Monday, January 12, 2009

Details: Food (yum!)

I've been so unmotivated to post the last few days that I've actually had this post written and just didn't log in to stick in the pictures and hit the post button! But I have a few posts half written and the husband is out of town this week, so I'm sure I'll be posting more than usual.

Before the wedding we went back and forth about having our wedding catered versus doing it ourselves. I know many, many people who love to cook (myself included) so I knew that we could pull off a home cooked meal. However, I wanted my parents to be able to enjoy some of our wedding reception. And since the wedding was at their house, I knew if all the food was on them, they would be occupied a whole lot more than they needed to be.

Our compromise was to have the main dish done by a caterer while a group of us did the appetizers and sides ourselves. Finding a caterer to do that was actually much easier than I thought it would be. There aren't many caterers in Redding, so we ended up going with Roots Catering, out of Chico, CA. They use local foods as much as possible, they are family run, and they were cheap.

For appetizers we decided to go relatively simple. I ordered goat cheese from a local goat farm, we bought fruit from a farm stand near my parent's house, and crackers, nuts, olives, and dried fruit from Trader Joe's. I roasted some of the almonds with sugar and lavender, but everything else was just as we bought it. The day before the wedding we put most of the food in the bowls and covered them for the night. And right before the ceremony, my younger sister and mom set everything up on the table in just a few minutes. It was plenty of food, easy to do, and cheap.

For dinner, we had our caterers do two simple main dishes--Mediterranean chicken and mushroom polenta--and then a side of grilled vegetables. Again, we wanted to do something quick and easy to prepare, so the two salads we made were a caprese salad and a simple mixed green salad.

For the caprese we combined cherry tomatoes in a variety of colors from the same farm stand as the fruit (she gave us a deal for buying several flats of them), the small mozzarella balls from Trader Joe's (no need to even cut them up!), basil from my parent's garden, chopped garlic, and olive oil.

The green salad was going to just be mixed greens, pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and lemon juice over the top, but in throwing everything together in the kitchen, some tomatoes were put in too.

The salads were prepared by my mom, with help from my sister, and my best friend's mom and sister. I think it took them about twenty minutes to put them together (most of that was spent realizing they couldn't find the dishes I'd set out to put them in and scrambling through my parent's kitchen to find bowls).

We also purchased bread from Trader Joe's and served that with butter that my little sister obsessively pre-sliced for people.

In total we spent $1700 on food ($17/person) for excellent, mostly local, organic food. From what I priced other caterers in California to be, I think that's a pretty good deal. The caterer charged us $10/person for what they did (including tip), and our food came out to $700 total. And we did have a ton of food leftover, including about $100 worth of goat cheese that we happily ate for about a month afterward and enough dried fruit that we are still working on it.

Some things that made doing our own food easier included:

-Being flexible. We showed up at the farm stand on Thursday before the wedding and basically bought the fruit and veggies they had. That saved us money and we were able to support a local business.
-Using Trader Joe's. I originally wanted only local food. When I realized that it was going to be cost prohibitive, I settled for Trader Joe's organic. Which isn't really a bad thing to settle for all things considered.
-Not doing anything too crazy. Originally we wanted to make this awesome corn salad, but after thinking about how much work it would be, went with the caprese salad. And nobody missed the corn salad they didn't know they'd missed! Doing simple food for appetizers was also a huge time saver. The most complicated thing we did for that was to cut up the plums.
-Setting up all the dishes ahead of time. I made a box for each portion of the meal (salads, bread, appetizers, etc), with all the serving dishes and utensils in it and directions for each dish. Although the salad box apparently went missing, in general the system worked and I didn't have to worry about setting anything up on my wedding day.

Let me know if you have questions about the food or doing your own food for the wedding. It was a great experience for us, and I'm really happy with the way it all turned out. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.


melissa said...

Yum! Looks delicious.

Color Me Green said...

Your blog is such an inspiration - it's made me think I want to have my wedding in my backyard too. I'd love to find a caterer who uses local food but I doubt it will be as cheap as yours! I'm so curious about all the logistics. Did the caterers deliver and set up their food for you or did you have to get it/heat it/set it yourselves?

Carey said...

I love that you did all the food yourself! Amazing.
We are planning to do the same for a much smaller group but somehow it still seems daunting. Would you mind elaborating a little more on "setting up a box" for all the main dishes? What kind of box? Do you have an example of the list that you kept for directions on one of the dishes?

Thank you so much!

backyardwedding said...

Carey-The boxes I set up were just cardboard boxes (some had more than one box, depending).

For example, in the box for the drinks table I had: the linens for that table, the drinks signs, the bowls for the sangria to go in, the boxed wine and vodka that went in the sangria, all the cups, the wine bottle openers and the tray they went on.

The directions for that table had the recipe I use for sangria and where to find the rest of the ingredients for it (the frozen fruit and the juice).

backyardwedding said...

Color Me Green-
The caterers set up and served the food they cooked. My parents have a very large kitchen so they were able to finish cooking the food at my parent's home, but they had these crazy cases where they could have brought the food hot from their house (where they normally cook). We did a buffet line so people helped themselves to salads and bread and then they were served the hot food by the caterers.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post, it was very helpful! How did you do the drinks?

Anonymous said...

This is the first description I've read of what I've been hoping to pull off at an outdoor wedding for 150 people. Thank you for sharing the very helpful details! One question, were the drinks in your food budget of $17/person, or was that a separate part of your budget?

Jenn said...

I just found your blog and I do have a question for you! Who did the clean up!? I would like to have a DIY family style meal with each table having ample portions, but how do you delegate someone to clean up when you want everyone to enjoy the reception? I would appreciate any feedback!

Accidental Housewife said...

Loves it! Totally linking to this over at Mama's Getting Married! What did you do throughout the night re: dishes on tables, etc.???

Anonymous said...

Finding your blog is a lifesaver for me! Because my fiance and I are paying for our wedding ourselves, we're just going to do a late evening wedding with a wine/cheese/wedding cake reception. We're inviting around 125 people and I have NO IDEA how much cheese/what kinds to buy. Any suggestions? Also, where did you get the piece of wood you used to lay all the fruits and crackers on? It all looks gorgeous! My email is if you want to email me directly! Thanks so much in advance :)

Anonymous said...

this is absolutely phenomenal

Katie said...

I'm sooooo glad I found your blog! I just started planning my own backyard wedding and I'm planning to do the food (mostly) myself. We are hiring someone to do a pig roast, though. I do have one question, though.

What was the weather like that day?
We're having our wedding in June and I'm really concerned about using any kind of cheese. Advice?