Wedding Planning Tips

How to Save With Wedding Food?

With all the expenses of a wedding, it is easy to get overwhelmed by how much everything costs. 

However, there are some ways you can save money on your wedding food. Here are our top budget-friendly tips for saving money on food without sacrificing anything in terms of taste or quality! Saying “I do” at Boutique Events Group is an elegant and luxurious affair.

Score the Right Caterer

The way to find a good caterer is by referral and reputation. Ask people you trust, and be sure to read blogs and reviews. 

Always request recent references, but most importantly, you and your caterer need to click.

When couples come in for their tastings, and if they like the food and the service, but they don’t like the caterer, the team shouldn’t use them. 

This is the most sacred day of your life, and working with your caterer should be a joyful experience from start to finish.

Do it Your Way

There’s more than one way to serve a meal. Here are three of the most common, plus their pros and cons. 

Whichever route you take, we recommend creating a seating chart to keep things orderly and minimise stress for guests.

Buffet

Pros: Encourages mingling; gives guests a multitude of dishes to choose from. 

Cons: Long lines; chefs can’t control the plating of the dishes so that things can get sloppy; more choices can mean higher food costs. 

Seated

Pros: Elegant and formal; since everyone eats simultaneously, it’s easier to control the flow of the evening. 

Cons: Restricts mingling; can require more waitstaff. 

Stations 

Pros: Personalises the dining experience; guests get to interact with the chefs; there’s something for everyone. 

Cons: Often the most expensive option; in the wrong hands, your reception might start feeling like a fancy food court.

Make it Delicious

Couples these days say no to paint-by-the-numbers banquet meals and yes to mixing up their menus with fun, foodie-friendly options. Our favourite trends:

Try Breakfast

Two words: waffle station. If you have a morning or early-afternoon reception, you can serve an elaborate breakfast or brunch for much less than dinner. 

Feed Them Family-style

Passing around platters of food creates a bonding moment for guests, encouraging them to interact and build a community sense. 

Think Local

Regional, farm-fresh foods are suitable for the earth and let you show off the area’s cuisine. 

Bonus: Local ingredients often taste better than the shipped-in stuff. 

Create a Mini Restaurant

Some caterers will allow guests to order on the spot from a limited menu or even build a kitchen on-site for a price. 

Order In Food Trucks

Bring street grub to the party with these food-stands-on-wheels. Check whether you need permits or be ready to shell out for parking tickets.

Moderate Your Bar

If having a fully stocked open bar is on your must-have list, you can go ahead and skip this tip. 

But if cocktails aren’t that high of a priority to you, consider cutting costs here. 

Instead of hosting a bar stocked with every imaginable liquor, mixer and condiment, skip the hard stuff and serve only beer, wine and champagne (sparkling wine works too). 

If your heart is set on serving a proper cocktail, add one signature drink to your beverage menu. 

You may also choose to create a semi-soft bar, adding one or two versatile spirits to the drink menu or serving hard liquor for cocktail hour only. 

(We recommend going with vodka or whiskey—both are highly flexible and work alone or in a cocktail with a variety of mixers.)

Serve Only Two or Three Courses

After a sampling of hors d’oeuvres and drinks, a three-course meal that includes a soup or salad, entrée and finishes with the wedding cake is plenty of food for your guests. 

Remember, most people don’t even order this much food at their favourite restaurants. So if your caterer asks about including expensive additional courses in your reception menu, don’t be afraid to veto them. 

They’re not necessary (and people will want to get to the dance floor anyway).

Go Easy on the Hors D’oeuvres

Wedding Planning Tips

It’s common for caterers to recommend several choices, but you can save a little here by selecting a maximum of three prepared appetisers to offer during cocktail hour. Of course, you want to give your guests something to nibble on, but an abundance of food this early in the festivities is an extra expense you don’t need.

Skip Passed Appetisers

Avoid preparation and serving staff expenses with spreads of crudités, dips, cheese plates, gourmet crackers, fresh bread and colourful fruit. Plus, guests generally like to help themselves instead of waiting for a server to wander in their direction.

Stick to the Basics

Certain menu items are notorious for raising the catering bill. Forgo expensive entree options like lobster, oysters, filet mignon, Ahi tuna, caviar and truffles. If you absolutely must include one of these flavours in your event, ask your caterer to create an hors d’oeuvre that celebrates the ingredient but uses it sparingly. A mini blini with a tiny dollop of crème fraiche and a smidge of caviar is a perfect example.

Host a Smaller Party Days After Your Wedding

There’s no way around it — more guests mean more mouths to feed and more drinks to pour. The surest way to reduce your total food and drink bill is to cap your guest list, even if it means making some tough choices about who to leave out of your big day.

One way to avoid these choices is not to have a reception on the day of your wedding. Instead, host a smaller celebration (don’t even call it a reception) days or weeks after your ceremony, perhaps at your house or in a neighbourhood park. Limit the guest list to close friends and family members and keep the food simple — think a barbecue potluck and coolers with canned drinks.

Write Off Venues That Require In-House Catering

The most important thing you can do to reduce the cost of your reception dinner doesn’t require much effort. Call the venues you’re considering and ask whether they allow outside food. If venues require in-house catering, eliminate them from your list.

Have a Friend or Relative Host Your Reception at Their Home

If you have a close friend or relative with enough space, ask them to host the reception (and possibly the ceremony, depending on your preferences).

Make it worth their while by assuring them the venue more than suffices as their gift — although, if your wedding is small enough and their love for you runs deep, they might help prepare and serve your food and drink too.

Assuming the owner doesn’t have acres of lawn space for guests to spread out, hosting at a private home probably necessitates a smaller guest list too. 

Maintain a Coherent Theme

Use thematic food and drink menus that rely on fewer, cheaper ingredients to save money. A consistent theme boosts the appeal of basic or boring menu items.

For instance, fried chicken, fried okra, and macaroni and cheese are a lot more appealing as part of a Southern-themed menu than as an apparent afterthought at the end of a long buffet table.

Popular themes include:

  • Comfort food
  • Healthy eats
  • The whole game (our wedding’s pit-roasted hog was insanely cheap per guest and gave us frozen leftovers for months)
  • Barbecue

Avoid Costly Add-Ons

Skip costly add-ons, which tend to upsell wedding venues’ opportunities, not true value-adds for knot-tying couples. Cake cutting is an egregious example. Asking a couple of guests to slice and plate your cake achieves the same result at a much lower cost.

Skip the Champagne Toast

On top of the substantial labour required to pour and measure dozens of Champagne servings, the booze itself is incredibly costly — at least $5 per bottle for bulk-bought, bottom-shelf sparkling wine and $5 or more per glass for venue-provided stuff.

As memorable as your first wedding toast should be, it’s simply not worth the cost. Toast with whatever you and your guests are already drinking instead. Hopefully, whoever’s giving the toast is saying something so interesting no one will notice the lack of bubbly.

Use Disposable Serving Ware

If you have a say in the matter — and for this and other reasons, it’s wise to avoid venues that deny you one — opt for eco-friendly, single-use serving ware. That includes:

  • Compostable plates and bowls
  • Compostable or recyclable utensils and cutlery
  • Compostable or recyclable cups and glasses
  • Recyclable serving dishes and trays

Ask for a Kids Discount

If you plan to use a catering service, ask for a youth discount. Many caterers cut kids under 12 a break. Some particularly generous providers go all the way up to age 16.

Kids discounts are also a valuable negotiating point. Once you find a caterer that charges less for kids, use that deal as leverage to elicit similar concessions from other providers you’re considering.

Hold a Daytime Wedding

Daytime weddings are cheaper than afternoon-into-evening gatherings on multiple counts. Private reception venues generally charge less for daytime events as long as the party can clear out in time for the evening block. And city parks typically charge nominal fees to reserve pavilions or grills. Need help planning your wedding? Check out our list of Wedding Event Planners here.

Daytime wedding guests also tend to welcome lighter, more straightforward fare like tea or club sandwiches, essential grillable (hot dogs and burgers), or even snack foods (chips and salsa). Wedding Spot has plenty of daytime wedding food ideas.

End the Festivities Early

Even if you opt for a traditional start time, there’s no need to drag out the festivities.

By doing away with a cocktail hour and cutting off the dance music an hour or two after dinner ends, you can shave two to four hours off your wedding’s total run time, almost certainly reducing drink consumption in the process.

Guests who want to keep the party going can always organise an after-party of their own.

Simplify Entrées and Limit Choices

Labour-intensive or time-consuming dishes like a rich beef Wellington or a multi-ingredient cassoulet will be more expensive than other equally delicious choices. To keep costs down, choose simple, easy to prepare entrées. And there’s no rule saying your reception guests need a lengthy list of dinner options. To stay within your budget, ask your caterer to create one widely appealing main course and one diet-specific choice (like a vegetarian or gluten-free dish).

Serve Bar Snacks

Wedding Planning Tips

Don’t break out the heavier reception menu items, like pigs in blankets or meatballs, until guests are seated for dinner — or at least in the room where you plan to serve dinner.

They whet their appetites with various bar snacks at cocktail hours, such as nuts, pretzels, and dried fruit. Those who partake will probably eat less during the official appetiser round, keeping your wedding’s food costs in check.

Supplement With Stations

Feed a crowd on a budget by adding one or two cost-friendly food stations to your reception. Anything from a sushi bar to a build-your-own grilled cheese station will impress your guests. 

Bring Your Bottles

Many caterers will allow you to bring your wine and spirits, charging a nominal corkage fee for a wine served during dinner. If you can, choose a wine and spirit supplier who has a “buyback policy,” which says they’ll purchase any unopened bottles of alcohol back from you after the festivities.

Choose Local and In-Season Ingredients

Just as you might with your florist about wedding flowers, work with your caterer to choose unique ingredients that will be in season and grown locally around the time of your wedding. Fresh strawberries won’t be cheap or easy to find if you’re hoping to toss them into a mid-winter salad.

Educate Yourself

You don’t need to become a seasoned chef, but don’t be shy about familiarising yourself with things like which cuts of beef or types of fish cost more than others. For example, organic produce often costs more than non-organic fruits and veggies. Work with your caterer ahead of time to determine which corners you’re happy to cut and which menu elements are non-negotiable.

Manage the Booze

Typically, bar service doesn’t cost any more during dinner. Guests will still drink about an average of one drink every hour,” says Wilson. Her number-one money-saving tip for a seated dinner: “Communicate with your waitstaff. Ask them not to be heavy-handed with the pours—people will drink what you put in front of them. Let your caterer know if you want to allocate a certain number of bottles of wine per table. A great server will know how to pace the pours, so the bottles last throughout the meal.”

Tips to Reduce Wedding Reception Cocktail Hour Costs

Reduce Wedding Cocktail Hour

One of the easiest ways to cut back is to reduce the total cost of the stretch between the end of the ceremony and the official start of the reception. These ideas include solutions you can apply at nearly any wedding, along with a novel idea or two that could come in handy at yours.

Encourage Guests to BYOB

Asking guests to bring their booze isn’t as tacky as it sounds. Just make it clear on your wedding invitation or website that you won’t be serving alcohol during cocktail hour.

Then set the stage for a good cocktail hour by doing any of the following:

  • Provide Mixers. For guests who bring hard liquor, provide several inexpensive mixers, such as soda and fruit juice. Don’t forget the glasses, ice, and disposable bar napkins.
  • Themed Happy Hour. Set a theme for your cocktail hour drink, such as craft beer, and encourage guests to bring their favourite theme examples.
  • Cocktail Potluck. Use a shared spreadsheet — or your preferred free organising tool, like PotluckHub — to organise a cocktail potluck in which guests bring various drinks to share.
  • These are only examples. Your BYOB cocktail hour can look however you want it to look.

Stick to a Single Drink

If you’re not sold on a BYOB cocktail hour, keep things simple and offer just one drink between the ceremony and reception start time. Ideas to provide a single drink on the cheap include:

  • Tapping a keg from your favourite local brewery or cidery
  • Handing out recyclable Champagne flutes and breaking open the sparkling wine
  • Offering your venue’s house wine or purchasing your own lower-shelf red or white in bulk (see our wine-buying guide for tips)
  • Premix a signature cocktail, such as your joint-favourite or one that matches your wedding’s colour scheme

Your guests’ tastes won’t be uniform, so don’t agonise about choosing a drink that pleases everyone. White wine or hard seltzer is a safer choice since many drinkers avoid beer or hard liquor (and some prefer not to knock back cocktails before dinner anyway).

Keep the Booze Locked Away

Nowhere is it written that wedding cocktail hours must feature cocktails — or any alcohol at all. Whether BYOB flies at your venue or not, keep the booze locked up until dinner.

In the meantime, provide dispensers filled with nonalcoholic beverages, like sweet and unsweet tea or water spiked with citrus, cucumbers, or berries.

Get Photos Out of the Way Before the Ceremony

At many weddings, the cocktail hour’s primary purpose is to keep guests occupied while the wedding party poses for photos. If you can get wedding photos out of the way before guests arrive, there’s no need to draw out the cocktail hour.

And if the reception and ceremony occur in the exact location, there may be no need for a formal cocktail hour at all.

Final Word

Even after implementing every cost-cutting strategy that makes sense for your special day, food and drink costs are sure to account for a significant share of your wedding reception budget.

The good news is the cuts needn’t stop there. By simplifying or doing away entirely with other aspects of your wedding reception, you can further size down your wedding budget without adversely impacting the guest experience. Catering your own wedding? Let us put you in touch with the Top Melbourne Wedding Caterers.

Whatever you do, don’t let anyone tell you the wedding of your dreams has to cost a fortune.

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