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6 Ways to Save on Wedding Catering

6 Ways to Save on Wedding Catering

Hors d'oevres. Open bar. 3-course sit down dinner with 3 main dish options. Coffee and dessert served at the tables. Big wedding cake for all the guests. If you follow these traditional food and drink choices for your wedding reception, your catering bill could end up being the most expensive item in your wedding budget. You can offer your guests a satisfying selection of food and drink without going into debt, by making some budget-smart choices:

1. Cut down on wait staff. There's no rule that appetizers, desserts, coffee and even dinner have to be passed by servers. If you replace some or all of the sit-down service with a coffee and dessert bar, and buffet-style service for appetizers and even the main meal, your costs for servers will almost disappear. And most people enjoy being able to load up their own plates from a spread of delicious looking dishes.

2. Skip the open bar. Rather than covering the cost of unlimited mixed drinks during appetizers and dinner, offer your guests 2 or 2 carefully selected wines and beers that complement your menu. If you want to be a little fancy, many wedding experts suggest offering a signature mixed drink as well. Name it after yourselves or your wedding's theme to make it more fun. If you make that drink a sangria or punch or something similar that can be prepared in advance in larger quantities, you'll save even more.

3. Simplify the menu. The more dishes you offer, and the more elaborate those dishes are, the higher the cost. So focus your menu on simple dishes with fresh ingredients. Offer just 2 or 3 cooked appetizers and use fresh crudites and cheeses for the rest. Limit the main course to one or two main dishes, plus a vegetable and a starch. And avoid recipes that have a long list of ingredients, and therefore, a lengthy and expensive preparation time.

3. Stay away from luxury ingredients. Yes, you could serve your guests a truffle pate appetizer and filet mignon with artichokes and hollandaise. But they will be just as happy with a good cheese platter and a well-seasoned grilled chicken, accompanied by fresh steamed or sauteed vegetables. By doing this, you could cut your per guest cost in half or better. A popular trend (and a cost saving one) is to skip the elegant entrees entirely and offer your favorite comfort food, such as pizza, barbecued ribs or pasta, as your main dish,

4. Ask about local, in-season produce. A good caterer probably has arrangements with local farmers, whose ingredients may save you money over commercial suppliers. And those very fresh vegetables are so tasty you won't want to smother them in expensive sauces.

5. Have a cutting cake. We all love to admire photos of gorgeous, tiered wedding cakes with elaborate decoration. However, that spectacular giant cake you dream of will cost hundreds of dollars. You can make a beautiful impression with a small and elegant cutting cake, surrounded by your dessert of choice. Cupcake tables are in (and adorable) right now; but you might also offer a prettily iced sheet cake; or any favorite dessert from pie to cookies to doughnuts.

6. Insist on your budget. Many caterers excel at "upselling" couples to agree to larger menus and more expensive dishes. We know one bride whose caterer's final proposal was $20,000 over her clearly stated budget! Make sure your caterer knows your budget and knows that you are firm in your determination to stick to it. Any time they offer substitutions or additions, be sure you ask what those will cost.

With these cost cutting strategies, you can offer a wonderful wedding meal, but save a lot of cash to put towards something more important. Such as your destination honeymoon!

Don Fuchs January 29, 2017