MONEY Budgeting

Wine and Dine Your Wedding Guests for Less

Signature Cocktails
With a fun signature cocktail, you can skip other hard liquor. Charlotte Jenks Lewis Photography

The average bride and groom fork over $66 per guest on food and drinks alone. Learn a few tricks for getting that tab down, way down.

Couples spend nearly $30,000 on average to get married in the U.S., according to TheKnot.com. In this three-part series, we asked in-the-know wedding bloggers to share their best ideas for throwing a great party on a budget. Part one offered tips on picking the place, which is your single biggest expense (typically about half of the budget). Part two below serves up eight ideas for saving money on food and drink. Coming tomorrow: the all-important dress.

1. Entertain Off-Hours

“Skip a sit-down dinner and have a cocktail reception with only hors d’oeuvres, or just have a punch and dessert reception. If your wedding isn’t happening at mealtime, who is going to complain about getting to eat a bunch of delicious desserts or snacks?” — Meg Keene, A Practical Wedding

2. Make Your Bar Sparkle

“Oh man, options are endless! Aside from potluck or self-catering, think picnics with finger foods or brunch with a mimosa bar. The earlier time will save you on liquor and dinner-like meal costs. For a mimosa bar—could even be a Bloody Mary and mimosa bar—buy a case of $5 sparkling wine and a decent vodka and the fixings in bulk at Costco. Set them out in a pretty arrangement, and let guests help themselves. Considering that open bars can run in the thousands of dollars, this is a very affordable option that covers a multitude of bases, and allows for ‘virgin’ options of the drinks, since it’s a build-your-own type of deal. Never be afraid to buy beer and wine at Costco or Sam’s Club.” — Dana LaRue, The Broke-Ass Bride

3. Truck It In

“An idea for more laid-back and less formal affairs is food trucks. They are so fun and are a great alternative to the stale concept of a buffet. Hire several to offer guests a mix of different flavors, and have a few dessert trucks on hand too! I’ve seen a wedding where a food truck that made doughnuts was brought in after the reception. They add a fun and different touch. And because food trucks will save you from a sit down meal, you won’t need to pay for servers. Unless you get several food trucks, this is probably best for weddings with a smaller guest list.” Sarah Darcy, Classic Bride

4. Add Your Signature

“If you decide to have an open bar, you can limit what is available. You can restrict it to beer and wine only, or add house liquors. If top-shelf liquor doesn’t fit your budget, don’t serve it. Your guests won’t mind. If a complete open bar doesn’t fit in your budget, consider beer and wine plus a signature cocktail. Name it after the couple, incorporate local flavors, anything can make it really unique. And, if all else fails, close the bar for an hour during dinner and save yourself a bunch of money.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride On a Budget

5. Feed Fewer Folks

“Simply put, food and beverage is meant to be consumed by your guests, right? So it’s logical that the more guests you have, the more money you’re going to spend. If you need to cut your costs (or just want to get the most bang for your buck), then start by taking a look at your guest list. Make cuts there first so you won’t have to make severe cuts to your food and beverage budget.” — Lauren Grove, Every Last Detail

6. Order In

“Consider choosing a local restaurant to prepare food for your wedding. Sometimes their prices are cheaper than a traditional wedding caterer.” — Jessica Lehry Bishop, The Budget Savvy Bride

7. Skip the Steak

“Many sit-down weddings give options for entree choices, and one of those is almost always steak. Don’t feel pressured to serve a filet mignon over a prime rib. The filet option can add around a $10 per head cost, regardless of if your guests choose it. Make delicious choices for the cocktail hour and your guests won’t even think about the cut of meat at dinner.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride On a Budget

8. Bring Your Own Bottles

There are a variety of ways to DIY the bar. You can totally do it yourself by buying your own alcohol and mixers, and then hiring people, like college students, to serve. You can do a half DIY, where you buy your own alcohol and then the caterers provide the bar set-up and servers. We did this for our wedding, and it was great. All we had to do was buy the alcohol and drop it off at the venue, and we saved so much since venues sell alcohol at a huge markup. They will charge maybe $10 a cocktail, where you can make it for $4.” — Meg Keene, A Practical Wedding

 

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