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!

Comments on Is a potluck wedding tacky?

  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.

    • 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 🙂

  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.

    • So much this! We thought about doing a potluck, but most of our guest list will be traveling from out of town. So we’d be saying “Now that you’ve spent $$$ on airfare, $$$ on a hotel, and have nowhere cook, please bring food! Here’s the nearest grocery store!”

      Also, potluck logistics can get crazy when you have larger crowds of 120+; we wanted everyone to be able to celebrate with us instead of trying to figure out where serving utensils and plates are.

    • I would not dream of asking my guests for help , if they are flying in or driving a long
      ways it is such an inconvenience,especially since they will be tired, or just have that jet lag feeling . On top of that, they may not know the city well enough to go trotting around trying to find some food to take to a wedding. No one is just going to run in 7-11 and grab
      some chips for wedding, so that means they would have to search. What if their plane is delayed? Then they will be double stressed to go find something for the wedding and get there on time. I know all this because my mom was the queen of hosting big , social parties.
      I just want my guests to be present, relaxed and enjoy the celebration . If all you can afford is beautiful cake and punch/champagne reception just have that .We attended a
      cakes , desserts and refreshment wedding reception. It was the most incredible cakes and desserts reception it was so beautiful it had a heavenly look to it, people were stunned at the sheer beauty of it all sweets. When you send cake and punch invitation this informs the guest that they should of eaten before they arrive.

  3. 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!

  4. 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…

  5. 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!

  6. 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. 🙁

    • I would not dream of asking my guests for help , if they are flying in or driving a long
      ways it is such an inconvenience especially since they will be tired, or just have that jet lag feeling . On top of that they may not know the city, well enough to go trotting around trying to find some food to take a wedding . I just want my guests to be present, relaxed and enjoy the celebration . If all you can afford is beautiful cake and punch/champagne reception just have that .We attended a cakes , desserts and refreshment
      wedding reception It was the most elaborate, beautiful dessert tables it had a heavenly look to it, people were stunned at the sheer beauty of it all, we had so much fun
      When you send cake and punch wedding reception invitation this informs the guest that they should of eaten before they arrive. Every family is different , some are strong traditionalist, and some not so it is a decision families have to make together of what works for them ,

  7. 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.

    • 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

    • 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?

Read more comments

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *