4 things to know about donating excess food after your wedding

Have you thought about what’s going to happen to the delicious food served at your wedding after the event is over? Most of it, of course, will be enjoyed by your guests. Almost every event generates food waste, though, and it’s unlikely that there'll be no leftovers when your wedding is over.

Photo by maximkabb/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by maximkabb/iStock / Getty Images

Our couples and their families are increasingly aware of the food wastage associated with large events like weddings, and every year we have more couples who are interested in donating their extra food after the wedding is over. Americans throw away billions of pounds of food every year and there are millions of Americans who go to bed hungry every night. Seems like donating that extra wedding food is a simple way to offer at least a small amount of help, right?

Well, yes and no. Donating your extra wedding food is a great way to help ease hunger in your community. It’s not as easy as just deciding to donate and being done with it, though. Like every other element of your wedding, making a food donation at the end of your event will require preplanning and coordination with all parties involved.

Photo by Friederike Boulton/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by Friederike Boulton/iStock / Getty Images

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Don't assume that every caterer will be on board with your food donation plans. Some caterers already have a relationship with local food distribution organizations, so for them your request will obviously be easier to accommodate. There really is more to donating catered food than just dropping it off at a food bank, though, so if a caterer isn't already set up for this, then it may not be possible for them to put the required systems in place just for your event. If donating your excess food is something that’s important to you, then you need to make it one of your criteria when you're in the process of selecting your caterer.
     
  2. Don't assume that every food bank will be thrilled to receive your excess food. Of course organizations that distribute food to those in need are grateful for all help they receive; however, not all of them are set up to accept and use donations of prepared food like yours. You may have to do a little legwork to find just the right organization to which to donate.
     
  3. Once you've identified your caterer and the organization to which you'll be donating, talk with your caterer about creating a menu that will work for your donation plans. Some foods are easier than others to manage safely for donation, and your caterer will be able to guide you on this.
     
  4. Remember to plan for getting the food from the reception to the recipient after your celebration has wrapped up. That doesn't mean you need to take it there yourself, of course, but you will need to treat this just as you would any other aspect of your wedding. Your caterer, your venue, the recipient of the food, and possibly also your wedding planner will need to be aware of your wishes and have all the logistics in place to ensure safe and timely transfer of the food to the organization receiving it.
photo by Alison Notgrass of Focal Point Photographics

photo by Alison Notgrass of Focal Point Photographics

For more information about donating excess catered food after your wedding, visit the Food Donation Connection. At their website you'll also find information about the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, which protects parties donating food from liability except in cases of gross negligence.

Have more questions? Talk with caterers and also with organizations in your area that work to relieve hunger. They should be able to point you in the right direction.