance and I will be saving. Which I believe to be true!

I found a restaurant that caters on great budget. I don’t plan on getting a fancy wedding cake from a bakery. I might just get myself a store bought wedding cake. My moms friend owns a dress shop and she can get me a great deal on a simple wedding dress. I might hire my aunt who takes professional looking pictures in her spare time to be my photographer for the wedding. I also know other people who too are good at photography. I will hire a DJ because my fiance and I love music so much. I think that I will be buying my own liquor for the wedding and having a family member of mine who doesn’t much like to dance be a bartender.

I’m so excited to be planning my wedding with my fiance. I think he’s going to be excited too. Were both crafty people. So we plan on using our imagination for this wedding. I love my fiance so much and I can’t wait for our special day that will occur sometime next summer. Wedding planning for me has been very exciting because I don’t feel so stressed out. My wedding is just one day and it’s day that I want to remember but I also want my family and friends to remember the day as well. When I first started doing wedding research I felt overwhelmed. Now I don’t feel that way thanks to the 2000 wedding budget website!!


basketcase88 December 11, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Whoa! First of all, preparing food for 200 people is massive. I work as a bridal consultant, but I’m also a mom to a kid in marching band, and I regularly arrange/fix food for 125 band kids. It’s DAUNTING, and it takes 5-7 of us to pull it off each time we have to feed these kids.

My suggestion to you would be to cut your guest list, or have your wedding at a time that you don’t need to worry about feeding your guests. If you have a simple cake and punch reception, then you can figure having that in the middle of the afternoon. Have your ceremony start at like 1:30, and your reception should be over by 6pm.

Look into all your catering options. Many grocery stores and restaurants cater for a minimal charge. They don’t provide wait staff. But compare that cost into getting deli trays and rolls from Sams, Costco and the like. Since you’re feeding 200 people, I would keep the food fairly simple.

Good luck!


CC December 11, 2011 at 4:16 pm

i don’t like Heat and serve foods. I mean, I do for every day life..but not for a wedding! I think if you had a small wedding, you could do the DIY food idea..but with 200 would be too hard, take too long, and be too much of a headache.

My suggestion is to have an appetizer only reception..not a full meal..and have that catered. Much cheaper and you will be able to have REAL food. Not microwaved gunk. I will have 30-45 guests at my wedding and was considering to make the food myself. However, I decided not to because I don’t want to worry of keeping hot foods hot and cold foods cold. We are going with the appetizer reception around 2pm and we’re having it catered. Our budget is $1500 for wedding and reception….but we will really spend around $1900. We would LOVE to have a $4000 budget! Good Luck to you.


iloveweddings December 11, 2011 at 4:25 pm

If your wedding was small (50 guests) and perhaps a “light” type of meal (lunch), then I would say go right ahead. But, I would not want to undertake purchasing/preparing the food for 200 guests! That is waaaaaay too much work. You would need to have “ladies in the kitchen” putting out the different dishes, etc. and removing others when they are done. For 200 guests, you need lots of food!

Yes, you probably could save, but it will be a hassle. Also, do you have family that will want to undertake this? Basically, they will be “working the reception” instead of enjoying it. Just something to think about.

Now, if you are a member of a church, sometimes you can get the “church ladies” to work in the kitchen for receptions if you give them a donation. I live in a small town and this is done all the time where I live, but this may not be an option where you live.


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