How to save money on wedding reception food

Princess Alexandra's Wedding Cake made by Andrew Davidson in 1963.

A wedding cake like this is ultra-expensive. Consider something simpler to save money. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Neilpick/Wikipedia)

If you’re looking to keep your upcoming wedding simple, elegant and budget-conscious, think about the food at your wedding reception. The costs of common wedding food can add up fast. If you want to save money on reception food without sacrificing quality, here are some tips for running your wedding on a budget.

Provide your own appetizers

Hiring a caterer to provide appetizers is a convenience, not a requirement. So long as you choose an appetizer that can be made ahead of time, then frozen, you can save as much as 50 percent on your wedding reception, versus the mark-up you’d pay to a professional caterer. Cooks among family and friends are quite useful here.

[Payday loans can help you rent that wedding tuxedo]

Don’t hire servers

Here’s an easy point of savings for your wedding. Ultimately, reception guests care about eating the food, not whether the food is being served to them by a well-dressed waitperson. Again, use family and friends for servers if you need them.


Make sure that the location of your wedding reception allows outside beverages. If so, bring your own beer, wine or hard liquor. You’ll avoid inflated alcohol prices charged by venues that offer it. If you must use venue service, limit the drink menu to wine and beer.

Keep a lid on the open bar

Alcohol budgets can quickly spiral out of control. That being the case, limit your open bar to the first hour or two of the wedding reception. Considering that a lot of people only have one drink when they sit down, it doesn’t make sense to go all-out on libations. If you must have a fancy drink, limit the menu to one “signature” drink. Of course, if you choose to go non-alcoholic, you’ll save a bundle. Try frozen mochas and fruit smoothies.

Serve heavy appetizers, not a dinner

It is perfectly acceptable today to have an appetizer menu rather than a dinner menu at a wedding reception. Heavy appetizers satisfy hunger and allow guests to mingle more easily. Plus, it will save you money.

Save on meals

If you must serve a sit-down meal at your wedding reception, consider doing it family style, where each table orders one dish – such as a pan of lasagna – that is split between guests at that table. Or order your favorite food take-out, if the reception is more casual.

If you are going to go a bit fancy with the meal, try to include foods that are in-season at the time of the reception. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay more.

Save on desserts

A wedding cake can easily become expensive as tiers and other confectionery decorations are added to the order. Try a simple, two-tiered cake, with large sheet cake in the back. It’s much cheaper than a grand seven-layer, particularly when there are fewer guests and the slice size is small.

Another option is a cupcake display, which is popular currently and can cost a quarter of what an extravagant wedding cake might cost. If cupcakes aren’t your speed, try a simple sweets buffet with brownies, candy or another inexpensive treat.

Weddings on a budget


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