19Feb2015

20 Ideas to Save Money on Wedding Food and Service

Wedding Food

One of the most expensive parts of planning a wedding is making sure you have enough food for all of your guests and enough plates, cups, forks, knives, etc. for all of those people to eat the food. Most caterers charge per-person for appetizers, meals, and desserts. Even if you’re only inviting fifty or fewer people, a serious part of your budget is going to go towards just feeding people and the plates, etc. that go along with food. A wedding with only 150 guests, with food and beverage service, can cost up to $10,000—just for catering!

If you’re looking for a way to cut back on the costs of feeding your guests, here are twenty tips you might find useful:

1. Make your own appetizers.

For most couples, it’s not going to be any less expensive (or any less frustrating), to make all of the food for your wedding. If you can just cover the appetizers, however, you can shave off the cost of that course from your catering budget.

2. Get married during the day.

If you don’t have to serve dinner, but instead serve a light brunch or lunch, your catering costs are going to be much less. Plus, having breakfast or simple lunch options is going to be much more unique than just the standard chicken or fish plates.

3. Rent your dishes and flatware.

Unless your catering company provides them (some do, some don’t), renting plates, cups, and flatware is going to be much less expensive than trying to buy enough matching pieces for all of your guests.

4. Cut down on the options.

It’s tempting to throw in a lot of different options as you’re planning your wedding, especially if you have guests on your list that are gluten intolerant, lactose intolerant, etc., etc. If you can cut back to just a few options that work for everyone (i.e. a vegan option that is also gluten and lactose free), you can cut down on the costs of catering on the whole.

5. Don’t hire servers.

While there is something uniquely classy about having tuxedoed servers walking around your reception with food options, this can be a serious additional expense. Either set up a self-serve table area or have a single server, behind the service area to make plates for the guests as they come up to the table.

6. Don’t serve dinner.

Dinner is usually the most expensive part of your catering budget. If you can cut it out entirely (and maybe throw in a few more rounds of appetizers), your guests likely won’t notice.

7. Have a free drink limit.

While an open bar might seem like a good idea, it can be one of the most expensive parts of your wedding. Cut free drinks off at one or two, instead of having an unlimited tab you’ll have to pay at the end of the night.

8. Ask if BYOB is allowed.

If you’re allowed to buy your own alcohol and bring it to the venue—do it. It will cost much less than what the venue will charge you.

9. Don’t serve cocktails.

Having enough variety of alcohol and other ingredients to make cocktails can get expensive. Stick to beer and wine for your guests.

10. Have the bartender come up with one signature cocktail.

If you really want to serve a cocktail, make it a special one. Have the bartender come up with a signature drink just for your wedding.

11. Make sure outside catering is allowed.

Some venues want you to use their catering services (but they’ll probably charge you through the nose for them). Instead, ask if you can choose your own caterer.

12. Choose less expensive dinner options.

While a steak for each person on your guest list might sound classy, it’s also going to be deathly expensive. Pasta, chicken, and salads are going to be more affordable.

13. Get a chain restaurant to cater you.

Did you know that many chain restaurants offer a catering option? This is going to be less expensive and more convenient than working with a catering company.

14. Make it all yourself.

This is a daunting task for most couples, but if you’re really looking to avoid paying a caterer for food that you aren’t sure will be great, consider finding a few low cost, easy to make, large batch recipes—especially if they can be frozen.

15. Make a display cake.

Instead of actually paying for a huge, fancy cake from an expensive bakery, consider having a display cake (read: a fake cake) for show, and then an inexpensive sheet cake in the back that you actually serve to guests.

16. Serve smaller portions.

Both for the cake and for the dinner, ask your caterer to serve smaller portions. Your goal shouldn’t be to stuff your guests full.

17. Cut your invitation list.

If you’re very concerned about the cost of your wedding, try to reduce your invite list to under fifty people. This can make the cost of catering more manageable.

18. Make sure you know exactly what you’re going to be charged.

Some caterers will sneak in extra charges like a “cake cutting fee” or a “champagne toast fee.” If you don’t want those special services, don’t pay for them.

19. Serve only non-alcoholic drinks.

While some guests expect an open bar, just serving water, juice, and soda is far less expensive than serving alcohol.

20. Choose cupcakes over a tiered cake.

My brother and sister-in-law insisted on paying for their whole wedding themselves. One of the best ways they reduced the price of their wedding was to cut the cake out altogether and just get several different kinds of cupcakes, decorated with their wedding colors.

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