There are several easy ways to have a memorable wedding reception without breaking your wedding budget.
Skip the Sit Down Dinner
If you opt for an evening wedding reception, you may be expected to provide a more substantial meal for your wedding guests. Sit down dinners can be quite expensive. You can limit the cost by having a very selective wedding reception guest list. With many caterers and restaurants charging a minimum of $15 to $25 per person for a simple dish of chicken, steak, or some sort of vegetarian meal, a dinner buffet can easily save you hundreds of dollars. Choose a meat, a vegetarian option, bread or rice, and a vegetable. Keep the dish ware simple if you are paying for your own or will be charged by the restaurant. Wholesale stores sell clear plastic ware that are quite appropriate for most wedding reception venues.
Do Your Own Catering
If hiring a caterer or restaurant to do finger food or a buffet is beyond your budget, do not despair. You can easily feed a hundred wedding guests at about a dollar or two per person by purchasing much of your finger food at the local wholesale store like Sam’s Club or Costco’s. Ask family, friends, or coworkers to help you with the food preparation. You might even ask culinary talented acquaintances to offer a tray of delicious food instead of a wedding present or maybe even have your baking genius aunt to bake you an original and stupendous wedding cake.
Another way to save money and keep the wedding reception guests mingling while you take your wedding photos is to set up the food throughout the hall. For example, the punch and cake may be at the far back, the sandwiches near the entrance, some finger foods set up on two or three tables centered throughout the hall, and maybe the kids food table to the opposite wall. This keeps the wedding guests moving, talking, and busy.
Music, Open Bars, and Entertainment
Depending on your budget, religious beliefs, and wedding reception venue, you may or may not opt for a variety of entertainment options like an open bar, a live band, karaoke, a DJ, or even a video game system hookup. If you have a friend in a band, string quartet, or other music group, ask if he or she could be the live entertainment for your wedding reception. You can set up the wedding reception like a paying music or gig, or if you are fortunate, they may offer to play just because you are their friend.
Open bars often cost hundreds of dollars easily, and many times are not worth the cost depending on your guests, unless every wedding guest is guaranteed to drink at least one or two drinks. When you take into account children and families, possible medical conditions or religious convictions, or even that college buddy of yours who is a recovering alcoholic, an open bar with bartender may spell a recipe for disaster or, more likely, a very unnecessary expense.
For an extremely inexpensive way to entertain guests on the dance floor, you may opt for a friend who is a volunteer DJ, your home computer hooked up to speakers, or even that karaoke machine leftover from your college days. For my own wedding reception, I created a running video loop of fun photographs of the two of us set to Star Wars music that played as guests mingled around the various finger food tables. Remember that you will most likely miss the majority of the wedding reception, except for the cutting of the cake and the toast. You want your wedding guests to have a great time as they wait, all within your budget.