1. "Serve sheet cakes to the guests, and maybe have a small decorative cake for cake-cutting pictures if that is something important to you. A large, tiered wedding cake will usually start at $3.50 per serving of cake, and sheet cakes cost a fraction of that. Plus, tiered cakes have to be stale for them to be structurally sound and can cave in or fall over."
"So you will spend less money for better-tasting cake in the end."
2. "When you're speaking to caterers, don't call it a wedding — instead, call it a party. For example, a friend chose a local donut place for dessert, and she called and asked about pricing for a 100-person wedding: $250. She called back a week later and asked about a 100-person party: $85."
"Another example: I got married in my in-laws' backyard (that saved us about $10,000), and our catering was through a local Italian market. When I placed the catering, I spoke about it as a party. The food cost us about $1,200 for 90 people, and it got rave reviews. Of course, there are some instances when you'll have to call it a wedding, like with the photographer, if you use a venue, etc., but if a vendor won't see you the day of, say 'party'!"
3. "I work at a wedding cake bakery (office side). Most people at weddings don’t notice the cake or eat it. Keep the design simple (avoid fondant — it looks pretty but raises the price significantly). Don’t get enough cake to feed every guest, and don’t have the cake served. Have it put on the dessert table — a fairly plain cake decorated with flowers (silk, not fresh, preferably) will be most cost-effective and look beautiful."
4. "Honestly, I think the TIME of the reception will save you money. No sit-down anything, just light/heavy appetizers so guests can graze, and if they want a heavier meal later, the reception's over by 6–7 p.m. BYE! We had our wedding at 2 p.m. and reception at 3 p.m., and purchased some light cold appetizers, like fruit, cheese and crackers, breads/chips, dips, etc. Hot appetizers were pulled pork sliders, egg rolls, and some fried rice from our favorite Chinese place. For 70 people, we spent about $600 for EVERYTHING food related: napkins, cutlery, plates, and right down to the foil and buns."
"We did a lot of this ourselves — just laid out a nice spread on some tables, and everyone helped themselves. There were only a few leftovers, and no one went hungry. So pick a good time for your reception, and that will save some cash."
5. "Don’t get a cake, or just get a single layer to cut, and don’t mention that it’s for a wedding. Get a load of treats from your favorite bakery instead. We got brownies from our favorite place — it cost a third of a cake, we put them on a stand so they looked great, and everyone loved them."
6. "We found a venue that was BYOB, since we're pretty huge beer snobs. We got all the beer from local breweries and the wine/liquor from Total Wine. Total Wine has a party service where you can go for a tasting with an experienced employee to pick out options that would be good with your menu, preorder it all, pick it up on a date of your choice, and bring back the unopened bottles/12-packs for a refund!"
"This service isn't just for weddings, either — we tell everyone about it now."
8. "Hire a company that isn't super well established — if you trust their business model. We wanted to hire a food truck for ours (tacos!), but all of the ones I looked at were very pricey for the casual event we were planning. I was directed to a website where all of the food trucks in our province were listed, and after a few calls, I found one that had just established itself as a business maybe a month before. They were super excited for the opportunity, and we were excited to get an amazing deal for exactly what we wanted!"
"We were their invoice #001, and four years later, people STILL talk about the tacos we had at our wedding."
9. "Look at nontraditional venues like Lions/Moose/Elk clubs and parks. I ended up renting a local Lions Club for $1,050, which provided a list of caterers they work with. For 88 people, catering cost $1,500 with a tip, and everyone said the food was amazing. I also got to provide my own booze (and I had SO much left over!). All in, it was about $3,700 for the venue, food, and drinks."
"The golf course we had originally looked at was $4,500 just to rent — and food and drinks would’ve been more."
10. "We included a question on the RSVP asking people to volunteer if they could help us with things, like photos or entertainment, and one of the options was to make us a cake. So we ended up with about six cakes, one of which was the 'main wedding cake' for the cake cutting, but it was quite a normal-size cake, and we actually made it ourselves."
"Then we asked some friends to cut slices from all the cakes and put them out on napkins for guests to choose from."
11. "Costco sheet cakes! We got five for $100, and they were delicious and much adored! Silk flowers from the dollar store, ribbons, and a glue gun, and you can make bouquets on the cheap. Plastic silverware and disposable cups, plates, and napkins from Costco. Also, hold an afternoon wedding so you can just serve nibbles and soft drinks afterward."
"We had a 2 p.m. wedding and then had cake, lemonade, iced tea, and platters of fruit, cheese, and meat from a grocery store."
12. "I got my cake from Publix, a local supermarket. We got the cake for under $100, and it fed all of our guests (50). It ended up being a hit, and it tasted so good. We just got it iced white and then decorated it with fake flowers ourselves. Got our topper off of Amazon."
13. "We didn't serve a main meal. We had an ice cream van during the day, and in the evening, we just had sharing platters and cake. We were super clear in advance about this situation and made sure there was time for people to go somewhere to eat between the two parts. (We had different venues that were about a 20-minute walk apart and close to lots of food places of varying price points/fanciness.)"
14. "We went with restaurant owners who cater on the weekends. Everything was done by them, so cocktail petits fours after the ceremony, plated meals served by their waiters, and dessert made by them also (traditional cream puff tower and other smaller desserts)."
"We bought the drinks, including wine, and champagne at a grocery store that permitted us to bring back any unopened drinks afterward. We had plenty of food and drink and spent significantly less than our friends for a much better meal."
15. "Elope. We later had a family reception. The 'cutting cake' for photos came from Wegmans and was a simple, yet pretty white round cake. The larger cake for guests came from Costco ($24!) and fed over 50 people."
"We also didn’t spend money on programs and didn’t get any wedding favors — no one noticed, and no one needed one more tchotchke to pack."
"My friend's sister and her husband got a small, decorated cake for them to cut, but served everyone a sheet cake from Wegmans, and it was freaking delicious; no one knew the difference! They paid only about $100 for the sheet cake to feed all of their guests."
16. "Wedding bartender here; there's no shame in drink tickets! Do some table wine, then maybe two drink tickets per guest. After that, they drink on their own dime. Trust me, they still drink."
"Also, if you have a wedding cake, utilize it! Far too many times, I see the cake just sitting there while guests pick at their dense cheesecake (50% of which gets tossed anyway). Save some money and serve that beautiful cake. And speaking as a previous professional baker, cupcakes are not always cheaper. They add up quickly."
17. "Be mindful of the time/date of your wedding. Certain days of the week are cheaper, certain seasons are cheaper, and having a brunch/lunch wedding is cheaper than a dinner. Also, depending on your crowd, doing a host bar (where you pay only for what your guests consume) rather than a flat open bar package can be cheaper. My husband and I paid way less this way. We also had table service for wine as opposed to wine on the tables; I'd been to way too many weddings where nearly full bottles of wine were taken away from the tables, but the couple still had to pay for the whole bottle."
"Offer premium alcohols during cocktail hour and switch to lower-priced liquor during your reception. By that point, most people can't taste the difference. And don't cheap out on food by going with crap vendors or by doing buffets. Everyone remembers the food at weddings. Oh, and please don't do what a couple I know did: They had a dinner-hour wedding on a Saturday but only served light finger foods (which were just trays from a grocery store)."
18. "Professional cake decorator here. Anyone who charges a premium because you use the word 'wedding' is overcharging. I’ve never, ever changed the price because of the event type. Ever. The most recent wedding I did had a three-tiered cake, but only the smallest top tier was real, for the bride and groom to have a cake-cutting photo. They served cupcakes to the guests. Easiest, most stress-free wedding I’ve ever done, and it cut the cost by about half."
19. "I was able to save 10% on my reception by getting married on a Friday. Even though it was the 4th of July and at a fancy venue, we still managed to save by not holding it on a Saturday."
20. And finally: "Our wedding cake was the dessert; no need to have the caterers create a dessert for the occasion when the cake is a dessert already. We also made sure that we had someone who took all the leftover food home, and we had it for lunch the next day with the immediate family. We paid for the food, so we're not gonna let any of it go to waste."
Do you have any other money-saving tips for wedding food and drinks? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.