Monday, 1 August 2011

How to self cater an afternoon tea wedding (part 3)

I've always been a big fan of the type of eating where you have lots of little things, sweet and savoury. So for us an afternoon tea wedding was the perfect option. We liked the idea of people sitting around eating with their hands and chatting.

Afternoon Tea Wedding Sandwiches

Hillside Farm egg mayonnaise on brioche
Local beef rolls with horseradish
Asparagus Rolls
Smoked trout on beetroot bread
Finding mini brioche rolls was one of the hardest things. My older sister took control of this. At first she tried making mini brioche to see how easy they are before realising that actually it would be easier to get a baker to do them. She uses a lovely baker in Bristol and went along to Marks Bread in Bedminster. He designed some mini brioche rolls for us to use for the egg rolls. They were cooked fresh on the Monday morning. My brother in law brought them over to Scilly on Monday afternoon. We then froze them and defrosted them overnight on the Tuesday (the wedding was on a Wednesday). They were delicious and were truly one of the yummiest things about the wedding. I loved the sweet and savoury combination. I couldn't have enough of them.

The story of the brioche is a valuable one when weighing up which jobs are worth doing yourself when self catering an afternoon tea wedding and which ones are worth spending money on. When planning the wedding it seemed a perfectly sane idea that I should get up early and bake bread (beetroot and white rolls) on the morning of the wedding. 'I'll enjoy it' I told my mum. The day before the wedding I hit my wall. My mum asked Zoe at Bryher Shop to make the white rolls. (She did a far better job that I ever would have.) And we used sliced bread instead of beetroot bread. (Who needs pink bread anyway?)

My sisters made all the fillings the day before (egg mayonnaise, roasted beef etc) and I asked some trusted friends to put the sandwiches together on the day. They did an amazing job and I'm told they each did a separate part. For example one thing to remember is when handling smoked fish it's best just to have one person doing it so there is no chance of the smoked fish taste ending up on the beef sandwiches because if you hate smoked fish you will taste it a mile off.

Afternoon Tea Wedding Cakes

Mum's homemade scones with Hillside Farm strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream
Chocolate cupcakes
Brandy snaps
Chocolate and coffee eclairs

The cakes were also chosen because they were our favourites but also because they can be made in advance. The scones were made the week before by my mum and then frozen. (We simply defrosted them on the day and warmed them in the oven.) The brandy snaps were also made the week before and kept in tins. They were filled with cream on the day. The meringues were made the week before by my mother in law. (She makes the BEST meringues.) They were made on the mainland then shipped over to Scilly in tins. And my cousin made the chocolate cupcakes. These were really popular and I wish I could share the recipe- but it is hers!

Money Saving Tips:

Make things when you can. Homemade meringues cost hardly anything to make but are expensive to buy. Plan in advance...keep an eye out for good deals of cake cases, cake stands etc. I saw the cake stands I wanted in January half price. I didn't order them in time but I guessed they would be back on sale sometime over the next 6 months. In May they finally dropped to the half price deal I saw before. I bought all the ones left in stores in Cornwall and got my sister to buy the rest in London. I saved nearly £100.

What I'm glad I did:

I'm glad we asked some of the staff from the local hotel to help serve. The chef came up and warmed the scones, laid out the sandwiches etc. They were fantastic. I can't even write how grateful I was for their help. Just fantastic. (They also became invaluable with a small hog based incident!) Also getting someone else to make the bread saved me from a nervous breakdown.

What I shouldn't have done: Know when you have taken on too much. And also realise there are a million jobs you won't have thought of so either delegate jobs, change your plans or buy in. Don't try and add baking to the day of your wedding. I spent months planning this meal and thought I had covered everything. I hadn't...and I was really really organised. The kind of organised that means people roll their eyes a lot and mumble 'bridezilla' under their breath. You will never be able to guess just how tired you will be when planning a self catered afternoon tea wedding.

Next post: The drink- how to choose welcome drinks and calculate how much booze you will need when self catering an afternoon tea wedding.

Food photos by Kim Hawkins. Other photos by David McNeil


  1. If you get the job of dealing with the smoked trout, wear gloves if u dont want be smell of fish for the whole wedding!
    It was an amazing spread :-)

  2. It's a lesson I have now learn - everything takes at least twice as long as you think it's going to. It's so very brave of you to have taken this on, but it sounds as though everyone stepped up to the mark to help and what a lovely thing to remember.