Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

My son recently became engaged to a woman from another state. They plan a formal ceremony in that state, however we want to throw a "NJ" reception the following weekend for our NJ family. We must keep the cost down because the bride's family has offered to pay for both and are on a tight budget (as we are, too). Any creative ideas? The guest count will probably be approx 60 - 75 max. No sitdown dinner is necessary, but a festive/nice atmosphere with food will be required.

By ee926 from NJ (North)

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You do what you can afford to do. Decorations can be limited to balloon bouguets and a few silk flowers and pillar candles on the bridal table. Hang a few crepe paper streamers from the ceiling. You don't need a dance. Loud music makes it hard for people to visit. For food all that is absolutely necessary is cake, coffee, tea, and punch. If you think more is necessary, use small size buns and make some kind of meat spread for them, or have a couple slow cookers with sloppy joes in them and a plate of buns beside the cookers, then a couple kinds of chips and pickles. That should be plenty. The trick to keeping the food expense down is to have the event between meal times, so that guests won't expect a meal.

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If you did a 2pm or a 7pm reception you could just have hors d'oevres, cake, and beverages.

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As an professional wedding planner of over 10 years I think a cocktail style reception would be perfect. If you have the space this could be done at home. Rent hyboy tables (they are inexpensive) and use buffet stations to allow guests to nibble, mingle & dance. Create a sweetheart table for the bridal couple.

Opt for heavier hors d'oevres, cream/cheese soups and use sauces. Dress up your food choices by paying close attention to their presentation. If you want to scale back on cake, opt for a cupcake tree, with a small cake on top to be cut by the couple.

If you want to serve alcohol, opt for a couple of signature drinks in the wedding colors. Look for recipes that only call for one alcohol and use mixers for the rest. Again, use the appropriate glasses and dress them up with colored sugar around the rim, or accent with fruit, edible flowers, charms, etc.

Make sure to carry over the wedding couples wedding colors into your decor. Renting lines for the tables is well worth the money. Simple arrangements or candles are large enough for the hyboy cocktail tables. Scattered arrangements on pedestals around the room will bring warmth to the atmosphere. Use inexpensive floor spot lights to create drama. If you will be outside, consider hung paper lanterns in the wedding colors.

Make sure to have a small bouquet for the bride and a boutonniere for the groom. Encourage them to wear their formal attire or a more causal version. Provide boutonnieres and corsages for parents.

For additional seating opt to create some lounge areas, by using your existing furniture, or rent simple benches. Slipcovers are a great way to bring all the colors together.

I hope this information helps. For more ideas just email me. Congratulations and best wishes in your planning.

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January 18, 2011 Flag
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I am so sick of talking about food for my upcoming wedding reception. I am getting married 8/22/09, my fiance and I have been back and forth about different, inexpensive food ideas for our reception. We are on a strict budget because we are paying for everything ourselves.

I think it would be a good idea to have casserole type dishes with salad, rolls, fruit, relish trays, and a cheese nibbler tray. He feels we need to have a main meat dish with all the sides. I try to explain to him that it can get very pricey doing it that way. I am a very flexible person, any ideas where we could possibly incorporate a meat dish with out going over budget?

By fairygirl1 from Dayton, OH

Answers:

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

You could have an Italian type meal. Buy ground beef at the lowest price you can find and make your own meatballs in sauce. I made meatballs for my daughter's wedding using a boxed meatball seasoning mix that you can buy in the section where they sell gravy mixes. I didn't follow the directions on the box. Instead, I mixed the seasoning mix with the ground beef with some eggs and breading until they felt like the right consistency, and then rolled them into balls, and placed them on cookie sheets about an inch apart and baked them in the oven @400 degrees F; it's a lot faster that way, and you can make them ahead and freeze them. I used Prego for the sauce, and bought it when it was on sale. You can then make a pasta dish (like a penne or rotini) using the same sauce. Make a salad, or have a little salad bar so that people can make their own salads, and add some Italian bread and butter. If you want you can place some rolls by the meatballs in case some people would prefer to eat meatball sandwiches. (06/16/2009)

By Patty Lynn

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

I went to a wedding a few years ago and their reception was a potluck! Everyone was really excited, as were the bride and groom as they got to enjoy all kinds of dishes! There was so much variety, something for everyone and the couple didn't have to pay for any of it. All of us were proud to contribute and I found that it made the wedding more fun. (06/16/2009)

By freya1970

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

Have the wedding outside of a eating time: IE - 12:00 or 6:00.
There is no rule saying you must feed anyone!
Or do a private family only, catered affair, then dips and chips and cheeseball and crackers for reception snacks.
You don't want to remember all the cost and work it takes to make a wedding happen.
Erase as many headaches as you can now, and remember the experience of it later. (06/16/2009)

By Dedeswrkshop

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

Why does he feel you "need" to have a meat main dish with sides? Because that's what he wants, or because that's what is expected?

I got married 14 years ago, and my best friend just got married last month. They were on a very tight budget (paying for everything on their own). I brainstormed and did some shopping with them. They ended up buying rolls from the bakery at Sam's, along with some packages of deli/sandwich meat and some packages of sliced cheeses. They (along with some family helpers) sliced the rolls the night before, and arranged meat and cheese trays. They had little packets of condiments. They purchased lots of strawberries and dipped them in chocolate. They had mini cream puffs. There were other little things to nibble on (I remember mints and vegetable trays - purchased at Sam's, and they arranged themselves).

My reception was a little bigger. We had a buffet line with some hors d'ouvres and we had a similar set up for sandwiches. Quite a few of my mom's friends volunteered to help, so we also had some Japanese dishes, also (sushi, gyoza, fried rice, etc.).

You needn't have a big (expensive) spread at your reception. The most important part of the day is your union. True friends who are there to celebrate with you won't care if you have just cake and punch. Do what is right for the two of you, not because of external expectations.

Best of luck. I'm sure you'll make the right choices, and it'll be wonderful. (06/16/2009)

By mrs.story

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

Why not do it the old fashioned way? Just serve cake, ice cream, coffee, and punch. Time the wedding and reception so that there would be no reason for people to expect a meal of any kind. (06/16/2009)

By redhatterb

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

We did potluck as someone said they did on here, it was wonderful, everyone loved it. My brother got a couple of pork shoulders and paid .70 cents a pound to have them smoked. We had a ton of meat for less than 20 bucks. (06/18/2009)

By micksgirl

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

We had brisket we did ourselves and a turkey. We cooked them in our roasters (my sister helped) then had a couple of side dishes. Others brought some things and it turned out really well.

One thing though. The bride and groom were so busy with their friends they did not get a chance to eat. Before the wedding or before you start people eating. Fix two plates for the bride and groom to take with them where ever they are going. Our daughter commented that they did not even get to taste the food LOL. There was some left also, but like I said they were busy.

Our granddaughter (bride's niece) wanted to give them a toast. She was 15. She had them stand in front of her and she proceeded to say. "I don't have any money to give you anything, but I wanted to give you a toast." Then she handed them a slice of real toast and told them they had to split it for she only had one piece. It was one of the highlights of the evening. Glitz
(06/18/2009)

By Glitz

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

First of all, don't stress. It can be done. We did low-budget, too. That was 14 years ago, when $30,000 weddings were the rage, and no one complained. It was fun, and we spent less than $2,000. That includes absolutely everything: license fee, musician's fee, venue, clothing, food, flowers, and a few miscellaneous items. You're in even better luck, though: today it borders on fashionable to have more restraint with your budget. Revel in this!

I'll sidestep the question of full meal or not. That's totally a matter of preference you and your beloved will have to agree on. But whichever you choose, you should let guests know by indicating "light refreshments," "heavy hors d'oeuvres," or "dinner" right on the invitation. No surprises = no complaints.

Alcohol will blow any budget in a flash, so skip the champagne. A punch made of pineapple juice or 5 Alive and lemon-lime soda or ginger ale with orange, lime, or pineapple sherbet scoops on top is tasty, refreshing, festive, and far less expensive. Sometimes you can even adjust the ingredients to match your wedding colors!

A potluck is completely acceptable (again, indicate on invitation) if you choose full meal. Or, if you want to provide the meal instead, economical means you'll have to think fun and non-traditional, not prime rib and new potatoes, but say, barbecue with coleslaw and macaroni salad.

You can make the food yourselves, or you can get it from a few different places instead of full catering service from just one. It means more variety as well as easier budget. We bought salads from a local deli, cake from the local grocery store bakery, cheese biscuits and shrimp platters from Red Lobster, etc. Think about which of your local places make the best ___, and buy from them. There's a little more pre-event running around to do that way, but it's not a problem if you plan ahead. Or maybe ask two or three close friends/family to assist with preparations as their gift to you instead of buying something big and expensive. (06/18/2009)

By AnnieNP

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

At our wedding. the family knew we couldn't afford a reception so the aunt's got together and did finger foods. We had a cake and punch as well and everyone really enjoyed it. Do have someone make plates for the bride and groom, otherwise you may not get to eat. (06/18/2009)

By mary1day

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

A lot depends on how many people you are inviting. If you are feeding 35, a meat entree isn't so bad. Past that, you could go into debt. Some advice: My first marriage was a big, fancy affair with everything custom made. It lasted 3 years. My current (and forever) husband of 28 years and I had an almost-free wedding. I baked the cake, a friend decorated it, and we served homemade foods. My husband made the wine. Our rings are simple gold bands. I have never been so blessed as I am with my DH. In other words, a big wedding doesn't guarantee a happy marriage. Best wishes! (06/18/2009)

By coreenhart

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

A cocktail reception would be nice. Have a few aunts and close friends make some appetizers. August is also a hot month, make the menu light.
(06/18/2009)

By michele052002

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

I saw all these bits of advice you got. Is this a reception, or a 5 course dinner? Honestly! I am a 70 yr. old, had first marriage on a very low budget. (Mom made my awesome dress). We arranged our own flowers, and the reception was a nice cake that a friend made, tiered and all, another friend made the "grooms cake", the one that is dense, cut in small pieces and wrapped in foil and lace, in our case, and the unmarried girls are supposed to sleep with it under their pillow.

Anyway, finger foods, crackers and a cheese ball, fresh, crisp colorful veggies, and other snack things are enough. You are getting married. You do not have to impress anyone! By the way, my first marriage lasted 39 1/2 years until death separated us. Hope this is of interest. It really is your wedding. Let them eat what you offer. Have a beautiful, long marriage. (06/18/2009)

By LJF

Wedding Reception on a Tight Budget

All of the suggestions are great; two other "meats" that I can think of are "Swedish" meatballs, and Hillshire Farms Little Smokies which can be cooked up in some barbecue sauce. Your food selections depend on the time of day your reception is and the cost per person. If all you can afford is punch, tea/coffee, and cake then go for it. You can even have the "cake" reception printed on your invitation, or on a separate sheet you put inside (that way if people want to eat before hand they can). Tell you fiance if he can come up with the additional $$ for a full sit down then you'd be more than happy to set one up. Sounds to me like he's trying to impress people rather than having them come to congratulate you both on your marriage. Good luck and have a happy married life. (07/12/2009)

By xstchr92

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I'm planning my wedding in August of 2006. I'm wondering if there is anyway you can help me plan my wedding reception for something under $1,500.

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