July 19, 2024


Food never sleeps.

How to Have Your Wedding Reception on a Budget

5 min read

Food at your reception

“How can we budget for reception food and music/entertainment?” is one of the most frequent questions we are asked. That is because the reception is the most expensive part of your wedding. However, you can plan it within your budget and have a memorable event.

You must be very particular when choosing your wedding reception site. It must be appropriate and fit in with your wedding reception plan and budget. It does not have to be a traditional hall. How about having your wedding in a historical home, a park, a museum, fair grounds, public gardens, on the beach, etc.

You also need to know if the venue supplies you with all your furniture and dining needs. If not, you must calculate rental fees.

When choosing a wedding site, choose slow period and either a Friday evening, Sunday afternoon or a weekday, When caterers are not busy. If you do, you’ll be able to negotiate with vendors for the best deals.

To cater or not?

You may not need a caterer. If you invite some good cooks to your wedding, you may ask them to prepare their favorite recipes for your reception. Also, if you invite some good bakers ask if they could prepare sweets and desserts or maybe even your wedding cake. You’ll save money and they will feel honored for being asked. In fact, they’ll probably be delighted to serve too. If not, serve a buffet style or hire a few College kids to serve. Or, how about having a barbecue, serving only hors oeuvre’s, Finger-food or presenting a beautiful dessert table?

If you have your reception catered, you must consider the:

  • Number of guests,
  • Time of day
  • How the food will be served. Will it be:

    • refreshments only?
    • dessert only?
    • light snack?
    • sandwiches and finger foods?
    • a sit-down,
    • a buffet?

Bar – Will:

  • you serve alcohol?
  • bar tenders serve alcohol?
  • you offer an open bar?
  • you or your guests pay for the drinks?
  • you serve only champagne, wine and beer and instead of have no open bar with hard liquor,.

Ideas, suggestions and information about

“How to save on wedding food”.

There is an enormous difference in price between a light brunch, a catered five course sit-down meal and everything in between.

Following are some suggestions you may check out to fit your budget.

  • Provide a brunch or an early lunch. Serve fruit and vegetables, salads, eggs, cheeses, cold cuts, pastries, coffee, tea and cold drinks, buffet style.
  • Have a late sandwich and salad lunch and you’ll only need to add some drinks, fruit and dessert.
  • At your option, you may still serve it buffet style, or as a sit-down meal.
  • For a dinner reception, you may serve a buffet style or a sit-down dinner. A catered dinner is by far your most expensive choice.

Should you ask for favors?

Don’t be afraid to ask for favors. Most of the time, you will find that people will feel honored to be asked to contribute their talents and connections to your special day.

When I got married, my brother’s best friend who is a DJ was more than happy to provide his services as a wedding gift to me and my groom.

You can also borrow a friend or family member’s accessories. I borrowed the veil and tiara. Something as simple as a head piece, a veil or jewelry can be very costly when purchased new. You will have plenty of “Something New” items but you need “something borrowed” So, find someone who has an accessory just stored away in her closet and who will be more than happy to lend it to you as your “something borrowed”.

What you can do about Music/ Entertainment

Budgeting for wedding music can spread from the high hundreds even thousands of dollars to almost free. What you need to decide when it comes to music/entertainment, is what fits in with your personalities and is within your budget. You need to decide whether to have:

  • wedding musical entertainment,
  • a disc jockey,
  • a wedding entertainer,
  • a wedding singer,
  • recorded music or music off the Internet,
  • instrumental music,
  • A quartet, soloists guitarist, harpist, violinist etc.

Check out the local colleges and universities and find out if they have a music department. If so, inquire if there are students in the music program who will be able to perform at your wedding.


We thank Meredith from Phoenix, AZ who sent us the following information about how she is saving money on wedding music while helping the local high school band in their fund-raising efforts.

She writes:

” I am getting married and paying for it myself. So, I have had to cut costs like you couldn’t imagine! One thing that was very important to me and my fiancĂ© is music. We both were in band and choir in high school and love music to this day. Unfortunately, having a string quartet was entirely too expensive and forget the live band or even a DJ at our reception, so I had an idea.

I was in jazz band in high school and we were very good, winning all kinds of awards and stuff. High school bands are always looking for fund raisers and so we approached my old high school jazz band director about playing at our reception. We worked out a great deal for paying them but it was significantly lower than getting a professional band. AND, the school usually has uniforms already – just request that, as part of the package.

Thank you for you web site it has been very helpful. I wish it was printable.

Meredith from Phoenix, AZ

Ask guests to share their musical, entertainment even story telling talents

Don’t overlook your guests. If you invited singers, let them sing. Have them sing a solo or sing as a group during the ceremony And / or at the reception.

Additionally, you may know someone even a teenager who would be willing to “be in charge” of recorded music. There are also quite a few Music channels you can use on the Internet. If you can have the music loud enough for dancing, you can have musical entertainment for free.

Good friends and family are usually eager to contribute to your wedding. you’ll save money and know that your wedding needs will be given with love and care.

Transportation, Decorations and Flowers

Ask friends to serve as your drivers and save. Instead of a limo, rent a luxury car and have a friend drive. Ask friends to help decorate the reception room, arrange flowers etc.


Have a positive, we can do attitude. Be optimistic about planning your wedding and about your special day itself.

If anything goes wrong, as something may, take into consideration that things that went wrong will become things remembered. You will laugh about them later and throughout your married life. So, have a great time as you share the happiest day of your life with the friends and family who love you and rejoice with you.

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