K Robinson Photography


Beginner's Potluck

It’s a question that gets posed to nearly every bride and groom: “What can I do to help?”

Usually, the answer is, “Nothing, just show up and have a good time.” But if you’re going the DIY route, you may want to toss aside traditions and ask some of your guests to contribute a dish.

Not only is a potluck wedding possible, it’s not terribly difficult to pull off, said Gina deBettencourt, president of the Portugese-American Club, head cook and manager at the Edgartown School cafeteria, and unofficial wedding potluck guru. Often people genuinely want to contribute in some way; they just don’t know how. But nearly everyone knows how to prepare a simple dish. “I've never been to a potluck on Martha's Vineyard that hasn't been successful,” she said. “People bring their A-game.”

The key to a successful wedding potluck is planning and preparation, said deBettencourt, who organized a potluck at her own reception twenty-six years ago and has been overseeing wedding potlucks for friends and family ever since.

First, she says, choose someone to serve as your coordinator. This person can assign dishes to guests, provide recipes, coordinate servingware needs, and answer any questions. Having a caterer or food-savvy friend to oversee the operation will take the pressure off the bride and groom. The coordinator also can make sure everything is heated properly and that the food is ready at the same time. After all, no bride wants to be reheating dishes while wearing her wedding dress or mixing a salad on her special day.

The next thing you must consider is your venue, said deBettencourt. Is there a kitchen nearby? If you are getting married in a field, you'll have to build a kitchen from scratch. Island couple Stephen Hammond and Bethany deBettencourt were able to use his mom's kitchen, as the wedding was held in her backyard. But for some locations, a potluck may not be feasible, or may require the assistance of professionals. (Some caterers are willing to coordinate potlucks, or serve provided dishes alongside catered entrées. If you want to go this route, you should check with your caterer first.)

Finally, be clear on what you want guests to bring. Will the guests contribute only side dishes, or main courses, as well? Will the dishes be assigned in advance, or left up to the guests? When it comes to the type of food, it’s really up to the couple’s preference, said deBettencourt. Her only advice? “Maybe don’t have eighteen people bring mac ‘n’ cheese.”