Core traditions and a stress-free wedding
October 20, 2004 12:19 AM   Subscribe

If you were going to throw out the etiquette books, forget every tradition you've ever learned and try to build an inexpensive, small (30-50 person) wedding from the ground up, what traditions would you absolutely want to hold on to? What would you throw out the door? What would you do to make it less stressful for a couple that doesn't handle crowds well? And if you've got more than a year lead time, when would you even start thinking and worrying about this?

For example, if the idea of picking her "favorite" female friends and relatives is too stressful to the bride, is it OK just not to have bridesmaids?

Two traditions I'm sure you wouldn't want to throw out are the invitations and the thank you notes. Alcohol and food are probably key, too--are beer and barbecue too low-class if people may be traveling cross country to participate?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Society & Culture (21 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I used to work at a place that had 3-4 weddings a week during the summer. We had everything from 10 people for under $100 at the wedding to 250 people with a catering bill alone of over $35,000. Invariably the low-key wedding were the most fun and most memorable. Here are a few observations.

-Keep it simple. Things always go wrong and the tighter the schedule, the more stress and unhappiness.
-Keep it small. Your 30-50 guests is about perfect. It helps keep cost down and makes socializng after the wedding easy.
-Don't try to please anyone but yourselves. It's your day, your friends and family are happy for you, not the $50/plate catering meal. BBQ and beer is fine if that is what you like.
-No bands. An ipod hooked to a boombox is cheap and less cheesy than a 45 year old DJ playing crappy 70's songs.

Things you should be sure to have are: the kiss, a decent photographer, and parents. Everything else is negotiable.

On preview, I see you are in Portland. Don't throw out the possibility of having an outdoor wedding. Our venue was outdoors and we never had a problem.
posted by karmaville at 12:41 AM on October 20, 2004 [2 favorites]

I'm not a fan of traditions that make no sense, so for my wedding we kind of threw out the book on things and started from scratch.

Here's the guiding principle for everything, especially if you're paying for it completely out of your pocket like we did: don't think of it as a wedding, think of it as a party for you and your spouse, and your family and friends. Think "I want to have a great time" instead of all the dumb things like where people sit.

We spent all our money on having good food and wine, and kept it small so we could informally talk to everyone. I've never had much fun at a wedding with more than 60-70 people, and one of the best ones I've ever attended had less than 10 total.

In terms of traditional things, we had time to eat, drink, no dancing, but there was music playing. There were a few toasts, but no throwing of anything to a crowd that wasn't rushing to get married anyway. It was basically like a big house party with really amazing food and cake. We only sat for the eating part, spending the rest of the time milling around and talking with everyone.
posted by mathowie at 1:09 AM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

My fiance and I are getting married in February and are doing things very similar to the way you state above.

Everything that karmaville says is excellent. Every time you think about adding something or saying "yes" when someone asks you if you want to super size it, think about it some more :).

We're having nobody but us and the Unitarian minister/priest/whatever UU peeps call them stand up there with us. The ceremony is being done in a small chapel inside our church, and since we've been pledging members for over 6 months, we get the church and services really cheap.

I've also heard many people say that a dry reception is a mistake. Neither I nor my fiance drink, but we're planning on having wine served to those that want it with the meal, but otherwise the guests are on their own.

I'd suggest not doing an open bar unless you're really willing to pay for it.

One other thing that might save you some $ would be to have the wedding at a non-traditional time of the year (like January or February). That way, demand is much lower and you can probably negotiate lower rates on all of the services as it's likely that they'd go unused for that time period anyway.

I'm not sure how big of a role that your mother will be playing in the planning of the wedding, but traditionally, that'll be the largest source of pressure.

I'm lucky enough to have a future-mother-in-law who understands and appreciates wanting to have a small, simple, elegant wedding, but there are still things that she is shoehorning in that I'd rather not have there.

Oh! My fiance also read a book called The Conscious Bride and said it was very helpful. Not like the majority of wedding books that are thinly veiled consumerist screeds telling you that bigger is better.

Good luck, and congratulations!
posted by freshgroundpepper at 1:17 AM on October 20, 2004

We got married at 19 and did it at our dorm. Talk about non-traditional! Looking back on it there are a few things I have to say.

We kept the whole not see each other until the ceremony (from the night before), and I did walk down an aisle. I'd still do that. It made it exciting to see each other at that moment. I don't know that you need traditional aisle music, though.

Speaking of music, it is a must. We made a tape of music (I'm dating ourselves!) and had a friend watch the tape player, and play the special tape for the "walk down the aisle" music. For an informal gathering, it was fine.

Food and drink are other obvious choices. Same with pictures. We had someone we knew take some pictures, nothing fancy, and we don't regret it at all.

The dress is optional I think. But you want to wear something special, even if you decide to do it in bathing suits.

I had one "bride's maid" and he had two groomsmen. You don't need to have them, but you do need witnesses if it will be legal. So even if you don't have anyone stand with you, you'll need to decide on who will sign the certificate.

Thank you notes are a must, but if you're having such a small wedding, invitations may not be necessary. And if you do go that route, you def. don't need to do fancy ones. I always feel bad about throwing them out whenever I get them, but that is where they'll end up!

I agree with Matt in that it is YOUR day, and to think of it as a good party as opposed to a wedding (no matter how big the wedding!). And everything else he said, really.

Have fun!
posted by evening at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2004

Our wedding is in the works for June. It started small, but boy has it started to spiral. We've gone from nigh-on elopement to caterers, dresses, and a wedding party.

We're still trying to keep things Fun For Us, though. We've opted for cupcakes over a wedding cake (and we were really close to that Hostess Wedding Cake thinggy), for example. There'll be no flowers and our centerpieces are likely to feature cans of PBR and rabbit and cthulhu stuffed toys.

One of the biggest issues is The Guy Who's Paying. We're lucky and the Bride's Father is picking up most of the tab and doing a lot of the planning. This means I feel that we need to meet him halfway on a lot of things, especially certain traditions. So we can't just toss everything out the window. If you're footing your own bill, though, you don't have to worry as much.

While this is at its base YOUR DAY, it's also a day for friends and family to celebrate you, so it's worth thinking about what they expect from the wedding. It may not be 75$ a plate dinners, but it could be something as simple as tossing the bouquet. If it takes five minutes to do and provides years worth of memories, why not?

On preview: Dollars to donuts say the SO, who reads AskMe but lacks a login, will want to contribute her two cents, so there'll be more pending from me, I bet.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:09 AM on October 20, 2004

oh - just realized I forgot to answer some of your first questions.

Planning - I think it depends on what you want to do. First thing to think about is where you want to have it, and secure that as early as possible. After that I think it can wait a while.

Hating crowds - I'm with you here. Make it as small as possible. We didn't invite the whole extended family on purpose - only parents and grandparents. Depending on your family, though, that may be the hardest part.

Food - Again, think about what kind of affair you want. Do you want a sit down meal? Or just people mingling with finger food? We got our cake at the grocery store bakery (which had a really good bakery), which saved a lot of money, and looked fine too.

Basically, think about what you want to see and do on that day. And build it from your vision (I know, easier said than done). But think about things like the dinner, location (restaurant that can close you off, hotel conference room, someone's home, outside, etc.), do you want dancing or alcohol, people to dress up or be more informal, etc?

If you want a BBQ, then do it. I think that sounds like a lot of fun!
posted by evening at 9:23 AM on October 20, 2004

if you're worried about what other people expect, then explain what you're doing in a short letter that you send out with invitations. that way people can decide for themselves if they want to travel half way across the country for a bbq (or whatever).

(we didn't get married and my sister had a short ceremony with just two friends of the couple - so whatever you do, you're going to be much more traditional than many others. i'm not saying you should do the same, but when someone like "Things you should be sure to have" or "While this may be your day", remember there's no "should" and it most certainly is your day, no buts - your nobody's dancing monkey.).
posted by andrew cooke at 9:40 AM on October 20, 2004

I hate all that wedding jazz. We went with a live band that played dixie music, and we had no DJ or annoying person announcing us or deciding what was supposed to happen next. There was no bouquet throwing, no garter thing, no "dad dances with the bride first and then mom dances with the groom" stuff going on - we've all been to too many weddings like those. We had no official photographer because we didn't want typical wedding pics - a friend voluteered to take candid shots the whole day, and they were incredible. Mine was like Matt's - a big party. We decided to approach it as a party where it just so happened that some people were getting married. We tied the knot under a weeping willow tree in my parents' backyard, a gorgeous day and a gorgeous view of a river and a canal. No bridesmaids, no ushers, although we did have a best man and a matron of honor. Right after the ceremony was over, the music started, and everyone started partying, and didn't stop until about 4 the next morning. People took their shoes off and danced in the grass. Everyone kept saying over and over that it was the best wedding they'd ever been to.

I too hate hate hate hate crowds. I didn't want to come outside when it was time for the wedding. Beforehand, my bf and I had decided that there would be no fanfare or special music played, because then everyone turns and looks at you - ugh. I didn't want to be the center of attention at all! Everyone was milling about in the backyard (which was huge) and my bf and I and the rest of the wedding party just casually gathered under the tree, and everyone wandered over and the ceremony started. My knees were shaking the whole time. Gah. It worked out well that way because the focus was never really on me, and by the time everyone wandered over to where we were, our backs were to them, so I had a chance to get it together and adjust. So if you and bf are anything like me, try to NOT have an aisle to walk down ;)

I'd recommend getting a caterer, just to have that monkey off your back - that's a lot of work, and anyone close enough to you that would volunteer to do it will probably be a guest at your wedding, and you want them to enjoy themselves, so it's best to hire a pro, even for bbq and beer (which sounds wonderful, by the way - just tell guests in advance that it's casual and potentially messy). As far as what can stay and what can go, just ask yourself - do I have to do this? Do I want to do this?

Yes, you really should (because this is what people expect):
mail invites (or email even)
send thank yous
have food - casual is great
have liquor - nothing wrong with beer
have music
have places to sit and eat

No, you don't have to:
perform like a trained seal
cut the cake to fanfare, and shove cake in your husband's face
have bridesmaids
have ushers
have flower girls/ring bearers etc
throw the bouquet
throw the garter (if there even is one)
have a dj
have a book for guests to sign
have a wedding planner

You might want:
flowers as decoration
nice table setting things/whatever that means to you
a cake or some kind of dessert treat (or a cupcake cake or even a krispy creme donut stack cake)
little treats for the guests to take home

Hmm I didn't mean for this to become a novella. Everyone here has offered really great advice and words of wisdom so far. All I can say is - I don't regret one thing that we left out, and people are still, years and years later, telling us it was the best wedding they've ever been to, so it seems that they didn't miss the traditional elements left out, either.
posted by iconomy at 9:46 AM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

Your wedding is for you. The reason to have a party is that it is an incredible feeling to see most of the people you love in the same room at the same time.

Seeing my cousins and my college roommates and friends from former jobs and my husband's college roommates and his cousins and his friends from former jobs and his friends from the acoustic music world and my friends from the classical music world all talking and laughing together was just so amazing that I'm tearing up just thinking of it.

Barbecue and beer is great. I've been to some fun weddings with barbecue and beer. However, if you want the biggest food bounce for the ounce, I recommend a midmorning wedding followed by a brunch buffet.

I think a good place to start planning a wedding is for each of you (separately, and on paper) to make a list of what you've liked at other people's weddings and what you've hated at other people's weddings. Then each of you (separately, and on paper) should write down what you would like your wedding to be like.

It's best to start planning now, just because caterers and wedding spaces often need several months' advance notice. Then you can let it sit for a while; the next thing you need is to think about bride's dress(es), because if anyone wants a traditional dress, it takes at least four months to make and have fitted.

So the bare bones are:

space and caterer -- a year to six months before the wedding date to reserve date and confirm; two months before the wedding date to finalize plans

bride's dress -- six months before the wedding date for a traditional gown; four months before the wedding date for a custom dress to a simpler pattern; three months before the wedding date if you're going to try to buy something special off the rack

invitations -- I recommend sending a "save the date" card out three months before the wedding, then an invitation six to eight weeks before the wedding

celebrant -- three months before the wedding to confirm date; one month before the wedding to review ceremony; call one week before the wedding to re-confirm date

That's it. If you want flowers, you should confirm the florist at the same time as the celebrant. Having a wedding doesn't have to be a huge nightmare, despite the enormous industry devoted to making people crazy over weddings.

My husband and I had a very casual wedding, with a lunch buffet and only beer, wine, and soft drinks. We each had one attendant/reader. Our celebrant was a justice of the peace. I wore a silver silk street-length dress that I had made for me, and he wore a suit. It was low-key and fun, and the only reason it cost us more than $10,000 is because we had 160 guests and really good wine and musicians (oh, and magicians to entertain the kids).
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:48 AM on October 20, 2004

There are some good suggestions here. We just had a 70-person wedding in August, and since it was a gay wedding we felt no compunction about throwing the rule book out the window. Here's what worked for us:

- Make the ceremony meaningful to you. We had a friend officiate and she wrote the ceremony with our input. The words were beautiful and meaningful and exactly what we wanted.
- Exchange rings and vows. The rings are an outward symbol of our commitment and we love them. We wrote our vows (actually, we pledged our intentions instead of making promises) and it was extremely powerful to say them out loud to our partner in front of all our loved ones. We also had a handfasting, which ended up being the most powerful part of our ceremony to me - I'm sure you'll find something that works for you.
- Have the ceremony at the same place as the reception. You'll save on transportation and eliminate stress.
- Take good pictures. You don't have to get a pro if you don't want to spend the money, but then make sure someone good is taking lots of pics. You will want them.
- Have music. iPod, DJ, band - doesn't matter, just something you like.
- Have an open bar. If you don't want to pay through the nose, you can make it beer and wine only - or, if it's during the day, do a white bar (white wine & champagne).
- Have food that matches your wedding. If you're having a small, informal thing, then don't do lavish waitered service. We did a buffet-style BBQ and it was great.

- Spend lots of money on things that won't matter to you a year from now. The cake, for example - no one will remember or care, even if it were spectacular. Flowers are another area you can probably save money - you don't need to go overboard. Wedding dresses are extremely overpriced.
- Have bridesmaids if you don't want them. If you don't want to choose bridesmaids, then don't have any. We had one 'best person' each - my best friend since I was 13, and the guy who introduced us and is one of our closest friends now. Perfect for us.
- Make a seating chart. Stressful and a waste of time - let people sit where they want and then no one will feel like they're not at 'the important table'.
- Do anything that doesn't feel like you. We didn't throw the bouquet or the garter, or wear something borrowed or blue, or anything like that.
- Feel like you have to do anything except ENJOY YOUR DAY! We danced all day and visited with people who weren't dancing in between, and we had a blast.

In terms of timing, you'll want to book the venue as far in advance as you can - places book up over a year in advance, especially Saturdays during the summer. Similarly, book any vendors 3-6 months ahead of time - caterers, DJ's, florists, hairdressers etc.

Unless your parents are paying, they really should have minimal say in the proceedings. Your wedding should be all about YOU and what you want. Congratulations and good luck!
posted by widdershins at 9:59 AM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

I went to a wedding of about 100 or so where the main course was bbq, and they had kegged beer. The groom's uncles were responsible. they hired a fun hillbilly band and there was much dancing.

In other respects is was quite traditional, though, even if it was held on an island in Georgia Strait.

Another idea about the bar is to have dollar drinks. Then you won't completely bust the bank, and the drinkers won't leave full beers to get another $5 bottle which you're paying for.
posted by sauril at 10:01 AM on October 20, 2004

Thanks for the tips. I think for a dress I'm probably going to look for a white off-the-rack prom dress or something.

$10,000 is about 20 times more than I'd like to spend, and about 10 times more than I could afford. Being so cheap makes me feel guilty about inviting people from across the country.

The crowd issue is going to be tough. I have a big family and lots of friends. He has a small family and will probably only invite one or two friends. And he is really uncomfortable at gatherings where he doesn't know most of the people well. Of 30-50 people, all but about 7 would probably be my guests.

I expect my mom would be somewhat difficult--though she would try hard to suppress her excitement--if she lived nearby. I'm the oldest of the Supafreak clan and the only daughter. Mom lives 3,000 miles away however, so that won't be a problem--at least until the big day gets close, when I don't doubt she'll find some excuse to take a week or two off work and fly out west.

I really like the idea of each of us making lists of what we'd want to have. So far, I have been surprised that he is more into this whole thing than I would have expected. I’ve been ambivalent about weddings and marriage my whole life, and I guess that makes me a little less romantic now that I’m getting more into the idea.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 10:07 AM on October 20, 2004

I wouldn't do dollar drinks. That's one of the few things where if I'd flown across the country to see someone get married, it would piss me off. Better to just have limited drinks.

Beer and barbecue are fine, no matter where people came from. I'd get one keg of something relatively good though; Bass or Newcastle or, if you're in Portland, Rogue or other local beer. The price difference won't be that much.

Being so cheap makes me feel guilty about inviting people from across the country

No need. People really aren't coming to go to a party. They're coming to see you get hitched and be happy at you.

I would, though, in the invitation have a brief note about it being informal, to whatever extent it is. A friend once got married at his folks' "cabin" in the Appalachians (which had only just gotten running water), and the invitation had a bit that said "This is at a mountain cabin. Outside. The reception will go on for a long time and you'll likely sleep here. DRESS SENSIBLY."

It's okay not to have bridesmaids -- so long as Mr. Groom is okay with not having a Best Man.

You don't need traditional aisle music. I recommend "The Imperial March" by John Williams, or "The Ritual" by Gerald Fried.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:36 AM on October 20, 2004

There aren't a lot of options for having a wedding for 30 to 50 people for $500 - $1000 dollars. However, I believe it can be done.

Some ideas: Have it at someone's house and make lots of the food yourself; have it at a public park and have picnic-style food (though you might not be able to have booze, then); have it at a campground and have a cookout; have a morning wedding and then have a bagels-and-cream cheese-and-lox and coffee-cake buffet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2004

nice table setting things

One of the best things about my v. small wedding (50 people, $3000) was the flowers. My mother-in-law (professional seamstress) made the dress, my groom (professsional chef) made the food, and my mom donated her backyard for the reception. But we had professional photographers and flower arrangements.

The backyard looked beautiful because of the heavy use of candles (many floating in the pool) and fairy lights. Plus we had borrowed a number of card tables and white tablecloths so everyone had a place to sit down and eat.

The flowers were from a Japanese florist and so were exquisite in execution. For example each table had a maidenhair fern as the centerpiece. The banquet table decorations were mostly ivy and other greens with a very few orchids.

Most of the money was spent on alcohol and food. The champagne flowed freely, and that may be why so many people have such fond memories of the event.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 10:54 AM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

My cousin got married a few years back at a park and had a big bbq pit and beer afterwards. It was a ton of fun. Finger licking is the great social equalizer ;)
posted by mkultra at 11:24 AM on October 20, 2004

Consider using the talents of your friends. The only thing we paid retail for was flowers, all other services were donated by friends or provided at cost by friends-of-friends. Two caveats here: don't saddle anyone with such a big job that they won't be able to enjoy the wedding, and whatever services or time your friends donate should be considered a gift (i.e. let them know you don't expect them to buy anything for you, since they have already given of themselves.)

The crowd issue is going to be tough.
I am pretty shy and much of my family is a small clan of agoraphobes. We had our wedding at a house, and a fringe benefit was that any of us could sneak away to a quiet room if things got overwhelming.

On preview:
Finger licking is the great social equalizer
One small wedding I went to had a Greek buffet after the ceremony with lots and lots of roasted garlic. Garlic breath is far more tolerable if *everyone* has it.
posted by whatnot at 11:31 AM on October 20, 2004

alcohol and food would be where i would put most of the budget (i agree with the people who think cash bars are a bad idea). as long as the people you love feel included, comfortable and welcome, that's all they will care about. you'll probably want nice mementos (disposable cameras/instant cameras have worked for lots of people; a guest book for people to fill with best wishes or fond memories of the couple is another good idea--any blank book will do), but you don't need party favors and neither do the guests. send actual paper invitations. make sure you have a good photographer with a good camera (friend who won't mind missing part of the party or a professional) for at least the ceremony/beginning of the party (the disposable/digital pics taken by guests are fun, but you might miss having a nice, flattering picture of the ceremony). there's no reason to have music/dancing if you want to focus on chatting with your guests (i've been to several cocktail party/BBQ weddings that completely dispensed with dancing & background music and no-one noticed and i've been to even more weddings where the dj/ipod was just distracting or ignored).

it's a celebration. it's a party. throw the kind of party you're comfortable with and your guests will be comfortable, too.

i do disagree that you shouldn't let your families in on the wedding plans. i certainly don't think you should let them tell you how to have your wedding, but telling them they have no say at all is a great way to build up lots of stress and hurt feelings when you don't have to. like robocop said "While this is at its base YOUR DAY, it's also a day for friends and family to celebrate you, so it's worth thinking about what they expect from the wedding. It may not be 75$ a plate dinners, but it could be something as simple as tossing the bouquet. If it takes five minutes to do and provides years worth of memories, why not?" if you say to them, this is our budget, so these are the only things we're doing, hopefully they'll respect that. or possibly even say "well, let me bring some flowers." or maybe let you know that it would really be a shame not to see you sign your names in the family bible like everyone else did at their wedding, so you can possibly head off bad feelings early by finding some way to accommodate a tradition that's critical to someone very important to you.
posted by crush-onastick at 11:38 AM on October 20, 2004

Eldest daughter of the supafreak tribe, do not fear. I am the only girl, we had the tiny budget, and I regret nothing about how little I spent (except for not having really nice flowers at the table as the gravy clan daughter suggests; in retrospect, I really would have liked that). My dress was an off-the-rack prom number that I am pleased to report cost $15; it was awesome to pay for it with a $20 and get change back, even though it inspired snark from the snooty salesgirl. See, that's the thing: the only people who really want you to spend big bucks work in the wedding industry. Your friends and family who love you want you to have the wedding you want.

I should specify that we were married far from home and had several receptions; the one we organized ourselves was for friends and close family only, so we didn't have to pay an officiant. So ours literally was just a party for us, and that helped. (Though at the actual wedding, we didn't do anything traditional besides rings and a judge who actually wore robes. I wore violet. We walked to a Magnetic Fields song. There were no readings, no candles, no funky freaking chicken. And no one complained.)

I insisted that what we did spend, we spend on really good food and drink, and comfortable tables and chairs for our guests (we had the reception in the yard and rented all the furniture). If you don't have any special astrological investment in your date, wedding rental stuff is a lot cheaper in autumn -- like by half. If you don't have a nice yard, ask a friend, or try a park.

I also decided early on I just wasn't going to cook for that kind of crowd. I used a small local middle eastern grocery that does a modest catering business on the side; don't give up on catering yet because you can get all kinds of deals if you look hard enough. I also shamelessly tugged on my liquor store merchant's sleeve to get a deal on a case of wine. I am a loyal customer for both businesses and they were happy to work with me. Don't hesitate to bargain with vendors who already know you, or quiz your friends for their connections. Someone's third cousin may be dating an excellent florist who'd be willing to give you a deal. I did all this stuff a couple of months before the reception and it was plenty of time for a small reception.

One other thing: budget in professional hair and make-up or get a friend who does it professionally to help. Just trust me. You may be the least vain woman who ever lived but if you wing the hair and make-up, you may really regret it when you see your pictures. Arrange for this at least a month beforehand.

Good luck supa -- if you keep the mindset that you are pulling a wonderful dress-up party together for you and your beloved, it'll be a lot less onerous.
posted by melissa may at 11:50 AM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

You certainly can get lots of deals on catering if you look hard enough, as Melissa May suggests, but I will eat my hat if anyone can get a catered meal for $10/person in any major metropolitan area in the Yew-nited States. You might be able to get a nice catered breakfast with no alcoholic beverages for $15/person, though, which would fit into croutonsupafreak's announced $500-$1000 budget.

Now that I see you are in Portland, Oregon, csf, may I suggest looking into having your wedding at one of the McMenamin brothers' many fine establishments? They might offer you a deal on the food and beverages if a bunch of your wedding guests are staying at the hotel. It would be very fun to have a wedding on the lawn of the Grand Lodge, and it is a wonderful, wacky place where people will be able to find other fun things to do (spa treatments, winery tours, etc.) in addition to the wedding.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:23 PM on October 20, 2004

Sidhedevil's right -- you won't get a full meal on your budget, so I should maybe clarify the catered meal thing: we did it for 30 people under $500 by serving light foods: hummus, baba ganouj, and aijer served with pita; spanakopita; spinach pies; and baklava. All of it was chosen because I could easily transport it from the caterer and could easily augment it with other homemade foods if I wanted. We also got a very basic tiered wedding cake from a grocery that I decorated with edible flowers. We bought a case of basic but good red wine, made large bowls of vodka/virgin cranberry punch, rented a large coffee maker very cheaply, and of course had lots of water to give people drink options. We set it all up buffet style and all went well. And even with all the food, rental, decoration (Japanese paper lanterns and garden flowers), and dress/grooming factored in, it was under $1000.

So, there was no entree in the traditional sense, but lots and lots of smaller things to eat and lots to drink. No one walked away hungry, and we didn't have to worry about the added expense of renting trays and buying cans of Sterno to keep anything warm.

Maybe all this yammering was TMI for the scope of your question, but I wanted to let you know that it can be done, if you concede a few things like "I have to have an entree" or "I have to have an open bar." It's easy to let a budget get out of hand with an event like this, and the wedding mafia encourages you to do so, but if you keep your lists of what is important clutched in your hand and stick to them, you can figure out a way.
posted by melissa may at 9:58 PM on October 20, 2004 [1 favorite]

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