DIY Wedding Reception Buffets

DIY food buffet at an LDS reception
Photo Courtesy of

Are you thinking about planning and executing your own wedding reception buffet? It certainly is cost-effective, but if you do it yourself it will be the most labor-intensive event you’ll take on in quite a while. Here’s a general guide to planning and executing your own wedding buffet.

Gather Your Work Force

a beautiful wedding reception buffet table for an LDS wedding
Photo Courtesy of Misty Alger Photography, Buffet by Rose Haller of

You can do much of the planning and prep work yourself, but on at the reception itself you won’t be available to do the grunt work. After all, you’ll be too busy and distracted to worry about re-stocking the rolls and double-checking that the salad is being kept cool enough! A DIY buffet only works when you’ve got a willing labor force to help you.

Plan the Buffet Menu

Gathering your recipes is the first step to putting a DIY wedding buffet together. Start by choosing a protein: generally this is chicken, fish, or beef. Some couples may roast a pig which looks very exotic on the buffet table, especially if you are having a tropical or Hawaiian-themed wedding.

Compliment your main dish with salads, sides, rolls, fruits, vegetables, and desserts (in all, 10-12 other items should be chosen.) As much as you can, choose recipes that are easy to make in mass quantities and can be prepared a day ahead of time to lessen the stress on the wedding day.

Though you can’t accommodate everyone, make sure there are plenty of foods that appeal to people on different diets. In other words, you don’t need to go completely veg for your vegetarian cousins but you should make sure to have a good selection of meatless items for them to eat.

Figure Out How Much Food You’ll Need

Do-it-yourself buffet for an LDS reception
Photo Courtesy of Amelia Lyon Photography

Deciding how much food to prepare for your buffet is a complex algorithm determined by the size of the guest list, the time of day, the number of items on the food tables, and the ratio of adults to children you expect. The only hard-and-fast guideline is: be generous and err on the side of too much food rather than too little.

The good news is that here, you have a great advantage being a Latter-day Saint: you are surrounded by current and former Relief Society presidents and activities committee board members who routinely plan to feed groups of 100 or more at ward functions. They can help you to determine how much food you’ll need.

Wedding Buffet Tables, Linens, and Tableware

If you’ll be having your wedding reception in the cultural hall of your local LDS chapel, you’ll most likely be able to borrow a number of the tables, linens, and chairs that you need from your ward. Contact your activities committee to find out how to schedule these.

If your reception buffet is going to be held somewhere else, like a park or your backyard, then you’re going to have to look into party rental companies for the requisite tables and tablecloths.

Your rental company can also provide you with decorative platters and two- and three-tier stands to display your food, tongs and serving utensils to get it from buffet to plate, and specialty serving trays to keep hot foods hot (like soups) and cold foods cold (like salads.)

Buffet Plates, Cups, Silverware, and Extras

guests in a cultural hall enjoying a DIY buffet at an LDS reception
Photo Courtesy of

Even if they have the option of renting silverware and dishes from their party rental company, many buffet weddings simply use disposable versions. Disposable plates, cups, and cutlery can be sturdy, attractive, and look just like real dishes – at a fraction of the cost and with none of the hassle of cleanup.

If you’ll be in the cultural hall and your guest list is relatively small, the ward kitchen may have enough serving platters, silverware, cups, and plates for your buffet – but you may want to go with disposable anyway to save having to wash them all afterward.

Reception Buffet Table Décor

When it’s done right, buffet tables covered with an artful display of food won’t need much extra decoration. If your buffet spread looks too plain, try dressing it up by garnishing dishes with sprigs of parsley, herbs, lettuce leaves, or slices of fresh lemon.

Using a tablecloth in your wedding colors is a nice touch. Some brides add centerpieces of fresh flowers interspersed throughout the food – just make sure that you don’t use extremely fragrant flowers since they may not mix well with food aromas.

How to Handle a Buffet on the Big Day

As discussed before, you should place others in charge of the buffet on the wedding day. You’ll have far too much on your mind, and besides, you should be enjoying yourself.

Your helpers (at least 1 for every 25 guests) should set up the buffet before the guests begin to arrive. A reception line during the first 30 minutes is customary, so guests can filter by to congratulate you and mingle with the other guests until it’s time for dinner.

DIY buffet food for LDS receptions
Photo Courtesy of Whitney Lewis Photography

Brides and grooms may want to do a short ring ceremony or toasts before the announcement of dinner. Decide how you’d like to handle the buffet table rush. Many couples decide to call up one table at a time to avoid traffic jams.

Make Arrangements for Wedding Buffet Cleanup

After the last guest has left, the real work begins: boxing up the remaining food, clearing away the tables, and washing any dishes or utensils that aren’t disposable.

Whoever does this job deserves a big thank you (and a good portion of the leftovers!) It is hard work at the end of a long day, but someone has to do it. Assign several people to cleanup duty afterward to ensure that the job gets done more quickly.

Serving a sit-down dinner is expensive and a DIY buffet is a lot of hard work, so many brides compromise with a catered buffet that meets them halfway in terms of their budget and the workload. But even if you do decide to DIY, you can do it – as long as you plan carefully and have an entourage of willing friends to help pull it off.

♥ Jenny Evans
Exclusively for
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Catering for LDS weddings, LDS reception, LDS open houses

LDS weddings, LDS reception, LDS open houses

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