We’re having our wedding the end of the month, GM & I. We also had a small budget for the occasion, and wanted to make sure that we had fun, our guests enjoyed themselves, and we stayed within the budget. For that reason, we’re doing out own “catering”.
I also wanted food that didn’t require anyone to be chained to a food table, babysitting the food. That meant it needed to be easy to serve and cooked in advance. So what IS our menu?
Pulled pork or poultry (depending on prices that week) sandwiches, barbecue sauces, baked beans (from my Grandma’s recipe), loaded baked potato salad, coleslaw or pasta salad, and soft drinks. We’ll also have a wedding cake made by my daughter (she is a talented cake artist), with the directions to “keep it simple.”
The pulled pork/poultry can be made on Tuesday or Wednesday and refrigerated, as can the baked beans. Both of these are very time consuming to prepare, but don’t require much “fussing” while they are slowly cooking. Since we’re having a “hippy” wedding at the beach, we don’t have electricity at our disposal, so we’ll reheat the food on a camp stove, then put it in an improvised steam table fueled by alcohol burners. There, covered to keep the flies and gnats at bay, it will peacefully wait to be eaten as our celebration continues after the brief ceremony. The cold salads, in the meantime, will sit in their serving bowls, nestled in a large pan of ice, safely staying cool despite the late fall warmth we experience here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.
We selected our location in Hancock County for both the peaceful beaches, the facilities offered by Waveland, and the dog-friendly policies found there. It’s a bit further from home than I’d like, but Jackson County, where we live, was not encouraging of a beach wedding when I checked with them. Harrison County, the county located between our home county and Hancock County, isn’t dog friendly, the beaches are more commercialized (even though they are a bit prettier) and if we had to drive…we may as well drive to where we can “have it all.”
At this point, we could probably write a whole book about how to have an affordable wedding when your wedding budget looks like what your grocery bill for the week used to. It’s not that we don’t consider the wedding an important event–we consider it a very big thing, but we also don’t see any reason to spend more than we can afford, to go into debt, to limit our guest list, to expect our guests to dress in expensive clothing, or to be so stressed about the amount we’re spending that we can’t enjoy ourselves too. Having it the weekend before Halloween almost begged for a “costumed” wedding, and what better theme for people who are involved in New Age activities and concepts than a “hippy” theme with all of the Love and Peace that the original hippy movement was concerned with?
We did away with the whole “reception” concept, instead labeling it a “gathering” with all of the mutual sharing that the term is associated with. The food is simple, easy to serve, and well suited to the beach side surroundings. The furnishings are equally as simple–borrowed tables, camp chairs, camp stoves, even a camp coffee pot! We’re not spending much on decorations–just some plastic table cloths to cover battered borrowed tables and make it a little more festive (and hygienic!) I’m not even going to use fresh flowers–the logistics of getting them there, along with the expense, was a huge deterrent. My wedding bouquet will be silk flowers, along with the headdress I wear. GM will have a bandanna with peace signs on it rolled up as a headband to help confine his hair, which he has been growing out for months (along with his beard.)
Our goals are simple:
Have a meaningful ceremony with a touch of humor.
Have our friends and family there to celebrate with us.
None of our guests should have to spend money on dress clothing.
Everyone should have a good time, from the youngest to the oldest.
We’re not in debt for the event.
We can still afford to go on our honeymoon camping trip. (Another budget affair!)
That everyone leaves the event with a smile and memories to bring back smiles later.
I’m a bit older than the average bride, and past the days when I need a fancy dress, expensive trappings, and elaborate surroundings to make the event special. I learned long ago that the best times are the times shared with others, and often without any (or much) money spent. It’s the people that make the great memories, not the money. The ceremony’s primary purpose is to essentially make a public (and legal) announcement of commitments that we’ve already made to each other. I don’t need to impress anyone, and I also don’t need their approval for having coordinated an elaborate affair. This event is for us, our family, and friends…and it’s been sized down to where it is both affordable and fun.
With less than two weeks before the event, I’m probably more than a little nervous. The wedding rings’ arrival seemed to nearly snatch my breath away, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it just made it all start to become that much more real and IMPORTANT somehow? Deciding on the menu was a process of elimination–I knew that we just didn’t have the time to do anything that was “fussy”, and doing all of our own “catering” including the cake meant that I crossed off the cupcakes that I had originally thought might be a great answer to serving at the beach. Pulled meat sandwiches seemed to be a better answer than doing many of the other foods we had considered, such as: tamales, chili, stew, red beans & rice, jambalaya, gumbo, tacos, burgers, finger sandwiches, Navajo tacos, etc.
So what is the game plan regarding serving the food?
The foods will be packaged in smaller segments–we’ll reheat the hot foods on the camp stove in a pan, then put it into the steam table to stay hot. That means that only brief periods of time will anyone be required to “fuss” over the food. The cold foods will be pre-packed in bowls, then simply replace the empty container in the pan of ice, which may need refilled a time or two during the afternoon. Before being served, they all will reside inside of a cooler with ice, keeping them safely cold.
The only problem I haven’t solves (as of yet) is covering the wedding cake. I don’t want to hide it–but I would like something to keep insects away, as well as prevent it drying out through the afternoon’s festivities. I also don’t want to spend a fortune on a large glass bell cover for it. (I don’t even know how big she’s making it, although I have repeated often that I didn’t want a HUGE one!) Where can I find a clear cover that could be re-purposed afterwards?