Post It Notes: 9th December 2011: How to Save Money on Your Wedding Food

Today I thought I’d run few a few ideas on how you can save money on the catering/food at your wedding. It’s often one of the biggest expenses but it doesn’t have to be.

As always I’d love to read any of your own tips in the comments so hit us up with them!

Pot Luck

Photography Credit: Matt Miller of  Our Labor Of Love (full wedding here)

One of my favourite trends from America, the potluck style reception is something I’m seeing more and more of in UK weddings. The basic premise is that you ask your guests to each bring their favourite or signature dish. Result? An eclectic and yummy buffet experience at a fraction of the price.

Buffet

Photography Credit: Rosie Parsons Photography (full wedding here)

The wedding buffet often gets a bad rep for being a cheap (looking) and slightly tacky option. However the key is to forget soggy sandwiches and Iceland sausage rolls. I love the idea of an amazing Turkish spread, a Chinese inspired buffet or a classic English afternoon tea. Also think about having pretty plates and crockery for your guests to use instead of disposables. Makes all the difference daaaarling.

An Informal Meal

fish n chips weddingh

Photography Credit: Little Flowers Photography

A traditional sit down meal is probably the most expensive option for wedding day food out there but it’s the one most people go for. Instead, think about what you’d really love to eat. Fish n Chips? Bangers n Mash?

Non-traditional options are often much cheaper. I don’t think anyone enjoys dry wedding chicken anyway!

Using a Non-Wedding Caterer

Photography Credit: Steep Street Photography (full wedding here)

How about having pizza delivered to your reception or an Indian takeaway? (YUM!) Obviously the style and location of your wedding will determine if this is a viable and suitable option but I do love this idea. Lisa & Alex for example, had their reception in a bowling alley, so a pizza delivery suited their party perfectly!

Also how about using your favourite restaurant as your wedding caterer. A lot of establishments will do a catering option, just don’t mention the ‘W’ word (you’re having a party) and you’ll be surprised at the difference in price.

Alcohol

drink ideas at weddings

Photography Credit: Rosie Parsons Photography (full wedding here)

Alcohol often comes in as a bigger expense than even the wedding food (ahem, it did at our wedding anyway!) However instead of simply going with the easy option of choosing wine and champagne from your venue’s selection, see if it might work out cheaper to buy your own in bulk and pay a corkage charge (if your venue has one). Another idea is to forget wine and champagne completely and offer cheaper boozy alternatives.

Massive bowls of homemade punch? Your favourite local beer? G&T’s all round? Yes please…

Or of course you could forget the booze all together…this idea is not for everyone though!

Forget the Traditional Evening Buffet

Photography Credit: John Partridge Photography (full wedding here)

If you’re not having extra guests coming to the evening reception you can probably scrap the evening buffet. By the time 9pm rolls around (and after a few cheeky drinks) most people probably won’t be hungry again so don’t feel bad for skipping the extra food. You’ll have the pennies and most people won’t notice the absence.

How about spending the money on something fun for the guests to nibble on instead like a dessert table, candy buffet or ice cream/popcorn/candy floss machine!?

Using Seasonal Produce

Photography Credit: Joanna Brown Photography (full wedding here)

As with flowers, seasonal food may well come in cheaper. Be sure to ask your caterers for seasonal options.

Have a Lunchtime Wedding

Photography Credit: Credit: Emma Case Photography (full wedding here)

Traditionally dinner menus are more expensive than lunchtime ones. How about having an earlier meal or even brunch instead?!

Food Truck

Photography Credit: Sarah Maren Photographers (full wedding here)

This idea is potentially more relevant to my American readers (seriously, you guys have some amazing food truck options!) as I’m not sure how classy it would be for a British bride to rent a kebab van for her wedding meal…

DIY

Photography Credit: Liesl from Photo Pink NYC (full wedding here)

If you’re the DIY type and you’re not afraid to get stuck in, making your own food will be HUGELY cheaper than paying someone else to do it.

Hum…anyone else hungry now?

25 comments

  1. Waaah, the idea of having a kebab van at your wedding has tickled me :)

    I totally agree that often evening buffets are a waste of time and hardly get touched (and very often get served far too soon after the main sit down wedding breakfast – no-one’s hungry!). Just something to mop up the excess booze is all that’s needed, often – I did a wedding where they provided a tower of Krispy Kreme donuts instead of a full buffet, and that went down very nicely!

  2. Hog roast! I’m having a hog and lamb roast for my wedding and it’s saving us a fortune.

    We’re also doing a cake baking competiton instead of having a desert and wedding cake. Guest will bring cake and we’ll serve it up with strawberries and cream.

    On the booze front, we’re having a selection of fruit ciders after the ceremony (we’re having an outdoorsy, festival type thing) and we’re having English sparkling wine instead of French Champagne for the toasts.

    And yes I’ve made myself hungry now.

  3. Wedding food really annoyed me. Could not find a venue locally for my wedding that would let me bring my own! Had to order from them. So stuck with a buffet. Hopefully there shouldn’t be any iceland sausage rolls though, I’d go barmy! Love the idea of having a food truck, but not really an option for us Brits!

  4. Kate

    the catering has been the biggest cost for us so far, its all the hire costs of all the crockery, cutlery, refrigeration, ice, linens, serving dishes, staff etc
    The actual food itself is not the expensive bit at all! I think it is important to focus on the food being local seasonal produce and then you will be able to work out what that could be made into! I am having poached salmon with lots of lovely seasonal salads and asparagus tarts for my Kent wedding in June served on the tables so guests can help themselves, it took ages to decide tho! Then a picnic buffet in the evening, should be yummy! I am also having a cake baking competition for the pudding! such a fun way to get your guests involved!

  5. Charlotte

    Hoorah! Loving this post! We had “champagne cider” from down the road at our reception instead of traditional champagne and everyone LOVED it – it was local and much much cheaper, plus no one ended up with the immediate champagne headache or dry-mouth – win win!

    AND, as it was almost the same colour as “normal” champagne, no one even noticed the difference until they tried it, by which point they liked it!

    Local choices are always going to be cheaper – awesome advice post Kat! X

  6. jennycake

    We had a hog roast, got family and friends to make desserts and the best idea of all – had a cheese wedding cake. We bought lots of fresh bread and crackers and had this for our evening buffet, and everyone loved it! Plus we’ve got a bit in our freezer to keep!

  7. Kate

    Also you would be surprised how keen people are to get involved and make things for your big day!! I have been amazed by the generosity of our friends and family all offering to help make everything! It really brings everyone together which is so special and what a wedding really should be

  8. Suze

    Highly recommend the “don’t use a wedding caterer” tip – this is what we did for our wedding. We got our food from a local farm cafe, who did a big hot buffet of wintry classics like shepherd’s pie, beef stew etc and it was fabulous. Plus, it was all local, seasonal etc and worked out much less than half as expensive for the same options from a wedding catering company.
    We did have an evening buffet, mostly for the purposes of soaking up alcohol (!) but we had chip butties and roast pork sandwiches, which was far cheaper than a traditional buffet and was infinitely more popular.

  9. Dale

    Yes! Rock and Roll Bride be warned, definitely don’t use a wedding caterer -what a swiz! We rang round a load of our favourite delis and asked them if they’d consider doing it… the quotes came in at less than half the price of the two ‘wedding’ caterers we’d approached. The three we decided to go and see gave us tastings free of charge (one company even sat down for lunch with us – how sweet!) and they were all willing to serve our booze without charging us corkage. We’ve gone for a sit down meal (we like to eat!) but chosen Lancashire Hot Pot for our Manchester wedding. No dried chicken for us!

  10. Emma

    At my brother’s wedding they had an ice cream van turn up at dessert time, and then a BBQ at night instead of an evening buffet. Fab!

  11. Sarah Burke

    Brilliant idea if you can get somewhere to allow you to do your own catering, we couldn’t but went with the place that would allow us freedom in choosing off the normal menu of either dry chicken, salmon or beef (why does every place have the same menu). I hate the trying to be fancy and not really making it type food so instead of anything en croute I’m going for bangers and mash or lancashire hotpot. It’s all about the people in charge at your venue for me, our venue is nowhere fancy or different but the people there are so easy to deal with and willing to do whatever they can for your day.

  12. Since I am a wedding photographer, obviously our concern was to be able to afford a ROCKING photographer haha, so we had a minuscule food budget. When we stared talking about an evening coffee and cake reception, our wonderful friends intervened and told us they would be catering. :)

    They had us choose a main dish, several sides, and extras, and then they divided up the work: 5 people made green beans, five people made turkey, etc. In our group were several with catering dishes and supplies (they had five daughters. They learned haha), so when the food arrived to the kitchen, they simply mixed the food received into big catering trays. It looked all very professional, and we were eternally grateful. Plus, it was truely home-cooked, delicious food!!

  13. We had a nightmare trying to find a good and budget-friendly vegetarian caterer. There aren’t many around and the prices were insane! We got everything from M&S in the end! All 100% vegetarian and fab party food. Obviously, our Wedding wasn’t a traditional affair so a sit-down meal was never on our agenda.

    My main advice to other couples would be that if you are going to get a fabulous Wedding Cake (coughs… points at self) serve it up as dessert. Goes great with seasonal fruits and cream.

    Oh and Prosecco is much nicer than Champagne and easier on the budget.

    Cx

  14. RachyLou

    We’re having a BBQ for our wedding meal which I know is becoming a popular option in the warmer months! It really is great though; delicious food that most people would choose to eat (being vegetarian, there are some amazing alternatives to meat planned!) and the guests can help themselves. For dessert we have a chocolate fountain with various dipping options and our wedding cake! Simples! ;) xo

  15. Mel

    We had a very traditional wedding venue that didn’t allow external catering or alcohol, even with corkage. We still managed to save money by skipping their £20/head minimum drinks package and worked out what 75% of our guests were, to take into account non-drinkers and children, then halved that number and ordered that many bottles of wine. Was a little bit complicated but we ended up getting more for our money.

  16. Our venue required us to use their restaurant for catering, and from what I heard and the tiny bit of food I had time to consume, it was cold, and not too great. If we could have done one thing differently, I think it would’ve been to either skip the big meal entirely since we had lots of snacks and spend the money elsewhere, or it would’ve been cool to have the venue provide appetizers only, and then get an In-N-Out Burger truck! That’s where we went to grab a bite after the wedding anyway.

  17. We’re having bangers and mash for our wedding (my fave food, the boy gets his fave dessert) and we get to go to the local butchers and DESIGN our own wedding sausage! Its cheap as chips (well mash) as well and is totally us :D

  18. Alison

    I’m having prosecco instead of champagne: most of my friends say they prefer it! We also have a lot of non-drinking friends so have cut down on wine quantities per head for dinner accordingly.

    I have quite a few evening guests coming (30+) so do want to make sure they are well-fed: I’ve been at evening wedding dos where guests got nothing (not even 1 free drink!) so want to avoid that.

    Also have to cater for vegan and wheat/gluten free diets so that adds another thing to take into account…

  19. Alison – I can help you out with a vegan wedding cake if you like (or just one tier that is suitable for all the special dietary requirements).

    Kat – sorry for poaching for clients! I will give you cake to make it up to you! Mwah.

    Cx

  20. Marie-Claire

    I would like to say that sometimes “plated dinners may seem more expensive, but often they are not, because the caterer knows exactly how much food to prepare; buffets must account for multiple trippers.” Just ask about the difference in price between a seated dinner vs. a buffet.

    I’m a vegan. I will be having a vegetarian wedding in rural France. Wish me luck.

  21. Hi,
    I deal with prices, amounts and quantities of food at weddings quite a lot and think that Kat has listed some great ideas.
    I think you should first think how important the food part of the day is for you. If not so much dont go to a venue where u must have a sit down meal. If it is a sit down you are after but dont have the cash have a sit down with very close friends and family and then do one of the suggestions listed above later.
    Other cheaper ways to have a sit down meal are to have two courses and have ur cake as dessert or canapés as a starter?
    A popular cheap evening buffet is to have a cheese wedding cake and just serve it with grapes n crackers! And port, if your like me and love it! Yum.
    Happy weddings! X

  22. we want a festival wedding so were planning on having a barbecue or hog roast but asking every guest to bring a vegetarian dish (as i’m vegetarian) as sides :)

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