If you’ve started to research the cost of a wedding, you don’t need me to tell you it can get expensive. After considering all the costs associated with getting married like the wedding dress, booking a venue, souvenirs, cake, music, travel, and photography… It’s no surprise the average cost of a wedding is more than $30,000 in many places.

Looking for options to reduce cost? Well no worries, because I’m here to help you out and share specific ways to save money when it comes to catering the wedding. The tips below will help get the most bang for your buck without emptying your savings account. Some of these tips may seem unconventional. Some of them may even be new to you. But keep an open mind and I’ll explain how they all work. Let’s explore some ways to save, shall we?

Book Early

Book caterers early in the year.

One mistake that couples make is to book their catering at the last minute. You might logically think it’s just like booking a few tables at your favorite restaurant. But it’s not. Booking a catering service is one of the first vendors to book when planning a wedding.

One of the best ways to save on catering costs is to book early. Some caterers offer deals when you book them ahead of time because they aren’t sure if they’ll be busy at that time period yet. You may be given a discount or add ons for free.

So when is the ideal time to book your caterers for your wedding? According to Global Gourmet, it’s when you’ve booked your venue. The moment you’ve chosen and reserved your venue, it’s time to book a caterer. I suggest booking out twelve months in advance if possible so you can still have plenty of time to finalize a menu.

Choose Local Caterers

Some couples may have an ideal caterer from another state. While flying in a caterer you trust is understandable, it also means paying the catering service’s accommodations and fare for travel. This will add significantly to the total cost.

Related Reading: How I Started a Legit Catering Business Out of My House 

Save by choosing a local caterer. Search around for the best caterers within your area rather than bring one in from faraway. This way, you don’t need to worry about how you’re going to accommodate your caterers or how to transport all the equipment. You can concentrate on the many other aspects of the wedding instead.

Ask about In-House Caterers Before Booking Venue

Be sure to ask about options for catering before you book a venue. Find out if you are required to use an in-house caterer or if there are additional fees to work with someone from the outside.

Most popular event venues have in-house or preferred caterers. In-house caterers can be easier to work with because they’ve got experience working inside the venue. Some venues charge extra if you book a separate caterer and this can add to your growing list of expenses.

Some venues may also give out great deals such as letting you book the function room for free if you reach a certain number of guests. Others will wave off corkage costs and other little fees that you didn’t really know existed.

Ask your venue if they have an in-house caterer and what their wedding deals are. Browse through their menu and inquire if they can offer a food tasting before you can proceed with the booking. More often than not these venues with in-house caterers have the best deals to promote their business and all you have to do is simply browse through their packages.

Here are a few questions to ask before booking a wedding venue to help you understand the total cost: 

  • Is there a fee to bring in an external caterer?
  • Any discounts or advantages to using in-house catering?
  • Can we bring in alcohol externally?
  • Is there a corkage fee for wine?
  • Are there any ways other customers have saved money at this venue?
  • Is there a discount to book the event on a certain day of the week?
  • Is there a certain time of the year (winter, fall) that’s less expensive?

Book A Food Truck

Opt for a food truck to save money.

Treat your guests to a unique wedding experience by having food trucks during your reception. It may not be formal dining at its finest but it gives off a relaxed and fun vibe. People love food trucks and you may be surprised at how excited your guests are to see a food truck at the event. Also, it’s more affordable.

The average cost of catering is around $70 per person. With a food truck, it can be from $10 to $35 per plate because most food truck vendors aren’t in the lucrative wedding industry. They do business in the real world.

Just look at how much you can save. But remember, this depends on the type of cuisine you choose and the requirements that food trucks have considering the minimum number of people they can cater to.

You would also need to keep in mind that getting a food truck means just having someone provide the food so you don’t need to hire waiter staff. We encourage you to talk to the food trucks themselves because they might have deals and partnerships that can offer the tableware and other concerns you might have.

Pro tip: The food truck can make for a terrific photo opportunity for the bride, groom, and guests.

Negotiate With Your Liquor Supplier

Weddings mean popping champagne bottles and other kinds of booze to celebrate the event. But liquor can be very expensive. How do you manage to serve the best alcohol but also save money?

Talk to your liquor supplier and ask them if you can only pay for the opened bottles. For instance, you can order 10 bottles of champagne. But if by the end of the night and you still have 5 left that are in good condition and weren’t opened. the supplier can take them back and they won’t charge you for it. These deals can be discussed with them to help you save up on expenses.

Related Reading: 12 Tips for Dreaming up a Yummy Name for Your Catering Business

If you don’t plan to host the special day at a wedding venue (who will likely require you order beer and wine through them), you can skip the liquor supplier all together and buy direct from a store. As we all know, the markup on booze in enormous and you could literally save thousands by buying a couple beer kegs and a couple dozen bottles of wine for the event. We’re talking a few hundred dollars for alcohol instead of thousands.

Opt for A Buffet

Choosing to go for a buffet rather than a plated dinner can help you save money. The average cost of a plated meal per person is $40 whereas a buffet costs around $27.

Again, this depends on the number of food selections you want to have. But to sum it all up, buffet setups can be more affordable if you want to reduce expenses.

Choose An Affordable Set Menu

When you sit down with your caterers, they’ll hand you a list of their set menus. Each set may have different prices so you can choose the affordable ones rather than the expensive ones.

You may also discuss with your caterers if you can swap a dish from another set menu and ask them if the price would be different. You can also ask if you can take out one dish so instead of having 4 mains, you can just have 3 or 2.

Pick a Weekday or Sunday

Plan to get married on a weekday to save money.

Some caterers may have a higher rate for a weekend event compared to a weekday event. Friday and Saturday are prime days for having a party. So why not choose to get married on a weekday? Most family members will take off work for a wedding to attend a mid-week wedding.

You can also ask the caterers if they have any special discounts for weekday events. Ask about options with each caterer.

Ask Help from Your Family and Friends

Ask around your family members or friends if they’d like to help sponsor parts of the catering as a gift. A close aunt and uncle can be in charge of bringing liquor. Your grandmother who makes delicious desserts can bring her specialties to the party or even create the wedding cake. Have a friend that is in a band? Ask if they can play guitar at your reception.

Your friend that makes incredible pot pies can gift them to you. Not only is this a great way to save but it’s a fun way to get your friends and family involved on your special day. You’re even saving them all the trouble over what to give you as a gift.

Remember to ask the ones you’re just close with. No doubt you’ve got friends and family with special talents. This tip is also helpful if it’s an intimate wedding rather than a very large one.

Choose One Variety of Dish Each

It would be nice to offer your guests different food selections at your wedding reception. For instance, you don’t really need three kinds of fish or beef items or two different sets of pasta on your menu.

Consider choosing one of each such as one pork, one chicken, and one fish so you can offer a nice and balanced variety rather than splurge on so many of the same kind. Not only does this help you save money, but this can reduce food waste.

Casual Cocktails

Keep cocktails casual.

Cocktails before the reception is a common practice at weddings. But it can be an added expense for the couple. You don’t necessarily have to take it away. You can still offer appetizers and cocktails but what you can do is to keep it casual and simple.

One example of a casual cocktail is to offer just one signature drink and a charcuterie board. You can also do just simple chips, crackers, dips and fresh fruit as an appetizer rather than offer a full spread of hors d’oeuvres. Having food that’s too heavy at the reception might even make your customers full that they won’t be able to eat properly by the time the main food is served.

Also ask yourself if you really need a signature cocktail too. Simple beer and wine offerings an affordable way to keep the event lower cost. This is the approach I used at my wedding and nobody complained.

Book A Wedding Planner

Wedding planners can help you manage a stress-free wedding. These professionals can handle everything on your behalf including booking your venue, providing you with suppliers, handling your guest list. Everything!

What you need to know about wedding planners is that they have so many connections to different suppliers. On some occasions, they may also have a special deal with them. For instance, if you book a certain wedding planner, they’re partnered up with a caterer that can provide you with discounts. This way, you can save more money on your catering.

But do note that not all wedding planners may have this special deal. You may inquire as to what kind of perks you can get once you book with them so you know their packages and the amount of savings you can get if you book them.

If you have an organized cousin or friend that wants to get into the wedding planner business this could also be an option. You will want be careful who you select to do this free or low-cost work though. Planning a wedding can end up being a lot of work. Not everyone is cut out for this and your friend may be surprised at how much they end up doing.

Ask Around

Tie the knot.

This may seem like the most simple and obvious tip but might be the most helpful tip I have. When I say ask around, I mean ask friends who planned their own weddings about booking caterers in the area. They may help you identify good options or steer clear of over-priced vendors.

People who organized their own weddings probably know a thing or two about how to save on catering. Some of the people you ask might admit they’ve splurged on them and can teach you what not to do so you don’t make the same mistakes as them. These people can also share the things they paid a lot of money for that they didn’t get value in. Some may even recommend you a caterer they know that’s affordable and can fit your budget.

Listen to their advice and weigh your options. You might just find the perfect catering deal by the end of your research.

I don’t believe you should need to take on debt just to tie the knot. You also don’t need to do what everyone else is doing and get a 4-course meal for your reception. You can even make do without cocktails. Remember, the event is all about coming together and celebrating the union of two souls. No one comes to admire the wedding cake.

Related Reading: Wedding Receptions: How To Pull Off an Unforgettable Catering Service Guide 

Also, remember that food isn’t the only line item you’ll be spending on. There are other things equally as important such as your venue, gown, and photographers. Don’t forget about the tips you’ll be giving after the party to waitstaff. And it’s also best to leave a bit of money for the honeymoon and maybe even a down payment for the house you and your spouse will be living in.

I get it. If you just got engaged it’s only natural to want to go all out with a horse drawn carriage and the most luxurious wedding venue possible. But I don’t think you should sacrifice your financial future for a one-day event. It won’t be fun paying off the expenses of the big day for months or years after it’s all over.

Don’t forget that marriage comes a long list of expenses like buying a house and raising children. You don’t want to mortgage the future to host an extravagant party. I think you’ll find the entire occasion more fun if you spend less due. Mainly because you’ll have less financial stress put on you.

With these tips, you’ll be able to plan the best and budget friendly wedding reception you’ve always wanted. Congratulations on your pending nuptials!

Want to start your own food business?

Hey! 👋I’m Brett Lindenberg, the founder of Food Truck Empire.

We interview successful founders and share the stories behind their food trucks, restaurants, food and beverage brands. By sharing these stories, I want to help others get started.

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