Cheap Reception Foods That Save You Money and Your Guests Will Love

Feeding your guests at your  wedding reception can quickly become expensive.  Many brides see cheap DIY reception foods as lower quality and not for them.  Read on and you will find this is a misconception you will be glad you overcame.  You can save money and have a fabulous reception your guests will remember and appreciate, while saving money on your reception foods.

Cheap Wedding Reception Foods

Planning Your Reception Foods

Here are some things to look at when planning your cheap DIY reception foods menu:

Number Of People Attending  – Why It Matters When Picking Reception Foods

Reception Food, Favor, weddingIf your guest list is large, don’t serve steak.  If you are having a small wedding, the more expensive foods can be more reasonable, but still are not a necessity to create a delicious memorable menu.

Always ask for an RSVP by a certain date so you can get an accurate number. Contact guests to get a response from those who miss the deadline.  Most people already overestimate how much food to provide for fear of running out.  Assuming people who have not responded to your RSVP will attend, can be a budget breaker.

If you are having trouble getting responses to your RSVP’s (and who doesn’t), here are some ideas help:

RSVP Response – Increasing Your Response Rate


Time of Day  – It Matters For What Reception Foods You’ll Serve

Time of day is an enormous factor in determining what types of food your guests will expect.  This chart will help determine what you should serve and what they will expect to see.  The times listed are serving times, not the time your ceremony begins.honeymoon, vacation, reception food

Time of Day

Foods to Serve

7 am-9:30 am Full breakfast
10 am-11:30 am Light finger foods
12 noon-1:30 pm Full lunch
2 pm – 4:30 pm Finger foods (the later the time, the heavier the foods should be)
5 pm – 7:30 pm Full dinner
8 pm and later Finger foods, desserts


Keep the age of your guests in mind.  To seniors, anything approaching 5:00 pm is their dinner time.

People will eat and drink more at night than during the day, so plan portions appropriately.

If you are only serving desserts or light foods, note it on the invitation so guests will know what to expect and if they should eat before they come.  “Dessert reception following ceremony” is all you need to say.

Food Variety- So Many Choices In Reception Foods

When working with a slim budget, less variety means more savings.

When you have multiple selections, guests will want to try some of each.  (Remember the adage, my eyes were bigger than my stomach? It applies here.  While guests may take some of everything, the seldom eat it all.)

If you do have a variety, cut servings sizes smaller – bite size for desserts.  Guests are likely to take more than one choice when offered.

If you have a single choice, make servings larger.

If you have unusual or ethnic items on your menu, label them.  Guests will know what they contain and will not take them just to try them, if they are not likely to take them when they know what it contains.


Budget –  A Big Part of Your Reception Foods Decision

Setting your budget is key. Decide before you start planning the menu what you can spend and base your menu around it. Believe it or not, it’s easy to have an inexpensive reception when you plan ahead.  Pasta, desserts only, and finger foods – when you carefully plan the menu, can all be done for only a few dollars.

Breakfast is a particularly budget friendly meal, so why not have an early wedding following by breakfast, or even breakfast first?  Or a late evening wedding, followed by breakfast foods?

Be creative when considering your options.  Savings are generally found in the unusual, not the traditional.

Seating – What To Consider When Selecting Reception Foods

If people will be standing and mostly mingling, finger foods are best.  Consider if they have a place to eat and hold a drink. (This is also a major thing brides overlook when setting up their cocktail hour before the reception.)

If guests will be seated, you can offer tacos, soups, casseroles, full meals, even cold salads.

If you are having children, plan a separate menu for them, that is less expensive and more to their tastes. Avoid dark colored punch, soups, and foods that make a mess. (Macaroni and cheese, and applesauce are usually kids’ favorites.

A new trend in weddings is serving meats at stations, then serving sides family style.  You will need more staff than a buffet to serve, but family style is a wonderful way to get guests talking to each other, and they only take the foods they really want.

Atmosphere- Reception Foods Help Set The Tone 

Cheap Wedding Reception Foods DIYKeep the overall feel of your wedding in mind when planning your menu.

If your wedding is casual, then barbecue or a salad bar may be the perfect fit.

If it is very hot, and you have an outside wedding, avoid heavy foods and have plenty of liquids for guests. You may need more snack type foods to accompany alcohol too.

If your wedding is very formal, then you probably are going to serve a full dinner.  You can still serve buffet style, which is cheaper than a sit-down dinner, make sure you have your buffet lines set up so the wait time is not excessive

Just keep the overall atmosphere of your wedding you and your attendees in mind so everyone will be happy.


Time Of Year – A Big Aspect of Your Perfect Reception Foods 

Heavier foods are always appreciated in fall and winter months.  How about serving a variety of homemade soups?  Purchase inexpensive mugs and give them to guests to take home as their favors.

Baked potato bars (for variety, be sure to include some sweet potatoes) and pasta dishes are chilly weather favorites.

A fresh salad bar and barbecues are perfect for spring and summer weddings.  Add some homemade cookies or brownies for dessert if you want to serve more than wedding cake, and you are set to go.

If you are having an offsite wedding, there is no need to keep foods hot when you select a menu of chicken salad, cold meats, and dishes that are served at room temperature.  (Do keep food safety in mind for all cold foods, especially anything containing egg or mayonnaise.) .

Crepe bars and waffle bars are also a fun and inexpensive reception idea. Toppings can include everything from ice cream and chocolate syrup, yogurt, candies, peanut butter, sprinkles, and chopped nuts.

Shopping For Your Reception Foods 

Stock Up – Buy Early For Saving on Reception Foods 

Once you set your menu, create a complete ingredient list including the total quantities you will need for all menu items.

Throughout the year, watch for sales and purchase the non-perishables you will need.  You can also buy chips, paper products, and drinks. If you have freezer space, you can freeze cheese, meat, etc. Just make sure you wrap them well to protect from freezer burn, and thaw according to directions for that food type.

Consider using store brands, when you can.  Create a test batch of the recipe.  Does it really require pink Himalayan salt or is it delicious with the salt you already have?  Don’t buy the specialty items if everyday items will work.

Use What You Have

Before you start shopping, check what you have.  You may only need a small quantity of something on hand.  No need to buy more.

Be Flexible When Selecting Ingredients for Your Reception Foods 

When trying recipes be flexible on the brand of the ingredient you use.  Just because a recipe recommends a certain brand of mayonnaise, look for less expensive alternatives, or your favorite and use those.

If one major brand of sodas is on sale, buy it rather than what you usually buy.  Remember you are not going to be the one drinking it anyway. Comparison shop between sizes of sodas.  The cans may be cheaper but could go to waste when guests (particularly children) open and do not drink all before grabbing another.  Another tip for sodas – keep your selection small, and offer at least one diet, caffeine free choice, as well as water.

Flexibility is key to saving with decorations too – such as flower vases for centerpieces.  What do you or family already have that you can use?  You’ll feel the difference in your budget when you are creative and use things already on hand.  (When you borrow decorations, but a sticker or tape on the bottom with the name, so you will know who to return them to after the wedding.)

Buy In Bulk

Cheap Wedding Reception Foods DIYBuying in bulk can save you tons of money.  If you belong to a big box membership program, take advantage of it.  Many grocery stores also offer limited bulk items too.

Paper products are always cheaper when you buy in bulk.  Can you use plain white plates and napkins, and dress up your table with colorful decorations?  There is huge savings here if you are creative with your look.

Plan Ahead Before You Shop

Create a list, shop from it, and stick to it.  Last minute additions are expensive and often ring, reception food, bride

If you have carefully calculated how much you will need of any item, resist the temptation to buy and extra one, “just to  be safe”.  Waste is expensive.

Use Home Delivery Service

Many grocery stores offer personal shopping and home delivery service for grocery shopping.  These can be a huge savings both in terms of time and buying exactly what you need.  These stores have trained their shoppers to select their best and freshest produce and meats, and you won’t be tempted by any last-minute impulse buying.

If your store offers it, take advantage of their delivery service  (usually less than $5) and have them deliver your bulk groceries to your door.  It’s a small price to pay for lugging all that stuff.

See how easy it is?  Your reception will be unforgettable when you are creative, plan ahead, and fill it with love.


Wedding on a Budget – 14 Ways to Save You Real Money

Your Wedding Party – 11 Questions To Ask Before Choosing

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Enjoy your wedding planning and please contact me if you have any questions.

Hugs, Rita

2 thoughts on “Cheap Reception Foods That Save You Money and Your Guests Will Love”

  1. Pingback: Your Wedding Party - 11 Questions To Ask Before Choosing –

  2. This is some of the best advice about receptions I’ve read. Like many families, we both have someone telling us ” You simply MUST have”. . . whatever they think we can’t live without. Thanks for the reminder 😊.

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