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Wedding Planning with Marcy E. Thornton
Food for thought: Planning affordable wedding eats
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    Weddings across the globe are pretty darn varied. Consider the differences between religious ceremonies, for instance: Protestant Christians stroll up and down the aisle to upbeat marches; blushing Islamic brides propose to their grooms; Mormons take their vows for life as well as the rest of eternity; and Buddhist couples don’t actually marry, but instead pledge to pursue the greater Truth. Non-religious ceremonies can get even more diverse, with Medieval-themed dress or even an Elvis officiant.
    But despite all the differences in tradition, all wedding ceremonies, as beautiful and meaningful as they may be for the wedding party, are pretty much just an excuse to eat cake for everybody else. Okay, that is a little harsh, but you have to realize that food is a huge part of the wedding celebration! And, in the grand corporate scheme to separate happy couples from their cash, catering costs as of late have skyrocketed (about $10,000 on average!).
    So, unless your Mom is top chef at some fabulous New York restaurant, and can handle cooking for 100 hungry folks, I’d recommend finding other means of feeding the teeming masses. A note on pricing: caterers charge per plate, so when you go for an estimate, have your numbers in mind—both the number of guests you’re expecting and the amount of money you have budgeted for food!
    Try this: Diane Warner, author of How to have a Big Wedding on a Small Budget, 4th ed. ($11.69 at, has some useful suggestions on how to cut catering costs.
    “It’s imperative that you book a site that allows you to bring in your own food, beverages, servers, cake-cutters, cleanup crew, and so forth. The problem with so many sites, especially resorts, private clubs or hotels, is that they usually require that you order the reception food and beverages off their ‘special wedding menu’ (including the wedding cake) and pay their servers, bartenders, cake-cutters, clean-up crews and parking valets, if they have them,” Warner said.
    Warner suggests going the family-made buffet route, “hiring” family members and friends to act as food supervisors to replenish food as necessary. Though this involves a large amount of cooking, both ahead of time and the day of, this can cut the costs of catering down to about six dollars a plate, or about 1800 for three hundred guests, according to Warner.
    Granted, from a financial standpoint Warner’s advice sounds wonderful, but anyone that’s ever volunteered in a soup kitchen or anything of the like will tell you that cooking food in mass quantities is inherently stressful. Thusly, if your Great Aunt Betty is a marvelous cook, but has a meltdown every Thanksgiving, consider a different catering route.
    If you’re a member of a mainstream religion, consider having your reception at your family church, temple, et cetera. Most houses of worship have a kitchen crew for fellowship dinners and the like, usually composed of a mix of volunteers and paid staff. Though it may not be as elegant as a professional catering service, it will certainly be cheaper, and more heartfelt.
Of course, remember to check on the house rules; many places of worship have strict rules on what can and cannot occur on holy ground. If you plan on having dancing, alcohol, or even a particularly colorful speech from the best man, check with religious officials to make sure it’s okay.
    Of course, if you’re not particularly religious, but still don’t want to hire a catering service, go for the do-it-yourself approach, but consider nixing the sit-down dinner in favor of champagne and hors d’oeuvres (pre-made of course!).
    If you do decide to get a caterer, remember what your momma told you: you better shop around. Set aside a couple weekends with your sweetie and go tasting. A reputable caterer will let you try before you buy, as it were. Have a list in hand of what you’d like served, usually a meat, a fish or second meat, and a vegetarian option if necessary. Then try everything, from salad to entrée to side dish. Ask what the substitute will be if something is not available, and taste that, too!
    You should go caterer shopping at least four months in advance, but if you want a very popular one, you may need to book them a year in advance. Above all else, whether your site, your mother, or your caterer is handling the food, be firm! Higher costs always arise when you go to someone and say, “Well, what do you have in mind?”
    Marcy E. Thornton is a senior English major at GSU, and is engaged to become Mrs. Carl W. Bonebright in September of 2008.  She welcomes any tips, comments or questions via e-mail at
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