Almost every guest expect to enjoy great food and possibly a drink at your wedding. You can anticipate spending about half of your wedding budget on catering, so it’s crucial that you know where you’re spending your money and what you can do to save more. Here are the main factors that will have the most impact on the amount of your catering bill.
Aside from your food decisions, there is no other choice that affects your catering budget more than your guest count.
Be sure you understand your caterer’s policy for changes and guarantees from the start. Most brides will overestimate their guest counts, as you will inevitably have guests who say they will be there and then not show up as well as the couple who say they won’t be there only to arrive unexpectedly. Just be conscious of your guest count—your decision could possibly save you a lot of money.
If you need a little help in this area, ask your bridesmaids to call guests who have yet to RSVP. Feel free to blame the caterer by telling guests that you need to know as soon as possible if they will be in attendance so you can provide an accurate head count.
In many cases, a sit–down meal could be more costly than a buffet, since a sit–down meal requires additional staff to prepare food and serve it. Caterers charge a fee per staffer, and each table typically needs one or two servers managing it. The fewer servers needed, the less money you will need to spend.
However, having a buffet doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll save money. Buffet meals require linens, serving pieces, and a lot more food (because people tend to eat more food when they serve themselves). Plus, you’ll still need to pay staff to man the buffet, and waiters to serve water and wine to the tables.
Since there isn’t always a significant difference in price, your decision should come down to the wedding style you desire. For a more formal experience, a sit-down dinner might be best, while the buffet style is more casual and relaxed. If you want to combine the formality of a sit-down dinner with a lower budget, go for a family-style dinner where guests can serve themselves from platters while seated at tables.
If you’re going to knot in a rural location (e.g., a vineyard, ranch, or farm), expect sub par kitchen facility or none at all. The less your venue has by way of ovens, prep stations, and equipment, the more it will cost to bring in these items.
In such situations, you’ll need a mobile kitchen which can include tents, generators, and a water supply. These equipment rentals can cost equal to or more than your entire location in rental fees.
The same goes for a private residence wedding, which may also be a huge financial undertaking since the kitchens in most homes are not designed to accommodate large events.
A cocktail hour can take up a huge portion of the budget. If you want an extravagant cocktail hour with various food stations, gourmet chefs, tons of finger foods, and endless top-shelf liquor; the cost of food, setup, and servers for even just one hour can totally exceed your budget.
To create the most cost–effective cocktail hour, consider having a few passed finger foods along with some food stations that feature less expensive foods. For example, if mini crab cakes are left out on a station, guests may snatch 6 or 7 mini crab cakes, but they’ll take only two or three if it’s passed.
Our suggestion is to have just 3-4 types of passed appetizers, and budget for about one or two pieces per guest. This gives guests a nice variety, but doesn’t require you to hire too many additional servers.
If you’re interested in unlimited drinks, you may be charged a fee “per hour, per person,” which is a great option for a drinking crowd since you will know the total cost upfront.
On the other hand, you could be charged “by drink,” which is a less predictable option but preferable if you’re not dealing with a crowd of drinkers. You may incur extra expenses by hiring additional licensed bartenders or renting glasses and bar accouterments. In this case, additional expenses could add 20 to 25 percent to your entire catering bill.
Alcohol is the easiest expense to lose control of in the wedding budget, but you can balance that idea with the fact that there is no other wedding element a guest will complain about more if denied.
To balance out affordability and unsatisfied protests, serve wine and beer along with a signature cocktail instead of a full bar. If you have a VIP guest who only likes one kind of liquor, have a bottle available for that person.
Many people spend a ton of money on the bar for their wedding reception–sometimes two or three times the amount they spend on food. To save money, some venues will allow you to purchase and serve your own alcohol. Just make sure you have a licensed and insured bartender!
If you are overwhelmed by the idea of providing your own alcohol, set ups, cups, ice, etc., you may be able to serve drinks through your caterer, which will still cost less than if you purchased drinks directly from the venue.
Also, your caterer will probably serve any kind of beverages you supply, so think about bringing non-alcoholic beverages such as sodas and bottled water along with your alcoholic drinks.
The reason guests are asked to select a dinner option (“chicken” or “fish”) on their RSVP card is because costs get jacked up when guests order at the wedding. Theoretically, the caterer would have to prepare enough of each entrée to guarantee that all guests get their first choice. This would increase your food costs and is potentially very wasteful.
The other option is to serve everyone the same entrée, like a duet plate of filet mignon and grilled lobster, so that ordering is not an issue.
When it comes to wedding cakes, the possibilities are endless, which also means the choices can become a little overwhelming. If you want to get the wedding cake of your dreams, it’s key that you speak with your cake baker and ask lots of questions. Use the list below as a reference to help you decide on the best cake designer to bring your vision to life.
1. Is the baker licensed and insured?
This may seem like a trivial question, but you should definitely confirm that you baker is licensed by the state health department. Also, many venues will require all involved vendors to provide proof of insurance coverage.
2. What do you do if the cake gets damaged on the way to my reception site? Will you personally deliver the cake?
If your cake will be delivered, ask if the baker or cake designer will be present to assemble or to touch up decorations at the venue.
3. Will you provide cake stands?
Most bakers offer cake stand options you can rent the day of your wedding. Request pictures beforehand to pick a stand that best matches your cake and décor.
4. How long before the wedding will the cake be baked?
Since many bakers have multiple clients and the process is labor intensive, your baker may create your cake 3-4 days before the wedding. Of course the closer to your wedding date, the better, but a few days before the wedding day shouldn’t affect the taste or look, and may be necessary if you want an intricate design that takes more than a day to accomplish.
1. How are your wedding cakes priced? Do you have a minimum cake cost?
Most bakers charge a basic per-slice price—the price increases as you add on extra elements, like a more sophisticated design or more premium flavors and/or fillings.
2. Does the wedding cake price include the top tier?
Some couples like to freeze and preserve the top tier of the cake for their first wedding anniversary. Bakers may or may not include the top tier in the overall price, so find out their policy and whether a top tier will increase the overall price.
3. Will there be any additional rental fees? When will these items need to be returned?
Bakers may offer you a choice of cake-cutting knives, display plates, cake stands, toppers, platters, etc., which will likely require a deposit that you can get back when you return the items. Ask how much time you have to return them.
4. Is there an additional delivery fee?
Having your cake delivered to the reception venue is ideal. However, many bakers will charge a delivery fee, so find out beforehand and factor it into your cake budget.
5. Can I set up a cake-tasting appointment? Is there a fee?
Standard flavors will likely be available for a cake tasting, but probably not the specialty flavors. (Most bakers have the most requested flavors on hand.) For cake tastings, many bakers may charge a small fee that can be credited to your balance after booking your wedding with them.
6. How far in advance should I order my cake? What is your refund policy for cancellation? What if I’m not happy with the cake?
Ideally, you should place your cake order 6-8 months before the wedding. Keep in mind that smaller bakeries may limit the amount of wedding cakes they create every weekend, so they will likely book up very fast around the more popular wedding dates.
When it comes to cancellations, most bakers will also have a very specific policy that you should review prior to signing a contract. In some cases, you may be able to retrieve some or all of your deposit or receive a credit toward another future order.
If you’re not pleased with the final product, it’s your right as a consumer to ask for a refund. From the start, just be sure you have all the details about your cake in writing to use as a reference when speaking with your baker about any inconsistencies.
1. Can I see pictures of cakes you’ve made recently? Do you customize wedding cakes or do I select from set designs?
You can show your baker a picture from a magazine or Pinterest, but seeing the types of cakes he/she makes most often will give you a better idea of his/her skills.
2. What cake and filling flavors do you offer?
Whether you’re looking for a fruity filling, like strawberry or raspberry, or a rich mocha or chocolate, the kind of ingredients used will profoundly effect the taste and cost.
3. Do you frost the cake with buttercream or fondant?
While bakers specialize in fondant, others prefer buttercream, and some offer both. If you have your mind made up on one type of frosting, verify that your baker can make it.
4. What if I’d like real flowers on the cake? Will you work with my florist?
If you want to adorn the cake with fresh flowers, find out if your baker will work directly with your florist (most will) and the best way to coordinate getting the flowers from your florist to the baker.
Often the florist will arrange the flowers for you. Just make sure the flowers are free of pesticides, and provide the baker with a sketch or a photo of the flowers as soon as possible so that she/he can incorporate them into the design.
5. What kinds of ingredients do you typically use? Do you offer organic, vegan, and gluten-free options?
If your cake designer is not able to bake a gluten-free, vegan, or organic cake, she/he may work with another local bakery that does.
Planning a wedding is infamous for being a being a tad bit overwhelming and chaotic. There will be late nights optimizing your wedding to-do list, weekend appointments making decisions alongside vendors you’re paying a lot of money to, and of course, the occasional cry-fest because the pressure of throwing the party of your lifetime has caught up to you. It can be a very unhealthy time, filled with lack of sleep, quick bites to eat, and enough stress that you start to feel weak. But like they say, you are what you eat! So, in order to stay healthy during your wedding planning process, here are some super foods you should add to your diet. One of the best super meals you can have is a clean acai bowl or a fruit and vegetable packed smoothie. Also make sure to include your good proteins in order to help flatten your tummy! Also these super antioxidant packed foods are fantastic for your skin!
Throw them into a smoothie, your morning yogurt, or just eat them by the handful. They are a great source of fiber and antioxidants that help keep your mind
Whether you like them sunny-side up or just scrambled, eggs are a great source of protein and something you can eat quickly, as a snack or part of a meal.
Keep a bowl of these things close by. They are a great way to boost your immune system and something simple and easy you can snack on when drafting emails to vendors or your bridal party.
These funny-shaped things are known as the healthiest vegetable in the land. They are great for your immune system and a great swap for the traditional baked potato.
You remember as a kid always being told to eat your broccoli, well, now it’s time to hear it again. Broccoli is packed with vitamins C, A, and K. If you’re not a fan of the taste, add them to a stir-fry or even roast them in the oven.
Swap out the soda and coffee for a glass of tea. Freshly brewed tea has a lot of health benefits and is known to help strengthen bones, and you guessed it, reduce stress. With so many flavors to choose from, you can try a new tea flavor every day until your wedding.
Spinach is known as the super food of all super foods. It has a ton of vitamins and calcium in it and will not only make you feel more energetic but will also help cleanse your body.
Salmon is packed with Omega-3 fatty acids to help your skin glow on your big wedding day. This is a perfect source of protein as well! If you are vegetarian I recommend that you incorporate flax seeds or hemp seeds. These are great alternatives for omega-3 source.
Think you can’t pull off your dream wedding on a budget? Think again. It’s easier than you think to stretch your budget without giving up the things you love. Want a delicious menu and the venue of your dreams? Or a designer dress and a five-tiered cake? It’s possible to make it happen - the key is compromise.
A few dollars here and there doesn’t seem like a lot when you’re shelling out thousands total. But a few hundred bucks will make a major difference. Find a few places where you can trim half a grand from your budget, and suddenly that gorgeous destination wedding venue you’ve been obsessing over will seem a lot less out of reach.
Love the look of hand-painted invite but not the steep price point? Have a graphic artist create a digital design that you can print at home instead. The final result will look just as pretty but cost half as much.
Have guests RSVP on your wedding website or app instead of on a reply card. You’ll save tons on paper and postage, and you’re more likely to get responses from the majority of your guests. Be sure to include your phone number or home address for elderly guests who may not be as tech-savy.
Instead of ordering completely custom invitations, order a DIY printable from wedding websites. You’re able to customize certain aspects of the invite while still keeping costs low.
Posting one large program at the entrance of your ceremony site is way less expensive than printing one for each person. Trendy options like calligraphic chalkboards or mirrors are budget-friendly and totally chic!
Forget the photo booth and buy a Polaroid camera instead. Set up a photo station with a elegant backdrop and ask your guests to leave you a snap with a note. This can double as your guestbook or a favor for friends and family to take home.
Instead of shelling out big for a favor for each guest, give one to every couple. Just make sure it’s something sharable, like a bottle or another treat! Guests will appreciate the late-night booze or snack.
Consider a tasty family-style dinner, like a gourmet pasta bar, in place of a three-course plated meal. Select several choices guests will love, including meat and vegetarian options, for a substantial and crowd-pleasing dinner.
Have your florist create arrangements that work for both the ceremony and the reception. Enlist a trustworthy friend or family member to make sure the blooms get safely from place to place.
After the vows, combine bridesmaids’ bouquets to make one large centerpiece. They’re great for the bar or escort table. It’s also a way better use of the blooms since your ‘maids will likely ditch their bouquets once it comes time to dance.
Have your florist provide a mix or short and tall table arrangements. Smaller centerpieces are more cost-effective, but a few towering displays will help fill in any gaps. Bonus: The pretty mixes are super trendy since they’ll lend your party an eclectic vibe. WGV International’s Trumpet Vase, as displayed above, is one of the most popular styles for center pieces.
Invest in a florist for the most-photographed flowers (your bouquet, the head-table arrangements), and DIY the rest. Consider taking a class or lesson on floral arrangements and practice your centerpieces in advance. Make sure to pick a display that won’t be too time consuming and enlist family or friends to help.
Carnations have gotten a bad rep as being cheap and overused. But mixed with other blooms, they create the same lush, fluffy texture as peonies, which are four to five times more expensive. Use them to bulk up your centerpieces and bouquets for that romantic look you love without breaking the bank.
Wedding dresses are a huge expense, especially if you have your heart set on a designer gown. Look around for sample sales, where you’ll be able to purchase your dream designer dress at a steep discount. Or consider an off-the-rack option, which can be tailored to look custom-made without spending a fortune.
Have you always dreamed of a violinist or harpist playing as you walk down the aisle? A professional musician can be quite costly. Luckily, local music schools have teachers — who can play quite well — that will happily perform at weddings for a fraction of the cost. Sit in on a lesson to make sure they know their stuff.
If your guests aren’t big drinkers, ask your caterer if you can pay for alcohol à la carte. That way, you’re only charged for what guests drink instead of their flat rate, which covers enough alcohol for the entire reception.
Skip a big tiered cake, which can run in the thousands, and serve simple single-tiered cakes instead. You can have your caterer provide single layers for each table or create a cake buffet where your guests can sample different flavors. You’ll still be able to have a cake-cutting moment without the huge cost.
Dessert buffets are quickly becoming a wedding staple and can easily be created on a budget. Challenge competitive relatives to a bake-off and serve the delicious results. Think cupcakes, cookies, and other mini treats that guests can sample.
Replace your dessert table with a sweet candy buffet on WGV International’s popular apothecary jars. You can buy treats in bulk at a wholesale warehouse store like Costco and provide pretty bags or containers for guests to fill. Plus, these goodies bag can double as a favor.
Leftover wedding desserts often go to waste. Plan to pack extra sweets in cute boxes and give them to guests. Instafavors! Or ask your caterer to send any remaining treats back to your wedding suite for a late-night snack.
Give up the hard stuff after cocktail hour and serve only beer and wine through the rest of your reception. They pair better with dinner anyway and are half the price of a full bar. Worried your guests won’t be happy with the selection? Offer one or two signature cocktails they can choose from for the rest of the evening.
Don’t feel compelled to create over-the-top welcome bags for your guests. A handwritten note and a bottle of wine (which you can buy it in bulk for major savings) is more appreciated than a bag stuffed with knickknacks your friends and family will likely never use.
Instead of mailing paper save-the-dates, email guests a fun video you and your future husband made yourselves. You’ll save on printing and postage, plus it’s a great opportunity to show your personalities!