Reader Question: Okay, so maybe you've already answered this but I haven't been reading your blog for long or been planning my wedding for long either, but I've begun to start planning our wedding (even if it is far away) and the thing that I'm worried about getting into the budget is the food. What is the best way to do food for cheap and still have it taste good? Thank you so much for your help!
Ah, yes. Catering a big party for your nearest and dearest. I remember the stress.
Here's what I don't understand. How is it that Matt and I can go to a restaurant and get two delicious meals for under $30 total and yet $15/person is practically unheard of in the catering world? Yes, I realize that catering usually involves set-up and clean-up and service, but it's food in bulk! It's a few items mass produced! Ugh.
Here are a few ideas for saving money:
- Plan to avoid major meal times: This suggestion is the standard recommendation for brides on a budget. There are a couple variations on this theme, including having a brunch wedding or doing something like champagne and cake instead of a full-blown meal.
- Host a potluck and let your community cater the the meal: I've talked ad nauseum about this option, so I won't say much more. I just couldn't bear to leave it off the list, since it really is a great way to save money (and foster community and connection).
- Self-cater: Matt and I went this route because we wanted to save money and we wanted to involve our community in the creation of our wedding. Although this route worked nearly perfectly for us, it's not something to be taken lightly. It takes a lot of planning and can create a ton of stress.
- Partially self-cater: If a handful of your nearest and dearest like to cook, why not tap into their culinary skills for all the sides and hire a catering company to provide the main dishes?
- Go for novelty: Renting a portable wood burning oven + pizza crew or hiring an entire taco truck might be cheaper options (and will certainly go a long way towards making the day memorable).
- Stray far, far away from the beaten path: It's hard to find a good deal on the well-worn wedding path (thanks, Wedding Industrial Complex). However, there are deals waiting to be scored in the dives and family-run businesses of our towns. Think of your favorite restaurant (that doesn't have a pre-printed catering menu) and talk to them about the possibilities. Or what about finding an up-and-coming caterer who is looking to build his/her portfolio? Or what about friends of friends of friend? You can always use craigslist or younger siblings' friends to hire some additional serving/cleaning/setting up help.
The moral of the story is: be creative. So often, we get stuck inside the pre-planned wedding formula. We're pressured into conforming to everyone else's vision of what a wedding is. The truth is, the Once-in-a-Lifetime perfect white wedding is really just a societal construct that you can choose to follow, modify, or throw out entirely. Your wedding is your chance for you and your partner to share your lives with your nearest and dearest. If you want to have a Saturday afternoon ceremony, evening reception, white dress, garter, bouquet toss, cake cutting, first dance [insert countless other "essential" details], that's your choice. If you don't want any of it (or want some of it), the choice is also yours.
I'm eager to hear your ideas about cheap wedding catering options that still taste scrumptious! Please share!