Should you self-cater your wedding?

Let’s help you make your decision!

You’ll find from a lot of professionals in the industry would answer the question “Should I self-cater?” with a hard and fast no and I get where they’re coming from, I really do, but what can I say besides ‘I disagree’?

Those of you who are new here, HI! I’m the recently married Breanne Dodge and I plan weddings for a living. I decided that I wanted to be a wedding planner because I grew up in my chef-dad’s industrial kitchen, watching the weddings happen from behind closed kitchen doors and longing to help with more that just peeling carrots. Naturally, having spent the majority of my life working in the kitchen in one capacity or another, I’m very comfortable around food… And a little particular about it. I know what I enjoy eating, what flavors make me happy, and, more importantly, what flavors do not.

I’ve eaten a lot of food at a lot of different weddings and you’ll find that more often than not you get the same brand of dry chicken, well-done beef, and caesar salad. That, in and of itself, may be a good reason to consider self-catering, or exploring different catering options.

When you, the couple, do your food tasting with a caterer that you’ve decided might be the right one for you, keep in mind that you get a much different product than what arrives for your wedding buffet. No one wants this to be true; not the couple, not the wedding planner, and especially not the caterer. The caterer wishes that the individually plated meal that they serve you at your tasting tastes exactly the same as your buffet will on your wedding day, but it just won’t, and there are a few reasons why:

  1. What the caterer is making for your tasting are a few plates of food; quality control is super easy when there’s only three or four plates of food being served. When your caterer makes meals for 100 people, it becomes difficult to make sure every. Single. Meal. Is that perfect, no matter how many staff members are trying to ensure perfection.

    A delicious looking plate of food, self-cater
    Will they be able to make 100 of these perfectly on your wedding day?
  2. Travel. For your tasting, typically, you go to the caterer: they prep everything on site, the ovens and deep fryers are right there, and the walk-in fridge has everything they might need. When they’re catering your wedding, unless you’ve hired the on-site caterer (e.g. at a golf course, private club, etc.) the caterer brings most of the food pre-prepped and oftentimes pre-cooked. Have you ever picked up takeout, knowing that you wouldn’t be eating it until you get home, some twenty minutes later? Well, those fries taste great while you’re driving, but your dinner has lost some of its oomph it has continued to cook itself from the steam in your takeout container. The same phenomenon happens when you cater brings pre-cooked food to your wedding. (Bear in mind, this can happen if you self-cater hot food too.)

When your caterer makes meals for 100 people, it becomes difficult to make sure every. Single. Meal. Is that perfect, no matter how many staff members are trying to ensure perfection.

Knowing this, you may decide that hey, a traditional caterer isn’t right for you. (That’s why you clicked the link to check this out, isn’t it?)

I knew from the get-go that hiring a caterer wouldn’t be my cup of tea. I’m picky and when we were thinking about wedding food, only one menu item came to mind for what I would really want… tacos! There is no way a caterer, no matter how good, is going to make the tacos the way I want them to be made (read: Breanne is a control freak about food). Knowing this and also how easy tacos can be, I decided to treat my wedding like a giant taco night.

The reason other event professionals might tell you you self-catering is a big fat bad idea is because of the amount of work it takes, and they wouldn’t be wrong; there’s a good reason hiring a caterer costs so damn too much.

Dried Spaghetti and roma tomatoes
Question is, can you turn these things into something amazing that your guests will want to eat?


If you aren’t aware of the sheer amount of work self-catering is, my blog post about how to be your own caterer should give you a small insight. I strongly recommend that you take a look there before looking further ahead here.

Now we know why you might want to self-cater, the question left is should you?
I’m not going to lie, a fair number of you are going to finish reading this and decide no, I shouldn’t, but to the few of you strong-willed crazy people (and you are my kind of crazy, I’ll have you know), you’re going to finish here and start working on your meal plan with gusto.

Consider the questions below, then make your decision on if you should really self-cater:

  • How many hands do you have helping you leading up to the big day? If you can get at least four people that can help with food prep the day before your wedding, move on.

    Delicious looking skewers on a hot bbq, easy to self-cater
    Skewers are super easy to prep!
  • How much DIY and work are going into your wedding week of and day of? Is the week leading up to your wedding a conundrum of crazy, filled with projects and out-of-town relatives? Maybe skip the self-catering for this party.
  • Who will make sure the food is being heated and is organized the day of your wedding? If your answer is you, you may want to rethink self-catering. You need to spend your day thinking about you and your future spouse trust me, you won’t have time to think about food service. If your answer is a close family member, you may regret that as well. As I mentioned, my dad is a chef, and he insisted on being in the kitchen most of the night, which resulted in him missing some pretty big moments. While he preferred it that way (he spent most of the day crying; he’s somewhat emotional, and his little girl was getting married) I would have loved it if he had been around for speeches, or for the ever-amusing garter toss, or even the cake cutting. Don’t let your good friends and family miss these moments. If you have someone great in mind, next question.
  • Are you willing to hire service staff to keep the buffet full and clear the tables? This can be an easy service to locate but if you’re hesitant to shell out the green on this, it’s not going to make your day as much fun. If you’re in the BC Lower Mainland I strongly recommend Pop Down BC Wedding and Events.
  • Who’s going to clean up? Stop. Do not say you. Nope, don’t. You just had one of the longest days ever, possibly one of the longest weeks. Leave, get some sleep, enjoy your time with your new spouse. You’re married now!!

Are you still on this self-catering train? If you are, great! Tell us about it in the comments below! And if you’ve decided against self-catering, we also want to know why! What was the turning point in between wanting to read this blog post and actually finishing it?

Breanne Dodge, ThistleBEA your wedding

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