We debated for a long time on whether or not we would have our reception catered. In the beginning, it was really not a priority- Jake and I are both experienced in cooking, and we figured we would just save the hassle and do it ourselves. After realizing how much we already had on our plate (haha), we decided to look at some affordable options for catering. We looked at deli's around town, but it wasn't really the vibe we were going for. There was no way we were going to have someplace like Amato's or Subway cater our wedding, again, as food service folk we had our dignity to uphold! That is not to say that deli's or chain businesses are not suitable for catering- in fact they might be the perfect fit for your wedding and your budget, however, it was not the perfect fit for us.
The day after our engagement, we stopped by a new place in town called Exchange Street Cafe. They have typical American Italian food for pretty reasonable prices, but what came as the shock to us was that it was all handmade. We had anticipated precooked or frozen food, not real homemade stuff. As we ordered, one guy in the back was rolling meatballs while the other was dredging eggplant for Parmesan. The food was amazing- it definitely made an impression, so we took a shot in the dark. "Do you do catering?"
Turns out, they had just started pulling together a catering menu and were looking for some business to get it rolling. Catering in Portland is just as competitive as in-restaurant dining I'd say, and I'm pretty sure Black Tie has the market right now. Heck, before I asked these guys, I was positive I would have to spend $5000 to go with Black Tie or have no caterer at all! Paul and Ricky were great, though. From the very beginning, we were exchanging phone calls. I'd tell them what I wanted, and they would one-up my expectations. They designed a menu that not only fit my budget, but also my estimated number of guests, timeline, and the diet of my guests.
As you may have read in my previous entry, we redid the labels on two cases of our favorite wine for the our alcohol. We also had our favorite tea shop Homegrown Herb and Tea create a special blend of tea for us to have brewed at the reception, as well as to use in our guest favors. For those who wouldn't care to have wine, there was also soda available in large a large blue tub of ice. Including the champagne for the toast our beverage expenses totaled $150. And that's including the sweet vessel we bought to put the iced tea in! Unfortunately, after we brewed all the tea, we realized the nozzle hadn't been screwed on properly so we had to chug the tea and use the vessel for ice water (which was actually pretty great).
I knew from the beginning that instead of passed h'ordeurves I wanted to have vegetable and cheese platters as a part of the centerpieces. My #1 gripe whenever I have catered weddings has been watching guests mumble hungrily through the speeches, waiting for the food line to begin. I wanted our guests to be able to sit, munch, chat, and enjoy themselves before we were announced, and to be able to eat during the speeches without feeling rude. For $50 we made it happen- plastic serving trays from iParty, and a variety of cheeses, veggies, and grapes from Whole Foods (with lots of extra food left over btw!). This is also how we were able to incorporate our cupcake decorating station that you can read about later.
My recommendation is that if your venue will let you choose your own caterer, go to your favorite restaurants and ask them if they cater. Ask around town for recommendations, and scope out new and growing restaurants who might be interested in developing a catering menu. You really never know until you ask.