Wednesday, February 20, 2019

How To Plan A Potluck Wedding

One of the things we have never touched on before here at A Bride On A Budget is how to plan a potluck wedding. It's something that I've always been a little iffy about. If you're throwing a wedding, I can't imagine inviting guests and asking them to bring food.

We host a huge football party every year, and we don't even ask guests to bring food to that. And we don't ask anyone to anything to our annual New Year's Eve party -- except their A Game for making it til midnight. And even that is negotiable. I honestly tell people they can just come, grab a plate of food, and leave. That's how we host parties.

That doesn't mean a potluck wedding reception is a bad idea. It just means it isn't for me.

A wedding potluck can be a great idea, though, if you're on a budget or if you're really working under a tight planning deadline. Our neighbors actually had one a couple years ago and everyone had a great time. Plus, it was really easy on them because they didn't have to worry about cooking everything and hosting. They also got married out of state and wanted to celebrate when they came back, so planning a lavish wedding reception just wasn't practical.

So, to help you decide if this is for you or not, I put together a list to answer the question of how to plan a potluck wedding, to help decide if it's right for you, and a bunch of potluck wedding tips.

Is a wedding potluck right for you? Find out in this How To Plan A Potluck Wedding post on

How To Plan A Potluck Wedding

What Is A Potluck Wedding?
For argument's sake, a potluck wedding reception is one where the bride and groom provide the main portion of the meal and guests are asked to bring an appetizer, side dish, or snack instead of a gift.

Focus on that.

The dish is the gift. You can't ask guests to bring a dish and also give you a gift. That's awful and tacky.

How Do You Tell People It's A Potluck Wedding?
Your invitation must state that you're having a potluck wedding reception. Something like, "Please join us for a potluck wedding reception following the ceremony" needs to be on the invitation.

Spell. It. Out. Your potluck wedding reception invitations need to really let people know what they're invited to.

What Could Go Wrong?
A lot of things could go wrong at a potluck wedding.

What Could Go Right?
Also, a lot of things.

The Cons Of A Potluck Wedding

The big pro of a potluck wedding is you don't have to cook everything. If you were planning a backyard reception, you would either be cooking everything or having it catered. The catering bill can get expensive. But cooking for all your guests can be way too much during wedding week. Not to mention, you'd have to find a place for all your dishes once they're prepared.

If you have a wedding pot luck where everyone brings a dish, you really only have to worry about the paper products and whatever dish you are planning to prepare.

There are a lot of cons, though, like ...

You don't have control over the menu.
I was such a planner when it came to our wedding. I planned out every single little detail. So not being able to plan what our wedding menu was would cause me anxiety.

If you're asking everyone to bring a dish, though, you can't tell them exactly what to bring. I mean, Andy and April did that on Parks and Rec when they had their wedding potluck, but this is not TV. It's real life. And you have to allow people to bring whatever they like best. That doesn't mean it will be what you like best.

You may not have space for everything.
If you're having this wedding potluck at your parents' home, you need to hope that their refrigerator can hold everything that the guests bring. Because you can't leave everything on the counter while other guests are arriving.

Some foods can stay out, but many can't sit out for hours. That will get everyone sick. So unless you have access to an extra fridge, you might really want to reconsider.

Guests may be cooking and come late to your reception. That actually happened at our last big game party. Two of our friends missed the first quarter because something the wife was baking took longer than she anticipated.

It's one thing for someone to come late. It's another thing for the bruschetta to arrive after the lasagna has already been pulled out of the oven.

But think about it. If you are having a ceremony followed by the reception, when does that give people time to cook anything that needs to be warm? Their options are bring it cold and hope there's space in the oven, miss the ceremony, or bring something lukewarm. None of those are really great ideas.

The Pros Of A Potluck Wedding

The cost.
A potluck wedding is a lot cheaper -- for you, anyway -- that a traditional catered wedding. You'll save by not having to pay a catering hall's set price per person. Instead, your budget is set by the meal you make and the paper products you buy.

You have leftovers.
Of course, no one is going to come to your wedding with a dish and then take it home with them. Okay, side note. Remember that potluck wedding I mentioned our neighbors having? Well, of course, I had no intention of bringing home the dish I made. Neither did my mother. But our other neighbor, who showed up empty-handed, took home both our leftovers.

For the most part, though, no one takes home what they brought, which means you'll have meals for the next few days if there are any leftovers.

It's more casual.
When you have a wedding potluck, much of the food is set out at the beginning and just left out. That allows your guests to graze all reception long. You don't have a stop in the dancing to make sure everyone is seated for the sitdown meal.

Potluck Wedding Tips

Keep the wedding small.
This type of wedding reception works best when you only have a handful of guests. It's a lot easier to cook and store food for 40 rather than 400.

Know your guests (and their cooking abilities).
I have a few go to recipes that always go over well. So does my mom. So if you're inviting the two of us to your potluck wedding reception, I can guarantee you will have two dishes that everyone will enjoy.

But if you come from a long line of relatives who live in the Land Of The Bland, this might not be the way you want to go. You will end up giving Aunt Edna anxiety because now she has to bring a dish and your young cousins will just end up bringing something they grabbed in the prepared foods section of the closest grocery store.

If your guests can't cook, you might want to think of something else.

Hire a server or two.
Does your maid of honor have a young brother who might want to earn some cash? Hire him and a couple of his friends to be servers. Let them be the ones to do clean up, make sure there are enough plates and utensils, and have them constantly on garbage duty.

The last thing you want is to turn your friends into vendors ... which is my new favorite word: friendors. Your friends are coming to your wedding to spend your special day with you. They're not coming to dish your macaroni salad.

BRIDAL BABBLE: Would you plan a potluck wedding?


  1. We did a backyard BBQ for our reception. I've never heard of a pot luck wedding, but it's not a bad idea! Maybe when my daughter gets married...

  2. I love a good Potluck! This is such a great idea for a smaller wedding~

  3. Potluck wedding is a new idea for me. Thanks for sharing the idea with all. Sharing this with my friends :)

  4. I can see the pros and cons of a potluck wedding reception. It's not for everyone but it can be a great option for brides on a budget.

  5. Pot luck wedding - sounds like a really fun concept

  6. The church I grew up in used to have potlucks all of the time. If we could have brought food into the reception hall we rented, I wouldn't have minded a pot luck wedding. YMMMM!

  7. I first time heard about potluck wedding and knew interesting facts. It seems a good option on budget.

  8. It's interesting to read how weddings are in different cultures. Potluck wedding seems economical too :)

  9. This is the first I have heard of a potluck wedding. I can see how it can work for some people however I am not sure it is something that I would want to try in a wedding. I find potlucks are great for small gatherings and it can be fun trying out new and different dishes.

  10. I'm torn on the potluck wedding. It could be great if everyone rounded it out with what they brought.

  11. I've attended a potluck wedding of my cousin before. But only the relatives prepared and brought the food.

  12. Oh, this really is an interesting idea and something I hadn't considered!

  13. :D i love private potluck weddings. much more intimacy than a big hotel wedding with a gala dinner fancy style.

  14. This is really interesting and a great concept for wedding. Thanks for sharing this post.

  15. There might be wedding bells soon in my future! I need to save this!

  16. Wow. Haven't experienced this yet but looks like a fun one really. Looking forward to attend one at least once lol way too cool

  17. this sounds so pretty and I never would have thought of doing this!

  18. Myself and my boyfriend were literally talking about this the other day. how helpful!

  19. Wait, WHAT. I've never heard of a wedding potluck! This is such a great idea!!! I wish I knew about it when we were getting married.