Inexpensive Wedding Appetizers

One way to reduce the cost of food for your wedding reception is to serve inexpensive but tasty appetizers. This is a guide about inexpensive wedding appetizers.

A platter of fruit and cheese.
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Question: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

By Shawnda 1

We are getting married June 22, 2013. We are trying to decide on what kind of food to have. We are pretty much open to anything, but fish. My fiance was a chef at a college and they have offered to cater for us at a reasonable price. We just have to decide what we want. Any suggestions will help. Thank you.

By Shawnda from Springfield, OH

AnswerWas this helpful? Yes


Most Recent Answer

By Sally H. 1 Flag

April 1, 2013

Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! My husband and I will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary on that very day. Our kids are throwing us a big party. I don't know where you are located, but we found an amazing caterer who's prices could not be beat! If you are in Florida, Let me know, I will send you his name. He is doing Ropa Vieja, Spanish Steak and Onions, BBQ Ribs, Fried Plantains, Black beans and Rice, Parsely Potatoes, green beans almandine, and dessert for $10 a head! He only charges 18% for servers (buffet style). And he comes and sets everything up and cleans up afterward. We are expecting 100 people, so we have dinner done for less than $1200 and we don't have to deal with it.

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Tip: Shop Dollar Tree For Frugal Appetizers

By Veronica 10 114

Places like Dollar Tree sells jars of marinated mushrooms, olives, roasted red peppers, etc. for about a dollar a jar. You can use these to make giant, inexpensive antipasto platters. Just supplement with pepperoni and cheese cubes or mozzarella balls.

Hope this helps someone. :)

By Veronica from New Hampshire

CommentWas this helpful? Yes

Tip: Frugal Wedding Appetizers

By Veronica 10 114

Places like Dollar Tree sell jars of marinated mushrooms, olives, roasted red peppers, etc. for about a dollar a jar. You can use these to make giant, inexpensive antipasto platters, supplement with pepperoni and cheese cubes or mozzarella balls. To make the mozzarella balls extra fancy, try rolling them in crushed peppercorns or red pepper flakes. Hope these ideas help someone. :)

By Veronica from NH

CommentWas this helpful? Yes

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My boyfriend of 2 1/2 years proposed and we have set the date for June 3, 2006. We have talked about the reception and he says that all the wedding receptions that he has been to they only served cake, ice cream, punch and maybe a few finger foods like cheese and crackers or something like that. I told him that he was nuts and that most people serve a dinner at the reception.

I am looking for some ideas on what to serve that would be an in between food. Not too extravagant and not too skimpy. Some ideas I have are: cocktail sausages, a pasta salad, a fruit tray or fruit salad, maybe a fruit pizza and veggie tray. I am stumped on my options which is basically anything I want to have, but I want to compromise with my fiance.

Heather from Holden, MO


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Heather, I think you are very wise to skip the whole dinner/per person costs associated with most weddings. Its an incredible waste of money that can be used much more wisely. While I wouldn't go so sparse and only serve cake and punch, I think a reception consisting of appetizers is a great idea. You can do both hot and cold appetizers, and of course your cake. Some cookies for later is always a nice touch for the guests to have with their coffee, especially if they're not into cake. And there are a lot of great recipes out there for cocktail wieners. You didn't say if you were buying these ready to serve or if family was participating in the cooking, but I think your family would be most cooperative in this effort.

Check out for some appetizer recipes under Rachael Ray. She comes up with some real winners and they're easy, easy, easy. Just remember if you're going with this type of menu, you don't want your reception scheduled for dinner time - schedule your time between the lunch and dinner hours. And, there is no rule that says you have to provide and open bar. Stick to beer, some wine and maybe a fountain mixed drink you can make yourself, and let everyone partake of what is there. Open bars are an enormous expense. Your guests should be there because they love you and want to celebrate your day, not because of free liquor. Spend the money where you deem it most important, and the rest will fall into place. Its your's and your spouse's day, so don't waste precious time worrying about what everyone thinks. Just enjoy.

My husband and I got married 13 years ago in May, and we served a catered buffet for about $10 a person, and served beer and a fountain of Fuzzy Navels. If anyone wanted anything else, they were allowed to BYOB. We had a big party and a great time, and it didn't cost us an arm and a leg. The memories are what matter, not the the total dollar amount. Good Luck! (01/25/2006)

By mrsmutt

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Thanks for the input. I would really like some suggestions on foods to serve. My mind is completely blank on what kind of things to serve. Like I said before some cold and some warm. Pasta salad, cocktail wieners in the crock with BBQ sauce, veggie tray, fruit tray or fruit salad or I thought about a fruit pizza. My dad suggested a ham in the roaster and people could make sandwiches with it. I wanted lasagna but that just might cost too much. So any food suggestions I would really appreciate. I have a few months to plan still but I don't want to have to rush at the last minute trying to figure out what to make. Thanks, Heather (01/25/2006)

By HLFike

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I'm old enough to be your grandmother, so take what I say as if your grandmother had said it, okay? My experience with wedding receptions has been that the people involved did what they wanted to do, not what they thought they should do. If you want a sit-down meal and can afford it, then go for it. But, please do not call your fiance a "nut" because he's right - a lot of people do opt for just desserts and finger foods. (01/26/2006)

By tedsmom

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Heather, Congrats on your upcoming marriage! I too got married on June 3, in 1988 though. We made our own appetizers...I made candies and mints, and finger sandwiches and punch and coffee...we were given the cake as a present from my best friend. We spent very little money and had a great time!

Have a great marriage! (01/26/2006)

By Michele

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

You can strike a happy balance between these two camps by incorporating both ideas. A sample menu might include: a variety of deli meats on dollar buns; buffalo wings; cole slaw; a pasta salad; a potato salad; tortilla chips with a warm cheese sauce (crockpot); small meatballs and sauce (again, crockpot); and a fresh fruit plate of in-season fruits only plus a dipping sauce. From experience, I personally agree with the idea of not going overboard on the food costs ~ one family wedding with a full, hot buffet meal and beverages cost almost $4,000 while another with the simply but ample menu above cost less than $500. Most people attending both weddings couldn't now tell me five years later what they ate, but the people responsible for paying for the food can certainly tell you! (01/26/2006)

By Anna

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Congrats! I too am from Missouri. We usually figured if it was an afternoon wedding, you do finger foods, an evening wedding, you do dinner. In St. Louis the big, inexpensive crowd feeder is Mostaccioli (instead of lasagna) with a big salad, and bread with some other sides thrown in. Or baked ham with cheese potatoes and corn. Good luck! (01/26/2006)

By Kathy

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Listen to "tedsmom" she is right on target. I have five married kids and all the weddings were different. The most fun was the simplest because the bride and groom kept it uncomplicated. You don't need alcohol or fancy food. Get good pictures instead. Believe will not remember the food nor will anyone else. Unless of course you're Donald Trump (01/26/2006)

By Vicka

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

When I got married, we contacted a local grocer who put together a sandwich platter for us, we put together ourselves a veggie tray and fruit tray. I bought potatoe salad and coleslaw, chips and dip and a few beverages. The total cost for my wedding was $1500.00 and this included my dress, the alterations to it,the mens tuxes, photographer (the bridesmaids chose to pay for their own dresses). We had the grocer make 2 nice but simple cakes. one was 2 hearts entwined and the other a round 1 tier cake. (01/27/2006)

By imaqt1962

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

If money is an option, skip the dinner and save your money for your first house. If you really want a dinner, have one for the wedding party, attendants, and immediate family. Then, just serve appetizers/finger foods to the guests later at the reception. Maybe friends or church members would even cook the dinner as a gift to you. It could be a great compromise.


By susanmajp

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Actually, your fiancee is right. Most couple now are having their weddings earlier or later to prevent having to serve dinner to save a little money. At my wedding, Aug 05, we had fruit and veggie trays with dip, meatballs with a special sauce one of the "servers," a friend of my mom's, knew about, chips, sandwiches on croissants and dinner rolls, along with a few other things.

My main tip is though you may think you are going to have very few/a certain amount of people don't worry about having leftovers. At our wedding we had A LOT more people than we expected. (The servers had to finally take the food away to have some for us and our wedding party. My parents ended up taking them out to eat later cause they didn't get anything at all.) Also don't worry too much about whether or not you or your fiancee like what's being served. Trust the girl that got the cake her husband fed to her and 3 regular potato chips the entire course of the wedding. Needless to say have a good breakfast. (01/27/2006)

By Sarah

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

You know the people who are coming (or at least most of them), right? What if the parents, siblings and grandparents all made an appetizer, main dish, and dessert each and set it out a la buffet style. This is of course if this is a rather intimate reception, and you have a lot of siblings and such... I honestly feel that the wedding should be for all the cousins and 'those who have to be invited to avoid tensions in the family' but the reception is just for the closest of relations to bride and groom. But I agree if the above just is not plausible finger foods is the way to go. Otherwise, all that money is really wasted. Even if you 'only' (!) spend 1500 dollars, that could go for a down payment for a car, it could pay bills, it could even be spending money for your honeymoon. All for a meal? If they are insulted that a full meal is not served, give directions to the local McDonald's and tell them that this day is for you, not them. If that sounds too selfish, oh well. They'll get over it. (01/28/2006)

By KLS8800

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I do catering and I charge just as much for hot appetizers as a full meal. Stay away from hot appetizers and you may save a little money-depending on what you chose. (03/09/2006)

By sherry

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

As a professional caterer who was crazy enough to cater her own wedding six years ago, my biggest advice is to plan on items that can be made several days in advance. You will have enough things needing your attention at the last minute - the reception food you pick should make sure you can enjoy your special day. So, don't try to go too fancy. A spiral cut ham is easy to serve, and only needs some rolls and a few side dishes such as scalloped potatoes, baked beans, etc. If you really want to get a little fancy, buy some short bamboo skewers and have any kids in the family or wedding party help make dipping sticks of cut fruit - they have fun and feel important! You can even make the whip cream (or Cool-Whip) match your wedding colors by adding a bit of Jello. Whatever you decide, remember: it's the person you're marrying that makes your wedding special, not the food. (03/09/2006)

By Marjorie

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Soup... Soup... Soup... And Crock Pots! Girl, do I have some ideas for you. Everyones always trying to tell you what to have and what not to have, but would you like some good solid ideas? Here's the ticket!

If you can borrow some crock pots, you can make some great, inexpensive foods for your wedding. And do it ahead of time without having to worry about a ton of kitchen staff.

Be creative. Think ahead of time. What can you make that can be served at room temperature once its thawed? Or, be made in those crockpots, that don't require a lot of tending? How about..

Sweet And Sour Meatballs

Buy meatballs or Little smokies in bulk. Costco might have em.

Buy Chili Sauce and GRAPE JELLY (not jam). Yes this sounds gross at first, but believe me. I've been making this for years and no one has EVER disliked it.

Mix one small jar of the jelly with one jar of heinz chili sauce.. it goes a long way. Throw it in the crockpot with the meatballs or smokies let it stew. It tastes a thousand times better than it sounds and people can dish it out of the crockpot themselves if you want.. ( Buffet Style! ) Or you can dump it in a nice serving pan for looks. ( But either way it will be warming in that crock pot and ready to go by the time of the reception )

Didn't I say soup? This stuff is cheap. but if you experiment at home, no one has to know that. All you have to do it make it pretty or offer a variety of kinds and people will suck it up! Go to a party store, look for cheap shot glass sized cups with a little bit of character.. ( they dont have to be glass, throw aways are better ). Have someone serve them up at the buffet or put them out for easy pick up doesnt matter.

Then for fun, and something sweet... Buy a few big bags of those octagon shaped soup crackers, and ahead of time.. WRITE the bride and grooms initials on them with food coloring markers.. which arent even that expensive. Say the grooms name starts is Steve.. write S on half.. and if the bride is Marsha right M on the other half. Keep them in tight tupperware like containers until the wedding to keep them fresh and then at the buffet or soup table... Put all the Grooms crackers in one bowl, and all the brides in another... And then let the guests take crackers from each and put them in their soup to symbolize your new union!

Think MEAT. Roasts, Turkeys, and Hams are SIMPLE TO COOK and they DONT NEED A LOT OF DRESSING UP. They look great on a platter all by themselves. All you need is one person to carve it up and if you want serve it to guests.

But if YOU THINK PASTA YOURE MUCH SMARTER. ( Noodles can be cooked a Day in Advance and the Pasta Sauces can be kept hot in a crockpot the during the wedding. Alfredo is great for this! Just buy a lot of Alfredo Noodles, and make your sauce ahead of time. ( Avoid spaghetti sauce if you can because your guests might be dressed nicely and id hate to see tomato splatters on their nice clothes ).

By Jo.Federalway*

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I am getting married on July 15 at 2 so we are just doing buffet with finger foods. I am going to have a fruit tower, veggie tower, cheese tray, meat tray, variety of bread, and some tiny quiche circles from Sam's. This is very inexpensive, and I have been to a wedding that served this kind of food. It was delicious. (04/20/2006)

By Adriann

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Congratulations on getting engaged! I am 24 so in the past few years I've been to a lot of weddings because my friends are all at that age where you usually get married. Some weddings only have finger foods (like mine) while some have a sit down dinner (like my cousin's). Either way is fine. I have been to more weddings with finger foods though. I don't think anyone is offended if there isn't a dinner provided. Several weddings served in-between foods like you are talking about and I really liked that-- it takes forever to serve everybody dinner, so guests get to eat faster this way, and it's more filling than just finger foods.

Remember, the wedding is one day. The marriage is for the rest of your life. Planning a wedding is a great way to start learning to communicate with your future spouse and start learning to make each other's desires a priority and start learning to compromise, as you are willing to do. (01/07/2007)

By Allison

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I recently attended a wedding in which no dinner was served. This caught most guests by surprise since it was still within the "dinner hour" time, at 8pm. Many guests had traveled long distances and spent money to get there. By the time I get an expensive plane flight, two nights at a hotel, miscellaneous travel expenses, a day off of work, and a gift, I have spent nearly $1000 on the happy couple. I think it is rude for the bride to not serve a meal. If you need to save money, save it in other areas: invite fewer guests, cut back on alcohol, skip the dj. The wedding is NOT all about the bride. Comfort of guests should be high on your priority list.

Many people here offered some nice cost-saving suggestions.

If you don't want to serve a meal, have a 2pm reception. If you want an evening reception, serve a meal.

By Recent Wedding Guest

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My son was married in Deccember and they had a soup bar with breads and crackers (vegetable and potato) which was delicious. Also they had a pasta and salad bar which was a big hit with the guests. (05/11/2007)

By Gina

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

We are getting married Oct 6, 2007 and are having a semi-formal wedding. At 39, I have been to MANY wedding's and so have all my friends. The things we liked best are the buffet style dinners. If your really not wanting to spend money on food, then have a small wedding with just family. Then perhaps have a party at your house later.

The receptions that myself and friends have been to that only had appetizers or finger foods were not such a blast. Here are the biggest reasons: 1- You sit through the ceremony that last anywhere between 15 to 45 minutes (now remember you have to get there early). So, by the time you arrive and it actual begins it's already at least 30 to 45 minutes, totaling 45 minutes to an hour and 45 minutes. Now, move on to the reception, that's another couple hours. So, if your having your ceremony at 5 or 6 o'clock, your guest aren't leaving until 7 or 9 o'clock at night. Remember the last time they ate was probably 2:00 or 3:00 (because remember they to had to get ready).

Number 2 reason - alcohol! People will be drinking, and when they drink they eat (need something to absorb the alcohol). Majority of people do like to eat before they start drinking.

If your having a back yard wedding, like my cousin did, he had it earlier but he did serve spaghetti and a salad. It cost him 100.00 to serve approx. 35 people and that included drinks, plates, food with a salad and appetizers. It was simple but nice.

I hear you when you say "It's YOUR day", but do you want YOUR day to say to people, I couldn't afford all of you but I wanted the gifts? Because that's what other guest will be thinking or whispering. They will NEVER admit it but trust me, they will be!

My fiance and I planned our wedding for a year and half later. Long time, huh?! but we wanted a nice wedding, and be able to afford it. We cut cost where we could but we did spend 1,800.00 on food. Why because out of the approx. 40 or more wedding I have been to I remember all the meals and actually the cake! People say you don't remember or they won't but that's because it wasn't very good! When it was good, I and my friends would talk about it. We still told, especially to the one that served it! (07/11/2007)

By STBBride

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Hey there.. This is Jo again. I haven't posted here since 2006 but you'd be amazed at how many emails I've received since then. So here's some more ideas:

I love to do this with Salmon!


BUY FISH. ( Big Fillet's are good for this and you might be able to get them in bulk )

BUY FOIL & A LITTLE SEASONING. ( Rosemary? Lemon? Butter? Garlic? - Fresh or powdered? Mix & Match! )

Prep is EASY and can be done in advance!

HERE'S WHAT I DO: Take that big slab of fishmeat, slap it on a long piece of foil and rub some rosemary on it, cut up a few lemons, squeeze em over the fish and toss them on the foil with the fish. Then slather butter all over the top - it will seal in the flavor. Wrap the foil over the top of the fish and close off the edges. Then move onto the next fillet, do the same and then stack the foil packages on top of each other and wrap with butcher paper. NOW FREEZE IT.

And just before the big day? Pull em out, let them thaw out in the fridge for a day or two. ( Oo Marinated? )

Reception Day: Throw them on a hot BBQ and let them cook IN the foil - No mess grill and YUMMY SEAFOOD.
How cool is THAT?


(In fact I do this for my friends and family on my birthdays haha.)

Buy WHOLE oysters in BULK. I love WINCO for this.. 200 of them puppies for about 100 bucks? chyea!

And all you have to do is slap them on the bbq FROZEN shells will pop open in MINUTES and theyre DONE!?
Serve with butter, garlic or hotsauce! ( Who's hungry? )

But what about those people who don't like seafood?

Offer Chicken Breast!

Picky Kids? - Pick up some hamburgers and hot dogs ( laughs ) (01/13/2008)

By jo.federalway*

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

When I got married 17 years ago, in NYC, sit down dinners were the norm. My fiance & I got married at noon and had a meatless brunch (omelettes, salads, crepes, ) some folks thought we were nuts, but most really enjoyed it. We had music and dancing. We had a great time!
Oh, I forgot to mention, we got married on a boat. (01/15/2008)

By Donna

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I had a great idea for a noodle bar. You could have serveral different kinds of cooked noodles. Then different kinds of sauces (cheese, tomatoes, Alfredo)... then finally toppings like chicken, shrimp, or steak, olives, prepers, cheese. Then people can put their own kind of pasta dish together and whats better is that pasta dishes are very inexpensive. You can do the same with a salad bar. (04/17/2008)

By jsteele

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I need ideas for quick and easy reception food. Anything from finger food to elegant eats. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Saray1 from Layland, WV


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Not sure if this is to any help but my hubby to be and I are having the sides, new potatoes and steam veggies catered from Boston Market. We will be marinading chicken breast on our own, which we will buy from the meat market and asking a few people to bake it for us. I also found local party supplies store, so we're renting chaffing dishes 3 for 10 bucks each. For drinks we're serving lemonade and ice tea and this is for party of 120. But to have extra I will buy for 150 people.

So with that said you just have to do your homework. Olive Garden has their menus on their website. Use your wedding party to help with the cooking. Before we found out about Boston Market I was going to do like Bobby on "Show Down" and have the wedding party do a cook off or show down. I thought this would keep it fun since they would be cooking for a large group. I will also be making my own cake. I think it's good to start early. Ask around, because you never know who knows who. (05/29/2008)

By Tru

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

As a couple, you simply need to do what you can afford. Weddings should not be about how lavish they are and the food that is being prepared. They should be about the ceremony that is being performed and the future that is in-store. The majority of your friends and guests will accept this. Whatever happened to the days when receptions where just the cake and punch with a few sandwiches. If someone chooses to spend a $1000 to come that is their choice. Choosing to limit your invitation list could offend others, as well. I wish you the best. (05/30/2008)

By Carol

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My wedding is 8/22/08 and my son is doing the reception at my house after the wedding. We are doing the stuffed mushrooms, cocktail weenies, antipasto tray with olives, crackers, cheese etc. This wedding is 1 week after my 53rd birthday, you are not ever too old to be a bride. Missy RED Louisiana (06/03/2008)

By Sherry

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I am giving my parents a 50th anniversary party today for @ 300 people. We are serving cake which is a gift from a friend, meatballs, mini quiche, pinwheels, which I purchased at Sam's for $283. I also have done the veggies, dip, and cheese straws for an additional $150. The fruit display is also another gift from friends as well as the punch.

I have realized that you can cater your own wedding reception for less than $1,000 for as many as 300 if you really work hard and do it yourself. Go to Ellen's Kitchen website for help in planning for the amount of people you are inviting. God Bless you in your life together.

By Busy Daughter

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

We just went to 2 receptions last night. One spent $1000 on food for 300 and the second spent $9000 on food for 100. And I have to say the first reception had better food hands down. The first had 3 soups: broccoli cheese, cheesy potato, and, a white bean chicken chili with all kinds of toppings. They also served 6 salads: Italian pasta, fresh spinach with feta and red onion, a fresh broccoli salad with cranberries, oriental chicken pasta, a Chinese chicken salad, like Applebees, and a chopped Cobb like blue cheese wedge with grilled chicken and egg and blue cheese. It was served with 4 types of rolls: sour dough, whole wheat, white and a rustic sweet brown, Outback-like bread, all served with butter.

They had a very delicious simple punch that was made up of 7up, sweetened lime juice, frozen raspberries and grenadine syrup. The food there was absolutely delicious and everyone seemed to enjoy it. They also had a candy bar for the children with little bags to fill up with candy in the wedding colors. Great idea!

The second was at a country club and served many types of appetizers, but very gourmet. The cheese trays were not even touched especially the big hunks of blue cheese, the seafood platters with shrimp, salmon and crab claws were nominally eaten. The stuffed mushrooms were cold and the brushetta was soggy. The cute little finger sandwiches were unrecognizable.

Guests mostly ate the fruit and veggies. We had been to this country club before for 3 other weddings and their food is good. But even with a sit down dinner, steaks and halibut are served best hot off the grill, not sitting under a warming lid for 2 hours waiting to be served. So, even when you have the same class of people, everyone likes comfort food.

We go to 2 weddings a month, and I have to say the less formal the better. We go to resorts and million dollar homes, and hands down many people commented on the first wedding's food we went to last night. It was enjoyed by all. I personally do not think that the soup idea would work in the summer months, but maybe have 2 more salads instead, like a fruit salad and maybe a Hawaiian salad topped with almonds, pulled sweet pork, mandarin oranges and cabbage and ramen. Everybody loves salad! Oh the first reception had a coffee and hot chocolate bar with all the toppings. Big hit also. (03/01/2009)

By Kjones

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I need ideas for wedding reception food on a tight budget.

Lisa from Dayton, OH


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Sam' club has wonderful choices in the frozen section in bulk boxes, like all sorts of appetizers just the right size for such occasions and were $7-9 per box and each one has like 50 count to it. We got sausage balls, vegetable roll ups, and more for my daughter's wedding reception. We just heated them up in the oven as directed then kept them in crock pots on warm until ready to serve. (03/24/2009)

By theseamstress

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

You can make, or have someone else make, a large pot of chicken and dumplings, or one or two large barbecued briskets, cooked in the oven; large casserole of ground meat or chicken; large mixed salad. (04/13/2009)

By fatboyslimsmom

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I'm getting married on October 3rd at 3pm and reception to follow. I need the reception to be cheap. I want to know if it would be inappropriate to have cake, punch, coffee, and no food? Would that be a bad idea at that time of the day?

By angel eyes from Bryan, OH


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Several people I know have been doing a sort of barter for their weddings/receptions. Contact several caterers in your area and ask if they would cater with some sort of food, even finger sandwiches in exchange for advertising at the reception.

I even saw one wedding on a TV show where the couple had absolutely everything donated in this way, from the dresses to the food! The donatees just had a card standing next to the items they donated and some business cards at the exit. You might be surprised at how many companies are willing to do this, I would start with smaller companies who might not be getting as much business as better known companies and could really use the advertising.

You might also consider swapping something with a personal chef. If you are good with kids maybe babysitting, dog care taking or grooming or house sitting when they want to leave town, etc. If you do something like this I would make some sort of small contract to make it legal. (09/01/2009)

By wolfbytez

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

We were married at 2 p.m. on a Saturday. We served cake, coffee, punch, nuts and mints. We celebrated our 43rd anniversary this summer. Must have been just the right amount of food. It was, and is, all about the love, not the amount of food or the big show. (We also did not send out invitations--just said in the engagement announcement in the newspaper that friends and family were invited, and they came!) Have a happy, stress free wedding! (09/02/2009)

By Grandma Patty

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I have done many receptions and this is one I pass on for those on a tight budget. You're getting married during Baseball season, so think baseball food. The groomsmen, fathers and all will love to grill hot dogs! You can even do them on a grill in a pan with some beer and onions. Plan 2 hot dogs per person, yet have some extras. At Sam's you can get 100 for under $20, bread stores for buns $1.45 for 12, look for a local chip company, usually 48 small assorted bags of chips for $8.

Also check with store managers to give you a discount since it is a wedding. Easy to decorate for, easy for jokes, songs, and all around fun. Use your imagination! Have a great wedding! (09/03/2009)

By wildone101

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My friend (and me, too) have attended three wedding receptions in the past 3 months; one had traditional food, sit down, wine, alcohol, and desserts. The 2nd and 3rd did what I had never seen before, a pizza and salad buffet. Order large and small pizzas, all different kinds, not anything exotic, but the regular cheese, meats and toppings, and ones without meats for the many who are watching their diets. A big naked salad, with various dressings on the side. Served on wedding paper plate, larger than cake plates. Serve 'wedding punch' (your choice if alcohol or sans alcohol, mark it with a tag). The pizza was a hit. Have lots of napkins. You can get a deal from most pizza kitchens for multiple, delivered pizzas.

People loved the late afternoon dinner, no need to have dinner a few hours later. I believe I overheard the mom of the bride say that the bill came to about $300. That was for 60 people. Salads were made 'at home' the night before, with tomatoes, grated cheese and trimmings served on platters to choose from. The guests loved it, the kids loved it, and sat still for a while eating pizza. Have a wonderful future. Start off right, and it will never end. Let the kids take home the left over pizza if there is any left. (09/03/2009)

By islandsage

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

We were married (our second time around) on October 5th at 3 pm....a long time ago. We were absolutely cash-strapped then, and our relatives and close friends insisted they were each bringing a dish. It was warm for October, and ours was a no-frills backyard potluck BBQ, with a cake the groom baked himself (that turned out quite nicely, thanks!).

As someone else said here, it's YOUR day. The people you care enough about to be with you to celebrate should be there to do just that--wish you well. Don't go into debt if you can't afford it; it's an awful financial start for a marriage. Do what your heart and your pocketbook can afford. No matter what it is, it'll be right. (09/03/2009)

By PupperMom

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Your guests will know what time the wedding and reception is and they can feed themselves before and/or after accordingly! It's your day and you shouldn't feel obligated to feed anyone just because others think you should! Sharing your cake with punch and coffee only is perfectly fine, just be sure to mention cake and punch reception. ;-)

Congratulations and enjoy your day! (09/03/2009)

By Deeli

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

On the reception card or invitation specify cake and coffee reception. This is right as far as manners go, and will let guests know what to expect since the wedding is between meals. Have a wonderful day. (09/03/2009)

By tennesue

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I had my invitations state "Champagne and Cake reception to follow." We had appetizers, dips, salsa and cream cheese with tortilla chips, pinwheels, deviled eggs, and things like that champagne, beer, coffee and soda and of course cake. It was wonderful happy and stress free. It is your day so you two enjoy it. And yes, that is fine. (09/03/2009)

By meoowmom

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

First, good luck to you and spouse-to-be from an old married lady (40+ years).

A reception with cake, punch, coffee, and no food is your prerogative - but please, advise the guests in the invitation!

About 30 years ago, our kids were ring bearer and flower girl at the wedding of our neighbor (their babysitter). The day started early, with no time for more than some milk and toast for breakfast. Once we got the kids to the church, they were whisked away by the bride and bridesmaids for photos and training for their parts in the service, etc.

Unfortunately, the wedding ended up getting started a lot later than scheduled. By the time the service was over and we arrived for the reception, everyone was hungry.

At the reception there was a lot of socializing, but no food in sight, not even finger food! All of the other guests were hungry, too, and whispering amongst themselves about "When's dinner?"

Finally, after a very long wait, a table was set up with cake, punch, coffee, and that was it. The hungry crowd descended on the cake like locusts, as by now it was early evening! We gave the kids a few bites of cake and some punch because they were starting to feel queasy from hunger!

Then we approached the bride and excused ourselves "early" from the reception, much to her dismay. We left and went to the first open restaurant we found, had a decent meal, and headed home to bed.

My husband and I spent a fair amount of time later talking about the thoughtlessness of the bride in regard to her guests. No one was told this would be a cake and punch only reception, so they had been expecting some kind of dinner.

It was such poor manners not to inform the guests about the reception plans, so they could make their own plans accordingly for eating that day. Especially a 5 and 6 year old who shouldn't have been kept busy yet unfed most of the day. I'm sure the bride was excited and had no appetite, but she should never have put her guests (and flower girl and ring bearer!) in such a hungry situation!

So again, a cake and punch reception can be lovely and is perfectly acceptable, as long as your guests know ahead of time what to expect! My best to you! (09/06/2009)

By mirador

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I am having a BBQ wedding and we are asking people to bring a dish. We are providing the main stuff. But all I can think of to ask people to bring are the basics like: potato salad, pasta, beans, fruit, veggies, cheese, and sausage. I feel like I am missing some things, but also I feel like I should have more options.

By Kathy from WI


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Chips and dip, or fruit? (05/12/2010)

By notwrong

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Some folks just don't think they have been to a reception if there are not bowls of nuts and mints. They make a nice taste change from the BBQ, with a bit of crunchy and the sweet. They could be casually scattered about, nothing formal of course. Fresh veggies with dip are always good with BBQ.

Loretta from AL (05/12/2010)


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Don't forget relish plates or trays, ie. pickles, olives, etc. or snack bowls like chips, popcorn, and cheeses. (05/13/2010)

By thriftmeg

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Don't forget desserts! (05/13/2010)

By skinnyjinny

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Have you considered getting a cupcake tree rather than buying a wedding cake? You can ask people to bring a dozen or two of cupcakes, place them on the tree, and use it for a center piece, too. You could then just buy a wedding cake topper for the top of the tree. It would save lots of money and everyone could get the cake of their choosing.

Another option would be to have some guests bring cakes and place one on every table to be shared by those at that table. Again, you'd only have to get a cake topper for yourselves. At a friend's wedding, many relatives baked and brought cookies. They were placed in small boxes and everyone was given their own individual box of treats. It was much easier than having to place trays of cookies out. (05/13/2010)

By susanmajp

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I like to tell people to bring their specialty, the dish everyone asks for seconds and wants more of. (05/13/2010)

By Carly34

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Be sure and check out all of the ThriftyFun archives on this topic below all of our answers here. (05/13/2010)

By Deeli

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My grandmother used to pickle everything! She would make pickled okra, do refrigerator bread and butter pickles, pickled watermelon rinds, on and on. They were always welcome at any gathering. I think I am going to do some of those bread and butter pickles soon. Or buy Mrs. Fanning's at any grocery. They are really wonderful and fat free. I love those pickles. (05/15/2010)

By catwink41

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My daughter knows a lot of vegetarians and vegans, so she took their dietary preferences into account and served various types of hummus. Anything non-meat-based should work, though.
The one thing you didn't mention was drinks, food-wise. Make sure someone brings drinks unless you're providing them. (05/15/2010)

By JustPlainJo

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I am getting married next June. June 11, 2011 to be exact. We were thinking of having the wedding at 11:00 A.M. to go along with the 11 theme just to be fun.

My problem is food. If I have the wedding at 11, people expect lunch. It is an outdoor reception and I was thinking picnic style food (hotdogs, salads, fruits, veggies, etc.), but I just want to know if this is practical. I am inviting around 150 people (and expecting about 100 or less). If anyone has any other ideas that is not a caterer please let me know. I would love to hear it.

By Lasair from St. Paul, MN


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

You could save a lot of extra work by not having to ask someone to cook hot dogs and hamburgers during the reception.

You can buy the small loaves of bread from a bakery or a large supermarket chain, such as white, wheat, pumpernickel, rye, etc. and make small bite-size sandwiches such as tuna, egg-salad, meat spreads, etc.

Along with that you could serve cold salads, hot dishes, fruit tray, vegetable tray + pickles and olives with dip, bowls of potato chips, and pretzels. For beverages you can provide coffee, tea, fruit punch, and soda/pop for the children.

For more suggestions read Archives at bottom of page.
I hope that I helped you out. (07/06/2010)


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Sounds good to me, and keep in mind you can grill the hotdogs the day before and warm them in a large crock pot with a little beef broth at the bottom for moisture.
Remember that buying food in bulk is a great way to save money. We have a WalMart's Sam's Club bulk sales store in our area. But if you ask your local grocer if they can order bulk for you, or sell you a case at a time, you might save some money.

The meat salads are a good idea, too. Bake a chicken or two without any seasonings and then cut up the white meat in bite sized chunks for chicken salad. I like the recipe for this, that uses white grapes and celery and is served on a cracker. You will have left over dark meat to make a dish for your supper the next day. Meat salads all contain the same type of ingredients so that will be cost effective too, because you can buy the larger jars.

Also, don't be afraid to set your menu now and buy during holiday sales! A turkey baked up and pulled for dinner roll sandwiches would work, too. Key to this idea is to think light lunch and everyone's picnic idea is different. (07/06/2010)

By Dedeswrkshop

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

For a picnic type reception, you could also make it a pot luck. Ask for a couple people to volunteer to do the grilling if you want it done the same day. I have heard of several pot luck receptions and graduation parties. (07/06/2010)

By redhatterb

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas


As to food for an outside party, my son and his wife got married on the beach and rented the pavilion there. I believe they had between 80-100 people there. They had BBQ beef (which we made in 2 large crock pots the day before) served on buns, hot dogs on buns (which his brother did at the wedding on the grill) with mustard, ketchup, and pickle relish, potato salad, watermelon cut up, chips, and veggies (small carrots and celery sticks). Everyone seemed to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere very much. They all served themselves. It was hot, however, and an uncle went and brought the cake just before it was time to cut so the icing would not be spoiled with the heat.

Have a wonderful wedding day!

PS: A warning: Depending on where the outside party is, my son's was in Florida in the afternoon so it was quite warm, but had lovely breezes, I would avoid too much food with mayonnaise, but especially food with chicken and turkey. We had the potato salad in a large bowl set in an container of ice. Chicken and turkey salad, especially if they are in tiny sandwiches and laid out would have a tendency to get salmonella. I went to a wedding where many people ended up with food poisoning about 2:00am after the wedding. (07/07/2010)

By Har'iet

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I would have the invitations say "Picnic Reception", that would surely alert the guests that this wasn't going to be a formal affair! But, I'm afraid that I'm "old school" and do not agree with the suggestions to have the reception be "pot luck". If family members offer to help and bring something, that's different. But to ask guests to bring a dish and a gift, I can't get used to that! (07/08/2010)

By mom of towers

Archive: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

My fiance and I are planning a February wedding. The theme is going to be "rustic". I'm considering doing only my reception with only a choice of three green salads, five different hearty soups, such as beef stew, and rustic breads.
We are also planning a hot cocoa bar, three choices of different alcoholic beverages like spiked apple cider, cake, and a cookie bar.

I've been getting mixed feedback. Some people think soup only is a fun idea, others think it looks cheap. What do you think?

By Sheila from Greenville, MI


RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I think this is a great idea, as long as you inform your guests that it will be a casual event.

By leekelly

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

Your reception is going to run through dinner time and your guests are going to be hungry, so if you want them to stay feed them. Here are some cheap snack foods (Sam's club) nacho's and cheese, pin wheel burrito wraps with cream cheese, brats and Italian sausages cut into bite sizes pieces, shredded chicken sandwiches, and pasta goes a long way. If you have an Aldi's try shopping there first (08/18/2010)

By leekelly

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I think it's a great idea. So many weddings today serve the same things, have the same themes, etc. Your wedding will stand out from the rest of the crowd. If you want to serve a rustic snack, I would suggest popcorn. (08/19/2010)

By Patty Lynn

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I say do whatever "flips your trigger." It's your day. (08/19/2010)

By redhatterb

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I had a Tuscan salad made at my son's graduation. It usually is a hit at most parties and doing. Here's what you need to make it.

  • cut up boneless chicken breasts, 3
  • bacon cut up in strips
  • 1 large red onion, minced
  • salad greens, 1 package or 1 head of lettuce
  • Romaine lettuce, 1 package
  • carrots
  • green peppers
  • tomatoes- cherry or diced
    <li.seasoned croutons
  • eggs, 2 (optional)

Prepare all items starting with cutting up the chicken into 1 inch chunks. After meat has cooked in 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, set aside. Cook bacon till fully cooked. Remove excess fat and bacon from pan and crumble in small pieces. Cut all remaining ingredients and combine together into large tossed salad bowl, will serve 4 people. Toss and serve with Ranch dressing or red wine vinaigrette.

A great colorful rustic style salad and economical to make!

Cut up all ingredients to size of your party. Add 1 red, yellow, or green pepper (can use 2 of 3), 2 chicken breasts, 1 carrot, 1 package cherry tomatoes per each additional 4 servings.
Wish you the best for your wedding!

By Libra1961

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I think this is a nice idea. If you are serving hearty soups like beef stew, salads, and desserts, it is a very nice meal. If I were a guest, I would think it was delightful! (08/24/2010)

By louel53

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I'm with those like redhatterb and lowell53 who said this menu sounds great and it's your party, so serve what works for you. My daughter served pulled pork, hummus, and various chips. My oldest son had a small wedding, so we all paid for our lunch at a local Mexican eatery. My youngest son, whose wedding was a week short of being exactly a year after my daughter's (copycat, lol!) served Subway party-sliced sandwiches and asked family and friends to bring sides. All three parties were just right for each child's individual situation. (08/24/2010)

By JustPlainJo

RE: Wedding Reception Food Ideas

I have catered a number of weddings, and I agree, entirely, with what some people have posted. This is your wedding, your day, and you should do what feels right for you. The soup and salad idea sound like real winner to me.

You haven't stated where the reception will be held. What type of surroundings? If you want to make the rustic idea a theme, just decorate a little with rustic things, including things out of nature, and it will all come together beautifully. (One wedding I catered had a French theme to it and was held in July. We went with a "picnic" theme, with fancy tea sandwich fixings, salads, cheeses, and fruit, relish plates, and two very special hot dishes that were the favorites of the bride and groom, respectfully. There were 125 guests and it was held in a local lodge and we decorated in a rustic French theme. The bread was served in a red and white gingham picnic basket and served as a centerpiece for the groom's table. It was inexpensive and everyone loved it.

As for the 5 soups, for me that's a bit too many. I'd go with 3 different soups/stews, and load up on the rustic breads. I would also include coffee along with the cocoa, and perhaps something cold to drink, as well. I have a recipe for wedding punch that I served at a wedding I catered about 10 years ago and I still get requests for the recipe.

Keep in mind that these days not everyone is a meat eater, and some don't eat red meat. I am posting a soup recipe that you may like. It goes together quickly, cooks in less than an hour, and you may increase the ingredients in the recipe to fit your needs.

Chickpea, Tomato, and Spelt Soup

  • 1 cup spelt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, thinly sliced
    (see notes below)
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
    (see notes below)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (homemade or canned)
  • 1 can (14 1/2 ounces) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, drained
  • 1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (for garnish)


  1. Place spelt in a medium bowl and cover with cold water, soak for 1 hour, then drain.

  2. In a 5 quart Dutch over or a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions start to turn translucent, stirring often. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover pot with a lid, and cook for about 50 minutes, until all of the flavors have blended.

  3. Discard bay leaves and sprinkle each serving with chopped parsley, as desired.

Notes: I usually use about 3 carrots and 2 - 3 stalks of celery. If carrots and celery are too big you can cut them in half and slice them. I prefer the taste of barley to spelt, but that's a personal choice. As for the saffron, I always use it because the saffron gives such a burst of flavor that most people can't quite put their finger on until you tell them. If you are going straight vegetarian, use the vegetable broth. My husband is a meat lover, but this has become his favorite soup. If I'm in a hurry I sometimes use Hunt's diced tomatoes instead of crushed.

If you decide to serve a cold punch, here's my recipe for a wedding punch:

Almond Punch

For the base:

  • 5 lbs. sugar
  • juice of 12 lemons
  • 2 oz. pure almond extract
  • 2 oz. pure vanilla
  • 2 cups of water

For the punch:
2 big bottles of Sprite (2 liters each)

Heat water until warm. Dissolve sugar in the water. Add the remaining ingredients for the base.
(At this point the base may be frozen in 1 cup containers.) When needed use 1 cup of base at a time per 2 bottles of Sprite.

If you're using a punch bowl you can do this right in the bowl. Or, since your wedding is rustic, you may choose to mix this up in a large container and then serve in a nice pitcher or something to your liking.

Blessed wedding. (11/11/2010)

By Gypsy Swan

Weddings FoodFebruary 20, 2012
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