Did you know that food and drinks will eat up about 40% of your total wedding budget? Catering a wedding is expensive! And if your budget is already tight, you may find it very difficult to find catering options in your price range. In case you need some help, here are a few tips on how you can feed people on a budget.
1. Skip The Sit Down Dinner
Wedding receptions nowadays are not always formal; many playful alternatives are now considered acceptable. A cocktail reception being one of them. A cocktail reception is basically a reception at which guests are served hors d’oeuvres and drinks rather than a full sit-down meal. There a few important rules to follow if you’re planning to have one of these. First, make sure you’re guests know what to expect. This can be as simple as stating “cocktail reception and cake to follow” on the invitations. Secondly, make sure you go heavy on the appetizers, because nobody wants to leave a wedding reception hungry. Pay attention to variety to satisfy all of your guests. For example, some guests may be vegetarian or gluten free, so make sure to include options that also takes them into account. And lastly, mix up your seating options. One common goal of a cocktail reception is to have guests mingle. So you’ll want to have a mixture of hi-top cocktail style tables and regular tables with chairs. Generally speaking, you want to have seating for about 50% of the total number of guests to make sure there is enough seating for guests to rotate through.
2. Think Beyond Traditional Menu Options
You can save thousands by thinking outside of the standard chicken and fish menu options. I’ve done weddings where guests were severed barbeque from an amazing local BBQ joint. Another had gourmet stone fired pizzas (where they actually brought the brick oven on-site). Both were very tasty and BIG HITS with their crowd—not to mention they saved the couple a ton of money! Food trucks are another option gaining lots of popularity now.
3. Host a Day-Time Wedding
Serving brunch or lunch is a lot cheaper than serving dinner. If you still want the gourmet food and the fancy caterer, this is a great way to have both of those things while not breaking the bank. Guests also tend to drink less during the day, and some venues even charge less for daytime rentals. So you save money in many more ways than just food costs!
4. Alcohol. Because No Good Story Ever Started With “I Was Eating A Salad…”
Hosting an open bar at your wedding is a huge expense. But having guests pay for their own drinks is often times considered a faux pas. So what do you do? There are many options on how to save money in this area.
- Ask Your Caterer if you can buy your own alcohol and have them serve it. You’ll save a few hundred bucks on the mark-up!
- Serve signature drinks. In lieu of a full bar, offer beer and wine + a couple of signature drinks. I personally love this idea because it allows you to get creative and add another layer of customization to your day, but more importantly, you’ll save tons of money on hard liquor costs while still giving your guests a little something-something.
- Skip the hard liquor all together. Have a beer and wine only bar. You can still get creative with the beer and wine options you choose to include.
- Skip the champagne toast. It may not seem like a whole lot at first, but providing a glass of champagne to every guest in the room can really add up, especially if you opt for a quality brand. In the end, most people don’t drink the whole glass of champagne anyway–and many others simply don’t like champagne but will indulge for a toast. I’m like, who are these people that don’t like champagne?! But it’s true. We’ve seen caterers clear tables where champagne glasses were still full. Most guests will be happy to toast with whatever is in front of them at the time.
- Nix the bar and place a couple bottles of wine at each table. This is a great way to include a little alcohol into your wedding celebration without providing a whole bar. It works really well when you have a lot of people who don’t drink at all attending your wedding, but you still want to provide a few libations for those who do.
5. Don’t Feel Like You HAVE to Have a Wedding Cake
Your guests just want a nice dessert. Wedding cakes go for $5-7+ per slice. Pie bars, milk and cookie bars, ice cream bars, cupcakes, brownies and other sweet treats are all suitable alternatives to cake. If you’re dead set on the traditional cutting of the cake, you can still order a small 1 tiered cake for the photo-op (and to make your mom happy).