Cumberland Brides: How to Plan a Budget Wedding Reception

Due to rising costs and a trend toward more frugal spending, many Cumberland brides and grooms are looking at budget wedding reception plans and ideas. While there are some aspects of your wedding reception that can’t be cut or eliminated, there are many others where a little creative thinking and some budget-friendly wedding party ideas can make a big difference.

The Menu
The average wedding reception menu costs somewhere between $100-250 per guest, so rather than un-invite family friends and relatives that you want to be there to share your special day, you’ve got to re-think your menu plans – and fast. Since the wedding reception menu is often the biggest expense of the entire evening, that’s where we’ll get started. Make sure your venue allows for outside catering or ask about budget-friendly options if they don’t.

  • Buffet or Family Style – Opting to not use servers at your wedding reception can be a huge cost savings. Even if you hire a caterer to take care of the wedding reception menu, just asking your guests to line up for food service or passing around the food family style can save you a lot of money.
  • Homespun Appetizers – If you want to serve appetizers before the dinner, but need to save some money, consider making your own appetizers. A lot of brides are doing this as a way to cut their budget, but it can also be a lot of fun to contribute to your own wedding reception menu. By eliminating appetizers from your catering bill you can cut as much as 50% of the cost. Search the Internet for lots of great budget-friendly, great-tasting appetizer recipes.
  • Simple Snacks – Another option is to just put out some simple trays of crackers, fruit, cheese and veggies for your guests to snack on before dinner is served. Pretzels, chips – whatever you think will keep them satisfied when they first arrive at the wedding reception.
  • Food Stations – This is one of the most popular wedding party ideas used to cut costs. Set up food stations throughout the reception hall featuring specific types of foods, such as a pasta station, a carving station, a taco station, a dessert station and more. The prices for these a la carte foods are usually more affordable than a complete meal.

The Bar
To serve alcohol or not to serve alcohol – that is the question. Not only is serving alcohol an expense that will increase the cost per guest by a large margin, but there’s also the after-effects of alcohol and the problems that can arise as a result to consider. Here are some suggestions for reducing the costs of your bar fees and increasing the opportunities for your guests to have fun and enjoy your budget wedding reception.

  • Wine or Beer Only – This option doesn’t totally remove the alcohol from your wedding reception, but it does cut down on the cost compared to mixed drinks and shots. Speak with the venue manager or the caterer if the reception hall doesn’t provide the bar and find out what your options might be available to you in this regard.
  • Alcohol-Free – A lot of couples are choosing to head problems off before they even begin by cutting the alcohol from their wedding reception. Not only will this help you to have more money for other elements of your budget wedding reception, but it can eliminate issue regarding hiring a bartender, making sure under-age guests don’t get access to the alcohol and should prevent most arguments or mishaps that can happen when drinking is involved.
  • Limited Open Bar – Another option is to only have the bar open for the first hour or so. Most people will want to have a drink or two while watching all the activities, such as the bouquet toss, first dances and garter toss. Then everyone is seated for dinner, where iced tea, water and coffee are served, and many guests will leave after the cake is cut. By limiting the open bar to just a couple of hours, you can cut your costs in half.
  • Non-Alcoholic Specialty Drinks – You can cut costs and still have fun. One way to accomplish this is to have a special drink bar that serves non-alcoholic drinks, such as smoothies, ice cream shakes, Italian sodas, iced coffees or other flavorful things to sip. Wedding ideas that incorporate a fun activity – such as choosing a specialty drink – will be remembered by your guests.

The Cake
Another big expense at a wedding reception is the cake. When it comes time to plan this part of your wedding reception menu, Cumberland brides shouldn’t be afraid to think outside the box and check out some alternative wedding party ideas. While it may seem like getting a three-tier cake is the traditional and expected thing to do, it can be a lot of fun to do the unexpected, wow your guests and save some money at the same time.

  • Display Cake – Some bakeries will provide a beautiful display cake for everyone to look at. A single tier – the second layer – is made of actual cake and is used for cutting by the bride and groom. Large sheet cakes are cut up in back and ready for serving in the same color of frosting for guests. Most people won’t even realize you made a switch and will just enjoy having a piece of cake. Many bakeries will make a special anniversary cake for you and your groom to enjoy on your one-year anniversary so you won’t miss out on that tradition either.
  • Cupcake Tower – This is a very popular idea that is catching on for brides all over the country. One of the best wedding reception cost-cutters, a cupcake tower can reduce a $500 and up charge for a traditional wedding cake down to $100 or less for a tiered display of cupcakes in just about any flavor you could imagine.
  • Dessert Bar – Consider nixing the cake completely and instead offer a dessert bar filled with brownies, mini cheesecakes, cookies and more. Add bags of colorful candy (in your wedding colors, if possible) in pretty dishes and invite your guests to make up a plate of fun!