place setting

By now you all probably know that Matt and I are self-catering the wedding.  We’re planning lots of summer salads and grilled vegetables, with optional carnivorous protein additions (smoked salmon, crayfish, crab cakes, grilled chicken, etc) to account for the 10-15% of our guests who are veggie or vegan, and also because it’s a really easy way to keep people fed and happy on a (hopefully) hot and sunny August afternoon.

Simple = easier on the crazy bride and groom!

Unfortunately, with self-catering, we don’t get the dishes that would come along with the service (at a price, of course).  Looking into rental of dishes, glassware, flatware, napkins, linens, servingware, etc, I found that basically we’d end up spending $2,000 if we went with an event rental service for approximately 100 guests.  Yikes.  Another option was to go with the dishes and flatware from the Freeland Hall.  At $5 per place setting, it was better than a rental service, but we’d still need to cover all linens, serveware, and glassware.  It would still be at least $1,000.

So….having weighed those options, we’ve decided to go with biodegradables for the place settings.  We didn’t really want to have to do dishes on our clean up day after the wedding, and certainly didn’t want to pay anyone to do the dishes.  Plus, it’s really a toss up whether throwing out the dishes is more wasteful than using up tons of water and possibly harmful soap.  By using certified biodegradable plates, cups (for everything but the toasting glasses) and flatware, we skip the waterwaste and the extra cost.

I’ve been keeping my eyes open in our local stores for the last several months, and found some nice biodegradable plates – molded, similar to Chinet without the stamped logo – that are made from bagasse, which is the waste plant material from sugar cane processing.  I calculated their cost for the estimated guests, and found them to be very very cheap, but they also looked it.  Then I found Branch Home, a San Francisco based eco-decor distributor. They offer lots of different types of biodegradables, from the basic bagasse to bamboo to elegant Japanese molded paper.  I’ve recently ordered their sample kit, which for $10, is totally worth it to find exactly the right combo of tableware for our budget.

Sample Kit!

I’m pretty sure we’re going to end up going with the bamboo plates ( in two sizes) and the starch-plastic flatware, but we’ve gotta test everything out before placing the order.

I’ve done the math though, and to have 100 place settings with a bamboo dinner plate, bamboo dessert plate, two sizes of cold cups for beverages, napkins, and flatware, it’ll cost less than $250 total.  We’ll order a bit extra to be safe, but $250 instead of $2,000 makes me VERY happy.

The table linens, glassware for the toast, and serveware are additional, but I’ve already worked out some solutions:

The table cloths will be made from canvas drop cloth runners, which are 4′ wide by 18′ long, at $11.88 each from E-tarps.com.  I can easily get 2 table cloths out of each of them for our 2.5′ x 8′ tables, so they’d only end up being $5.94 each. E-Tarps.com has a wide variety of sizes and shapes at a good price, too.  (For reference, to rent comparable sized polyester tablecloths from Pedersen’s Event Rentals in Seattle, it would cost $11 each, a savings of 46%! For sturdier “premium table cloths” it would be $20 each.  Not to mention less theme-appropriate texture!)  Even if we were to have 20 tables (it’ll more likely be 10 to 15 tables, including buffet and dessert tables) our cost will only be about $120, as opposed to $220-400 for rentals.  AND we’ll be able to keep the tablecloths for future events or projects.  These things are indestructible and can be washed a million times.

From this....

...into this!

We haven’t 100% decided how we’re going to decorate the table cloths yet, but they’ll be fun, and possibly done with homemade roller stamps, a la Cathe Holden.

The glassware for our (homemade) aquavit toast is a classic snaps glass from IKEA:

Only $4.99 for a set of six!

We’re thinking these will have a little personalization on them and be one of the favors for guests to take home.  Ooh!  Maybe they’ll have the name tags for the seating places attached to them!  I like that idea…

Serveware hasn’t totally been decided yet, but we know that we’ll be going with a restaurant supply company for it.  They have far too many good deals that are TOTALLY AVAILABLE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC to pass up.  I stumbled upon high quality stainless steel platters (14″ x 9″) for $2.65 the other day….I’m sure one of the many restaurant supply shops in SODO will have something comparable. If not, we’ll do the online ordering.  I’m estimating about $150 for servingware all told.

I’ve been to a couple of the warehouses in SODO so far, but I think Restaurant Depot might be a huge help in the food buying as well.  You have to be a member (a manager/owner/authorized purchaser for a business or non-profit organization) to go there, but I think I might be able to join under my work, since I’m the authorized purchaser for the business, since we do have events there that we self-cater occasionally.

UPDATE: I just called them, and I can’t get a membership.  I can, however, get a day pass to use for events.  The reason is they’re looking to have people who regularly place large orders to come in, not occasional customers.  I did ask her about whether I could do that to self-cater the wedding, and she said just to lie and say that I was shopping for a business event!  Ha!  I probably would have done that anyway, but I’m glad I got the go ahead from their manager!  Makes me feel a lot less guilty.

The final run down for the tableware costs will end up being about $600 instead of $2,000!  That’s a savings of 70%, and TOTALLY worth the work.

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3 Responses to place setting

  1. Erin says:

    Oh! I heard about this program on Vashon Island where you can borrow dishes for events for free!

    http://www.sustainablevashon.org/storylist.cfm?name=feature#notrashbash1

    Might be worth the drive 😉

    (Gee, I’m glad I randomly read an article in the Seattle Times in August of 2008 about this program so that I could remember it now & pass the info on to you!)

  2. bellecoeurwedding says:

    Cool idea. I’m not sure it’ll be good for us, though, since we’d have to drive and ferry to Vashon Island, then drive and ferry to Whidbey. Plus, do they all match?

    I know it sounds a bit selfish, but I would like it all to be aesthetically cohesive.

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m shooting all your suggestions down, really! I just have a pretty clear picture in my head of what I want. =)

  3. Erin says:

    I honestly have no idea whether or not they match, but I’m guessing not since they’re free 🙂

    No worries! You don’t have to feel guilty for not using my ideas!!! It’s your wedding! 🙂

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