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Menu Suggestions for Self-Catering my Wedding

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    Menu Suggestions for Self-Catering my Wedding

    After 33 years of gathering no moss, I've finally taken the leap. She recently went to a bridal show and afterwards when we were discussing costs, the topic of catering came up. With over 200 guests we are cost conscious. And having worked side jobs for caterers in high school and college, I'm fully aware of what that $20/person buys you and what aisle to find it on in Walmart or Sams. She kept coming back to BBQ as what appealed to her the most...which after looking at what you get for what you spend it dawned on us. I already throw large cookouts, and she considers eating other people's bbq cheating. So, I've accepted a pretty big challenge.

    The date is Aug 29th, but the earlier I plan the better. The facility has a "barn" for the ceremony and an air conditioned hall with basic kitchen facilities (for use the day of only) which seats 150+, both of which are on the hillside. The bottom is a large field to use as well. We've got a 3:30 kick off, followed by a cocktail hour while pictures are taken and whatnot, and then the reception. We have use of the place from 9a to 11pm, and I'm providing beer and wine, so I expect the party to make its way outside until well after dark.

    I'm looking for suggestions and tips on the menu, presentation, logistics, etc. Cocktail hour will have hors d'oeuvres, and dinner will have KC-style pulled pork butt, but with a party this size I can have endless variety of meats. Other than that, the menu is currently wide open.

    I'll try to keep up with documenting and taking pictures, which I usually don't do a great job of. I'd also like to point out that even though we are being married in a barn and serving bbq, this is by no means a redneck wedding...it will be traditional and fairly formal (very formal by Missouri standards haha). Thanks in advance for your help.

    Whereabouts in Missouri? I have fed 100 or so on several occasions now and have learned quite a few lessons. What BBQ equipment do you have?
    From a price and ease of preparation standpoint you can't beat pork shoulder and loin, these are both $2 a pound or less when purchasing in bulk. Both of these are long cooking, handle the cambro pretty well, and can easily be finished off in the oven in the kitchen if needed.
    What are you thinking for cocktail hour? I have great feedback from bacon wrapped smokies, they can be prepared well in advance and cooked in the oven or on the grill. Plus they are small and have a toothpick built right in. You can prepare 200-400 of these at a pretty reasonable price.


      We live in Springfield for a couple more years, eventually moving back to the Marshfield area which is where the wedding is.

      That's precisely what I am looking for, items that can be held warm or cold for a couple hours staged either ready to put out or minimal prep left.

      Right now I have two upright smokers, one gas and one electric, totaling 7 racks but not wide enough for a whole rack of ribs or packer brisket. I have access to a larger gas upright I have used for past cookouts that has 4 or 5 racks and easily holds ribs. And my father in law has a large charcoal indirect smoker. And my best man has a Komodo.

      I'm cheap in the sense I don't want to spend $4,000 dollars for $500 worth of food that I know I can do myself as well or better. But I'm not cheap in the sense of trying to spend as little as possible, so there is money to work with here for both food and equipment where needed. I guess frugal is the term I prefer lol.

      For cocktail hour, I'm looking to have enough variety to interest most of the crowd, who are young and old and come from all over the country so different tastes. Bacon wrapped smokies are a good idea and simple enough to adapt my water chestnut recipe. I'm thinking 3 to 4 hot and 3 to 4 cold items should cover that.

      For dinner, I get asked frequently when I am going to smoke pork butt again so there will be plenty of that. I like to do several styles when serving large groups. I've made Eastern, Lexington, and Carolina Mustard pork butt all at once before, and 4th of July I did KC, Memphis, and Texas style ribs next to a KC pork butt. But I'd also like to vary the meat and have a full spread. And then of course there are sides to worry about.
      Last edited by Frankenstein; January 21, 2015, 03:05 PM.


        I found these raw to cooked yield numbers a while back that have been pretty accurate for me, you might find them useful.
        Hopefully I did the math right! If each is served equally to all 200 people, and your price is the same as mine, this is what each should cost per person, total, and how much meat you'll need. Ribs are figured at 2 people per rack, sausage at 4 people per pound.
        Meat Yield Lb Served Lb Fresh Ttl Served Ttl Fresh Raw Price Raw Price/person Ttl Price
        Pork Shoulder 50% 0.33 0.50 66 99 $1.55 $0.77 $153.45
        Pork Loin 65% 0.33 0.45 66 89 $1.98 $0.88 $176.42
        Brisket (Packer) 43% 0.33 0.52 66 104 $3.99 $2.07 $413.44
        Brisket (Flat) 52% 0.33 0.49 66 98 $5.99 $2.93 $585.10
        Pork Ribs 100% 0.50 0.50 100 100 $7.96 $3.98 $796.00
        Sausage 100% 0.25 0.25 50 50 $4.99 $1.25 $249.50
        A lot depends on sides, but half a pound per person raw weight has worked for me, except when I fed a football team and they cleaned up a full pound per person raw without an issue. Make sure you consider the number of women and children as they typically eat quite a bit less.
        The prices here are the case weights the last time I remember checking at Sam's (pork shoulder was last week, brisket has been a while).
        My case packs of pork shoulder have come in at just over 6 pounds a piece, using that number and the half pound per person fresh you will have to cook about 17 butts. Don't underestimate the time it takes to pull 17 butts!
        Buns and sauce won't add a significant amount, I think I got my sauce at $10 per gallon.
        A mix of pork shoulder and loin would be good as you can cook the loin while the shoulder rests or finishes in the oven. Cut that sucker in half lengthwise and you'll get a lot of flavor and only need to slice for a few minutes.

        Once you figure out the meats and quantities you can work out logistics, 17 butts can be a challenge if you want it pretty fresh. Something like garlic mashed potatoes, small baked potatoes, beans, and corn can be cooked en masse without a lot of effort. The BBQ is going to be the more difficult part. Sausages come in a lot of varieties and lend themselves well to the smokers you mentioned above. Splitting or slicing them will take some time, but overall time and effort is pretty low.


          We went to a wedding this past summer that provided soft drinks and bring your own beer or booze... also they had only ribs, coleslaw, potato salad, and various other salads and sides... really simple and everyone was real happy with the whole thing.


            Your math all checks out except you need to flip the numbers to meet the techincal definition of yield (doesn't change anything else in the table though). Ex. Pork shoulder is 0.33 / 0.50 = 67%.

            I would kill for your pork prices, we pay double if its not on sale but our beef is a little cheaper. Which cut of ribs are you referencing here?

            Also, what do you serve with? Do you use aluminum pans and alcohol burners, etc?


              I am only a few hours away in Arkansas so your prices shouldn't differ much. Case quantities at Sam's are $1 a pound cheaper than individual butts. Serving depends, sometimes I make the sandwiches, sometimes they do, just tongs and time! If you lay out the stuff in an intelligent manner people get through really fast. I use aluminum pans because they are what I have and easy, and while I have alcohol burners I have never used them. I try to serve as fresh as possible and the line moves well so they weren't needed. Wrap your butts for the cambro and they will still be 165-175 at serving time, I will pull what I need to fill the serving pans and then I usually go to a table in the kitchen with some extra pans and pull and swap. Gets pretty rushed but I am giving fresh BBQ that is still at 150, and that is more important to me.

              Who knows what will be going on in 8 months, but you are only about 3 hours away, I would be happy to pack up some gear and come help when the time comes if you need it. I should be able to do 8 butts at a time by then.

              The yield numbers were how I obtained them, along with cooked weights, I calculated the raw from there and apparently mixed something up.


                Frankenstein, I think your real issue will be logistical. Keeping hot food hot and cold food cold will be your biggest challenge. Not having seen the site kitchen, I can't really say more, as the set-up will dictate your methods. In other words, how much cold storage space will you have? Given the timeline you indicated, will you have to prep offsite? You probably won't have time to cook much between the 9am entrance to the 3pm appetizer(s) due to set up time(s) of the tables, etc. What you cook is the easy part, taking it on the road will require a great deal of planning. More people get food borne illness in this type situation than most realize. I'm not trying to be a wet blanket here,I'm trying to help you get organized. I've catered hundreds of functions in my career, both onsite and offsite. You obviously will have to procure (rent) hotel pans and burner set-ups for hot food, as well as the same with ice for cold food, or whatever equivalent you can come up with. Anyway, just a few thoughts. If there is any way I can help, just give a shout.


                  Those are good points Strat. The kitchen facility looks like every apartment I ever rented so there is a full refregierator, stove/oven, and a moderate amount of counter space. My house is 25 minutes away, and several inlaws are within 10 minutes, so the on-site kitchen probably won't be my primary work area. I have free access to a commercial icemaker also 10 minutes away (great for kegs). I am allowed to set the smokers up on site the morning of, and would prefer to both for logistics and for the smell to keep people from skipping out early.

                  So first order of business...food safety. I assume there will be hot and cold food, at both cocktail hour (4:00p - 5:00p) and dinner (5:00p - ??), and can be served indoors or out. I would expect the hors d'oeuvres to stay out until they are gone. The average temp on that day/time is low 80's.

                  For cold food...prior to serving is simple enough.
                  After serving, how do you normally keep it cold? Double pan w/ice? etc.?

                  For hot food...prior to serving, Im looking at 1 hrs minimum hold time for hors d'oeuvres and 2 hr minimum hold time for dinner. I can time up shorter cook/easy setup items to come off just in time, like chicken, sasuage, or even ribs. I've cambroed pork butt and brisket before when traveling, but in this situation am I better off holding warm at a low setting in the oven, lid on the pan?

                  After serving I was thinking something along this line:
                  but I'd go with better utensils and add find lids and skirts. Would that generally get the job done? Or do I need to get something more professional?

                  Update: Just found this deal. http://www.amazon.com/Choice-Stainle...953884&sr=1-39
                  Last edited by Frankenstein; January 22, 2015, 01:14 PM.


                  • Strat50
                    Strat50 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    For a 4" deep full size hotel pan, about 8-10 pounds. This is a rough" guesstamate."

                  • Frankenstein
                    Frankenstein commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Is that cooked or uncooked? Thanks, this will help me calculate how many spare pans to purchase.

                  • Strat50
                    Strat50 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    That is an approximate measurement cooked. Yes, you can fit more, but you really can't fill them more than ¾ full. This insures the temps of all the contents remain where they need to be without issue. If you can, it might be cheaper to rent than buy the hotel pans you need. This issue is where the logistics kick in for both hot and cold food.

                  The $4k catering fee is starting to sound worth it.


                  • Frankenstein
                    Frankenstein commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I can see that. I'm going to look into hiring a hand or two for half the day, and plan and schedule so they just have simple tasks left like refilling, taking meat off the smoker, and pulling pork.

                  • Frankenstein
                    Frankenstein commented
                    Editing a comment
                    No offense taken guys, I'm justifying it to myself as much as I am to you guys. Heck, I'd tell most people I know don't do it, even if they said they were up to it!

                  • eugenek
                    eugenek commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Just a casual reader here so take it for what it's worth… I was thinking the same thing regarding time management. Not so much in managing the cook but in spending time with friends/family and your bride, not to mention any other wedding details. The hired hands route would seem like a smart choice and maybe even better if they were your friends. But I'll say it sounds like a really personal experience to cook BBQ for the ones you love on your special day. Good luck!

                  Frankenstein... Wow! My hats off to you Sir. You are a multi-tasker from another realm. Not many people could pull this off but if you do I'm sure your wife, your family and ALL of your friends will be very impressed. I'd recruit your friends and family that have those smokers to be your extra hands. Congrats on finding a lifemate and I wish you well on your special event.


                    Congratulations, Frankenstein! I really don't have uniquely helpful advice to offer, just well wishes for a lifetime of health and happiness! BUT, the day goes SO fast. Wart face had an excellent suggestion that will allow you more time to enjoy your day and friends and reduce your stress. Good luck, and keep us posted!


                      OK time for an update. We've settled on a menu, my best man's father-in-law (who does local competitons and got us both into it) is co-pit master, and we are hiring a friend's two college age daughters who are waitresses as front of the house. I tried to front-load as much as possible to the day before without too big of a compromise.

                      Hors D'oeuvres (Mostly from Williams Sonoma website, cold and most made the night before)
                      • Cucumber, cheese, and roast beef sandwiches (cucumber is the bread)
                      • Mini Caprese skewers
                      • Avacado and Cream Cheese Roll
                      • Crab and Cucumber Canapes
                      • Canteloupe with Bresaola
                      • Cheery Tomatoes filled with Goat Cheese
                      • Cheese/Summer Sausage/Crackers Tray
                      • Fruit Tray
                      • Pulled Pork - KC style
                      • Brisket - Texas style
                      • Shredded or Pulled CHicken (need to figure out details, want this as opposed to pieces due to portioning)
                      • Various Sauces
                      • Cole Slaw
                      • Baked Beans
                      • Potato Salad
                      • Green Beans
                      • Caesar Salad
                      • Variety of rolls and sliced bread
                      • Water
                      • Sweet Tea
                      • Unsweet Tea
                      • Lemonade if we have enough serving ware
                      • about 8 dozen canned sodas
                      • 300 bottles of beer - leftovers will not go to waste!
                      • Wine - we think about 4 doz bottles for up to 18 tables/150 people. One white, one red. But neither of us drink wine and our tasting did not go well - Apparently the worst choices to wine drinkers taste better to us.
                      Things I now own for serving:
                      • 4 fancy chafing dishes with full pans (will run 3 hot and 1 cold)
                      • 6 half pans (brisket gets the full pan)
                      • Chafing fuel 6hr x qty 12
                      • 12 qt punch bowl (for the salad)
                      • 12 inch foil catering trays and lids x qty 15 (for hor douevers)
                      • 250 plastic souffle cups
                      • 8 sets of tongs
                      • 1 scissor salad tongs
                      • 6 stainless serving spoons
                      • Heavy Duty fancy plastic 9" plates x 156
                      • 6" plates (hors d'ouvres and cake) x 300
                      • 12 oz bowls x 150
                      • Heavy Duty fancy plastic utensils - 480 forks, 200 knives, 200 spoons
                      • 240 16 oz plastic cups
                      • 240 6 oz plastic wine goblets
                      • 1,000 dinner napkins
                      • some odd number of cake table napkins (she bought those)
                      • 2 doz disposable salt and pepper shakers
                      • A few dressed up farm-type plastic tubs for drinks on ice
                      • Will need a sanitary container for ice to go in drinks.

                      And the fun tangent I have been working on off and on and about 75% done with - she didn't like any of the cake stands she saw so dared me to build her one that rotated and lit up. So I got creative with the scroll saw, some MDF, lazy susan bearing, and rewiring 4 strands of christmas lights to run on DC. About to order a 3rpm geared DC motor to belt drive the thing, and using a headphone jack as my slip ring. And also parts to build a control box for on/off switches, throttle/brightness adjustment, and hold the 3 lantern batteries that should power it for 6 hours. Thankfully she is decorating it (not my thing) and will think twice next time she dares me to do something ridiculous.


                        If you're interested, I have an excel spread sheet from another forum that allows you to enter the number of people you're feeding, the amount you want to serve each person, the price of your meat, the % of loss due to cooking, number of sides you'll be serving, etc. and it tells you how many pounds of meat to buy based on these factors.



                          Congratulations by the way!



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