Number of people: 38 including ourselves
Food served: Rehearsal – taco salad bar, DIY, including locally made tortillas and homemade pico de gallo. The chicken was prepped and frozen a month ahead of time. Everything else pretty much came out of a bag. Homemade cookies for dessert. Our rehearsal dinner included all guests who wanted to join us – probably 2/3. Wedding day – Santa Maria Tri-tip grilled by my husband on the day (his request), grilled french bread, salad (leftovers from night before plus a ton of additional toppings. This was also DIY because I’m pretty picky about my salads and thought it would be best if each person got to put on what they actually wanted to eat. Strawberry shortcake (DIY) for dessert – several flavors of pound/angel cake, the berries and homemade whipped cream. Also leftover cookies. Drinks for both: homemade lemonade, local beer and root beer, coffee, tea, water.
Cost – beats me – I didn’t do well keeping track. Less than $1000 easily. Probably less than $500.
Help – The girls’ side of the bridal party (sister, best friend), my mother and his mother did all the kitchen prep (plus one very nice guest and my aunt occasionally). His buddies helped him with the grill. All technically voluntary but in our family one wouldn’t expect anything less. Plenty of people kept us company as well, especially out at the grill.
Pros – cheaper, food just how we like it, got to share a meal that was local to him with my family, his side got a kick out of watching my side “eat it wrong”
Cons – You’re in charge of cleanup – I have no idea how our place got cleaned but I can just about guarantee it was mostly my mom and aunt, which was lovely of them – we were just going to deal with it later. If your help doesn’t actually want to help, you’re stuck on your own. You can’t require it of your guests. There was an hour where my brothers’ in law turned out to be joyriding when I really could have used their help and that was disappointing, though understandable. Last that I can think of off-hand, you have to get your numbers right. Luckily that wasn’t a problem with such a small wedding – we did very well in having few leftovers and getting rid of them easily the day after – lunch for anyone who happened to still be around and wanted it. I wouldn’t do it for a big wedding for sure… too much stress!
I have never attended a wedding that someone catered themselves. Best wedding food I ever had hands down was at a restaurant, so the food was all fresh and hot. No room for error there.
ETA: this is so long, sorry. But I wanted to add that timing is an issue as well. we wound up serving salads first b/c the meat was taking so long to cook. Our guests were lovely about it (mostly family, but even so!) but it wasn’t the most elegant, well timed meal. Also we had grilled potatoes which I just remembered. They also didn’t cook well so got put in the stove and I believe half of them burned b/c we forgot about them.