My wedding wasn’t exactly ordinary.
I had no registry, bridal party, photographer, or bridal shower; no caterer, and in the end, no wedding dress. But there was food and it was good. My husband John and I cooked it.
A little over a year ago, Food52's Kenzi Wilbur asked me to talk about our wedding for their Burnt Toast podcast. While I spoke about that October day nine years ago, I rolled out some gnocchi for our lunch - the same recipe that I used to make all 2,438 of our wedding gnocchi.
For those contemplating this crazy but fantastic idea, here are a few tips:
1. When offered help, take it!
Some people have friends in high places; I have friends in food. As soon as Tim Wiechmann, the chef and owner of Bronwyn and my former boss, heard we were cooking our wedding food, he offered to make and serve enough of his German sausages for our large party. He made the cocktail hour extra delicious, and calmed my mother’s fears that Bolognese sauce wasn’t enough protein for a wedding dinner.
My friend Denise Drower Swidey made nautical-themed cookies for the giveaway bags, and yet another friend, the late Robert Steinberg, gifted us his own chocolate for our brownie hot fudge sundaes. The wedding was not just about our food; it was about our friends' foods, too. And that made it extra special.
2. Take a week off before the wedding.
We prepared the food the week leading up to our wedding, and then cleaned up and relaxed a few days after. Granted if we had had the time, we would have taken another week or two for a honeymoon. (We certainly needed the rest.) But we saved our big trip for a year later.
3. Buy yourself a wedding present…a chest freezer!!!
We froze everything we made in our new chest freezer – one of two wedding presents to ourselves (the other was a meat slicer.) We froze most of the food and then reheated it from its frozen state the day of (lobster choux rolls, crab cakes, gnocchi) or thawed it the day before (corn chowder, clam chowder, brownies, Bolognese and Norma sauces.) We haven't used the freezer since and my mother keeps nagging me to sell it. So I recommend that after the party, you donate your freezer to a suburbanite who enjoys preparing for doomsday.
4. Cooking the food is enough; don’t serve it.
The day of, I hired friends who cater to heat and serve everything we had cooked. That way I didn’t have to wear an apron over my sister’s wedding dress. (It was a bit fancier than I'd hoped for, but it came to the rescue and looked beautiful.)
5. Find a divey venue that doesn’t care if you bring in food. And don’t cook for more than 120.
We got married at a lake boathouse that had cobwebs on the windows. (Pulling those down was a fun day-before-the wedding project.) I think we paid $500 to rent the space. If you're cooking your own food, you're usually trying to save money, so why spend a lot on the venue? 115 guests were plenty. I wish I could have invited more, but then I wouldn’t have been able to cook.
6. Don’t let naysayers change your mind.
Everyone thought we were crazy. The only folks who didn’t were serious cooks. But most everyone else seemed genuinely concerned. Hear me now: it was the best party we’ve ever thrown. The food was delicious, and it's still what people talk most about. We wouldn’t have done it any other way.
7. Only cook your wedding food if the food is more important than the wedding dress.
As I mentioned, my dress fell through at the last minute. I cried pretty hard for thirty minutes, but I didn't have time to wallow in sadness. I had to feed 115. Distraction is the best medicine. In the end, I wore my sister's gown, which was pretty special unto itself.
For anyone interested in our menu, here it is.
The theme was Cape Cod meets Italy (weird, I know.) We started with chowder shooters (clam and corn), mini lobster rolls made with pate à choux dough, and crab cakes. We then moved to Italy with salumi, marinated eggplant, zucchini, and red peppers, then gnocchi with bolognese sauce (Norma sauce for the vegetarians,) and salad. Dessert was make-your-own hot fudge sundaes - molto americano. We didn't care about cohesiveness. It was our day, and we wanted to cook what we most wanted to eat.
If you have any questions, email me.
Good luck! And Happy Wedding!