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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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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*

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

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

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

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

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

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*

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

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

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