Food & Drink
Food is probably what will cost you the most money (assuming you didn't go wild and buy one of those $3000 designer dresses!) but is also an area where you have a great deal of flexibility. First and foremost you can limit the number of guests...less people=less food!
A "Pot Luck" wedding is probably the cheapest way to go. Have each guest bring something and you supply the cake, plates, etc. A word of warning about this method is to be sure you know who's bringing what. My stepbrother had a pot luck but unfortunately everybody brought the same thing...pasta and meatballs or sausage and three out of the four desserts were Chocolate Lush (which is very tasty but didn't make for much variety!). The recipe, by the way, can be found by clicking on Recipes at the left.
A "cake & punch" reception, hors 'douevres reception or dessert reception can save quite a bit. Be sure that you don't schedule your reception for a normal "eating" time or you may find your guests fleeing to McDonald's for a snack!
Doing the cooking yourself is another economical option but you probably shouldn't attempt this if you haven't cooked for a large crowd before. Also, be sure to have lots of helpers lined up for "the day"...you may find yourself too distracted by other things to serve up the lasagna, not to mention the nice mess it would make if you spilled it on your dress!.
Caterers tend to be overall cheaper than restaurants but be sure that your reception site allows outside caterers. Some do their own catering or have a required list to choose from.
The price of cake varies from bakery to bakery so, once again, shop around! Other options are to order your cake from a home baker or you or a family member can bake it. Also, keep in mind that you don't need to have a many tiered cake. Several ordinary layer cakes arranged on a plant stand is cheaper and gives you a variety of flavors. Or you can skip cake altogether and serve an assortment of pastries, cookies, etc.
If you really want to save a lot of money DON'T have an open bar. If you live in an area where a cash bar is considered "tacky" you can have a non-alcoholic reception and just serve punch or soft drinks. Besides the money saving aspect of this it also makes it less likely that your guests will drive home in an intoxicated state! If your site allows you to bring in liquor stick with beer, wine and soft drinks or mix up one alcoholic and one nonalcoholic punch.
From Tracy: For catering I found a caterer that allowed us to make are own appetizers. They charged $3 a person for a vegtable tray. I then went to the local store and got a large tray for only $10. We ended up only needing 3 trays for the 150 guests. This also worked good for the cheese and cracker tray.
Another Tracy (Tracy Farrar)sent this wedding menu that they made themselves...sounds yummy: I assisted my cousin in planning her wedding. The entire thing was very elegant, and very affordable. One way she saved money was on the food. Rather than a total "Pot luck" we gathered together our favorite aunts and close friends and asked them to cook and donate food as their gift. We are fortunate to have many good cooks in our family, and with a little Kale and some cherry tomatoes for garnish, ordinary food can look quite beautiful! The entire meal was delicious, filling, elegant and affordable! She was able to feed almost 200 guests with almost no out of pocket expense to her, thanks to the "gifts" from selected friends and relatives. This also alleviated the need to ask each guest to bring something, which many brides may not be comfortable doing. The menu included:
1. Smoked salmon (which was Chum salmon at .99 cents per pound, and anothercousin smoked it. You would never know it was not the most expensive fillet!)
2. Caesar Salad - easy to prepare in advance and just toss dressing on it before the guests arrive.
3. Pasta Bar - we rented a Chafing Dish which we placed pre-cooked pasta that was briefly dipped in hot water to re-heat. Then, a second chafing dish contained a divided tray with a red and a white sauce - again, pre-cooked and re-heated.
4. Dinner rolls with butter patties on the side - both bought in bulk from Costco.
5. Smoked Turkey sliced on a tray - again, bought from Costco and sliced at home the day before
6. A cheese and fruit tray with various types of cheeses - this was probably one of the most expensive items on the menu.
7. A broccoli salad
8. A vegetable tray with various fresh seasonal vegetables and some ranch dip in a crystal bowl.
Heba Abdo shared this tip with us: When my husband and I planned our wedding we chose the halls that we liked and asked for their dinner menus (as if planning a regular birthday party). Considering the same dinner menu for $20 is $80 for weddings, we had a place to bargain. Many places were willing to give us dinner prices for our wedding while including a wedding cake and centerpieces.