Donations, take out containers, and minimizing leftovers are all good ways to ensure nothing is wasted.
Credit: Erin Kunkel

From the cocktail hour hors d'oeuvres and your multi-course dinner to the late-night snack spread, there are a lot of opportunities to eat during a wedding. While most caterers do their best to minimize waste in such a setting, it's inevitable that some of their calculations will differ from consumption and at least some food will be left uneaten. So, although the best thing you can do to deal with food waste at your wedding is work with your caterer to avoid having too much excess, it's still a good idea to have a plan in place for any reception leftovers. Here, a few ways to put them to good use.

Plan ahead.

Many caterers are acutely aware of food waste issues, so they work hard to avoid having tons of leftovers. Even so, it's important to let your pros know that food waste concerns are a priority for you. The style of meal service you select plays a big role in how much food is left at the end of the night, and your caterer can help you choose the option that will leave you with the least amount of leftovers. If you're having a buffet-style meal or else serving dinner at different food stations, your caterer will have to prepare more food than is actually needed for the size of your guest list since they won't want to run out of options. With a plated meal, caterers are able to make a specific amount of food since they'll be portioning out each plate, which allows for less waste.

Donate what you can.

Not everything can be donated, especially if you've already worked with your catering team to minimize waste. However, it's always worth making a few phone calls to find out what might be accepted at your local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, Ronald McDonald House, senior citizens home, or hospice center. While some of these locations prefer not to accept prepared foods, many do. Be sure to plan ahead and make these calls at least a week before your wedding so you have a plan in place for donation ahead of your wedding weekend.

Provide take out containers.

It's fairly common that the staff working at your wedding will end up taking home some of the leftover food, but you can also offer it to guests if you're comfortable with that idea. If you're planning to serve food buffet-style, you're likely to have a larger quantity of food left at the end of the night. Ask if your catering team can provide compostable boxes for any leftover food or else order them yourselves.

Send wedding cake home with guests as favors.

Your wedding cake may not get finished, especially if there are other desserts on offer. If you're planning to order a very large cake (larger than necessary for your guest count), you might end up with entire layers that are untouched. In this case, consider asking if the catering team can box up slices as favors for guests. Your family and friends will love the sweet late-night snack, and you can feel good about your dessert being eaten. If you already have another favor idea in mind, a donation may be the best option, or send the cake home with your immediate families to enjoy the next day. Another option? Break it out during the morning-after brunch.


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