Secrets that Wedding Planners & Catering Companies do NOT want you to Know

How we self catered our own daughter Bailey’s dinner at her wedding reception, on a busy Thanksgiving weekend, and spent the whole day having fun, enjoying the party AVOIDING A KITCHEN ALL DAY…feeding almost 300 people, the meal costing under $300.

Everyone keeps bugging me to blog about this, and to share our tips on how we pulled off the party off the century on a dime too. Bailey just came home after doing missionary work for more than a year in Russia, and we still had one son we were supporting out doing service and missionary work in Africa. So we had to do this wedding on a shoe string.
Jack said everyone needs to know what I know, because I was born with “champaign taste on a beer budget” and my skills came from knowing how to put a $50 bill where others spent $500. Good taste and having trade secrets has helped me to make $4000 wedding budgets look like $40,000 wedding budgets.
The act of planning any large event, but especially a wedding is almost like directing a 2 hour stage play that is being filmed for a live tv event. You only get one shot at making sure all the right lines, characters, actors and supporting actors, the set, the emotions and experiences, costumes, lighting, and entertainment all come together for a once in a life time event that will be “replayed” through film and video and memories for the next 50 years of their life, and then eventually immoratlized by their children and grand children when they are passed on. No Pressure. But it is possible to have an amazing experience you will love and cherish, even if you are on a strict budget. Innovative people can get what they want, if they are organized, savvy, and determined to pull it together, I do not believe anyone needs to go into debt to pay for an event. Every couple that wants a nice wedding they love can have it, if they really want it. In my previous career as a wedding planner I have helped pull off amazing weddings on very short notices and little money (sometimes in little time too… less than 48 hours was my record) Not my favorite way to do a wedding cause that is like Aghhhhhh! …but every love deserves a love story beginning.In this blog post I am going to post pics from real life events that Jack and I pulled off for pennies on the dollar. (We had permission from Bailey and Taylor and from our friends Josh and Morgan Jensen, so those are the two weddings we will be showing today)
Pictures taken inside of the Barn a few day before Bailey and Taylor’s November reception.

The BEST thing this place had going for it was the amount of time the owners gave us and price. No heat, No kitchen, and a limited electrical that could handle some Christmas lights. There was enough parking in an adjacent field that 300 people could come and nobody was going to be squished. We were not close enough to annyone to be a nuisance when music was going. $500 total rental for the barn for the whole Thanksgiving weekend and they let me come and go as I pleased, which meant the week before the party I dropped off a couple truck load of props, including bales of hay. (More on that below.)

It also came empty, so I ordered 10 large round tables, two buffet tables, and 80 chairs and some basic ivory linens rented from a wedding supply company and they were delivered before Thanksgiving on Thursday and picked up Monday afterwards. The table and linen rental company charged me $150 for that package. We knew our 275 or so guests would come and go in waves and not all be seated at once and that we would have seperate hay bales near the fire for seating. There was also going to be dancing going on on one end of the barn. (That is a crowd flow tip btw!) I have seen people make the mistake of putting up too many tables and have half of them completely empty and the place look sparse.

We were going to need a fire going in the corner of the barn because November in Utah can be cold. I asked my dad to be in charge of keeping it stoked that day. The owner of the barn showed him a stack of wood outside that we could use. So we just had to bring matches.
Converting the working barn into a reception space

Just to show a little $ and imagination can go a long way.
Three fun projects in this above photo (taken before the party started:)
Hot Cocoa, Herbal tea, and Spiced Cider Cart to the right. (That cart is my kitchen island from home repurposed!) Easy Peasy and I actually bought those stainless steel heated water dispensers cheap off of a local classifed ad from a church that was upgrading theirs.
The tall empty oblique shaped wrought iron and glass shelf on the left ($10 garage sale find that normally sits on my front porch full of stacked pumpkins in the fall). It was filled during the reception with beautiful salted (with or without nuts) carmel apples* on parchment squares. That guests self helped themselves to.
The barn “back drop” in the middle. Not to make this a pinterest DIY post, but It was basically just a framed fake wall made of cheap 2x4s cut and screwed into a barn shape. We made it flat on the ground in the garage. We covered the barn shaped framing with fake cheap thin wall panelling that had vertical stripes on it. (Took two sheets) And we gingerbread house style designed the fake barn door and window on top of the paneling, and a fake thin roof line, all with cheap rough hewn 1x4s and 1x2s. Laying them in different patterns till we liked the scaled size and look of it. Screwed them on. Then added a $2.99 fake gate handle to the fake door and cut a hole on top and added a $14.99 wall light from Ikea. It cost us $60 total to make. The light being the most expensive part. We added a long Strand of bigger C9 Christmas lights (drilled 3/8 inch even holes about 8 inches apart all around the edges to allow us to screw the clear Christmas light bulbs from the front to the small socket and Christmas strand that is on the other side.)That made it look like a barn marquee when we plugged it in. And it lit up the whole left side of the barn after dark. The glass french doors on the side were an after thought. Neighbor was throwing them out during his remodel. I added scrap panneling left over to the fronts of the white wood on his old office doors to match the barn. Had to go back and buy 4 hinges that matched my gate handle. Jack anchored the whole thing to the floor. Today it is ancored to a fence in my garden out back and the little kids perform variety shows for grandma and neighbors in front of it in the summer. Here it is my yard:
*Side note: If you want carmeled apples at a big party they can all easily be made 2 to 3 days ahead. Carmel Apple Tips: Not everyone wants one. Some people with braces or dental work won’t eat them (Make only about 1/4 to 1/3 of your expected guest count we only served 80 that night, had 275 people there. People shared them. Moms finished the half their kids did not eat.)
So apples and hot cocoa are great, but we wanted a real meal at the reception. Great food and great conversation to our family is the center of our life together. We eat home cooked foods. We rejoice in breaking bread together. We have 7 kids, so we had to learn to budget and cook from scratch to be able to feed everyone well. Jack is a masterful chef and baker. Food brought us together daily around our kitchen table for 25 years of our own marriage so far now. It kept us all in communication and connected. With half of our kids already grown, we still invite them all home every Sunday back to our home and it is always like a holiday gathering each week. College kids come home to a homecooked meal. Sometimes they bring their cousins home too. Here we are on a typical family night. Good food is a part of the social gathering and familial events in our lives. We kind of have become food snobs. The real problem with it is, good food can cost a lot of money, and over time after dozens of disappointing restaurant experiences that are expensive with a big family, we began to realize the culinary skills happening in our kitchen (Jacks flank steak is just perfection and his brown butter and glazed carrots are a family request) it made eating out almost unpalatable at times. Because when Jack cooks, he goes all out!

We are constantly feeding a small familial crowd. We know what it means to eat well on a budget. But still it can be a shock to find out what it can cost to feed a large crowd at a life event, which is why people talk about their life savings going to “weddings and funerals!”
When it comes to large events, Your catering choices are slim financially speaking:
You either spend too much money on something great but that just ends up in the sewer the next day (people spend thousands on catering) or worse you spend moderate amounts hiring a mediocre caterer but end up with bad catering, and still an often shocking bill to pay for often subpar reheated Costco frozen meatballs. The third option is kind of the worse option, many do it all themselves, but often badly, because they often bite off more than they can handle. They have never run a restaurant and suddenly are cooking for 300 on a day they are supposed to enjoy, look good and be relaxed…and too often the mother of the bride (or in some cases the bride) ends up totally stressed out, hair not finished, and probably with a crock pot that spilled 1/4 of the meal in the back of their car at some point. We Saw This- just last year in fact!
Many have given up on the idea altogether, because of the effort or costs, and so many have the “Cake and Punch” only receptions now, that are like a boring sugar rush headache. (I literally drink a protein shake on my way into those kind of dessert only events and feel like I need insuline afterwards!)
This option may suffice and it can often be pretty to look at but not super memorable, or healthy. PS Also it is good to see the happy couple actually ENJOY their wedding day and eat a real meal! (Bailey wrapped herself in a blanket and napkin to protect her dress! Ha!)
I wanted a new option. A way to elevate the choice of doing it yourself, because I am frugal and also a total foodie. However we wanted a way where 99% of it was going to be done, way ahead of time. No stress. No spills. Having fun. Good food. And Affordable!
We knew we had the skills but we needed to use new tools to pull it off so there was NO stress. I did not want any massive efforts the actual big day we wanted to be relaxed and focused on our families and friends, and the bride and groom.

So this was the first time we catered our own party without lifting a finger during the party, and had time to also sit down and eat, and also dance!
The right tools changed everthing!
We fed around 275 people dinner at the reception for about only $1 each. We only had around 30 minutes of effort to finish our food prep early morning of the BIG DAY! That was it. Period.
The average spent, nation wide, for catering a wedding is $65 a plate. $25 a plate is standard in the state of Utah where I am currently living. We fed almost 300 people with real food, that was amazing, for dinner for under $300! Plus, the next day after we had enough left overs to feed our whole neighborhood congregation again at a dinner in our gym after church. How we pulled this off on a shoe string and without stress is worth sharing.

Side Note: Almost everything at the reception had real meaning. These 4 plaid chairs that the bride and groom sat in, both at the table where they ate and also another set at the chalkboard for photos, were the four chairs that the bride’s Great Grandma and Great Grandpa Armstrong sat in for more than 60 years of their marriage in their kitchen.
There was baskets of old woolen tartan blankets used by guests all over the reception since it was chilly outside and my side of the family is Scottish and she was marrying an Irish McGinnis it fit.
In fact, there was an old McGinnis tartan blanket (marked that it was made in Ireland) in my collection I have from my Scottish grandmother who has sinced passed, and we gave it to Taylor and Bailey to start their life with a family heirloom, that connected both sides of the family. There is several photos of Bailey wrapped up in at as she walked the farm and met the animals that day.

One other item is worth mentioning, I was 7.5 months pregnant with our youngest child (our last baby) and my husband had limited mobility because he had just had surgery on his foot. So we really did something amazing! And, we really did NOT have the ability to slave away all day to accomplish it.

SOME MONEY SAVING TIPS: It was Autumn, as you can tell from the pictures, but I always use nature as inspiration in every party and am keenly aware of when shifts in decore and supplies go on sale for seasonal changes. Wise brides do not use tulips in August, evergreen Christmas trees in June. Even in the summer wedding event we helped pull together(pics of that at the bottom of this blog post) we planted seeds throughout the garden way ahead of the wedding so there was color around them that looked good with their wedding colors. TIP: Always use what you can get in seasonal abundance from mother nature and what grows well and is naturally everywhere in your region. I also prefer to do seasonal themed weddings in Autumn, Spring, Summer, or Winter themes: but for budgeting purposes I like picking dates a little late in each season to take advantage of sales. A spring wedding in May or early June, instead of April, means the day after Easter in April all those pastel dresses and heals and Spring decore and tulips are all on sale! Late summer or early September when it can still be hot, means anything after the 4th of July for the garden or outdoor lights and shade umbrellas, lanterns, etc are all going to be on clearance.

Tablescapes were personal. Taylor proposed at their favorite bookstore. After she said yes they bought their first children’s book for their someday family to celebrate. “The Giving Tree”. They are wonderfully nerdy.
Books were free from her expansive eclectic personal library. She brought me stacks of hardbound books she put together with cheap twine to use. She is also the owner of a premium book company that releases new YA books in subscription boxes so we had to do it. Books and Bailey go together. A Large Tree fell in our yard a month before the wedding from a storm, so we made use of it by cutting big logs, small stumps, and large branches were also cut to make 10 to 12 foot high bare branched looking trees that were covered with lights and wired vertically to the posts in the barn. Pine cones were on the ground all over our yard and free.
The sides of the walls of the barn were covered with verticle dried corn stalks that we used twine to tie them to the boards along the walls. We got them for free! A local farm that does a spooky corn maze was happy to let us cut down “as much as we wanted” after Halloween was over, right before they disked up the fields. I have gotten bkessed with good timing like this before. I once filled an entire moving rental truck with dozens of 5 gallon buckets with water in them. We filled them with over 1000 “dinner plate” sized fresh cut Dahlias to use for a September wedding that looked like we had purchased $20,000 worth of fresh flowers. Why? The grower only grows them to sell the bulbs, he was 1 week away from discing the fields and throwing the flowers away, so he could dig up the bulbs. I had a huge fresh flower wedding order to fulfill in 2 days. It was to this day the most stunning wedding I have ever done.

They kept everything extremely frugal and very personal. The wedding party was all their siblings, they brought together future brother and sister in laws. All shirts, ties, vests, skirts, could all be reused by those who bought them.

Pumpkins and gourds were free. We got them from our own garden plus hundreds were donated by friends who wanted them gone from their front porches after Halloween was over. Their bales of hay used at their Halloween parties were tossed our way too. We stored them in a cold place in our garage to make them last until we took the truckloads to the barn. We left the straw and alphalfa at the farm afterwards to be used as feed and bedding for their animals. The pumkins after also were left. They went to their pigs. Some of the pumpkins donated were over 60lbs and used as picture props for families and guests to use outside the barn doors.

Our friends were all decorating for Christmas by the time Thanksgiving rolled around and were happy to give us their pumpkins and gourds and get them out of their way. I asked them all about it Nov 1st on Facebook (wedding was not until Nov 29th). Bailey found a cheap but super cool world globe at a local antique shop that became their sign in book that they still have on display in their office. (Again personal touch since they had both lived overseas, at different times, between Hong Kong, Japan, Lithuania, Hawaii, and Russia! And had travelled through China and Europe and the Caribbean.)

Liquid Chalk Pens, a quart of Chalk Paint and some smooth plywood was only $40 to $50, it was a gift I could give them by using my 7th grade Caligraphy class skills. It was a photo booth backdrop and where they did their ring ceremony surrounded by parents and siblings whose names were all also on the board, and they all used it a lot for taking memorable family pics! 🙂

Actually, the only items purchased for the many dining tables decorated in the barn was commercial bolts of burlap used as toppers on each ivory table (any extra burlap was wrapped over the top of our hay bales near the fire), and cheap mason jars purchased by the dozens from the canning isles at Walmart and the candles were simply cheap tealights packs of 100 are under $4 at Ikea. Oh, and some Spanish Moss in big bags.

The cheap candles last 4 hours. So we lit them an hour before guests arrived and just threw them away 3 hours later as they began to burn out after the party was over.

We already owned a bunch of lanterns at home so we re-used those everywhere that we did not use the mason jars! Even the old ones from out backyard garden that have patina were used.Antique farm tools and trucks were given some hay and used for pictures too. They also found out their University they had attended had a print shop(BYU Printing). Here is the front and back of their invite:Students there work on publications and design graphics, layouts, took care of the University paper and brochures. Bailey designed the invite herself and took the 2 jpeg images to them. (On a thumb drive) The cost of getting their invitations done there was $40 per 250 for the weight of paper she used. And they were amazing!

Fall flowers that we used to make corsages, wheat sheath boutineers, bouquets, etc. were all 50% to 75% off after Nov 1st as the Christmas fauna and decore came into stores after Halloween. We used a combination of super high quality silk and dried flowers on sale, and we made them ourselves weeks ahead of time.

Another purchase that had huge impact was a $100 roll of huge commercial sized (3 foot wide) brown craft paper and some construction wall staplers covered in a very unique way (seen in detail below) every large unslightly plywood wall surfaces in the barn, behind the buffet and also above the fireplace brick. Okay, back to the food! In this photo above the Saratoga Jacks famous Sourdough Bread and Rolls made with our 200 year old sourdough start that helps our beautiful bread to be easier to digest, especially for those who have gluten intolerance, which meant so much to our daughter (her daddy Jack’s Recipes) were spilling out of a cornicopia with love onto the table. The sourdough was started on Thanksgiving night before bed, using cheap 50lb bags of flours and mulitgrains we ground ourselves. We put the dough in big bowls and let it rise slow rise overnight while we slept.

They were shaped and baked the next morning. We all pitched in. We made 400! The new in-laws helped too and after we baked them they were cooled then kept in big plastic bread bags, eventually stowed under the buffet table at the barn in a box, ready to restock the buffet. Done well before Saturdays reception, but still fresh.
If baking is not your thing, those could have easily been bought rolls from Costco too! And not been too terribly more expensive. The rolls were taken Friday afternoon with us to the barn where we spent the rest of Friday afternoon and early evening setting up. My real secret however for the successful low maintance and affordable meal for hundreds were not the artisan breads made ahead of time.Those were a gift of love to a bride who asked her dad, a chef and baker, to make sure it was done the way she loved it.
PS In case you are interested, click on this recipe card picture and save our Saratoga Jacks Sour Dough Recipe which includes Artisan Options. Wonderful info for those with gluten sensitivites it is a miracle!

PS another side note moment but just in case you want to use our recipe in sweet rolls here is how:
Pictured is my sweet Jack Christmas night when he made sour dough cinnamon rolls.
Using our regular standard recipe for 4 loafs of bread(ABOVE) make our basic dough, (if you need a start call us!) afterwards allow the dough to have up to a twelve hour rise while you sleep. The next morning roll it out like a huge oblong pizza dough to a little more than 1/4 thick on a massive floured counter space. Smother it with a couple sticks of softened butter. Then sprinkle a 2-3 cups of sugar all over and around a 1/8 cup cinnamon. Roll it up like a long snake. Cut them at 1 inch thick disks …and let the rolls rise again (1 to 2 hours) on a cookie sheets (use parchment paper under them). We let the rolls be slightly touching but not crowded before the second rise.
Once doubled.
Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes.
When they were almost cool I top them with my favorite whipped topping. Amy’s Famous Light Whipped Cream Cheese frosting and topping (I make in my blender…and use on top of a lot of desserts.)

2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 package (8oz) of cream cheese
1 tsp of real vanilla
1 cup powder sugar
Blend until stiff peaks and enjoy!
(If you get nothing else out of this insanely packed blog post… you will thank me for that recipe!) Xo
Okay BACK to the FOOD for the Wedding!
The Real Secret:
The Saratoga Jacks Thermal Cookers aka or the #JackPot. These are magical cordless slow cookers which can keep food locked in and hot and ready to serve for up to 8 hours without the need for power on site. I could walk away for 8 hours of not fussying, not worrying, not having to be cooking. They are portable. They are cordless. And as long as the lid stays closed they continue to slow cook and maintian your meal at safe and hot serving temps. It only takes 2 to 4 minutes of boiling and some prepping to get food started and then once transfered into the unit, they are self sufficient and continue to work for up to 8 hours after that. Heaven! This is what they normally look like:

To dress them up for a barn wedding, we just place them in fun apple baskets! (We found them at a grocery display company for $1.69 each wholesale and used our business license to order a few!)
Because they are portable and work without being plugged in, we had taken one or two cookers before with us on remote trips to use in National Parks and in areas there was no power. I had also used them after natural disasters when fuel for cooking was limited and power was down, but now we realized we are using them for beautiful unique gatherings in rare locals. Because they don’t require attention and work away ftom a kitchen or plug.
NOW remote parties and gatherings on beaches, fairy inspired weddings in forests, mountain retreats, garden parties and receptions without power …are no longer an issue with these amazing tools. (Additional Pics of other weddings and events, using our cookers for catering below) Every caterer should know about them.
My other big secret is: Saratoga Jacks Cookers (no this is not deja vu) the other less known miracle is they can be used like coolers too, and can also keep really cold things cold. For several hours too!
#JackPot – No wonder…our customers call them that! Good as Gold to Caterers!
The day of our our oldest daughters wedding, we used 12 Saratoga Jacks Thermal cookers. For 275ish people.
Half of the cookers were filled with 3 different soups(2 cookers full of each soup). There was Chicken Tortilla, My famous Italian Sausage Wedding Soup, and Bacon & Cheese Creamy Potato Soup. 42 liters of homemade delicious and famous family recipes in 6 of the cookers. Totally the perfect autumn solution for our guests that walked in past gourds, pumpkins, and bales of hay. A roaring fire greated them by stacks of dried corn cobs and hot soups. Another reason soups makes sense, meat is the most expensive ingredient. Soup and Salad Restaurants make almost as much profit as a coffee shop (burned beans and water). We used under 10lbs of meat, for 275 people and we had fantastic rich flavors.

We used the other six Saratoga Jacks thermal cookers like coolers. Keeping chilled 2 different salads (3 cookers each of Jacks famous Italian Pasta salad, and 3 cookers held my Fresh Baby Red and herbs Potato Salad) and we also kept also bags of fresh greens salad in bags in a cooler and served that in a big stainless bowl that also fit inside a wider apple basket, just like the Jack Pots were placed in on the tablescape, so it all looked matchy match enough. The six Saratoga Jacks cookers(aka coolers) that held the salads were filled, plus the bags of green salad…made more than 42 liters of premade delicious chilled salads.
How did we get away from hardly any work the day of the wedding?
First the pasta and potato & herb salads were all made the night before, and they were put inside the inner stainless steel pots that can be removed from inside the thermal unit, we let them chill all night in their pots in the fridge.

After they sat in our refidgerators overnight, they were simply ready to quickly be transfered back inside the Saratoga Jacks thermal units which needed to go to the barn the next morning for our big day. The salads stayed cold once inside the thermal unit for hours because it is so insulated. The inner stainless steel pots and salads were refridgerated down to 38 degrees all night before being locked in.
What do you mean? Inner Pot, Outer Pot…I am so confused!
This picture below from our new cookbook, actually is a good ariel shot showing the inner steel pot and its handle that folds down inside the unit:
For a better visual here:
This is a 9 second video of how easy it is:
To put your cooking pot back inside your Saratoga Thermal Unit: Click Here for a 9 second demo

The soups took just a little more effort the morning of, but not much. The soups ingredients were all pre prepped by me the night before and all ingrediants were cut and measured in ziplocks (waiting in fridge) and all that had to be done the morning of the wedding was to dump the pre measured spices and cut meat and veggies into the soup stocks (broths) already pre made and waiting inside the Jack Pots. It was ready to be quickly heated to a 2 minute boil on the stove.
Before I was even out of bed the morning of the wedding, my dear hubby Jack had already dumped my prepped ingrediants and boiled each Jack Pot filled with our soups. Each stainless pot was quickly brought to a hard boil for ONLY 2 MINUTES each, while I slept. Then he quickly transfered the boiling hot soup back into their portable Saratoga Jack’s insulated thermal unit. Then they were locked shut. There was no more fuss. They were all done.

They sat ready to go with the still cooking soups locked inside.
All 12 of the salads and soups were driven to the barn in the back of our suburban by Jack (who got up first and was already dressed) while everyone else got their hair, make up, and dresses and suits on.

He placed the 12 Jack Pots and his extra cooler with green salad and dressing in it all under the decorated tables and they were still boiling hot or icy chilled inside their thermal units when he left to come back home and pick us all up. Then we all piled into the Suburban together and we were on our way to the wedding(seperate location). The Saratoga Jack Pots sat under the table waiting for the reception that was going to be held over a 2 hour period(6 to 8 hours later).
The Saratoga Jack thermal cookers continued to slow cook and hold foods at piping hot temps for up to 8 hours.
All of it was waiting safely ready inside the barn out of sight with no aditional power onsight required. Which was great because their was no kitchen available at the barn. The rest of the late morning and afternoon, as everything was stowed and ready to go under those pre set buffet tables, Jack and I totally relaxed and we went to enjoy their wedding and did pictures there with both celebatory families and friends when the happy ceremony was finished.
After the wedding the couple and their bridal parties did their bridal shots on location there. We have over 1000 photos of that day.

Afterwards we went ahead to the barn to meet the DJ, turn on the lights and music, and began to light all the candles.
Our daughter and her new hubby and the wedding party and families eventually followed and took more pics together again at the farm.
Later when guests arrived, we all participated in a ring ceremony and prayer then we all sat down for dinner at the reception and ate together. Others served themselves from the cookers that now sat beautifully inside the apple baskets in the buffet. Each labelled with vintage chalkboard signs.

(A couple neighbor girls helped anyone who needed anything near the tables). Once during the entire night, did someone have to go pull the empty thermal cookers out of the apple baskets and replace them with more full boiling hot ones (soups)…and ice cold ones (salads) the extra cookers were still waiting hidden under the table and we added more rolls to the cornicopia.
It took less then 3 minutes to switch them all out fresh and keep the food flowing. (Jack did the salads, I switched out the pots of soups. The used empty ones were stowed again back under the table. Out of site.)
PS. Our Saratoga Jack Pots have handles that made them easy to lift and move quickly and other than during that 3 minutes of brief effort at the reception, we all spent the rest of the night dancing, eating again, and a lot of laughing!

And that is why we LOVE catering using Saratoga Jacks Thermal cookers to cater. They are like Cordless portable crockpots…that can keep cold things cold or hot things hot… without need of a plug.

The whole event was so easy and it was so succesful we did the exact same thing the next summer when a family friend asked us to host their summer wedding in our garden for 175-200 guests.

When we purchased “disposable” dinner plates we favor the costco set of 9 or 10 inch clear plates that also come with sets of small dessert plates in the pack to use later with the cake. A huge 12 inch plate gets over filled, and half of the food will end up in the garbage not their mouths. We prefer using for soups a smaller bowl that is sold often at restraunt supply houses as a sherbet or ice cream cup/bowl. It fits nicely on the plate with the salads around it.

We used 8 cookers for that event, plus rolls we bought, being outside we also had limited power supply. We danced and ate a full meal at that wedding and reception too.Their family could not believe they needed to do nothing when they arrived to help set up and cook, it was already done. Everyone relaxed. Instead of hot chocolate on my kitchen island, because it was summer, they added a self serve flavored popcorn station and a self serve cotton candy machine instead. That the teens pretty much never stopped making. The popcorn was scooped into brown paper lunch sacks, and then the powdered flavors were sprinkled in the bag and the guests would shut their sack to shake it up before they ate it.
Here is some pictures of that event:

Since doing these two events, there have been other inquiries to plan events in remote locations. Someone asked us to host her summer family reunion dinner of 150 held in a large equestrian park (we only used 6 pots for that event. We did BBQ pulled pork and bbq pulled chicken kept hot, put on sandwhich rolls and baked beans and cold salads, including a coleslaw, for that.) That also had no power on site.

A fun loving lady and her husband wanted us to come to Las Vegas and help with their wedding. She was really fun to work with, and since her make up artist did not end up showing up, I got to do her makeup! (The flower got glamoured up too!)

Who would have thought what we use off grid while camping would help me perfect some recipes with Jack to use for big catered events to not be overwhelmed and stressed out? It just works everytime!
We have since learned there are church mission leaders using our cookers for monthly mission dinners feeding hundreds of hungry missionaries in similair fashion.
I also used 3 cookers at Thanksgiving (we usually feed 40) to help keep a full pot of fresh whipped mashed potatos, a full pot of gravy, and a full pot of Jack’s famous glazed carrots all hot and ready hours before dinner while we all played games and the turkey finished.

Alrighty, some Final $ Saving Wedding Tips:
Don’t skimp on good photographers. (Or have a friend that REALLY is one.)
Do trade if you have to!
In fact I trade a lot.
Bailey’s dress which had two different skirts, one for the wedding and then one for dancing later…
we traded for that with a customer who owned a Custom Wedding Dress Rental Company who wanted thermal cookers and other emergency preparedness items! We both had what the other needed.
And finally let’s talk about the cake and a little bragging:

My younger 17 year old daughter Grace Victoria, who is an artist and bakes like her dad spends days (way before the wedding) making the bride a perfect pinterest worthy gumpaste, sugar flower, and fondant cake to her liking…but does it over dummy styrofoam.
Then lets it harden and dry.
I then make flower toppers for the cakes to match the brides bouquet.
The day before the wedding Grace makes a matching real small round cake for the bride and groom, they will cut, and also matching sheet cakes. Several.
After the bride and groom cut their cake, the sheet cakes are cut into serving pieces and placed on serving plates. This is done out of site of wedding guests. This is really the one big task of the night and in both of these weddings I asked a loving Aunt and Uncle of thebride to volunteer to do the task.
Once cut these slices are brought back out and served from platters, or placed for people to grab under the fondant “dummy” cake, so the main cake remains untouched and lovely all through the party.
This does two things:
Gives the professional look of fondant to be used visually, but allows for the much better tasting spongier cakes, lighter fillings, and creamier frosting options for what is actually eaten.
This also brings the cakes that would normally run between $800 and $1200 down to around $200 to $400 total. (Includes the Rental of the fondant cake and flowers…and the costs of the real cutting cake or topper and real serving sheet cakes.)
Here is samples of the ones she made for this wedding, she was 16 at the time. She blew the work away happening by adults at the local culinary school.

Grace also did her sister Bailey’s cake at 15 years old. It was her first.

She did this one for a 75th birthday party at 17. Her first time to paint images with water and food coloring onto fondant.

Sadly the only bummmer part is after the parties:
They eventually end.
And the clean up work begins.
We do have candles to blow out and of course some thermal cooker pots and serving spoons need to be washed. The six apple baskets we use need to be stacked and stowed for another party at another time, the twinkly lights all have to be unplugged and they get put away.
Tablecloths need to be washed.
And the other bummer part, is we never know what to do with that extra sheet cake that is left over…so I eat too much of it…while I clean up! It is a good thing we don’t do this everyday!
Thanks for sticking it out to the end of this NOVEL! Good luck with making your own big plans happen.
Jack and Amy
To purchase the 7 liter deluxe thermal cooker seen in this blog photos, go to our store here on our website at or go here.
For Caterers: There are discounts on group buys (12 or more) for that pricing call Jack’s cell, at 801.420.3900
If you are local here in Utah and would like to rent several Saratoga Thermal Cookers for a large one time event. $15 each. Call Jack and he can help schedule that for you. We have a limited supply availble so Jack’s cell 801.420.3900 for availability.
Amount needed is only Recommends and are Approximated. Your total needed depends on menu and additional items being served. In both weddings shown there was “snacks” available too like popcorn, cotton candy, carmeled apples, and a hot chocolate bar.
10 to 12 units for 250 to 275
8 to 10 units-175 to 225
6 to 8 units- 125 to 175
4 to 6 units 75-125
2 to 4 units 25 -75
Call if you want to discuss what you are hoping to accomplish.

By the way….

ONE YEAR LATER we had another reason to have a party! Jack and I became grandparents!

He is perfect. They are perfectly exhausted!

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