To bring your own caterer or not to bring your own caterer—that is the question. Deciding how to feed the guests at your event is a tricky affair. You (or a trusted member of your family) love cooking, but is the work involved to feed 200 of your closest pals worth the effort and possible cost savings? Will the event venue allow you to provide the meal you want for your guests? Are there special requirements? Snappening offers answers to some pressing catering concerns. (And we’re talking about more than Panini!)

Do I want to bring my own caterer to an event venue?
You just love Aunt Sue’s potato salad, but enough to serve it at your wedding? Making the food yourself may be more financially rewarding to your overall budget, but there are other benefits and drawbacks of at-home cooking taken to a larger scale. Making the food yourself or assigning the responsibility to a friend or relative clearly offers the most menu customization. The food will be exactly to your taste and dietary needs.

As the host of the party or bride at the wedding, making all the food yourself may not be your best option. You may want to consider the divided attention it will require between your focus on the wedding itself, the guests and generally enjoying the day. Perhaps you’ll ask Aunt Sue to pitch in anyway? After all, she really does love cooking and sort of offered, so what’s the harm, right? The person chosen to take care of the food may not get to fully enjoy the day either, as a guest cannot manage kitchen prep and also witness you throughout the entire event. Keep this thought in mind when deciding who will be making the food and taking care of it during the event. Separate the tasks so there isn’t one person stressing about the entire menu. Ask some family members to contribute a dish or a dessert. One option could be having the meal catered and bringing in your own dessert table if the venue you’ve selected will allow it. It’s a little easier, but still personal. If you are dead set on bringing your own catering (whether you are making it or someone else is), consider hiring a few waiters to serve the day of the event. There are many online resourcesavailable to hire waiters. This way you can make your cake and eat it too!

When speaking with the venue about bringing your own caterer, be careful to ask all the right questions about the limits and implications of doing so. Some venues may have additional costs or restrictions. You may be asked to get event insurance or sign a release about the food and its safe handling. Each property will have a specific set of rules and guidelines to help minimize their risks and increase your knowledge about what you’re getting yourself into.

How do I find an event venue that will allow me to bring in my own food?
If you have already decided to bring your own food to your wedding or event, the next task is finding an event venue that allows it. Snappening is a helpful resource for finding a venue based on your catering specifications. There are a few different ways to search for a venue that does not require you utilize their in-house catering team.

1. Start by selecting the Advanced Search option along the venue quick launch toolbar. A list of event venue criteria will appear—including a set of catering options.
2. Select the venue type and event location options that meet your needs.

3. Proceed to the catering preferences category. Select one of the following catering options:

4. Click Search. Venues that fit your specifications will appear. Not exactly seeing what you’d like? Click “refine your search” on the left side of the page to try again by selecting a different catering option.

Each catering option will produce a list of different types of venues. Generally a private or multi-purpose venue such as a park orgallery will appear when “none provided-but allowed” is selected. Catering options are usually more restrictive at formal banquet halls, hotels and restaurants. These types of venues may require that you order food through them and finding one that doesn’t is nearly impossible.

Insider Tips: A few things in mind when Catering your own Events

  • Keep your menu simple. Intricate menus aren’t meant for large events. Don’t make cooking the food more time-consuming than planning the party!
  • Organize and manage your time well. Plan the menu in advance and make a schedule of when everything needs to be prepared. Are you imagining you’ll cook onsite or off? Does the kitchen have warming space for all the dishes? Are there multiple ovens? Keep ideas like this in mind before you dive in apron first.
  • Remember food safety! Keep your hands and kitchen clean. No one wants to attend an event and leave with food poisoning. Untrained personnel may inadvertently allow foods to reach temperatures outside their safety zones, so remember that hospitality professionals and caterers may help you avoid these risks altogether.
  • Have fun! Enjoy cooking and enjoy your event!
  • If you’re afraid that’s not possible (after reading our blog), then leave it to the professionals and take one more big item off your “to do” list!

Decide what fits best with your budget, theme and event concept. The most important point to remember when planning this event is to make it unique, memorable and enjoyable. Don’t forget if you need help planning, Snappening is here for you. Consider hiring a professional event planner. Check out our venue search option to find the venue that meets your catering needs.

Have a catering idea you want to share? Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter and tell us more about your favorite catering tips and tricks. For more inspiration, take a look at our Foodie! and Cocktail Parties + Dinner Parties boards on Pinterest.