For the at-home wedding reception

Celebration: Here are tips and ideas for avoiding undue emotional and financial stress

June 16, 1999|By Tina Danze | Tina Danze,Universal Press Syndicate

If you've seen the movie "Father of the Bride," you may be wary of having a wedding reception at home. In the movie, Dad wants simple wedding fare. But an over-the-top caterer busts the budget with a lavish spread.

Real-life plans needn't get so out of hand. If you're on a strict budget, you can put on a small, simple reception without a caterer. By preparing foods in advance, hiring professional kitchen help, minimizing stove-top cooking and baking, and shopping for prepared-food bargains, you can hold a wedding reception without undue emotional and financial stress.

Just remember: You don't want to spend the whole wedding in the kitchen.

Following are tips and ideas:

* Helping hands: A bartender and kitchen help are a must for an at-home reception. Count on one bartender per 50 guests for full-bar service; if you're serving only beer and wine, one bartender per 75 to 100 will do. Make sure the bar setup doesn't block the flow of traffic.

Kitchen help is necessary not only for heating and replenishing food, but also for clearing empty plates and glasses. Plan on one helper per 50 guests, or one per 100 guests if the menu is uncomplicated (requiring little oven or last-minute preparation). You can hire experienced kitchen professionals and bartenders from party-service agencies.

* Food and quantity: If you're having a cocktail-hour reception (6 p.m. to 8 p.m. or 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.), plan on eight to 10 pieces of finger food per person. Be sure to make some of the hors d'oeuvres hearty if the reception is from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., because most guests will not have eaten dinner.

For a mealtime reception, provide a buffet of sliced roast meat (such as beef or pork tenderloin, turkey or ham) or cocktail sandwiches, plus substantial salads and room-temperature side dishes.

Allow enough for guests to have a second serving to be on the safe side, and multiply recipes accordingly. Offer a variety of dishes so guests don't eat mainly meat. Pass one hors d'oeuvre before the buffet service begins.

* Make foolproof food: You can't go wrong with foods assembled ahead of time that require little, if any, cooking. Offer a variety of finger foods for a cocktail reception. For an easy buffet, make salads such as pasta, rice, vegetable or fruit to accompany an entree or cocktail sandwiches.

Here are some ideas:

* A big display of crudites: Crudites make for a pretty, colorful presentation as well as popular reception fare. Serve with a variety of dips placed in pretty bowls or hollowed-out cabbages.

Vegetables may be blanched, rinsed in ice water and dried two days in advance. Refrigerate them in zip-top bags.

* The big cheese: Big wheels of cheese are beautiful, especially when displayed with piles of red or green grapes. Imported cheeses to look for: the Royal Windsor and Huntsman varieties, five-layer cheeses that stand 6 to 7 inches tall.

* Melon wrapped in prosciutto: Have the supermarket deli slice the prosciutto paper-thin. Cut it into strips and wrap around small wedges of cantaloupe or honeydew melon. (Cut each thin wedge in half on the diagonal to make finger-food portions.) Secure the prosciutto wrap with a toothpick and refrigerate until serving time.

* Pesto with tortellini: Buy an economy package of frozen tortellini and basil pesto. Cook the tortellini. To zip up the pesto, add one part grated Parmesan to two parts pesto, along with some freshly ground pepper. While hot, toss the tortellini with the pesto. You can thread the tortellini on small bamboo skewers.

* Go crazy with crostini: You also can buy the makings for crostini -- the small Italian toast rounds topped with savory spreads and relishes.

* Easy elegance with salmon: Caterers charge big bucks for smoked salmon trays, but you can make them at home for a fraction of the cost.

* Self-service sandwiches: Let guests assemble their own cocktail sandwiches. Provide a tray of sliced beef (tenderloin or roast), turkey or ham flanked by a basket of split dinner rolls or miniature croissants. Serve with a variety of mustards.

* Strawberries: A huge bowl or basket of strawberries looks lovely on a buffet.

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