Do Lunch or Brunch
"It's unexpected, the food costs less, and guests don't drink as much midday," says Melina Glavas, director of catering and events at The Little Nell in Aspen, Colorado.
Skip the Buffet
"Plated or family-style dinners can be more affordable," says Glavas. "Buffets and stations create waste, and you need to pay people to man them." Try this hybrid: Have waiters serve a first course, like soup or salad; then, pass around family-style entrees and sides at each table. The shared platters double as decor and create a communal atmosphere.
Go for Quality Stemware
Remember these words: Riedel Bordeaux glasses. "Your caterer can rent them for about $1.50 a stem," says Feeney. "They make everything taste better, which frees you up to spend less on wine. Plus, they feel fancy."
Fake the Cake
Have your baker decorate a Styrofoam cake form with one real tier that you can cut into, then serve your guests sheet cake -- they'll be none the wiser, says Wendy Kromer, owner of Wendy Kromer Confections in Sandusky, Ohio, and a Martha Stewart Weddings contributing editor.
Do the Math
Considering serving wine and beer instead of an open bar? Calculate the difference first. "A bottle of wine contains five drinks, whereas a liter of vodka has 25," says Richard Nix Jr. of Butler's Pantry in Saint Louis.