Feeding Your Wedding Guests on a Budget

Food can be one of the highest expenses you'll deal with when wedding planning. Feeding your wedding guests on a budget is possible with these 6 tips!If you’re planning a wedding, you’ll learn quickly that food will be one of largest expenses next to the venue. According to The Knot, the wedding reception and food account for about 50% of the entire wedding budget.

Some brides admit to paying anywhere from $1,000 to $17,000+ on catering and other types of food for their wedding.

While cutting your guest list can help lower the cost of food on your wedding day, if you and your fiance have a lot of family and friends who you’d like to share your special day with, this may not be much of an option.

You can also scratch the idea of serving a meal at your wedding altogether and just stick with light appetizers. However, if you plan on having a reception and entertaining your guests for a while, they are bound to get hungry.

If you wish to have quite a few guests at your wedding and prefer to feed everyone as a courtesy, here are 6 ways to feed your guests on a budget.

1. Organize a Brunch

If you plan to have a morning wedding, you can always organize a brunch in order to feed your guests. You can choose between breakfast foods and pastries with lunch foods like sandwiches, soup, and salad.

Brunch food is generally cheaper than dinner food, and you can get away with excluding a lot of meat dishes which will also save you money.

2. Host a Meal at a Caterer’s Location

To cut both the price of the reception and the food, you can also opt to have your reception in a private room at your favorite restaurant if you have a small to moderate sized guest list. Some restaurants may be able to accommodate large groups, but to be on the safe side, you may find more luck with this option if your head count is less than 75 people.

When you host your wedding meal at a caterer’s location or restaurant, you’ll eliminate set-up fees and rentals for tools and other supplies. You might even be able to ask for a group discount.

3. Go Buffet Style

When you sit down and meet with a wedding caterer, you’ll learn quickly that plated three or four course meals are more expensive and take more time to serve than the buffet option. Plus, if you only rented your venue for a few hours, you probably don’t want to spend 90 minutes waiting for everyone to eat their starter, main course, and dessert.

Having a buffet allows you to provide a variety of cost-effective food options to your guests and you will save money on wait staff since guests will have the option to serve themselves. Buffet style reception meals are very casual and economical.

Don't want to spend thousands on feeding your #wedding guests? Check out these 6 tips! Share on X

4. Make Your Own Food

If you won’t be renting out a formal venue for your reception, you might be able to make your own food and save a ton of money that way. You can enjoy the freedom of creating your own custom menu, and having more control over how much you spend. You can pick up ingredients at bulk stores like Sam’s Club or Costco.

On the other hand, catering your own wedding takes a lot of time and effort, so you may want to ask friends or family members to pitch in and prepare a few items. If you have an aunt or grandma who makes delicious pasta, or a mom who bakes exceptional cookies, it can really help lighten your burden.

5. Let go of the Wedding Cake Tradition

Some wedding cakes can look like a beautiful work of art. But at the end of the day, it’s just food and your cake will be eaten quicker than the amount of time it took to prepare and assemble it. A lot of couples are abandoning the tradition of having a wedding cake and choosing other more affordable options like cupcakes, assorted desserts, and even pies.

Cupcakes run an average of $2 each, while cake is often priced at $3.75 per slice or more depending on if it’s covered in buttercream frosting and fondant.

6. Consider Snacks with a Low Cost Per-Portion

The shorter your reception is, the better you can get away with just serving dinner and cake. If you and your guests are going to be celebrating for several hours, you might want to add some extra snacks or finger foods to the menu.

When you’re feeding a large group, try to consider food that you can purchase in bulk that has a low cost per-portion and try to limit the variety. Dessert tables sound so nice and look even more delicious, but sometimes, they can cost almost much as the cake you ordered.

Plus, when you’re offering an array of pies, cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and cake pops, you’ll actually end up feeding less people because your guests will be prompted to try one of everything.

To save money, just pick one dessert and offer it in two varieties. Cookies have a low cost per-portion and you can order some at your local bakery, or even find a home baker who can prepare a big batch for your guests.

You can also serve a seasonal fruit salad with 3-4 different seasonal fruits (or whichever fruits are currently on sale). One snack I’m planning to serve at my wedding is popcorn. It’s cheap, somewhat filling, and most people love it.

All in all, renting a popcorn machine for my reception, along with all the supplies, flavorings, and popcorn kernels, will run me about $70. Since popcorn costs just pennies per portion to prepare, I can feed lots of people without spending a ton.

How do you save money on feeding large groups? If you are planning a wedding, what type of food would you like to share? Already married? What food service did you go with at your wedding?