Frugal Weddings: 5 ways to save on food at your reception

wedding foodYou’ve walked down the aisle, said your vows and have been whisked away in a limousine. Now it’s time for the reception! For most couples, the reception represents 90 percent of the planning and 90 percent of the cost. And the most expensive part of the reception is the food and drink.

Because it’s the costliest component, food and drink also represents the biggest chance to save a few bucks on your post-wedding party. Here are five ways to do exactly that:

OPT FOR THE BUFFET – The first question you’ll have to answer when planning your reception meal is: Sit-down meal or buffet? You might think a buffet would cost just as much (if not more). After all, your Uncle Dan can eat (and eat, and eat), but buffets are usually cheaper. The reasons: They require less staff and, since most people don’t dish up food they don’t want to eat, they sometimes require less food.

SKIP THE OPEN BAR – This one is obvious, but many brides and grooms can’t seem to bring themselves to ask guests to pay for their own alcohol. Those same couples end up spending $30 or $40 per 21-and-over guest when picking up this generous bar tab. If you’d still rather pay for the beer and wine yourself, at least consider asking the bartenders to adhere to a “no shot” policy (or a “buy your own shot” policy).

GET CHILDRENS MEALS – No, not for your adult guests (although who doesn’t like chicken fingers and fries?). Chances are good that your four-year-old niece won’t like fried scallops or prime rib, so give her a hot dog and tater tots instead. You’ll save plenty of money, which means you’ll be happier and she’ll be happier.

SCHEDULE AROUND MEALS – Hosting your reception in the mid-morning, mid-afternoon or after dinner means you won’t need to serve a full meal. For a mid-morning reception, consider a light brunch. For mid-afternoon, serve hors d’oeuvres. For an after-dinner reception, offer a dessert bar. Just be sure to let guests know that a full meal won’t be served, so they don’t show up hungry in anticipation of being fed.

HAVE FUN WITH THE MENU – Instead of prime rib and chicken Florentine, a popular reception trend is serving comfort food that’s more reflective of the personality of the bride and groom. That means a menu of burgers, barbecue and fried chicken. It’s a lot cheaper than fancy food, and a lot tastier too!

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