How To Plan A Wedding: Catering, Cakes and Cocktails

Emma Case Photography

February 17, 2014

emma case

Whatever kind of wedding you choose to have, the food and drink are in prime position to make or break the day. Not only will they help to set the tone, they’ll bring people together and fuel those bodies for dancing into the wee hours! The food and drink can take up a huge chunk of the budget so it’s important to make wise choices.


Here are a few things you need to consider when making decisions about what kind of food to serve:

What kind of food do you really like to eat? These days traditional wedding breakfasts are almost a thing of the past, especially for alternative couples, so the world really is your delicious oyster when choosing what to serve! Obviously you want everyone to enjoy the food, but this is also a time to please yourselves.

I’ve been to fully a vegetarian wedding, and even though I’m not a veggie myself, I loved the experience. It’s something that defines the couple so I loved that they stuck to their guns and didn’t feel like they had to serve meat just to please everybody else. This is not the time to worry that your great aunt might not enjoy your favourite food, this is your day so your taste buds should dictate the menu!

If you’re on a budget, consider having a buffet (or BBQ if the weather is nice). The wedding buffet used to have quite derogatory connotations (soggy sandwiches, frozen volovants and lank sausage rolls anybody?) but these days more and more couples are opting for this idea – and doing it in style! With a little bit of forward planning and imagination, a buffet meal can be both delicious and cool.


Wedding catering doesn’t have to be all about a three-course sit down meal. There are many catering companies offering really unique options such as portable woodfire pizza kitchens, taco trucks and baked potato bars. And don’t forget about dessert too. How about an ice cream trike, a candyfloss vendor or a candy apple station?! My friend London Bride did an amazing blog post on some of the coolest options in the UK so be sure to have a nosey and her suggestions.

Think seasonally. Just like with flowers, food that’s in season will be much more delicious, fresh and affordable than anything that has to be shipped in overseas. Also consider sourcing your ingredients locally if you’d like to support growers and producers in your area. Farmers markets and local independent restaurants are a GREAT place to start!

If you really want to save money, how about having pot-luck catering? Instead of gifts, ask your guests to bring their signature dish. This will make for a yummy and truly unique culinary experience!


Remember to ask your guests if they have any allergies or specific food requirements beforehand. This can be done easily on your invitation RSVP card. It would be awful for someone to go hungry because they were vegan and you weren’t able to accommodate them.

Most catering companies will quote you on a price per head basis. So, to work out how many people you can invite, take your food budget and divide it by the number of people you expect to have there. If you are working with a catering company make sure you ask if this price includes everything (wait staff, bar, tip, clean up) or just the actual food.

If I’m being totally honest, most weddings that I’ve been to I’ve felt completely over-fed. Many couples will serve canapés during cocktail hour, the wedding breakfast and then an evening buffet too. Unless you have extra guests coming for just the after-party, I really don’t think that a second meal is necessary. Surely everyone will be too merry to eat much more by that point anyway… and then of course there’s the cake. You could have a candy buffet though if you were worried about people’s energy levels!



For some, the cake is crowning glory of the wedding, and for others its no more than an overpriced centrepiece that no-one really wants to eat. Whether you choose to have one or not, here are a few different things to think about:

Traditional three or four tier wedding cakes can be crazy expensive so if budget is a consideration, it’s time to think outside the (cake!) box. You could make your own, buy a supermarket cake and decorate it yourselves (Marks & Spencer do loads of plain wedding cakes for under £200!) or simply buy some of your favourite deserts (cupcakes, doughnuts, macaroons!) and serve them on a tiered stand.

Another idea I’m seeing being done more and more is a cake competition amongst guests! The couple invite their friends and family to bring a cake and award prizes for the best ones. The dessert table is a really delicious and fun option if traditional fruit cake isn’t your bag.


If you are splashing the cash on a cake though, this is the time to get creative! My favourite cake designers are Choccywoccydoodah (no-one can touch them on creativity) and Restoration Cake (her peanut butter cake is out of this world scrummy and her red velvet is the most moist and yummy thing you will ever taste in your life!) Charlotte, the babe behind the baking, has actually just written her first book, Burlesque Baking, so if you want to make your own wedding cake and learn from a master, you need to nab yourself a copy!


Next comes the topic of the booze! Again there are various options available and you really need to decide which one works best for you, your wedding and your budget.

Your venue may have a cash bar available which is nice and easy. You can provide wine on the tables during the meal (it’s customary that you pay for this and I’d suggest at least four bottles – two white, two red – per table) and a glass of something fizzy for each person during the speeches. Then, once the party really gets started everyone can pay for their own drinks. This is probably the most common scenario at UK weddings and I’m actually yet to go to one that has an open bar all nght.


If your venue serve their own alcohol then they will give you a price per bottle (and if for some reason you don’t drink it all they’ll usually give you the excess money or product back). However they may also allow you to bring your own. In most instances you will have to pay a corkage fee to do this so make sure you check how much they’ll charge you per bottle and then price it all up before you make any decisions.

For our wedding we decided to bring our own alcohol because it actually worked out a lot cheaper to pay a £10 corkage on each bottle and buy everything in bulk from Majestic. The quality of the wine and champagne we were able to get from them was also much better for the price! A lot of wine warehouses will also do glass hire so check this with them if this is something you might need.


Phew, that was a much longer article than I expected but I guess there’s a lot to consider when it comes to keeping your guests fed and watered! I’d love to hear about your food and drink plans, particularly if you’re doing something unusual.

Eat, drink and be married my friends…

This is part seven of a ten part series on how to plan a weddingIf you missed the previous articles, be sure to check those out now too. 

Next week we’ll be covering flowers and reception décor!