Is a potluck wedding tacky?

Photo by Meddy Garnet, used by Creative Commons license.
Photo by Meddy Garnet, used by Creative Commons license.
[blockquote]I am planning on having an informal family-only wedding at my dad's church. I'm considering doing a potluck wedding but was wondering if that was tacky to ask our guest to dish something up for everyone to share in.

My fiancee is in Afghanistan and we'll only know a month in advance when we can set a date for the wedding. This makes catering (already expensive) even more of a challenge. If I where to do a potluck, how would I word it on an invitation? I run the risk of people not bringing anything!

I've read articles online and it seems most people think potlucks are tacky — even my own sister thinks it's too tacky. -Sylvia[/blockquote]

Ok, first thing's first: Yes, a potluck wedding is tacky. Your entire wedding is tacky! So was mine. "Tacky" is a subjective word that can be applied to absolutely anything and everything, from a $500 wedding all the way to a $50,000 wedding. It's all tacky, so let that concern go.

I've featured several potluck weddings on Offbeat Bride — I especially love Kirsten's story, where she explains:

We invited our friends and family to "bring what makes them who they are" to share. We had no idea what our wedding would look like — we were not disappointed. A beautiful and delicious homemade wedding cake just APPEARED OUT OF NOWHERE! Our friends sang, read stories, played music, put on improv performances, made up carnival games, and told each other's families waaaaay too much about the new in laws!

So clearly, a potluck wedding can work beautifully and be an amazing community event that celebrates two families coming together and sharing food, stories, music, and whatever else people chose to bring. I love the idea.

But the issue isn't "is a potluck wedding tacky?" and more "Are you and your fiance's families comfortable enough with the idea to participate fully?" Only you two know your families well enough to know if this is the case. Here are a few questions for you and your fiance to ask yourselves:

  • Did you grow up with family/community potlucks?
  • Do your family members have their signature hot dishes and potato salads and special pies that they love to trot out for community events?
  • Are they foodies who like to cook and bake and share with each other … or do they mostly eat out?
  • Will you guests be traveling far, and will they have access to a kitchen to cook the day before your wedding? If not, can you recommend delis or bakeries where they can grab food to bring? (This one is super important!)

The answers to these questions will be much more valuable to you in deciding whether or not to do a potluck reception than anything I (or anyone else online) could decree about whether or not the idea is tacky.

In terms of invitations, you could try something like: "After our ceremony, we will be celebrating the union of our families by hosting a potluck. Rather than a gift, please bring your favorite signature dish to share." (Note the "rather than a gift" — that's key!)

If you decide a potluck isn't the way to go for your family, I'd suggest hosting a cake & punch reception instead. This goes off the best if you have an early afternoon wedding — people simply don't expect to be fed a full meal at a 2pm reception. This is also easy to message on your invitations … after listing your ceremony information, just note, "Cake and beverages to follow."

For people who believe potlucks are in poor taste, cake & punch is usually seen as the "appropriate" low-budget alternative. If you just don't think your family is going to get into the idea of a potluck, cake & punch may be a good option.

Mostly, remember this: your wedding is about celebrating the commitment you're making to your partner. With your fiance in Afghanistan, this hones the focus even more tightly: this isn't about having a big fancy brouhaha — it's about saying "We're so glad to be alive, so glad to be in love, and so glad you could all be here to share this with us." That's what's important. The rest is just hotdishes and cake.

Want to see some real potluck weddings? Of course you do!

  1. My close friend had a potluck wedding. In the invitation they added a card that started with "The rumors are true! It's a potluck!" The RSVP card had a space to put what you were bringing on it (if you decided to bring anything). It was a wonderful spread with lots of delicious food.
    A side note- having just gotten married last year, you will be surprised at how much people want to do stuff for you and your wedding – a potluck is a great way to include everyone.

    26 agree
    • THIS times 10,000 — my mom and aunt really wanted to help and assigning them a dish to bring was a great way for them to feel like they had a part in the wedding and it was low stress for everyone involved.

      Our wedding was in May and we did partial potluck, partial cookout. We provided the burger makings and my brother, best friend and FIL grilled (they all LOVE to do that). My mom and aunt brought some awesome sides and it went off great. I still get compliments on the food :)

      3 agree
  2. I have to say that it also depends if you have a lot of friends and family who will be traveling (say, more than 30 minutes to an hour) to your wedding. Our friends and families live all over the place and it would not have been practical to ask them to bring a dish to our wedding.

    13 agree
  3. Maggie, what a great point re: people coming from afar! I'm going to update my answer to include that.

    3 agree
  4. I think a potluck wedding is a great idea, and a fantastic way to get everyone involved! However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea, check with the various boards of your father's church. There's often a group that will make food for various functions at the church, and the cost will most likely be MUCH less than formal catering. My father's church has a "Men Who Cook" group that does GREAT food!

    2 agree
  5. We're going to have a potluck wedding–it was actually my fiancee's mum's idea >:) But mum & I are going to cook a "base" of foods (ham and salads and such) and then hopefully our guests will just relax and have fun and bring something delicious to share. That way no one needs to bring anything big or feel a burden, but can hopefully just relax and enjoy the community spirit we're hoping to have at our reception (think: giant family dinner). But I'm friends with a lot of foodies…

    2 agree
  6. Personally I LOVE the idea of a potluck wedding. I wish I knew someone who was having one. I think the idea of making a wedding a community event is an amazing way to bring families and friends together. I wish I had an in-law family that would go for it!

    8 agree
  7. Seconding #2 Maggie about the travel. I would have loved to go the potluck route, because (a) I am a cheapskate, and (b) there are a LOT of amazing cooks and bakers on both sides of the family, but we're getting married 420 miles north of his family and 430 miles south of mine. Not practical to have anyone bring anything. :-(

    3 agree
  8. I think it's really important to do that gift vs. food dish trade-off. We recently photographed a pot-luck wedding where guests were asked to bring a dish as well as a gift AND a 20 minute dollar dance had been scheduled. That does come across as greedy, no matter how much you thank everyone in the toasts.

    The other thing to watch with a potluck is how many guests will be present. I think if you have more than 50 guests, you should stick with cake and punch. The food is cold by the time the 150th guest makes it through (and therefore you could end up giving your guests food poisoning vs if caterers were running the show and keeping everything hot) and when you have so many guests, your last guests get the short end of the stick on the food front–with all of the "choice" dishes being emptied first.

    14 agree
    • If you know anyone who has the dish warmers than you are good to go, along with crockpots and ice/shade. We do potluck family gatherings throughout the year and it ALWAYS turns out A Okay.

      0 agree
  9. Good tips on how you can guide whether having a potluck is feasible.
    While I would have loved to have paid for a potluck wedding, we have at least 25 out of towners and a fair number of non-cooks.

    How about a picnic/luncheon wedding? Sandwiches and antipasto plates can't be that expensive to cater and would be fun and fitting for summer!

    2 agree
  10. I love potluck weddings. I've been to several and the food is almost always better than fancy catered meals that end up tasting like airplane food. Potluck weddings aren't tacky. Spending a bunch of money that you don't have is.

    46 agree
    • totally agree
      especially if you are older… you do not need presents
      and why would you want to spend so much money and the food is not good?

      4 agree
  11. This is probably not a consideration for Sylvia, but for any offbeat Jewish or Muslim brides, dietary restrictions should probably also be taken into account. We were thinking about doing a potluck, but decided not to in part because our friends all follow different levels of keeping kosher.

    4 agree
  12. Ditto to Maggie and Kate. I'm hoping to have something similar to what LeAnna suggested – a bigass family dinner, but I know that since my family is nearly all from the East Coast and my groom's family is from Spain, and we're having the wedding in Ontario… well, logistics will factor in.

    (Though I do have my heart set on a bunch of lobsters being imported… mmmmm Nova Scotia Lobster. Gotta check when they're in season.)

    Anyway, I agree that what it really comes down to is how the people involved will feel about it. Potlachs only work if everyone believes in it. If they do, there's nothing as heartwarming and full of community as sharing food. But if they don't, it's just a big headache.

    1 agrees
  13. If you decide against the potluck route, try your local grocery store deli. Even 24 hour notice is enough for most stores for orders of dollar sandwiches and salads, and the staff can sometimes even rent out warmers/dishware for free.

    0 agree
  14. The first rule of a budget wedding is… don't apologize for your budget wedding. Catering is expensive and a potluck can be a wonderful alternative. (That's exactly what my mom did for her reception, back when sensible weddings were more acceptable.) Besides, everyone knows you're on a tight time table and will likely be under a lot of stress with your new husband leaving – so make sure the wedding doesn't add to it.

    But, if asking everyone to bring a dish becomes impractical, there are several alternatives:

    1) Skip the food and do Ariel's suggestion of a punch and cake reception.
    2) Costco/Sam's Club for picnic-type ingredients, then have guests assemble their own sandwiches, salads, etc.
    3) BBQ, if you have access to a few grills and grill masters.
    4) Get a cheaper eatery (sandwich place, Mexican joint) to do the catering, rather than a capital-C Catering company. Think "lunch" places rather than "dinner" places.
    5) Pizza, because who doesn't like pizza?

    12 agree
  15. @cNc We're keeping our costs down by doing just what you suggested…having an outdoor luncheon. The caterers happen to be my friends, but it certainly is reducing their costs because they're making lighter foods and people will probably eat a little less than if it was a dinner.

    My best friend's wedding was a potluck and it was really great. She asked specific people to bring dishes so that out-of-towners and people she didn't know as well wouldn't be put out. She provided the meat and beverages and it worked out really well. I had a great time and it was really stress free. Everyone changed into casual clothes for it as well, so it was just really a nice back yard party.

    4 agree
  16. I'm not a fan of potlucks in general, because I don't trust other people's food choices. I tend to get a lot of grocery store deli and veggie platters.

    We saved money at our wedding by having it very late evening so guests could get dinner before hand and only offering appetizers and desserts. I could also see doing it mid-afternoon or mid-morning and only having drinks and cake.

    5 agree
    • We just had our wedding in May and did an evening reception (after people would have already eaten dinner) with a few catered appetizers and a bunch of desserts. I thought it was important to have Some kind of protein available since we were going to have dancing, but mainly we just had desserts. BUT (big but), we spread the word beforehand that it was a dessert reception. I know it said that on my invitations And on my website but I was still worried that people wouldn't realize.. So we tried to mention it in passing to as many confirmed guests as we could. Everyone was really supportive about it though- I was worried that people would be put off that we weren't serving a whole dinner. But it worked out great!

      0 agree
  17. Potluck weddings are simply…amazing.
    People WANT to help out and I find that often what people bring/make is just as delicious as something you'd get from expensive catering. The rsvp card idea with what your bringing is an excellent way to know who is bringing what and is also a great way to thank them for their "famous corn and bean salad" that they brought. A suggestion on the rsvp card is to ask the attendee to label on the top of their food what it is.
    Obviously if people are coming from far away this makes it hard for them to bring a heated dish…why not a cold dish? or a pie? or cookies??

    One wedding I helped out with gathered all the pot luck items and put out the food in white serving dishes..added real white dishes and linens along with real silverware..You would have never known it was all a potluck! Another good suggestion is to premake labels with what the dish is, (you'll know this by the rsvp card, asking the person who brought it what it is, and the person who sets the food out in the pre-determined dish with the right label. Sounds complicated but it will save alot of money AND time AND look/taste amazing.

    14 agree
  18. Why not have a pot luck? When my grandmother tells stories about her wedding her happiest tales are about how her friends and family came together for her. They all brought a dish, and one neighbor supplied all of the wedding and reception flowers from her garden. I think this is the best type of wedding, everyone you know bringing something to symbolize their support of your union.

    10 agree
  19. Woah, I have to disagree with Rose both about OBB and about potluck weddings. In my opinion, Ariel isn't just a cheerleader for "anything offbeat," I recall a number of posts from her in which she said "this isn't how I would do it" or "you might want to consider…" If someone wrote to her about the wedding Rose described…I think she might have some constructive criticism (although possibly done not in the public forum of the blog).

    As far as potluck, I think the other comments make clear that (unless your guests are jerks) they're not going to leave talking about "how tacky you are." I _don't_ think that potluck says "we can't be bothered," I think it says, "we want our friends/family to participate and our friends/family make great food and we don't have a lot of time or money to plan ahead of time with."

    13 agree
  20. I think that there are two types of potluck weddings – in the first you do not have a caterer and instead have all homemade foods – like cake by grandma and salad by aunt jane – but all the organizing is done in the background in one on one conversations, if you say to your family 'I think it would be nice to have us all bring our special dishes' and they all jump in with what they'd like to make then this is pretty easy to manage. In this case even though the food is potluck style the wedding is still being hosted by the bride and groom, just with a lot of help from family/friends.

    The second kind is where you state in the invitations that it's a potluck and ask every guest to bring something. I have a problem with this in that if you are going to ask someone to do you a favor an invitation is really not the place to do it. Also another name for traditional potlucks is 'a no-host party' and I feel that weddings being what they are they should definitely have a host be it the bride and groom, the brides parents, or others.

    9 agree
  21. I really have to disagreed with much that Rose (a troll on OBB?) said, but I'll focus on the potluck aspect. It's simple, if anyone would think that a potluck, a sharing of food and community, is tacky, it's time to re-evaluate their place on your guest list. There are valid reasons to chose other food choices, but potlucks can be loving expressions of friends and family.

    10 agree
  22. We had our wedding at a bowling alley. All that was served was pizza and soda, and a little veggie tray. (Tacky!) If people wanted alcohol, they had to pay for it themselves. (Tacky!) When my fiance and I got engaged, that was our original idea. Get everyone together for a BBQ/Potluck party in the park. I don't know about you, but nearly every party I've ever been to has been a potluck. Why should a wedding be any different?

    I really like Jocelyn's way of announcing it. "The rumors are true! It's a potluck!"

    A wedding is just a party. As an unwritten rule, all parties are tacky. Make your wedding your own kind of tacky. It'll be one of the best days ever, no matter what.

    8 agree
  23. A potluck was my mom's first idea, but I wasn't up to it. We are having all aspects of our celebration in a park, so no power, no sinks, etc. Plus, FH and I are vegan/vegetarian, and I wanted the food to reflect our life style. In the end, we are having a cater company do boxed lunches for an earlier in the day event. In one month, I'll ket you know how it went :)

    0 agree
  24. I think its an awesome idea… IF you can pull it off.

    Plus, you have a great excuse :)

    2 agree
  25. I like the potluck idea, and in the interest of family coming together, you could have blank recipe cards on the table so people could trade recipes (or maybe email addresses to trade recipes later on) if they want. It might be a good conversation starter, and jumping off point for future get togethers. Most wedding I have been to have involved me chatting mostly with my own "side", so I think that would be a great way to get your family members making friends with your partner's family members.

    6 agree
  26. We considered doing a potluck, but since it was kind of a destination wedding (with an industrial size kitchen), we went ahead and planned the menu, bought the food, and requested help in preparing the food. Most people pitched in.

    A suggestion may be to provide a main course, and have everyone bring side dishes. A friend from Alaska went home at some point before her wedding and caught a salmon to serve. Everything else was potluck.

    0 agree
  27. Okay, I don't have much to add over any of the other great comments but this: You know what rocks? Food made with love.

    And I have a feeling that's what a wedding reception with a community potluck would be filled with.

    7 agree
  28. I think its a wonderful idea but I think you should definitely make it an *option* for your guests. I hate to cook and am terrible at it. The idea of having to think of a dish, actually make it without it turning out awful and then have a bunch of people eat it is very stressful. I would much rather just buy a gift. I think the gift *or* dish option is a good call.

    5 agree
  29. I think potlucks for a wedding is a great idea! I spent 10 grand on my first wedding and completely regretted it as hardly anyone who rsvp'd actually showed!
    (it should have been a sign as the marriage ended a couple years later…)

    This time around I want something simple and more me and my partner…
    This might be something different to try.

    3 agree
    • What an excellent point – potluck parties have built in portion controls! Love that!

      1 agrees
  30. At one friend's potluck wedding I attended, there didn't end up being enough for everyone to eat. Just to be safe, I would suggest doing what my other friend's mom did at her potluck wedding – provide plenty of filling backup food like loaves of good bread to compliment all the great dishes people brought. Other members of the wedding party made extra dishes (including a huge turkey!) to fill in for folks who traveled and couldn't cook. It was a night to remember.

    3 agree
  31. spiderbaby – More than once I've been asked to bring to party/event/etc. a type of food which I am NO good at. In those cases I feel zero guilt about stopping by the store and picking up something made by professionals. It's still made with love… mainly my love of not subjecting people to my poor cooking skills.

    18 agree
  32. We had the food catered at our wedding last year for practical reasons, BUT we did ask our friends and family to bring cakes as an alternate gift option. This ended up being one of the favorite things people still talk about from our wedding.

    0 agree
  33. I think a potluck is a fantastic idea. All the points brought up in this article and the comments section are encouraging too.

    In fact, Crate & Barrel's "Real Simple Weddings" publication showcased a potluck wedding last summer. I consider this publication to be on the traditional "Martha Stewart" side of weddings (not necessarily a bad thing), so to me, that's a sign that this is becoming a more acceptable approach to wedding catering. It's very intimate and communal if anything.

    In this case, the bride "asked guests to bring dishes according to their last names: A to E brought breads; F to M, salads, and so on." The food at this wedding looked great and I imagine you can get a pretty balanced spread this way.

    1 agrees
  34. I think the idea of a potluck is wonderful, it really brings families together and there will probably be recipe sharing. I would love to do this for our wedding but most people are traveling from a couple states away, its not practical to ask them to make something in their hotel rooms! My small side of the family does live in the area so we are making our own dessert table with baked goods and a cupcake tree, my mom and aunt are super excited about this idea, the rest of my family automatically wanted to pitch in on the dessert table!

    2 agree
  35. Ooh, Megan I love the idea of recipe sharing — you could even ask people to bring the recipe for the dish they made, and instead of having a standard wedding guestbook, you could create a wedding guest recipe book! Aww. I love the idea.

    13 agree
    • Sooooo cool!!!!! That's a GREAT idea and if someone wanted to take that project on then it could be a sweet gift to the new couple! :)

      0 agree
  36. My future mother in law had a smashing pot luck wedding. I've heard lore that at her wedding someone brought homemade tacos that were so tasty people didn't bother with plates-they just sticky with taco-they were so good. She seemed to really really really want the same thing for me, but local friends are all quite busy – and most of our guests are driving from 1-6 hours away! So, consider your guests. Are they driving or flying? That may be a no go.

    1 agrees
  37. my boy and i are doing a potluck reception. we have a couple of friends who have offered to make the main dishes and wedding cake. then we were going to ask people to RSVP with what they would be bringing as we've been trying to figure out how to make sure everyone doesn't bring the same kind of thing. i love the idea of the dishes according to last name. that way we don't really need to have people RSVP with what they plan to bring. i think we may end up using that.

    i also really like the idea of the recipe sharing. :)

    0 agree
  38. So I WILL be having a potluck wedding in September! We are providing cake, cupcakes, beer wine, hot chicken/veggies, falafel/hummus and a few other dishes. So my theory is I have way too many friends who are vegan, vegetarian, lacto-intolerant, gluten-allergic, kosher..you get the picture. Plus of our 150 guests, 80 percent of them are foodies. There would be no way to please all of them and I refuse to pay 40 bucks a head or more for a decent vegan/vegetarian friendly caterer in SF. On my wed-site I am creating a page specifically for the pot-luck, with things we would like to have and a place for people to say what they are bringing. I figured if they could bring food that would feed 8 people we would be covered. Luckily Hakone Gardens, has a small kitchen with fridges, so I am not worried about food getting cold, bad etc. What better way to include your friends and make your wedding about being a part of a tribe and not the bride and groom show. I'll let you know how it goes.

    2 agree
  39. Another aspect of travel to think about is food safety. What kind of dishes are you asking people to bring? What is the weather going to be like? How long will said dishes be in the car and/or un-refrigerated? I went to a potluck wedding where some dishes were say, mayonnaise-y or fishy, and had clearly been in the sun for a long time pre-dinner. I didn't touch those dishes, and I was more than a little worried about someone getting food poisoning. There are a million ways around this – provide a main dish, ask people to bring salads/ deserts, ask people who live nearby to bring meat dishes, etc. But it's something to think about.

    Go food safety!

    PS Yes. Also, having been there, it's very frustrating if you just flew in to have to stop by the supermarket and figure out… um…. What can I buy and bring to the wedding? Ack! If you are having people fly in, I'd suggest exempting them from potluck duties (they can contribute other ways.)

    2 agree
  40. Ok, so, get this. My mother was SO CONCERNED about the tackiness of a pot-luck wedding that, when I told her I planned to have one, she immediately offered to pay for fancy catering herself instead. It was ridiculous, but still… score!

    1 agrees
  41. I don't trust potlucks, because I don't trust other people's hygeine. I know my family well enough to know that they're not too concerned with handwashing or keeping pets out of the kitchen when they're cooking. But I like the ideas of cake & punch and light deli lunch receptions.

    1 agrees
  42. Do you have some people who like to grill?

    Re: keeping food hot for over 50 guests, why not have a BBQ? Hire a friend who's good with a grill to continuously serve up hamburgers and hotdogs. Super cheap AND familiar to everyone.

    My co-worker is doing a potluck like that at her house. She's getting married and providing the meat and booze, and everyone else is bringing their favorite dish. It's not "traditional" but it IS fun.

    Like the family reunion you WANT to go to!

    2 agree
    • This is PERFECT! Who doesn't love a barbecue??? Another option could be marinated chicken or kabobs – I actually make kabobs with pre-made meatballs and veggies and EVERYONE loves them!!!! It's fun and casual and you know the men will love it too! :D

      1 agrees
  43. Your friends will be thrilled you're getting married, and most people are happy to help out. We had a "check box" list of things on the RSVP – one line: able to attend and bringing a side dish, one line: able to attend and bringing a pie, one line: for able to attend, oneline: for not able to attend That way if someone wanted to come but couldn't bring something, they didn't have to!

    0 agree
  44. I would LOVE to go to a potluck wedding. I've been to several recently ranging from just dessert, to cheap sandwiches and cake, to a buffet in which the groom (my Uncle/favorite chef) taught the caterers how to make his dish. But when you have food brought by the people you love, what could be better? Of course consider where guests are coming from.

    If a caterer is the only feasible option look to favorite cheap eats. I was recently at a party catered by Qdoba, which was a huge hit!

    0 agree
  45. I think it is an absolutly awesome idea, if i was one of your guests i would think it was the coolest most original idea. And i would definatly bring more than one dish :)

    0 agree
  46. Oh, I wish this had been posted a few months ago! :) Our potluck was killed by the fact that the side of the family which potlucks was coming in 2 hours away… but there is so much good advice on low cost catering here (so now we are self-catering)… Thank you ladies & gents (and Ariel! :) )

    0 agree
  47. My FH's cousin had a potluck wedding. It would have been okay if not for the fact that

    -It was in Maine
    -Nearly all of her family (except her mom and step dad) had to travel from out of state

    Not only did she not take this into consideration, she got upset when some people didn't show up with food (due to driving 10+ hours just to get there) and threw a fit.

    My wedding will be catered since I'm not going to do this to my mother. I'm getting married where she lives and she, my dad and my sisters are the only people in that area. I'd rather they enjoy the day than worry about dishes and how much people like whatever they prepared.

    3 agree
    • "Tacky" to me is when a request is unreasonable. Wow man. I'm glad you're being considerate towards your guests.

      0 agree
  48. Not only do I think potluck weddings are not tacky, I think that they are amazing. They are a great way for families to come together and share their heritage and history with each other.

    1 agrees
  49. We are semi-potlucking it for our wedding! The ceremony and reception will be held in his grandmother's yard so we'll ask her to make her famous fried chicken. My Nana and Papa will bring their German Potato Salad and the day before the wedding my dad and I will bake pies! The groom and I will make fried green beans and a green salad and drop biscuits. I am excited to share all of my favorite foods with the people I love and have a lovely time with them.

    It's not tacky if it represents you and is full of love!!

    0 agree
    • Hey Allison – will you invite me? It sounds wonderful!

      0 agree
  50. Actually, as a reception gift my cousin (and her family) baked individual mini-apple pies. Pretty cheap AND something people would actually use. Plus, you can make it a day or two ahead of time and not worry about it the day of.

    2 agree
  51. I just got married in May and we had a potluck wedding. We didn't put that in the invitation (which was a postcard) but it was on the website. We didn't ask everyone to bring a dish (no out of towners) just people that we thought would like to do so. they either volunteered or didn't. we asked through email what they would like/or be able to bring. We also ordered entrees from a restaurant (so that even if NO ONE brought anything, there would still be something to eat)and cupcakes for our cake.
    the result was AMAZING!!! there was so so much delicious food! and there was something for EVERYONE. someone brought PB&J sandwiches for the kids, all sorts of salads and pasta's and casseroles and soups and on and on. it was SO fantastic. honestly there was TOO much food! and i think everyone loved it. i don't think anyone thought it was tacky at all (and if they did, they sure didn't say anything to me!).
    I think potlucks are rad. I'm so glad that is the way we went with our wedding. Good luck! :D

    3 agree
  52. Random lore:

    In old-timey Kentucky, each guest would bring a thin molasses cake to the wedding as a present to the bride and groom. These cakes would be stacked on top of each other as each guest arrived, and so the "finished" cake was a true representation of the bride and groom's entire family and social network in the area.

    This might not be as feasible today, but I think it really gives a sense of what's important in a wedding–and how potluck meals can be a larger symbol for community for a couple. It's also a good reminder that the people who are at your wedding will be those that love you no matter what.

    3 agree
  53. I think a potluck wedding is a really great idea! I found with my wedding that all of my relatives, even the ones I don't get to see so often, and also all of my bridal party were eager and happy to pitch in. Which makes me love them to bits. My MOH is actually getting married in July and doing a "base" barbecue with people making sides to bring. Honestly, the people at your wedding are going to be people who love you both, and who want you to be happy. My guess is they'll be delighted to bring a pasta salad.

    I do think it would be clever to get some sort of count of who is bringing what, though, either through RSVPs or the different names bring different dishes idea. And providing a main "meat" course could help make sure the meal is all filled out. I sure wouldn't worry about tacky, though!

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  54. I'm having a potluck wedding next August and I'm so excited. A lot of our friends either work in food or are big geeks about food (or both) and the little potlucks we have throughout the year are always really fun and delicious (and sometimes, just a touch competitive). Of course, no one is required to cook– it's not like we're going to turn away guests who don't have a dish– and I'm not expecting out-of-towners to show up holding Baked Alaskas or anything. We're also leaving space on the RSVPS for people to write in what they're bringing– that way we can fill in any gaps in the menu. Our venue is a camp and we have access to a big commercial kitchen– so there's plenty of fridge and oven space and anyone feeling ambitious can do their cooking on-site, even. And if anyone is finicky about eating food other people prepared, they can just BYODinner. I think if you are someone that needs everything to be just so and can't cope with the unplanned, a potluck might be more stress than fun. We're pretty roll-with-the-punches type folks, and for us, potlucks are just a whole lot of fun.

    1 agrees
  55. Thanks for all the suggestion girls :D the ideas really do help me out. It's hard to ask my Fiance sometimes, because I can only talk to him when he has time to call, sometimes that is up to weeks at a time! and for Shoshie, funny you should mention kosher, my Marine IS Jewish! We probably won't be doing the ceremony traditionally though….Thanks again ladies!!!!

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  56. now why didn't i think of this before i booked the stupid restraunt… oh well… restraunts are nice too…….

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  57. We had a potluck wedding, mostly because the alternative was to not invite about 3/4 of the guests! We decided that it was more important to us to have everyone there than to feed them all an expensive meal. So we had the potluck in the park (and everyone brought beautiful food!) and then we supplied some trays of Vietnamese sandwiches and vegetarian fresh rolls (cheap and tasty). This way we didn't have to worry about not having enough food if the out of towners couldn't bring something. We also had a cake so we requested that people bring something to share and mentioned that dessert would be provided (we didn't want to end up with lots of pies and cookies and stuff). We supplied rented champagne glasses and compostable plates, cups, and silverware (compostable plastic gets better and cheaper all the time and some places will ship it to you).

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  58. This is an EXCELLENT thread!!! I love how everyone pitches in for a wedding!

    I love the idea of coordinating the containers and labeling the food. And I definitely love the idea of a rounded out meal – I have been to an all dessert wedding but it was much too sweet for me (and the other guests I was chatting with) – by the end of it we were soooo hopped up on sugar and NOT in a good way…. :) I wanted a cheeseburger as soon as I left! ha ha :D

    I wish I knew how many people you were having at your wedding. We catered a party from a supermarket (Safeway) and it was $350 and we had enough food for about 75 people. They don't need a lot of time to prepare and I was very impressed with how the food turned out. We got chicken trays (strips, wings, & dip), sandwich trays, a veggie tray and a fruit/cheese tray. You could easily add fillers like rolls, crackers, and caesar salad – plus cake of course! Just some random suggestions – I think all of America is on a budget! :D

    Best wishes for your special day and thank your fiance for his service to our country!

    1 agrees
  59. im doing potluck for our wedding,ive bought soda and punch will make like a sandwhich platter with ham and cheese and turkey and cheese and maybe some pb&j,then a tray with dill & sweet pickles and maybe some olives,then a tray with maybe onion,tomato slices and maybe slices of extra cheese.and maybe veggie tray.then i was going to ask local guest to help with potluck which most of them suggested to do anyway.but my wedding will be cosidered way up there on tacky charts.ive bought invitations,some decoration,and all plates and silverware from dollar and 99 cent store.place we rented you have to pay for wedding side(gazebo) and or reception side sepeate or together so we save 250 by renting reception side and doing it in grass on that side.my dress is white on top and black on bottom(like church dress) hes wearing black slacks,white long sleeve shirt my dads(rip) black leather vest and a sude black hat that has lil harley emblems on it that was his brothers(rip)then his dads(rip).oh and did i mention its on halloween ,guest can dress up,wedding party can change after pics are taken.also i bought theses things from peerpetual kid there heas that go on ketchup and mustard bottles .one looks like throwing up and other looks like snot coming out of nose,lol

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  60. I was just about to email invitations to family and a few close friends for our wedding which is being held at a family summer residence and thought I should google wedding potlucks to see what others thought about the concept. We are planning on a potluck dinner, voluntary of course and of course considered as their gift to us. We are not doing a potluck because of budget but because of all the weddings we have gone to that were catered and the food was less than acceptable and a lot of money was spent on it….not pretty. I have also watched several of those wedding planner shows…OMG….can't believe people put themselves through so much stress…spending thousands they can't afford!!! That money could be best spent on a down payment for a house or education for their children. Seriously…people gather to help celebrate your love for each other…a potluck is a fabulous idea and takes a lot of stress away from the bride and groom…for whatever reason they choose to do it. Millions of dollars are spent annually on weddings and couples are getting ripped off big time. What is a wedding really about….sharing your commitment and love with family and close friends. Planning a potluck wedding is not tacky if presented in the proper way. I say go for it…the food is always good!!!

    1 agrees
  61. Where can you have a potluck wedding? My fiance is an alien and because of his visa I'll only have a month or two notice before our wedding. I expect it will be cold, windy and raining on the day of my event (San Diego winter). We'll have no more than 50 guests. Many venues require you to have a licensed caterer, and 50 people is too many for an in-home celebration. Suggestions?

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    • Check out a banquet hall that has a bring your own caterer policy. That way its still inside, but you can make it a potluck. You can also do it in a park and rent a tent that has sides.

      1 agrees
    • Lots of places will allow you to self-cater, just ask. Local social halls are great places that often allow this such as the Elks Lodge, VFW, etc. More formal establishments like hotels and fancy banquet halls are less likely to allow it. Also, your city might have places that are run by the parks department that will allow it too (even indoor places).

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  62. My parents got married for about $200 back in 1979. Their invitation was handwritten in sharpie then photocopied and read "bring a covered dish and an instrument, potluck and jam session to follow the ceremony". My mom says their friends STILL talk about how much fun they had at the wedding.

    I think a potluck is a find idea, especially (as Ariel mentioned) if your family likes to cook and share meals.

    2 agree
    • my husband and i are foing to repeat our vows after 48 years. not the 50th as we are in poor health. we have decided to do a potluck reception after the ceremony in our backyard which is lovely and also people can change clothes at the cottage if they wish, as our beliefs do not allow acholic beverages, we are moving the reception to a park that ajoins our property, then the guests can drink as they wish, we are going to have potluck and dancing afterward. also all who play an instrument can bring those and singers can sing if they wish. just really casual. also are asking that they bring lawn chairs.

      1 agrees
  63. I've actually experienced donating a dish to a potluck wedding… I didn't find it tacky nor was I offended by it. The background story? There was this couple who have lived together for a few years, because they were so poor and couldn't afford to celebrate a wedding at all. But they were reactivated by the church and been encouraged to get married to make things right, so they worked out the legal requirements, but still couldn't afford a reception. Friends wanted to make their wedding feel like a really special occasion, so we agreed to contribute a dish each. There were just 25 guests, but it was fun and memorable and there was even lots of leftover foods afterward.

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  64. I had an absolutely no frills wedding reception in a bar. I really wanted to do a potluck, and it sounds like in your situation, it's the best option. Either that, or go to a restaurant. I know too many brides who serve cake & punch made by a catering company because that's all they can afford. I had people coming from miles away who were going to need to eat. In the end, my mother in law caught a whiff of the potluck idea and shot it down. I conceded, but only because she agreed to pay for the catering as a present to us. Otherwise, it would have been potluck!

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  65. I've been thinking about having potluck wedding- sort of… In the invite, I will have a question asking "Will you like to assist with the wedding?" For those who check yes, I will ask them to contribute something that is the equivalent of 30 minutes or $10. Mostly, I am hoping I will have enough "contributors" to have them handle the salad course and cake. I am having two celebrations for the cost of about a half of a "normal" one.

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  66. As a guest to two weddings already this year, and helping a friend plan another one, I want to be a guest at a wedding, come, enjoy, celebrate, toast, and be able to leave. I don't want to be put to work, stress about having to make enough food for my share plus the friends I know who are coming that can't cook or won't bring anything. So I will spend as much, or likely more than I would have on a gift on cooking food, stay up late after work a few nights for shopping, prep, and cooking, figuring out how to transport the food, and then still have to spend a whole day at the ceremony (worrying about the food) and then start the reception setting up food, praying I don't get my fancy dress dirty. Please let guests be guests and not employees! PS – Cake and Champagne receptions are a great way to go if cost is an issue, even add so appetizers, cheese, bread, and cold cuts from Costco if you want more for pennies..

    3 agree
    • When I planned my wedding, my goal was to throw a party where no one had to do anything except eat, dance, and enjoy themselves. I planned it very carefully and specifically so that none of my guests would have to do anything, down to hiring a couple of theater majors from the local college to assist my day-of coordinator for set-up and break-down. I was very surprised to have a couple of my friends express some hurt that I didn't 'let' them contribute to the wedding. One even said that she felt like I didn't trust her to help me, which broke my heart as nothing could have been further from the truth. If I could change one thing, I would have asked friends what they wanted to do, or if they wanted to contribute anything, letting them know that it was perfectly okay if they didn't want to do anything except show up. I never wanted to assume that anyone would want to do anything (I've heard too many stories of brides being shocked that her friends weren't ecstatic about spending 18 hours making corsages and bouquets and tying 150 tiny ribbon bows on bottles of bubbles the day before the wedding to do that), but in trying not to burden people, I did make some of my friends very sad, which was the only dark part of a very happy, wonderful day.

      In the end, I wound up sending the hired college students home early, as my friends all jumped in and packed everything up for us at the end of the evening before I could even instruct the college students to do anything. Even if my friends were sad, I am still glad I didn't put anyone through any additional fuss or trouble, especially since some of my wedding guests came from across the country. Ultimately, I was just so glad to see everyone and know that everyone wanted to celebrate us and our marriage. I considered my wedding a gift to them to say thank you for all that they had done for me.

      1 agrees
  67. My aunt told me about a potluck wedding reception she attended…I had met the bride and groom a couple of times and see how they could pull this off…and said it was really neat because, since it was a WEDDING people made special foods. It wasn't just like a church potluck. I think if you requested, hey, celebrate us with a special dish, it could be amazing.

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  68. I don't care what anyone says I think a POT LOCK wedding would be the best way to go!!! I almost thought about doing it myself! NO pressure on what if some people don't like what I/you picked to serve for dinner or dessert! The potluck is budget friendly and you'd have so much more food to choose from! I love the Idea of a Pot Luck Wedding. The only reason why My Fiance and I aren't doing a potluck is because we're getting married out of state.

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  69. Some suggestions for Cassandra: church parish hall/meeting area (most have kitchens even), service club hall (Lions, Shriners, Legion), community centre, arena? Just some ideas- hope it helps

    1 agrees
  70. My best friends were married last fall, and they had a potluck party at the groom's parents (huge) house. The guest list was quite small, I don't think there were more than 20 people. It worked well for them, and for all of us. Both the bride and Groom are quite shy and were extremely relived not to be surrounded by tons of pomp and circumstance. Everyone ate well and made new friends. After the cake was cut the groom and his friends sat in a dark room playing cards, to relive the anxiety from having so many sets of eyes on him all day. It was wonderful fun and we enjoyed every moment of it. I think that if your guests are people who truly love you and are laid back enough, you could do just about anything, and they would enjoy it.

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  71. We're having a potluck reception as well. We're southern, we like southern food, and we have a lot of little old southern ladies in our families who live to cook. Just made sense :)

    1 agrees
  72. Another idea if you go the RSVP card route, you can make it a recipe card and have people actually give you the recipes for the dishes they bring. Then, not only do you have a wonderful collection of family/friend recipes that you will keep forever, but you can also display them at the wedding for a little extra personal flare! Plus, it would be a good way for people with food sensitivities or dietary restrictions to know what they can actually eat.

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  73. My concern with a potluck wedding would be exactly the same as "asking for gifts" — after all, producing food is generally much more effort than buying a gift! So making it clear no gifty-gifts are expected is one way to manage that, making it clear that people should only bring something if they personally feel inspired to is another, and I absolutely love the way cupcakephoraoh handled it by talking to people individually rather than including information on the invite. And the potluck-weddings you ladies have described above sound fabulous!

    1 agrees
  74. I think Potluck wedding reception is a greattt idea, especially the way the economy is today!! OMG! If a bride has the money to spend on catering.. great for her. but there are alote more couples today who dont have the money and I am one of them. This is my 3rd marriage and last(Had to go threw some bad apples to get to a great one). I am planning on a potluck for my reception and I am wearing kinda a 50's themed dress(tea length) and my fiance will wear a dress shirt and dress pants. My daughters are wearing cute dresses with small pink flowers and green leaves. Just trying to figure out how to do the Invitations and RSVP's. Anyone got any saggestions?????

    1 agrees
  75. My concern is that if you go potluck, then people will use that as an excuse to not get a gift or donate $. They will just bring a big plate of food instead- which is great but doesn't pay for the bills accrued by getting married and taking a few days off. I would also be concerned for sanitation. I have friends that wouldnt mind potluck- but not with strangers or after 'big uncle harry' leans over the table. theres always going to be one gross person.

    1 agrees
  76. I was just invited to a "covered dish" reception and the invitation included info identifying where the couple is registered at. Isn't it a bit excessive to not only expect guests to bring their own food and enough to share with other guests AND an additional gift? It seems to border on greedy in my opinion and it makes this wedding seem like a gift gouging opportunity. I am very interested in your opinion.

    1 agrees
  77. I love that the women on this site are so realistic. I posted a question about how to best word an invitation to a pot-luck wedding for our 50 closest friends and family members on theknot.com and all I got were brides telling me (not very kindly, I might add) that it was tacky and ridiculous. I love the idea that there are other sane women out there when it comes to wedding planning.

    7 agree
  78. Another idea is to ask for a dish AND the recipe. So the invite could say something like we want to start our life together with the favorite foods of our friends.

    3 agree
  79. our whole wedding is a collective thing. friends are helping, are the officiants, ..friends are integral for the food, too!

    i'm beyond excited

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  80. My fiancé and I are in the same boat – I'm stationed in Alaska, he's stationed in Washington, DC and we're having the wedding in Michigan. We settled on having a small ceremony with just our parents on the waterfront, and then a potluck the following day for everyone else. Neither of us wanted to ask for gifts, so on the invites we said, "Instead of gifts, please bring a dish to pass and all the love, laughter and fun you can supply!" Everyone loves the idea! They aren't pressured to get us a gift, but they still get to contribute in some way.

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  81. Nothing wrong with a potluck wedding. Lots of people in the 70s and early 80s did just that! Kept the wedding simple. The money should go more into the MARRIAGE than the wedding.

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  82. Also, one pot wonders are great. We are doing a low country boil in Savannah. (Because my mom shot down the pot-luck idea. She firmly believes my entire guest list would go home with food poisoning.) The corn and potatoes are from a roadside stand. The sausage is from a local butcher. The seafood is from local fishermen. And, the best part, we're feeding 100 people for under $300!! If it weren't a May wedding, we would do chili for the same reason.

    2 agree
  83. I LOVE the family/team spirit of potlucks and we would totally have gone down that route, but we have so many allergies through our guests – some of them pretty dangerous – so we felt it was a bit too risky. Instead we are supplying and preparing the food, in a similar style :)

    1 agrees
  84. We were only engaged 4 months and were still students, didn't have much money so we rented a park and building for the ceremony and party, and we did make it potluck. But everyone was so happy to be there and they brought their best dishes, and deserts, and it was the BEST WEDDING FOOD EVER! SO much fantastic food. You could not get the quality and variety form any catering company ever. I would do it all over again exactly the same.

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  85. I was invited to a Potluck Wedding but will be flying hundreds of miles to get there;.What is the proper thing to do, if all I could bring is the tacky deli vegi platter given circumstances of being in a hotel and not much access to gourmet kitchen facilities? If they really expect out of town guests to be also bringing food items, what? Bottle of wine or champagne? Is there a gracious way to handle this. In any case, I intend to drink heavily and early.

    1 agrees
    • Elizabeth, these sound like excellent questions for the couple who invited you. There's nothing wrong with asking them for suggestions — they may know of a great bakery where you could pick something up to share, or a local deli that has awesome, easy options for out of town guests.

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    • They may just tell you to not bring anything at all, which would be nice. They shouldn't expect out of town guests to contribute since you are already spending money and time traveling to their wedding! I think wine/champagne is a good idea if their venue allows it, or maybe a dessert from a local bakery as Ariel suggested. Perhaps you could also have something delivered from a local business if you won't have a rental car or means to pick up the items.

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  86. I think potluck dinners are fine, as long as you do something special for the long distance guests. They didn't travel all that way for nothing. XD

    1 agrees
  87. I personally love a pot luck but I want to be really honest and admit that I have declined invitations to pot-luck weddings!
    Unless it is a small tight family wedding it may be a difficult request that won't be loved by all guest. I work a lot of hours have a large family and just might not have time to make something for a wedding and would possible decline the invite! My weekend schedule is sooo tight I may not have time to grab something before the wedding either. So as not to disappoint anyone I have opted out and sent a gift instead!

    Another point to remember is if there is more than 60-75 guest it often does not work well. (I own a wedding design and event planning business, I have seen more bad pot-lucks than good ones) When a pot-luck turns out it is awesome!….. but when it doesn't it is SUPER stressful and you will not find out until right at the reception! It is a wedding and larger quantities of food are required and there will be guest who do not bring dishes or bring very small dishes. I have had to do a last minute food run on more than one occasion.

    That being said I have seen some incredible pot luck weddings too! So if pot luck is the way to go for you keep a few things in mind. Smaller guest list, open communication about food types and quantities (not necessarily on invitation). I usually suggest doing a half and half to make sure it goes off without a hitch. So the couple supplies a basic staple and everyone else brings the extras, such as supply a variety of sandwiches, lasagne, burgers and fixings etc and ask guest to bring side dishes! This way you are guaranteed to have enough food and help ease the budget restraints at the same time!

    BTW love the last comment about considering out of town guest! After all they did travel all that way just for you at their own expense!

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  88. Ok something totally new to me as an event coordinator! I have a wedding this summer that is registered with a local bakery and gourmet deli. Instead of gifts they registered for reception food! They even have a registry list!
    The invitation wording was carefully chosen to be polite and leave a "choice" to guest. I really can't wait to start hearing feedback (invitations were just sent out as it is the end of September). This may be an option too!….plus you will at least know ahead of time if there is enough food!

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  89. If you ever look up how weddings were held back in the "good ole days", that is how it was originally done. The community came together with dishes of food from the families celebrating the wedding. The gift giving started with the same families bringing items from their own homes to "donate" to the newlyweds so they could start setting up housekeeping in their new home together. So in my opinion, to say it is tacky is just ridiculous. It is traditional, but not tacky.

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  90. I think it's a bit too simplistic to just say "oh pot luck is how they did it back in the day, so it's not tacky!! The world has changed quite a bit since then. Many families have two working parents, live far from extended family and no one to watch their children. People are shuffling their kids to soccer, ballet, karate, and a plethora of extra curricular activities. Even a lot of singles are working long hours or two jobs to make ends meet. IMHO, it's quite burdensome to ask your guests to cook a dish to feed your entire guest list. Fair enough if you are providing an option to give a gift in lieu of a dish, but I do think it's not appropriate to expect both. Etiquette exists not to be "stuffy" but to be considerate of others.

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  91. I think it's wrong to judge others and say it's tacky. Just because it's not what you want or what you would do, doesn't make it tacky. It just means it's not for you. Especially in this situation where they don't have much options for their time frame. It would be even more wrong to judge them over something they really can't help, you know? I just really dislike saying mean things about people and their wedding choices. If they want a potluck, that's great! I don't see an issue with that at all!

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