Sure, your guests expect to eat at your reception, but they probably won’t be demanding Lobster Thermidore with a caviar chaser. If you remember to think in terms of satisfying your guests rather than impressing them and keep a sense of play in your planning, you can keep everyone happy without busting your budget.
1. Go loco.
Locovore, that is. Choosing foods that are locally grown or raised and in season will cut your costs by a lot. Even better, your food will be fresher and therefore tastier, since you cut out the transportation time. You’re also lowering the likelihood that chemical preservatives will be used on your food, which means you’re giving your guests the secret gift of a healthier meal.
2. Go informal… Really informal.
If you’re not that set on a formal reception, you can save a lot by having a barbecue. I’ve yet to see a wedding guest that didn’t happily dive into one, and the informal setting helps your guests loosen up and get to the silly part of the dancing almost immediately. (Just make sure to have plenty of sides and “not dogs” for your vegetarian loved ones.) My favorite wedding reception ever was thrown at a place called Generous George’s Pizza Palace. Being in the supercasual setting in our wedding finery was a blast, and the simple selection of pizza and pastas meant that everyone from the smallest kids to Great-grandma found something they liked to eat.
3. Consider food stations or a buffet
If you must go indoors and sit-down, remember that table service can add a dollar or two per guest, which adds up fast. Talk to your caterer
about your options for avoiding rubber-chicken syndrome. A stir-fry or pasta bar can be fun and keeps things tasting fresh, and a dessert station makes everyone happy. Speaking of dessert…
4. How married are you to the idea of wedding cake?
If you’ve started pricing wedding cakes, you know how expensive they can be. If you’re not that into the cake-cutting tradition, a cupcake tower or a good dessert table will keep your guests happily carbed out enouh to stay sweet on you.
5. You knew time of day would come up, right?
The best way to ensure that your guests don’t expect a full dinner is to not have the reception at dinnertime. Brunch or lunch will be way less expensive, and your guests are likely to eat (and drink) more lightly. If you’re really crunched for budget, have an afternoon high tea – your guests will expect hors d’oeuvres, a few sweets, and finger sandwiches at the most, but it still feels terribly elegant