Food is one of the largest expenses for a wedding. Everyone wants to have amazing food at the best prices possible. While that is fair, expecting to get a whole lot of something for close to nothing is not. I am all for getting a great deal, however this post is not intended to encourage brides and grooms to hustle, cheat, threaten, hassle, or trick caterers or any other vendor into lowering prices. It's intended to show couples that spending your money in the right areas and asking for suggestions will get you the results you want.
Please understand that for the most part all of your wedding vendors are small business owners. They have families and bills just like you. Their prices are set the way they are for a reason. Please also note that caterers especially have higher prices because of the cost of food and paying labor to employees. You would not go to Food Lion, pick up a watermelon that costs $5.99, take it to the register, and ask to only pay $2.99. Please don't do it to your caterer. Simply ask for less expensive alternatives.
Enough about that. Let's talk about saving money!
1. Have your reception at a local college or university. Due to contractual agreements, you will have to utilize the school's food service provider. They provide less expensive rates than would a typical caterer. Don't think back to your college days and doubt the quality of the food. Most campuses have trained chefs who cater the special events.
2. Ask for local ingredients. If your caterer can obtain fresh, local ingredients it's better for you- financially. Farmer's markets don't have the additional prices added to them that grocery stores do. The fruits and vegetables are cheaper and you'll be supporting another local business owner.
3. BYOB. Choose a venue that will allow you to bring your own alcohol. You can purchase alcohol a lot cheaper at warehouse stores such as Sam's Club, Costco, or BJ's than from a caterer. All food service providers increase the price of alcohol- that's how they make money. If you find a venue that allows you to bring your own alcohol- do it. Then ask your caterer if there is a fee to have a bartender serve the drinks. There probably is, however paying a bartender for 3-4 hours is cheaper than paying for an unlimited bar for 50+ people.
4. Enlist a culinary school. There are a large number of culinary schools that will be glad to cater your wedding on their campus. Another option is to hire third or fourth year students to cater your wedding. The students will be eager to gain the experience and the price will be significantly cheaper than a professional caterer. These students have the skills just not the experience. This can be a win win situation for everyone involved.
5. Serve infused waters. We discussed incorporating infused waters in this post: Drink Your Fruits & Vegetables. Infused water is an incredible budget friendly wedding beverage, and the flavor possibilities are endless.
6. Have the wedding/reception in a restaurant. The location is ideal because the food is in one central location. It doesn't need to be transported to a different location. It can all be prepared at the restaurant. Restaurants don't need to rent linens or china because they already have it. Depending on the restaurant, they may waive a rental fee because the price you're paying for food exceeds a certain amount.
7. Host a dessert reception. These are typically held later in the evening so if you're getting married around 6 or 7 pm, a dessert reception would be perfect for you. Just make a note of it on your wedding invitation to inform guests. You could serve a variety of desserts and still spend less money than if you had served an entire meal to your guests.
8. Serve select items. Take a cue from the Olive Garden and serve a variety of soups, salads, and breadsticks. This will work especially well if you have stations and/or tray passed items. Soups can be served as shooters and salads can be placed on stations for chefs to create them in front of guests. Learn more about soup shooters by reading this post: It's Worth a Shot
To make the salads more interesting include toppings like fruits, tortilla chips, and specialty dressings. Although, you'll have to pay attendant fees, you'll save money because the caterer will be able to portion all the food and because you're not serving a main entree.
9. Downgrade the formality of your meal. This has become a fabulous trend. Couples looking to save money on their wedding meal should definitely take advantage of this. Instead of serving an elegant four course plated meal to your guests, serve comfort food. Who doesn't love barbecue, burgers, fries, and/or fried chicken? The food will be just as delicious and less expensive. Why is fried chicken less expensive than Coq au Van even though they're both chicken? More formal dishes require more labor and more expertise which requires more money.
10. Select less expensive alternatives. Instead of serving an expensive cut of beef, serve flank steak. If marinaded correctly, it can be an amazing choice. Choose a harvest rice instead of risotto. It's less expensive because wine isn't necessary for harvest rice, and arborio rice (a more expensive rice) isn't needed for harvest rice. Just ask your caterer for less expensive alternatives.
Images: 1- Unknown 2- Inspired By This 3-Bustle 4- Unknown 5- Simply Pretty Wedding 6- Love Wedd 7-Coquettish 8- Project Wedding 9- Destination Weddings 10- Shauna Younge 11 & 14- Culinary Crafts 12- Wolfgang Puck 13- My Wedding
Happy Planning & God Bless!