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Wedding Food Safety Tips

Summer means it is the peak wedding season. Wedding receptions are expensive. One of the ways couples can please guests and keep costs low is by doing the catering themselves.

Catering your own wedding reception certainly has its share of obstacles, but with proper planning, it’s easy to get the fairy-tale ending you’ve always dreamed of. Keep calm, get organized, and remember that this is going to be your day, so enjoy it!

Follow Food Safety Guidelines

The key is to follow good food safety guidelines from the U.S. Department Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. Adhering to good food safety guidelines during a wedding reception will help ensure that your guests leave your wedding with only happy memories. No one wants a bad case of foodborne illness that could leave them sick for days or even land them in the hospital as a wedding favor.

Choose Wisely

Start with your menu. If you’re catering your own wedding, you need to keep it simple. Keep in mind that you’ll be serving a significant number of guests, so now’s not the time to try something new. Stick with what you know, and provide versatility in your offerings.


Remember that you’re just one person, and one very busy person at that, especially on your wedding day. Do all that you can in advance to prepare, but remember that on the day of the event, you need to get help – even if you have to hire it. Get help from a close friend or family member to assist in the organization and delegation of tasks to make sure all the food makes it to the reception on time and is served safely.

Ask for Help

Consider asking teenagers or college students looking to make a few quick bucks by helping out. You need to let your help know when to arrive and when they need to start packing up. The last thing you want to do on your wedding day is try to plan these types of logistics, so have a plan in advance. Additionally, make sure to set times for when to put the food on to cook, when to get the food out for service, and when to serve the food if doing table service.

Considerations on Catering

  • If the food is prepared off-site, ensure it is safely transported. Separate raw foods from cooked foods. Use seal-able containers so spillage and cross-contamination do not occur when traveling with food.
  • If the food is prepared on-site, ensure you have the appropriate cooking equipment, tools, and utensils needed to prepare and serve the food. How will people wash their hands and clean the area?
  • Use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of meat, poultry, casseroles, and other food. Check the temperature in several places to make sure the food is evenly heated. No one can tell if meat is properly cooked by its color – they must use a food thermometer. Wash the thermometer with hot, soapy water after each use.
  • Never partially cook food for finishing later because you increase the risk of bacterial growth on the food. Bacteria are killed when foods reach a safe internal temperature.
  • Keep cold food cold. Place cold food in a cooler with a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Use plenty of ice or frozen gel packs. Keep an appliance thermometer in the cooler. Cold food should be held at 40°F or below.
  • Do not use plates, bowls, or utensils with cooked foods that were previously used with raw foods.
  • Are there any potential allergens used in the preparation of the food? If there are, guests should be notified in some way.
  • Provide chafing dishes or warming trays to keep hot foods hot, and ice or other cold source to keep cold foods cold. Otherwise, food may enter the “danger zone,” between 40 and 135°F, where bacteria multiply rapidly. Never leave perishable foods in the “danger zone” for more than two hours; one hour in temperatures above 90°F. After two hours, food that has been sitting out should be tossed out and replaced with fresh food.
  • Immediately refrigerate or freeze remaining left overs in shallow containers.

Practice Safe Food Handling

Thousands of people each year get sick from improper food handling. Make sure your wedding reception does not aid in that statistic. Remind your help of safe food handling techniques. Gloves are key to have on hand for food handlers, as are the proper sanitizing chemicals for use throughout the food preparation process.

Plan Ahead for Leftovers

Have a plan for what you’re going to do with the leftovers. Remember to buy take out containers for your help to take food home with them. Alternatively, have a plan to donate the food after the event. If you’re heading off on your honeymoon right after the reception, you probably won’t have time to take the food home yourself.

Consider reviewing the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service publication, Cooking for Groups. It offers guidelines on preparing large quantities of food. Other resources at are available 24/7, but if catering your own wedding adds another task to your already hectic to-do list, then consider hiring a caterer.


Buffet table with food

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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