Re-run: DIY Weddings–Catering

July 28th, 2014

Ready for more on DIY?  Here you go!

Of all the things you might want to do yourself for your wedding, the one I would recommend against without hesitation is catering your wedding reception yourself.  You might think this would be obvious, but I have talked to people who thought they could do it.

Did I mention that presentation is a professional catering skill?  Photo courtesy of Artisan Events.

Did I mention that presentation is a professional catering skill? Photo courtesy of Artisan Events.

I have actually heard of self-catered weddings that were pulled off with a lot of help from friends and family.  I know it can be done, especially if there are people with special skills involved.  So, I won’t say you should never, ever do it.  I’m just going to give you a lot of reasons not to.

Caterers do a lot more than cook in quantity.  They also manage the kitchen; order and return rental items; keep the food (and so your reception) on schedule; hire and manage serving and bar staff; set up tables, chairs, and linens; set the tables; and clean up and take the garbage out.  Caterers also have food sanitation licenses, meaning there is a low probability of spoiled food or food poisoning from their kitchens.  They know how much ice to buy and bring.  Some of them own serving equipment that they provide at no charge.   And that is just the minimum of what a professional caterer has to offer.

On your wedding day, you are going to be very much occupied with, first, getting married.  Second, you will want to spend as much time as possible greeting your guests.  You’ll probably also want to have your photograph taken with many of your friends and family, not to mention with your spouse.  These things will take up most of your day, leaving you no time to be the caterer at your own wedding.

I would say that unless you are able to provide everything a caterer brings to the table, and unless you can also delegate all the catering on the wedding day to a trusted party, hire a professional and save cooking for a crowd for another day.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Music

July 14th, 2014

Here’s another post on DIY weddings from a couple of years ago.  Enjoy!

After decor (which I’ll talk about in a few weeks), the most frequent kind of DIY I see at weddings is in the music.  I have coordinated many weddings where all the music was provided by a laptop or MP3 player.  At the risk of alienating my musician and DJ friends, I have to say that this is one area where you can get away with doing it yourself.  But there are definitely things to be aware of if this is your plan.

The important thing is that everyone is having a good time.  Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

The important thing is that everyone is having a good time. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

A professional DJ or band brings to your wedding two very large advantages:  a sound system and a Master of Ceremonies.  These things can be arranged for otherwise, but by paying professionals you are also obtaining these two important things.

Sound systems can be rented (for a price), but you also need someone to set up and run the sound system.  You will have to put in a good bit of time in advance making play lists.  And someone needs to press “play” on the MP3 player.  The biggest drawback of DIY music is that the play lists are all made in advance and they can’t respond to the mood on the dance floor the way a DJ can.  They also can’t get dancers on the floor and get the party going if that is what is needed.

You might have a friend who is an appropriate choice for MC.  You will need someone to make announcements at your wedding.  Typical announcements include:  introducing the bridal party; announcing the cake cutting; introducing those who are making toasts; announcing the bouquet and garter tosses; and any other important events that happen at the reception.  If you have a friend act as MC, it might be important to impress upon her or him the necessity of remaining fairly sober until all the announcements have been made.

DIY music is definitely a viable option for your wedding reception.  (And don’t overlook another way to do it yourself:  If you have musician friends, ask if they can play for the ceremony or the reception.)  As with any kind of DIY project, it requires forethought and planning and some extra time to make it happen.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Flowers

June 30th, 2014

I’m re-running my entire series on DIY weddings from a couple of years ago.  I hope you find it interesting and useful.  This is the second post in a series on the beauties and pitfalls of DIY.

Perhaps because her livelihood is on the line, a florist friend of mine refers to DIY wedding flowers as “f— it up yourself” flowers.  And because I don’t want to anger all my florist colleagues, I am going to agree with her–up to a point.

This is a professionally designed and created floral display.  Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

This is a professionally designed and created floral display. Photo by Magical Moments Photography.

The reason you hire a professional floral designer is because they have specialized knowledge.  It’s true that you can send someone to the farmer’s market on the morning of your wedding to pick up flowers.  But will the buds all be open?  Florists know how to time the opening of flowers so your wedding flowers look picture-perfect.  They also ensure that the flowers stay fresh until they are needed.  And do you really want to be tying bouquets on the morning of your wedding?

There is nothing wrong with this bridesmaid's bouquet that the bride made.

There is nothing wrong with this bridesmaid's bouquet that the bride made.

On the other hand, I have seen DIY flowers that are perfectly nice.  It all depends on the look you are going for.  If you want a home-made look or a casual feel, your flowers might end up the way you want them if you do them yourself.  If you have special training in art, design, or floral arrangement, you’re probably ahead of the curve.  But this is one area where I would recommend to most people to hire a professional, especially if the flowers are important to you.

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Potlucks

June 23rd, 2014

When I wrote a new post about DIY weddings last week, it reminded me that I should re-run the entire series on DIY weddings.  Here is the first entry:

Do-It-Yourself is all the rage.  And there are lots of things you can do yourself for your own wedding (or a friend’s). But I have also heard some DIY ideas that might need a little more thought before implementation.  This is the first post in a series on the beauties and pitfalls of DIY.

This is NOT a potluck, DIY place setting.  Photo by Carasco Photography.

This is NOT a potluck, DIY place setting. Photo by Carasco Photography.

I have been to two potluck wedding receptions, and both of them worked out very well.  They were very different from one another and offer some interesting lessons on how to make this idea work.

One was in a church hall with no caterer or serving staff.  The other was in a rented hall that required a certified kitchen staff.

If you have no hired kitchen staff, the question is who will set up the food and–more importantly–who will clean up.  At the first potluck, the bride asked some of her friends (including me) to take charge of scraping and packing the rented dishes at the end of the day.  Other friends helped to set up the tables and the buffet.  Fortunately, this couple have a lot of responsible (and sober) friends who helped them cheerfully.  It was also a daytime wedding, meaning no one had to stay until 1:00 a.m. scraping dishes.

The second potluck had a professional kitchen staff, which increased the cost but meant that the guests were not involved in running the kitchen.  If you are thinking of having a potluck buffet, this might be a better idea, unless you both have a hall that will allow you not to have hired staff and have friends who are sufficiently responsible.  Hired professionals also reduce the risks of food contamination, which can happen at a potluck.

There are other pitfalls to be avoided at a potluck.  The biggest one is not knowing whether you will have enough food, enough good food, or enough variety.  You can overcome this by asking your guests to tell you what they are bringing and making sure the best cooks bring large quantities.  That requires extra organization and extra time on your part.

And there is one more pitfall to a potluck wedding reception:  One of your relatives will be scandalized.  But if you can live with that, if you want an informal reception, and if you can figure out how to do everything that needs to get done, it’s not impossible.   But I would not recommend it for everyone.  Be sure you think it through before you commit to doing it yourself.