A friend of mine was throwing a shower for her daughter that was married 2 months ago in Utah. I volunteered to help in the kitchen. I know it's nice to let the family enjoy the evening, instead of work. And I don't really like parties anyway. I do like sitting down with some friends but I'm not into dancing etc...
She had hawiian haystacks and it was awesome! Rice, chicken gravy, coconut, pineapple, olives, tomatoes and cheese. And she had salad and dressing at the end, so people could eat the toppings either way.
I've helped out in the kitchens for a few receptions and always come away with some ideas for next time. I did remember to bring a few towels, but I should have brought 5 or more. I should also bring washing soap and scrubby, though this ward had them. I should also bring a knife and cutting board I like rather than rely on the ward to have something.
Some ideas for if I'm ever in charge include:
Have a bowl of everything ready to refill.
Have water and punch available.
Use crock pots to keep things warm.
Don't rely on the church to have anything functioning, and check a few days in advance.
Bring #10 lids and ziplock packaging to take thing home, and boxes, and a cooler! There's always ice, unless there isn't. But if you can stick things in a cooler with some ice, you don't have to worry about them until later.
Some things are good to buy in large containers, but others it might be better to have smaller amounts. We got to take home a #10 can of sliced olives!
Order rice from a chinese take out.
Make things easier on yourself even if it is more expensive.