Food is a huge expense in most wedding budgets. For an upscale wedding, the average cost per plate of food is between $26-$36. Multiply that by the number of guests and you’re looking at a hefty bill. Here are some easy ways to lower your wedding catering costs.
1. Your own caterer vs. the venue’s catering staff.
Some wedding venues require you to use their catering staff for your reception. Other venues will let you bring in your own caterer. Hiring your own caterer can often save you lots of money, however many venues offer affordable meal plans too. Be sure to compare prices to get the best deal. Make sure you ask about the venue’s catering policy before you sign a contract.
2. Don’t serve a full meal.
The biggest cost saver is to not serve a full meal. Most wedding guests expect a full meal for an evening wedding, but if the wedding and reception are held earlier in the day, guests may not expect a full plated dinner. An afternoon “cocktail and finger food” reception will save you thousands of dollars when compared with an elaborate dinner.
3. Have a buffet instead of plated meals.
A plated meal is a very classy way of serving your guests at the wedding however if your wedding has a more casual vibe, consider serving your guests buffett style. Many times you can order the same food from the plated menu, but since your guests are plating themselves you’ll save a bundle of cash.
Alcohol is expensive and an open bar can break the bank. Depending on the crowd, most guests will expect drinks. Instead of an open bar, consider serving wine at each table. Another option is to provide your own alcohol and mixers. Some venues won’t allow this, but if it’s allowed, you will save hundreds of dollars. It is always less expensive to purchase and serve the drinks yourself than to pay a caterer or bartender to do so.
5. “Meat” your budget
Meat is another cost that can add up quickly. By choosing less expensive meats like chicken instead of steak, you can dramatically lower your food costs. Another option is to choose a course that has meat but doesn’t use a “choice cut” of meat. Serving prime rib will be less expensive than filet mignon.
6. A piece of cake
Another easy place to save money on your wedding is on the wedding cake. Bakers and caterers often charge anywhere from $2-6 per slice to make and/or serve the wedding cake. Instead you can purchase a delicious sheet cake at a bakery and then have your catering staff cut and serve it at the reception. You’ll end up paying about $1 per slice.
If you have a lot of friends and family willing to help, you might consider making your own food for your reception. You can save several thousand dollars by doing so. This option is more realistic for a home-based wedding than one held at a traditional wedding venue.
8. Always Try to Negotiate
Don’t be afraid to ask your caterer for a discount. Many wedding vendors are open to negotiating a bit on their prices. They do want your business after all. Vendors often add in little costs and expenses you might not think about until you see the bill. See if you can get some of these costs decreased or waived all together. It never hurts to ask. The worst that can happen is the vendor will say “no.”
The food for your wedding can be one of your biggest costs, but it is also an area where you can save a lot of money. By careful planning and smart menu choices, you can host a very nice wedding on a small budget. Be creative, ask questions, don’t be afraid to ask for less expensive menu items.