The absolute most important thing to both Ryan and I about our wedding (after the ceremony) was our guests. We wanted to have the freedom to invite all of our nearest and dearest, and were willing to make sacrifices in other areas in order to accomodate a fairly large guest list. Early in our planning, I stumbled upon this quote on A Practical Wedding:
“You put the people first. You figure out how to take care of them. Then you buy the stuff you can afford.”
Food is typically one of the largest budget items. Although we’d decided on a cocktail reception, we still wanted to make sure that all of our guests had more than enough to eat. We loved the idea of food stations (or food bars, as Pinterest calls them), but after looking at catering options, we found that food stations would likely cost us even more than a buffet dinner would. It wasn’t long before we realized that we’d need to get to creative.
After looking at many options, we decided to stick with the food bar plan, but with food from all different vendors. Because we knew we had a ton of family members and friends who were eager to help out, we did all of the planning for our food, and then entrusted our family members to bring the food bar vision to life on the big day.
Each food bar was delegated to a different couple in our family. We planned, ordered, and paid for everything (with the exception of a few things that were generously purchased by family), and our family picked it up, transported it to the reception venue, and set up each station. While I trusted each person we asked to help, a lot of my worrying was put at ease knowing that even if one of the seven food stations went horribly wrong or simply didn’t make it to the wedding, there would still be lots of food at the wedding.
Truly, I shouldn’t have worried at all. Thanks to our awesome family (and the help of our day-of coordinator, Jenn from Something Beautiful Weddings), each station went off without a hitch, and our guests loved the food.
Here’s how it all went down….
When guests arrived at 6:00, we had three food bars already open – the Salsa, Charcuterie, and Pretzel Bars.
The theme for the wedding food was basically “All the food that Ryan and Stacey love,” so for our Salsa Bar, Ryan’s mom made a huge batch of her famous Salsa Bean Dip recipe that we always serve to guests who come out to the cabin. There was also salsa and plenty of tortilla chips!
The Charcuterie Bar featured a huge selection of cured meats, cheeses, crackers and pickles. The cured meats came from The Italian Centre Shop (which Ryan and I visit often). Rather than purchasing their pre-made meat trays, I basically pre-ordered a certain weight of a number of different meats, and they sliced it and wrapped it just before the time my mom was scheduled to pick it up. This worked well for two reasons – it worked out to be a lot cheaper than the trays ($215 for more than enough meat – I still have some in my freezer…), and I wanted to avoid the kind of old-school look of the big round plastic trays. We purchased the cheese, crackers and pickles from Superstore (much cheaper!), and my mom and aunt arranged all of it beautifully on wooden trays and boards.
The pretzels were a bit of a nod to our trip to NYC together, as well as a treat we often enjoy in Edmonton. For our Pretzel Bar, we ordered them from Vienna Bakery, which is just down the road from our house. They were super inexpensive (less than $1 each), and tasted great. We also served mustard and cheese sauce for dipping. My brother created the awesome stand for us as part of his many gifts to us, and we made the hooks from some wire from Home Depot. They were deeeeeee-lish!
An hour into our reception, our Pyrohy Bar was served. Ryan’s Dad’s side of the family is Ukrainian (hence the Ukrainian spelling on the signage), so of course, pyrohy are a frequent-enjoyed family favourite. We entrusted Ryan’s uncle, aunt and cousins to take on the HUGE job of cooking and serving the perogies, and they did an incredible job. Some of our out-of-town guests had never had a perogy before, so this was a really fun addition.
A good portion of the crowd was Ukrainian, so we knew we’d have to have some very high-quality pyrohy to impress them. We used Baconhound’s Great Edmonton Perogy Showdown blog posts to narrow down our options – he had done an incredible amount of research on Edmonton’s perogy options, and had even made our lives easier by including pricing. Then, we spent a little time taste-testing our options to find the best one (oh, it was torturous, I swear…). We decided on the handmade pyrohy from St. Basil’s Ukrainian Cultural Centre, which is also close to home. For 75 dozen (yes, 900) handmade perogies, it was $375, and they were delicious. We’re pretty sure that we’ll never buy from a grocery store again!
An now for everyone’s favourite – our Pizza Bar! Like Braede and Gavin, the wonderful couple behind LOVEPIZZA, we fell in love over pizza, and we knew we wanted it at our wedding. We were SO lucky to have convinced LOVEPIZZA to make us the first wedding they catered. We’re huge fans, and we knew that our family and friends soon would be too.
Braede and Gavin made the process so easy for us. We decided on serving three pizzas off the menu and a vegan specialty that they created for us. Including options for our celiac, vegetarian and vegan friends was no problem-o, and they even offered to deliver the pizzas for us.
As expected, the pizza was delicious, and everyone raved about it. We ordered 60 pizzas (which came to a total of less than $730), and had quite a few leftover pizzas. The next day on Snapchat, we saw some of our friends eating LOVEPIZZA while waiting for their flight out of town – it was so good they’d packed it for lunch!
We also received an AWESOME wedding gift from these guys – a welcome mat for our new home that reads “Must LOVEPIZZA”! We love it.
For our Dessert Bar, we enlisted the skills of our loved ones to bake all sorts of goodies. I had seen this idea on wedding blogs, as it is fairly common in some areas of the USA. I loved the idea of having our grandmothers’ baking as our wedding dessert, and it was so special to serve up family favourites from both sides.
We also had a Popcorn Bar, and served popsicles later on in the evening. We weren’t planning on having a wedding cake, but I decided to surprise Ryan with a small, fun cake.
As I mentioned in my post about our wedding music, early in our relationship, Ryan had surprised me with a hamburger cake. It was a reference to an old nickname of mine, and such a fun surprise. For our wedding, I got my youngest brother to go pick up the same cake (from Sobeys!), and had it brought out for us to cut.
Lastly, I should mention that we got most of our palm leaf dinnerware from Greenmunch. Of course, there are cheaper disposable plate options, but we loved how classy these looked, and that they fit with our decor. They were well worth the extra money!
All in all, we were so happy with how our wedding food turned out. Of course, it was a lot more effort and planning than simply hiring a caterer, but the savings were well worth the extra effort. If you have any questions or want advice on how to do this yourself, feel free to email me! I’m more than happy to help!