This is a very general and probably overly long post, and for that I apologize. But I am looking for chowhound input/opinions...so don't be afraid to give yours. There is a recently re-activated thread on "Not About Food" about "the worst wedding reception food you ever had" and I am living in fear of being a post on that thread...:-)
Background: My son is being married this summer. There are actually two wedding celebrations planned: the first a formal church wedding in Tokyo where he lives (yes, a church wedding. His fiance is Japanese but she is also Catholic, a somewhat unusual combination...). That one is easy, all I have to do is show up bearing gifts:-)
But I have volunteered to host a second celebration in August here in Reno, NV where we live. This is for the many friends and family who can't swing a trip to Japan. We expect around 75 guests. It will be an eclectic group: my son's future inlaws are making the trip across the pond to come, and members of my husband's family (of East Indian descent) will also be there (they are all vegetarian, although not vegan). Then there is my family, who will eat almost anything although some do have religious restrictions, and my son's equally eclectic mix of 30-something and in their late 20s friends. If there is a food "need" out there (vegetarian, vegan, pescetarian, kosher, halal, gluten-free, whatever) it is there. (Yes, we have family/friends who are some of each of those...). I may not be able to totally cater to this diverse a group, but I am going to try. I would like everyone to have at least enough food they can enjoy and can eat. The situation is complicated by the fact that money IS an object.
After exploring various catering options in Reno, we have found that there are several who have items we love and will fit into the menu/price range, but that no one caterer has exactly what we want. The venue is indoor/outdoor in a local park, and it will be warm. In addition, the venue has no full kitchen on site (there is water, electricity and refrigeration available) so items must be prepared in advance. We intend to have items delivered, and serve buffet style (We will provide onsite help, so the caterers won't be expected to actually be there). We have a Western theme for the event, and want to have picnic-style food that is easy to eat but filling. A barbecue would be ideal but it won't work with the large numbers of a) vegetarians and b) folks who don't eat pork (what's a barbecue without pork ribs;-)? We figure given the time of year and picnic theme it will be fine if the food is mostly served cold.
Proposed menu: My husband insists on some Indian food items, so a local Indian caterer will be doing samosas, chutneys, and similar snacks. There will be a variety of sandwiches (some made with bagels), veggies, chips, salsa, dips, hummus, salads, sliced watermelon, etc. I am planning a big crock pot (or several) of vegetarian chili. There will be no items containing beef or pork. Any items containing meat (a few of the sandwiches) will be on a separate buffet table so it is clear to the guests what they might want to eat). The food will come from a couple of local caterers that will deliver. Of course there will be some type of wedding cake, but we are also having a local guy who has an ice cream bicycle come (think of a mini food truck on a bicycle with a small freezer on the back). He will be serving his hand-made ice cream in four flavors, one of which will actually be a sorbet and thus non-dairy.
How does that sound food-wise? Is the mix too crazy? I considered sushi, but don't want it sitting around in warm weather. There will be a nod to our new Japanese family in the color scheme and a few other details. Might have some of those Japanese crackers/snack mix in bowls on the table.
Also, here is a tricky question: our son worked for many years (throughout his college days) at a local sandwich shop (national chain) known for their delivery service. They do party platters, and he would like to have some of their sandwiches as part of the options (some of his former co-workers, and his former boss - who was very good to him over the years - will probably be in attendance, and he wants to give them the business). If you were a local caterer that was somewhat more upscale than a chain sandwich shop, would you be insulted to note that your food was being served alongside what is essentially fast food? Am I being overly sensitive? I don't like sandwiches in most any form, but I am trying to keep everyone happy, and it is after all his wedding. They are cheap enough, so if nothing else I figure those who are really hungry will have extra food...The event will start around dinner time and go well into the evening, and I want at least snacks available should folks get hungry around 10pm....
Thanks for listening and for any thoughts on these or other food ideas. I don't want to do any cooking myself, but do need to keep costs down as mentioned earlier... Reading all the chowhound posts about requests for certain wedding foods doesn't help:-) My son isn't a big help either: other than the requested sandwich platters mentioned above all he says is "I want my friends to have plenty to eat and plenty of beer." (and he is in Japan, so his help in planning is problematic anyway. The beer is handled: there will be an IPA and a darker beer on tap from a local brewery.....Also planning lemonade and ice-tea for the non-drinkers.