9 Simple Ways to Save on Food and Drinks at Your Wedding

The food and drink you serve at your wedding can easily take one of the biggest bites out of your budget (no pun intended). But it doesn’t have to. Check out the following tips to see how you can save, instead of spend, on your special day.

TO SAVE ON FOOD…

  • Opt for the Buffet: Choosing a buffet over a sit-down dinner can save you a bundle on your food bill. Why? Because buffets generally require lower operating costs, have fewer details to manage, and are less labor-intensive than more traditional sit-down meals. Buffets also offer a wider variety of food, increasing the chances that there will be something for everyone (think kids, picky eaters, and even guests with special dietary restrictions).
  • Embrace Brunch: It’s the New Dinner:Brunches are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to traditional sit-down dinners. Not only are they classy and sophisticated, they can save you as much as 40% off your total food costs. One reason for this is that breakfast foods (and even light lunch options) are less expensive. People also tend to eat and drink less around the typical brunch time (from about 10:30am – 1pm) than they do in the evening.
  • Get the Best of Both Worlds with a Cocktail Party Reception:A cocktail party reception gives you the variety and flexibility of a buffet with the refinement and elegance of a sit-down meal, while slashing anywhere between 15%-40% off your total food bill. Cocktail party receptions call for a generous array of appetizers, hors d’ourves and cocktails, of course! What makes this option significantly less expensive than many other types of receptions is the fact that you’ll be serving less food. Additionally, cocktail receptions last about half as long as the average dinner reception (2 hours, compared to 4 hours). While this option certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s a great compromise if you’re on a budget yet still want great food.

TO SAVE ON CAKE…

  • Accept that Wedding Cake doesn’t always “Take the Cake”: According to the Bridal Association of America, wedding cakes average about $550. If you’re on a budget, that figure is almost too absurd to be taken seriously. Luckily, there are many ways to lower your dessert expenses, but you must keep an open mind to those possibilities. Try not to become “set” on any given tradition or get caught up in the idea that your wedding won’t be a REAL wedding without ________. Weddings are all about being flexible, making compromises and setting priorities. With that said, consider taking an unconventional route to find an amazing dessert that you can afford.
  • Dare to be Different: If you’re open to the idea of forgoing a traditional wedding cake in lieu of other dessert options, you’re in luck. There are numerous alternatives that not only will cost you less (in most cases), but will provide your guests with a truly unique experience, one that they’re sure to remember. Some examples include cupcakes, donuts, pastries, candy buffets, pies, cake pops, cheesecake, chocolate fondue, truffles, funnel cake, and fruit tarts.
  • Piggy-Back from the Caterer: If you’re already using a caterer, consider picking a dessert straight from their menu to serve your guests. Usually they will have several elegant (and scrumptious) alternatives to choose from, and you probably won’t have to pay extra because the price per-person generally includes dessert.

TO SAVE ON ALCOHOL…

  • Just say “No” to the Open Bar: Hands-down, one of the simplest ways to shave money off your food bill is to forgo the open bar. Costing as much as $50 a head (not including tip and other add-on fees), an open bar is far from a necessity, especially when you can offer the basic stuff– beer, wine or champagne, and maybe a signature cocktail-at a fraction of the price. Offering two or three alcohol options should be more than enough, and everyone will still have a great time.
  • Time it Right: It’s your wedding, and you have the power to keep the bar “open” or “closed” at various times throughout your reception. For example, at many receptions the bar is kept open during “cocktail hour”, closed during dinner, then opened again after dinner. You can also decide to close the bar during “cocktail hour” (instead, serving just soft drinks and tea), or an hour before the reception ends. However you choose to implement this “start-stop” strategy, it’ll remain largely unnoticed by your guests (so everyone stays happy)!
  • Remember that More (Quantity) = Less (Money): If you’re lucky enough to pick a reception site that allows outside alcohol, you want to make sure to snag the lowest prices on spirits. Check out member-only warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s, which are typically less expensive and provide a wider selection of spirits. Most of them will allow you to shop in their store without a membership, but only if you have a free one-day pass (try Googling the particular store plus “free one-day pass”). Despite the benefits of bigger outlets, don’t write off your neighborhood liquor store just yet. Most liquor stores, large or small, offer quantity discounts that could save you as much as 10% off your purchase. Before you make an actual trip, start by calling around to see which stores in your area offer the best deals.