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Making use of wedding leftovers

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Posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013 12:00 am

In an effort to create a once-in-a-lifetime event that is remembered by all in attendance, many couples will admit to going a tad overboard with their weddings. From ultra-stretch limousines to bachelor/bachelorette parties in Las Vegas to course after course of food and beverages, some weddings are a lesson in excess. When the party has winded down, conscious couples can ensure that some of the excesses of the wedding get repurposed for good use. And that begins with the food.

Many wedding caterers, in an effort to ensure no guest goes without their fair share of food, grossly overestimate the amount of food needed for the reception. That means there may be plenty of appetizers and main courses leftover, all of which couples have paid for. There are a number of ways that food can be saved and given to others.

* Create classy take-home-packages. People have become much less averse to taking home food they cannot finish from restaurants. As portion sizes continue to grow, taking a portion home to enjoy later is both cost-conscious and a healthy idea. While a wedding may be a formal event, it shouldn't preclude guests from feeling comfortable taking home any uneaten food, particularly if they like the food. Provide the reception center with decorative to-go boxes or containers that can be used to package any food guests want to take home with them. Small, handled paper or fabric tote bags will make the leftovers that much more portable.

* Donate leftover food. Neighborhood food banks may be willing to accept food donations from your wedding. Although many deal with only nonperishable foods, some will pick up both. Before the wedding you can inquire within certain organizations to find out which specialize in what area of food collection. Feeding America (feedingamerica.org) has an extensive list of food banks and food-rescue programs available online. Some organizations can pick up food and deliver it within the same day to a soup kitchen. If you cannot find an organization to help, you may actually be able to donate your food to livestock. Some farms and recreational farmers will feed pigs leftover food. This is a way to ensure food will not go to waste.

* Help reduce waste. You can speak with your wedding caterer about cutting down on the amount of food without making it overtly noticeable to guests. First, consider a sit-down dinner where portions are carefully measured rather than buffet where amounts are estimated. Also, removing extra courses such as dessert or breakfast bars can further keep down the amount of extra food as well as the cost.

* Take it home. If you will not be traveling to your honeymoon directly after the wedding reception, you can have the catering staff package the food and you can bring it home. Keep your freezer empty and put the food inside. When you return from your honeymoon you will have plenty of dinners already premade so you can enjoy life as newlyweds. Otherwise, you can invite friends over to view honeymoon photos and serve the food as refreshments.

* Recycle flowers. Food may not be the only item leftover at the end of the night. Guests who may not have taken home favors or centerpieces will leave behind many beautiful items that would normally end up in the trash. Flowers and gifts can be donated to a hospital or senior center to brighten the atmosphere. Be sure to keep just a few favors available for people who send gifts in the mail since they weren't able to attend the festivities.

There are a number of ways to ensure that the excesses of a wedding can be put to good use. By donating food and other items or simply taking them home with you, you can stretch your money and resources further.

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