There are many big expenses associated with planning a wedding. The venue rental tends to be one of the largest, depending on the location you choose, but the dress, the flowers, and the photographs can certainly cost a pretty penny, as well. And then there is the catering, which can trump them all if you’re not careful. If gourmet cuisine and top-shelf liquor are what you want, you can have them, but the price could be astronomical. So if you’re looking for ways to save when it comes to catering your wedding, here are some effective solutions that may hit the mark.
- DIY. This strategy isn’t for everyone, but there are a couple of ways it can work. First, it is a lot easier for small weddings, say 50 guests or less. When you’re feeding 200+ you probably don’t want to go it alone. Next you need to get your local family and friends involved. Catering your own wedding is necessarily a group effort, and it is made easier if your reception is held at a family home or you’re given access to a kitchen space at your event venue where food can be prepped, stored, and even cooked or warmed up. You also need to choose foods that are easy to prepare and serve, since you probably won’t spring for waiters. Buffet-style, serve-yourself dishes tend to work best. But some couples are opting for the ease of use that comes with tea service or sundae bars instead of a full meal – you just need to let your guests know so they can plan accordingly for meals.
- Have the reception at a restaurant. Most caterers are going to charge more per plate than the average restaurant for a variety of reasons, namely the exclusivity of their service, the fact that they’re transporting the food to your venue, and the individual plating and serving of each dish. If you opt to rent out a local restaurant instead, you’ll get basically the same service. And some places even have a stage for the band or DJ to set up, they’ll clear a dance floor, and they’ll let you come in early and decorate for the event.
- Skip the servers. One expense associated with catering is hiring waiters to serve each dish, not to mention the prep time for individual plating. You can save a lot by opting for buffet service instead of all the extra work involved with serving guests.
- Control portions. Sure you want your guests to get enough to eat at your reception, but think about this: if you serve shrimp cocktail as an appetizer, when people are really hungry, do you really want it to be a free-for-all (for everyone but you)? Instead, make sure everything is portioned on a per-table basis so you can control the costs. Supply a set amount for appetizers, entrees, and even alcohol for each table. And give larger portions of a delicious salad so that guests won’t be upset about the diminutive size of the shrimp appetizer. You can also provide light alcohol (wine, beer, champagne) and let guests pay for their own hard liquor if they want it.
- Comparison shop. You can’t hope to find the best wedding caterer if you don’t shop around. So get referrals from friends, try places that get good reviews on Yelp, and make sure you schedule plenty of consultations, complete with tasting. This will give you an idea of what you’ll get for the price. You’re sure to find a reputable vendor that can offer you both amazing cuisine and a price that works with your budget.