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Wedding Budget: The Food

January 4, 2016 by The Marquardt Ranch

When it comes to planning your wedding, nothing can make your bill climb higher faster than the cost of food. Everyone wants a memorable—and delicious—reception, and choosing the right menu can make or break the budget.

So how do you save without sacrificing quantity or quality?

First, determine the type of reception you want.

A sit down dinner works well for intimate, formal occasions. Passing family style gives you the same intimate setting, but at a much lower cost because food is not individually plated. A buffet gives your guests plenty of freedom for eating and seating and works well for large weddings.

Second, think outside the traditional.

A late morning wedding lends itself well to a simple brunch menu, while an afternoon wedding is perfect for cocktails and appetizers. Some couples are even opting for a potluck buffet, which allows your family and friends to show off their culinary skills for your special day.

Third, consider your theme.

By tailoring your wedding food to your wedding theme, you not only make the day more seamless, but you can also often create a frugal, yet fun and festive, reception atmosphere. Outdoor venues or country chic weddings lend themselves well to picnic buffets or barbecues with all the ‘fixins’. Consider dividing your thematic menu into a series of food bars. Plan the familiar—soups, salads, or fruit—and then get creative with entrees that suit your theme or heritage. Think tacos, potatoes, burgers, sandwiches, pizza, pasta, or anything that you know guests would love to cater to their palate.

Finally, let them eat cake.

Or cupcakes, pie, ice cream, and cookies.  If you’re having a traditional wedding cake, then let it be the star of the evening and don’t worry about serving a competing dessert. But if you want something different and budget conscious, consider a dessert bar or miniature dessert bites. Anything—mousse, cheesecake, fruit—becomes elegant in a cocktail glass or mason jar.

A few more tips to keep your food budget happy:

  1. Choose seasonal vegetables and fruits to reduce cost and add to the festive nature.
  2. Opt for filling sides like pasta, risotto, rice, or potatoes in addition to your vegetable choices.
  3. Use mini glasses and interesting plates. Guests will be distracted by your whimsical choices and not be as likely to pile on the food.
  4. Plan simple offerings. You don’t want to have to explain to your guests what they’re eating and why. Plus, less prep means less cost.
  5. Hand pass appetizers instead of having guests help themselves. Less is consumed, therefore less has to be prepared.
  6. Consider a restaurant, or a venue with onsite catering, to help reduce your final number.
  7. Since catering cost is determined by head count, consider trimming your guest list if you can’t have the reception you’ve always dreamed.
  8. For the DIY enthusiast, call on talented friends and family to create your menu. This is a great way to involve those who want to help but aren’t with your wedding party or immediate family.
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