The challenge of growing food for your own wedding may not be for everyone.

“If I were trying to plan a wedding, the last headache I would want to add would be growing the food for it,” said Caitlin Jordan, and she should know. She has the title of marketing manager at her family’s Alewive’s Brook Farm in Cape Elizabeth, though she does much more than marketing.

“It’s a lot of work, and it would take a lot of planning. It’s definitely doable, but with all the things involved with planning a wedding, I wouldn’t want to add the stressor of growing the vegetables for it.”

Controlling what goes on your guests’ plates means you can guarantee your wedding dinner is sustainable and local, and with some careful planning – very careful – you might even save some money. With Jordan’s help, here are a few tips for adventurous wedding planners.

First, know what to buy. Unless one member of the marrying couple tagged a deer the previous fall, has a lobster-fishing license, is a really good freshwater fisherman or wants to spend the effort (plus time and money) to raise chickens or a pig, it’s going to be a vegetarian reception. Or add some locally raised meat or fresh catch to your shopping list, along with spices, oils and cheese.

You are going to have to grow three times as much food as you think you’ll need, in case things ripen too early or too late or get eaten by critters. More on that below.

Let’s talk timing: Skip the June wedding.

In Maine, there just isn’t enough food in the garden that early in the season. The prime harvest time is from mid-August until first frost, which can be well into October in southern Maine but fairly early in September in other parts of the state.

Late August is prime salad season. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers all should be in full production. You aren’t going to spend the $8,000 Jordan said it costs for a high tunnel to start those seedlings early, so go to a farmers market in May and buy seedlings to get these prime vegetables started.

Onions should be getting large enough to harvest in August. Lettuce grows all through spring and summer if you keep planting a bit every 10 to 14 days. You can also add carrots, broccoli or other vegetables.

Potatoes – in some form – are a good bet. We harvest our first new potatoes in mid-July. You could steam or boil them for the wedding, but getting some work done ahead of time makes sense, which means you’ll want to serve potato salad.

Since this is an informal wedding, it would be good to offer corn on the cob. People won’t mind getting a bit of butter on their hands. You’ll need plenty of corn in the ground if you plan on having ears for 50 to 100 people. For a home gardener, raccoons are a bigger problem than they are for a commercial farmer, Jordan said.

“We do put in traps down the corn aisle,” she said, “but mostly it’s a quantity thing. If the raccoons will eat 100 ears, we grow what we need plus enough for the raccoons.”

Grow extra for the raccoons, but invest in traps, as well.

Before I called Jordan, I had figured the main dish would be eggplant parmesan or grilled eggplant. The dense texture of eggplant makes it a perfect meat substitute.

Like tomatoes and peppers, eggplant has to be started indoors early or purchased as seedlings, and it needs plenty of room to grow. My wife Nancy and I have had good luck with Black Beauty eggplant, but as I was writing this I got an email from John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds that praised the Black Opal variety.

Jordan noted that, in the past couple of years, a beetle has arrived that feeds on eggplants, so once again, plant extra. Generally you can expect five or six fruits from each plant.

She suggested an alternative: vegetarian lasagna, with summer squash replacing the noodles in the recipe. Winter squash also will be ready for harvest in late August and early September, and it can be used in many hearty recipes including stuffed squash or a winter-vegetable hash.

And for dessert? No one is going to expect you to grow all of the ingredients for a wedding cake. But late summer in Maine means blueberries. It takes years for blueberry plants to produce a significant amount of berries. So, if you haven’t got plants already in the ground, buy some wild Maine blueberries for a good blueberry cake or pie.

All of that should produce a good meal that guests will be talking about – one way or the other – for weeks and that you will surely remember at every anniversary.

Just remember, though, that farming is always dependent on the weather. If you have a crop failure, there are local farms that are perfectly happy to sell you what you need either at their stands or at farmers markets. Find some you like, and use them as a backup.

And most important of all, cut yourself some slack and remember that the success of the marriage has nothing to do with how lavish – or how local – the wedding is.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at [email protected]