Catering Your Own Wedding: Begin Planning


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: Part 4 : Begin Planning

Image by Flickr User ManMadePants

Get ready for hand cramps and icy hot. We’re going to be making lists, lists, lists! Its time to get down to the knitty gritty of food planning and there’s A LOT to do. I would suggest starting the initial planning as soon as possible, at least 4-6 months before your wedding date. During this time, we’ll begin a very general plan and fine tune details as we get closer to the date.

When you start organizing your wedding meal, everything you need to plan for, pretty much fits into these four topics:

  1. Food
  2. Bar
  3. Catering Supplies
  4. Manpower

The food section includes formulating and finalizing your menu, writing up grocery lists, and organizing and implementing a schedule for completing shopping and food prep.

If you’re doing your own food, you are probably going to want to provide your own bar as well. Providing your own bar will save you tons of money and doesn’t add too much more work to what you’ll be doing already; you can easily add garnishes and mixers to your food grocery list and ask your local liquor store if they do delivery on large orders.

Catering supplies includes what you will need for the place settings, dinner ware and linens, aka the plates, silverware, table clothes, napkins etc. In addition to the place settings, you’ll also need platters, large bowls and tongs to serve your sandwich buffet.

For all these things, you’ll need to arrange for volunteers of friends and family to provide the manpower to help you from prep to plate.

While these things may seem daunting, we can break everything down into monthly checklists which will allow us to do a little at at time, while still taking care of as much as we can in advance to make your final week as easy as possible. First I’ll start by making a rough time line and allocating general tasks so we will know in a general sense how our time will be broken down.

Tasks for 3-6 months before:

  • finalize your event space
  • send out invitations
  • Food:
    • begin estimating a guest list to help with planning your menu
    • make a rough menu list of sandwich fillings and condiments
    • begin working on any preserves you’d like to serve like homemade pickles, pesto or chutneys.
  • Manpower:
    • begin assembling a list of volunteers and assigning tasks to friends and family.
  • Catering Supplies:
    • Begin researching options for dinnerware: renting china and linens vs. disposable options.


2 Months Before

  • Food:
    • Keep track of your RSVP’s to give you an idea of your head count
    • Plan your side salads
    • Research the bakeries in your area and price out roll options
  • Bar:
    • If you decide to do your own bar as well, compile a list of drinks you wish to have available and make a list of necessary grocery items (garnishes and mixers)
  • Manpower:
    • Complete your list of volunteers and have each person assigned one or two specific tasks
  • Catering Supplies:
    • Make final decision on china vs. disposable options


Final Month:

  • Food:
    • Compile your final menu choices with amounts needed for each item.
    • Organize your shopping lists and Schedule your shopping trips.
    • Prep as many vegetables as you can possibly roast and freeze ahead of time.
  • Bar:
    • Make arrangements with your liquor store on your order
    • Arrange for bar tenders
    • Select final bar menu
    • Organize your final bar shopping list and schedule any shopping trips
  • Catering Supplies:
    • Make final decisions on dinnerware, linens and serving ware.
    • Order/arrange for all necessary items to be shipped or brought to your house/event space
  • Manpower:
    • Confirm with volunteers specific tasks.
    • Prepare schedules for volunteers and share time frames with them so everybody knows your plan.
    • Compile a contacts list of all individuals involved with wedding including cell/email info and share with all volunteers


Final Week

    • Schedule and implement all shopping trips
    • Create and implement a schedule for food prep during the week
    • Create and delegate a schedule for food prep the day of.
  • Catering Supplies:
    • Acquire any last minute catering supplies.
  • Manpower:
    • Continue to keep volunteers organized with lists and schedules of tasks needed.
    • Prepare day-of lists for each crew so on your wedding day you can relax and let everyone else take over.


We now know when we need to worry about something and when we can put it of until later. There are so many things to keep track of, I suggest keeping detailed notes throughout this entire process. Maintain organization of your notes and lists, so you can easily reference it when you need to. The rough time line above can give you a general overview of how to best use your time. In the next handful of posts, we’ll examine each time frame more in depth to give detailed info to help you on your way.

USEFUL ORGANIZATIONAL TIP: A great tool for keeping organized and sharing information with friends is Google Documents. Similar to the Microsoft Office applications, Google Docs supplies easy to use applications for making word processing documents, spreadsheets and more. Where Google kicks Microsoft in the ahem, butt, is that, besides being totally free!!!, Google Docs allows you to easily publish and share your documents online with as many people as you wish so you can keep all your volunteers up to date with your plans!

Continued Reading in the Cater Your Own Wedding Series:

A Full Bar vs. Wine and Beer
6 Month Checklist
2 Month Checklist
Final Month Checklist
Final Week Checklist

Feel free to send me an email if you have any questions about my plan or about how to plan your own event.

Related posts:

  1. Catering Your Own Wedding: Final Week Checklist
  2. Catering Your Own Wedding: Final Month Check List
  3. Catering Your Own Wedding: 2 Months Ahead Checklist
  4. Catering Your Own Wedding: 6 Month Check List
  5. Catering Your Own Wedding: A Disclaimer