Whether you're considering a casual brunch buffet or a formal table service dinner, the meal you serve at your wedding can set the tone for your reception festivities, but the prices your caterer presents can sure be daunting! Before you give your guest list the axe, follow our 10 tips on how to trim the fat from your wedding food budget.
- Think outside of the plate. A meat-and-starch may be the traditional wedding meal route, but if you think about your and your partner's personalities, you might be able to come up with a more creative — and cheaper — alternative. If you're movie buffs, what about pizza? If together you've tried every burger west of the Mississippi, assemble a choose-your-own toppings burger bar. If you throw the best cocktail parties in town, combine cocktail hour with dinner and serve a heavy hors d'oeuvres buffet.
- Truck it in. These days, you can find just about any food in the form of a food truck. Most are available to rent for private events, so call up your favorite taco or crepe truck to check out their prices which are usually much lower than the per-head cost of a catered meal.
- Serve yourself. A sit-down dinner may seem like the only option for an elegant evening, but a buffet can still be formal. Buffets cut down on the amount of staff needed to serve dishes, and your caterer can add fun frills like made-to-order omelettes and meat slicing.
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- Turn back the clock. There's more of an expectation for a multicourse meal at dinner, so moving up your wedding to earlier in the day allows you more meal planning flexibility. At brunch or lunch, guests are inclined to be happy with just a main course.
- Substitute. If a caterer presents a dish that sounds mouth-watering, but it comes at a premium, ask if they can substitute a less expensive ingredient. For example, instead of filet mignon, see if they can use tenderloin medallions. Also be wary of out-of-season ingredients and ask your caterer if local, in-season substitutes can bring down the cost.
- Limit options. The more meal options you offer, the higher your bill. Instead of providing your guests a choice between meat, chicken, and fish, choose one to serve to everyone (while providing a vegetarian option for guests who request it).
- Go back to school. If your wedding site is near a culinary school, investigate whether they cater or can host private events. Prices are usually dramatically lower than using a caterer or renting a restaurant, and you'll often get more staff than you would through established professional.
- Cater to the kids. If you expect a lot of children to attend, make sure your caterer provides smaller, cheaper kids' meals.
- Recruit friends and family. If your circle of close friends and family boasts a number of great cooks, ask them to pitch in to create your wedding meal as their gift to you. Even if you spring for the ingredients, the amount you'll save in labor will bring down the food costs substantially, and you'll end up with the most memorable meal possible. Just keep in mind that they might not be able to enjoy the event if they are at work in the kitchen!
- Get lucky. If you're willing to forego gifts, ask your guests to bring a potluck dish instead. You can group guests into categories (main course, salad, etc.) or ask them to provide a themed dish that reflects your personality as a couple. Make it fun, and not only will it alleviate your budget woes, it will make your wedding an event to remember!
Now that you've saved a bundle on your food, here's how to save money on your wedding cocktail tab.