What To Do With Your Leftover Wedding Food

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It can be tough to figure out what to do with leftover wedding food. Even with careful planning, you might end up with an abundance of side dishes, extra cake, and mountains of leftover hors d'oeuvres. But the good news is, it doesn't have to go to waste.

"If you have a buffet at a venue with a third party caterer, chances are you'll have leftovers," Maddy Ghosh, owner and lead planner of Little Wedding Blush, tells Bustle. But the same is true if your family brings a lot to the party, or if you order a certain number of plates at a venue, only for a few guests to bail.

You can always scramble together a few friends at the last second, and figure it out on the fly. But it may be easier to go into the day with a plan, so everyone knows just what to do. "The trick to getting leftover food to people who can use it is to set up the delivery of the leftovers as part of the wedding planning," Katherine Frost, wedding planner and owner of a Frosted Affair, tells Bustle. "It can't be an afterthought."

Whether you've arranged for servers to wrap up extra cake, or want a friend to drive meals over to a local fire department, here are things you can do with extra wedding food, according to experts.

1. Give Guests Takeout Containers

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If you're worried about food going to waste, it can help to "request to-go boxes in advance from your caterer," Amy McCord Jones, wedding planner and owner of Flower Moxie, tells Bustle. "At the end of the event, your wedding planner or servers should easily be able to divvy up the leftover food for guests and family to take on the way out the door."

This'll be good news for friends, as well as any family that's hosting out-of-town guests, McCord Jones says. Everyone can stock up their fridges, and not have to worry about cooking or shopping for a while.

2. Give It To Those In Need

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"If your venue is close to a homeless shelter or food bank, make plans ahead of time for someone to drop off the leftover food to the shelter or have someone from the shelter pick it up," Ghosh says. That way, someone who really needs it will get a nice meal.

3. Feed The Band

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While everyone's dancing and eating and talking, the band's in the background keeping the show going. And the servers are working hard to keep food and drinks flowing.

"Too often, their efforts are under-appreciated," Frost says, "so sending them all home with a thank you note on a bag of food is a nice way of showing your appreciation for their contribution."

4. Reheat It Later On In The Night

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This trick can come in handy if your venue doesn't allow for the food to be taken out of the building, Ghosh says, which can often be the case. So ask ahead of time if they'd be willing, instead, to keep the food warm or serve a "midnight buffet."

"Guests who had favorites at dinner time will appreciate a second plate of it," Ghosh says, "and others will appreciate having additional options while they're dancing the night away!"

5. Bring It To A Local Fire Station

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"Fire and policemen and women work long hours," Frost says. "They appreciate a good meal before or after their tour." So call around and see if any local stations would be interested in a few fancy wedding meals.

Once the day is done, ask a friend to drop off a few containers. And just like that, nothing will go to waste.

6. Freeze It

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When in doubt, you can always stash food in the freezer. And this is true even for wedding cake.

In fact, you might want to keep the top tier for your anniversary, Eileen Gray, pastry chef and blogger at Baking Sense, tells Bustle, since it's customary to eat a slice on the one year mark.

To preserve it, "double wrap the entire cake in plastic wrap and then in foil," Gray says. "To defrost, take off the foil and let it sit in the plastic wrap at room temp."

You can also send cake home with guests, she says, in little to-go boxes.

7. Bring It Back To Your Hotel

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Ask the caterer if it'd be OK to take extra food back to your hotel, cabin, house — wherever it is you'll be staying for the night — and serve it during an after-party.

"If food is going to be served immediately, it's a great way to utilize leftover food (just make sure you have plates and utensils!)," Joyce Malisce, owner of Pink Salt Cuisine, tells Bustle. "However, if you can't keep the food properly refrigerated, it's best to allow your caterer to responsibly donate the food to an organization."

Again, many caterers can't allow guests to take food with them for liability reasons, Malisce says. So you'll want to talk about this ahead of time.

8. Create Goody Bags

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"Everyone loves a goody bag," Margaret Williamson, owner of Leaf + Petal, tells Bustle. So why not take all the extra cookies, snacks, and candies from the wedding, and turn it into a sweet gift?

9. Give It Those Who Couldn't Make It

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"If a few of your workmates or friends had to miss the big day, organize a brunch or bring some to work for them to enjoy," Williamson says. That way, they can get a (literal) taste of what the wedding was like. And you can rest easy knowing every last bit was enjoyed.

10. Donate To A Farm

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If you can't eat the food, you may want to contact a local farm and see if they'd like to use it for compost, certified wedding planner Gregorio Palomino, tells Bustle. It may take a little bit of extra work, but it's definitely a unique and thoughtful way to make sure nothing useful gets tossed into a landfill.

It can be overwhelming to look at a table's worth of extra food, but there are lots of ingenious ways to put it to use. Freeze it, donate it, reheat it later in the evening — do whatever feels right for you, and what makes sense for your wedding.