The People Must Eat – 64 Days

I want to start by wishing all the best to my friend and fellow blogger, Jennifer of City Girl Bride, at her wedding this Saturday. She’s been through a lot in her planning process and I’m so glad she’ll finally tie the knot and go on a fabulous honeymoon. Congratulations, Jen! You did it!

On to my wedding craziness… One of our biggest problems we’ve run into (one-off crises aside) is food. Food is expensive. At first I was all about being the offbeat bride and starving everyone to save us some money. Ok – not STARVING, but just not providing more than what I would at a normal house party. A dinner isn’t necessary and many couples are cutting big ticket traditions like sit-down dinners from their weddings in favor of more non-traditional receptions. Non-traditional is my favorite! However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt terrible for having all of our guests (the vast majority from out of town) come to our wedding and stay for hours with only some cheese and crackers and cupcakes to munch on. “But beer is filling!” said the momentarily college-aged Crystal. While true, beer IS filling, something tells me this will not be sufficient to hold a group of possibly 150 people over for 5 hours.

Jordan’s Food of Distinction

On the suggestion of my newly engaged friend Michelle (see my last post), I called up a company called Jordan’s Food of Distinction. From the name of it, I thought “I can’t even afford normal food, let alone food of distinction.” However, I followed the advice and gave them a call. On the call, I learned that they are also an all-inclusive caterer which means that they will not only provide the food, but also the rental furniture (chairs, tables, etc), the servers, and will even act as a sort of “coordinator” for the event and everything! Fancy!

The woman I spoke with was named Pam and she was FABULOUS – very easy going, professional, and friendly. She made me feel comfortable telling her my budget (which can sometimes be difficult if you are dealing with a high-end company and you have a very modest budget). She asked me a few questions like what I was willing to do without to stay in budget. (i.e. Could I do disposable plates, cutlery, etc? Can we cut out high-priced meats like beef and seafood?)  My answer, of course, was “whatever can keep me in my budget.” In a couple of days, I had a sample menu and an itemized invoice in my inbox to review. I was floored with how delicious everything sounded on the menu and that it was in (or right around) our budget! I asked for Latin-themed food that didn’t require our guests to sit-down to enjoy, and I got a lovely menu with a delicious-sounding “taco bar” as the main event. It was perfect.

Long story short, we didn’t end up booking with them. After re-evaluating our budget post house-buying, we really didn’t want to push it and this option, while definitely an affordable option for most, was pushing what we felt comfortable paying. But please check them out and speak with Pam if you are looking for a nice custom menu and somebody to handle your rentals for you! You’ll be surprised what you can get for your money.

Our Food

So, here is what we ended up deciding on: family-cooked appetizers (in the industrial kitchen at Kitchen Chicago – perfect!) supplemented with chicken, steak, and pork tortas from the Costa Rican BYOB restaurant on Milwaukee in Wicker Park called Irazu.

Potluck style 

Appetizers: My fiance’s family was so kind to offer to cook for our reception. Luckily, his family is very easy to please in that they are all happy as long as they are together. They love spending time with one another and they love to cook for people. And boy, are they good cooks! My future mother-in-law helped me pick out some appetizers that would be fairly simple for them to make on a large-scale and to keep well on the table without a ton of rental chafing dishes and whatnot. (I’m so lucky to have awesome future in-laws – the entire extended family is just a treat to be around.) Here is what we came up with:  mini chicken & cheese quesadillas, tostones (Dominican fried plantains), tortilla chips & guacamole, veggies with ranch dip, and assorted fruits with this delicious fruit dip my future M-I-L makes. Nothing requires a fork! I am budgeting about $200-$250 for ingredients from Costco for all of this.

Tortas: Irazu is one of my favorite restaurants in the city. Not only is it BYOB, but the prices are unbeatable for the amount and quality of food. (Go visit them right now if you haven’t. It’s so worth it. Oh! And try an oatmeal shake. I mean it. Fair warning: cash only.) Now, Irazu’s tortas are HUGE. I mean, half of one leaves me so full I want to sleep. So, we are having them all cut into quarters in order to be more finger-food friendly and to make sure a ton of food won’t go to waste. It will fit in perfectly with the rest of the food and will be a very filling (and delicious) option for all of our hungry guests. Can I also brag that this will only run us about $300 including delivery?

Dessert: Have I mentioned lately that my future in-laws are great? 😉 My future mother-in-law makes this secret-recipe carrot cake that is out of this world. I didn’t even know I liked carrot cake until I had hers. When my fiancé and I started talking about our wedding cake, this carrot cake popped into my head and I couldn’t let it go. No other cake is going to be as good; this I know. So I asked her if she would be willing to make carrot cake cupcakes to serve as our “wedding cake” for the big day. She agreed and I couldn’t be more excited to see everybody’s reactions when they take a bite. Yum! Also, my future sister-in-law is taking a cake-decorating class to learn how to make the icing pretty to display on a cupcake stand (or two). Love her! Take THAT expensive wedding cakes!


So, the moral of the story here is that there ARE affordable options in the way of caterers, albeit few and far between. And don’t be afraid to contact your favorite local restaurant, no matter how small, to see what they can do for you. Even (and especially) if they don’t normally cater weddings or events, they could have some really budget-friendly options for you that you may not have even thought of. Call them and start the conversation. Food is what they do, so they should be able to give advice and steer you in the right direction at the very least. Chafing dishes and catering equipment are available for rent if you need them at most rental companies. Think outside the box, and don’t let yourself get played by the over-priced caterers in this city!

Bon appetite!


  1. Rebecca says:

    I LOVE Irazu! What an awesome choice! If you don’t mind me asking, what are you doing about food service & set up? My fiance & I are also getting food from one of fav local restaurants (Smoque! yay!) as well as bringing our own food. We’re sort of at a loss though as to who we should ask/or hire to help replenish trays and stuff. Maybe it’s not necessary?

  2. budget brides. chicago. says:

    Hey Rebecca! Ooo..I love Smoque! 🙂 Since we are doing a cocktail style reception, the eats will be finger foods buffet/graze style. We have hired a day-of coordinator that is going to help stay on top of the food situation. We’ll do one round of the homemade apps right away after the ceremony and then the sandwiches will be brought out shortly afterward followed by the dessert about halfway through the evening (to soak up some of that alcohol). haha Our DOC will help clear trays as they go empty and the mother & sister of the groom are going to replenish the guacamole/chips as they run out. Other than that, we are bringing out everything we have at once. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. We noted on our invitation it would be an “appetizer reception,” so I’m not going to worry about that part all that much. I always seem to have way too much food at parties anyways… 🙂 As long as we don’t run out of alcohol, I think all will be pleased.

  3. beth says:

    I’m thinking about multiple caterers and wondering who you got to clean up afterwards? From the people I’ve spoken to, that’s usually the caterer’s job?
    I think I can rent the linens etc separately, but am totally confused on the setup issue.

  4. budget brides. chicago. says:

    Hey Beth,
    I just emailed you, but to answer here for anybody else interested and for that second part there…
    We hired a 2 man cleaning crew for $135 for 3 hours. Caterers will generally clean up if you are going the traditional catering route and pay the big bucks for a fully catered event.

    You can most definitely rent linens separately through your rental company or a number of other party rental companies in Chicago (shoot me another email if you want help with that).

    For setup, we relied heavily on our day-of coordinator (post to come) and she rocked it out! We bought our own serving platters and whatnot at Party City and just simply had the food delivered to the space. It all went smoothly, but if you don’t have a DOC then I would ask a reliable friend or family member to help out with this part – it won’t ruin their night and they can round up helpers if they need to.

    Hope that helps!

Leave a Reply