No this is not a how-to to cater your own wedding. I may like to cook, but I am not a masochist. I thought it might be fun to relive the wonderful catering experience J and I had with our wedding. I'll tell you this much, DC can be a damn expensive place to get married. Because there seems to be a large population of rich folks, it's hard to find a space that seats over 80 for less than $5000 and a caterer that will feed and serve people for a reasonable price. On the first point, a really good resource is the book Unique Places to Have Your Wedding in DC. It breaks down the list of places by how many people will fit in them and lets you know things like, whether they have their own tables and chairs, will allow outside caterers and what the ambiance is like. We ended up having our reception at the Great Falls Grange, a former meeting space for farmers in Fairfax. It has a relatively big space for the dinner and dancing (45 feet by 35 feet), a good soundsystem, a stage for our swing band (who were a steal because I volunteered for them) and a downstairs area for food. They also had a few sets of tables and chairs, which meant we didn't have to spend as much money on rentals. While the space charged an initial $500 for four hours rental, we needed the space for a good 14 hours for set up and break down so we ended up spending $1200 altogether. We also rented place settings, tablecloths and napkins, glasses, and chafing dishes. That was a major part of our reception budget. Though the reception site people did proclaim our wedding to be the most beautiful event ever staged at their site, they were the stingiest, uptightiest people about their space. No candles, no free extra hours to set up (like anyone will use the space at 11:00 am on a Saturday) and nitpicky about our faboo decorations. They were faboo. We had a whole crew dedicated to the Christmas light swag. Our friends rock. Truly, truly rock.
Anyway, onto the food. J and I were fairly firm that we wanted to incorporate both of our cultures (Texas and Vietnam) into the menu. Most true blue caterers were totally out of our price range. And quite frankly, one of our criteria was to have the caterer cook the food better than we could. A fairly tall order considering our enthusiasm for cooking. We racked out brains for months to figure out this wedding reception Gordian knot. We wanted to have food brought in from Rocklands BBQ because not only is their meat delicious, the sides rock as well. Finally, we were hanging out with Tim and Rob and ordered food from Cafe Asia in Clarendon. It was good. REALLY GOOD. Better than we could have made. I called and talked with Joey the manager and she said doing half the food as well as providing staff to serve, bartend, and clean up was doable. So we picked a draft menu and noodled around with it for a while. And then, we went with Olivia to their Clarendon location to for a tasting. Never did I feel more like a bride than when Joey ushered us to a table and gave us free food. WHEW!!!!! We were originally going to have their curry as a dish but while delicious, it what spicy. Nicely spicy for my tongue of iron and fiery for the whitey palette. In the end the reception went amazingly well. The setup ended ON TIME. Noone had to stay late to clean and the staff rolled with all the punches. For the $2200 we spent on Cafe Asia we got food for 75, a staff of 2 servers and 1 bartender, and the true insurance of a good reception, two managers to supervise. It was great service and made it be exactly the reception we wanted. For those interested here's was our menu:
Sliced BBQ Pork
Vietnamese Spring Rolls
Vegetable Pad Thai
Pangang Tofu (the sweet soy sauce that adorns this dish is to die for!)
Indonesian Fried Rice