|Image from Spoon University|
One way that you could save money on a reception is to have a potluck. Now this way of self-catering an event could turn out really well, or it could go horribly wrong. You will have to judge your family's cooking/food prep skills for yourself. There are a few things to keep in mind for a potluck reception to reach maximum potential:
1. Keep it Small
A potluck works best with a crowd smaller than 50 guests. If you are inviting more than that you may want to look into a cocktail/heavy hor d'oeuvres reception. Preparing food for a crowd that large or larger could quickly become overwhelming for everyone.
2. Keep it Simple
Something like having family contribute to a taco bar or pasta bar would be the easiest thing for everyone. Someone can bring a meat type, a veggie, various sauces, and the grain/starch. Or if you and your love provide smoked meats you can have family members bring BBQ sides like mac&cheese, corn, cornbread, roasted potatoes, beans, etc.
3. Family First
Before you make a more open food invitation, go to your trusted family and friends first with requests for things that you know that they can make. If your bestie makes the most kick-ass macaroni, go to her first (but don't pile that on any other wedding responsibilities that she could already have!). If aunt Bettie loves to make cole slaw but has a questionable cooking environment at home, thank her and say that you have it covered. You don't want to risk illness to save face with your loved ones.
4. Practice Proper Food Safety
Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Sounds simple, right? Well, will your venue have enough outlets for the Crockpots you may be using? If you're not using Crockpots do you have access to fuel cans and are you allowed to use open flames at your venue? Do you have something to keep ice and the food that needs to stay cold (like this buffet) and someone who is willing to keep track of the ice level and taking the excess water out so it doesn't overflow? These are all VERY important if you don't want any of your guests to get sick.
Basically treat this wedding like you are catering it 100% on your own. If you wouldn't cook a sit down dinner for 200 guests in a wedding dress, don't plan on doing that for your potluck. I recommend looking at all other self-catering options and reading stories from real couples before going through with this.
Check out Offbeat Bride for some real wedding examples of how potluck receptions can work.