It's no secret that the biggest budget item for nearly every wedding is the catering bill. Costing couples anywhere from $50 to $350 per guest, planning a wedding menu that's both delicious and affordable can feel like a big challenge. Here, we take you through some easy menu changes that don't compromise quality. Plus, we're giving you a few pieces of insider wedding planning advice so you can cut back in other ways, too.
Make easy swaps.
There are endless affordable swaps you can make to your wedding menu without feeling like you're forfeiting quality. For example, seafood like lobster and shrimp tend to be pricey, while certain cuts of fish can be a more affordable option. Pastas, lasagna, and grain salads are affordable first courses that provide enough sustenance to be paired with just one main. Chicken and lamb tend to be more affordable than premium steak cuts, while vegetarian options are always the most affordable.
Decrease the number of courses.
Many couples tend to over order and select three or four courses for their wedding dinner. Anyone who's partied with a full belly knows it's not entirely necessary to give guests so much food. Two courses can be just as satiating and give you more time on the dance floor.
Eliminate the extras.
Things like tray-passed oysters, charcuterie spreads, caviar, foie gras, cheese boards, and extravagant late-night snacks should be first on the chopping block. All these treats are lovely, but they add up fast. You can probably get away with three or four passed hors d'oeuvres during cocktail hour if you're hosting a sit-down dinner, and opting for mostly vegetarian options during this time is an easy way to whittle a little of the cost down. Comfort foods like quesadillas, pizzas, and grilled cheese make great late-night snacks that are more affordable than their crab croquette or goat slider counterparts. Plus, guests love a good comfort food surprise at the end of a formal event.
Cut back on desserts.
While it's great to have at least one dessert at a wedding—typically, the cake—many couples are getting carried away with the trend of a dessert buffet. A lot of these desserts go to waste at the end of the night, as most guests prefer to reach for something salty to snack on when they plan on drinking and dancing all night. Nix the dessert buffet and it won't be missed.
Realize that buffets aren't necessarily cheaper.
There's a common misconception that buffet (or station) style weddings are cheaper than sit-down events. If you think about it, though, there's a lot more food prep and waste that goes into providing enough of each dish for guests to go back for multiple serves. It's often more affordable to be precise with the quantity of servings the kitchen preps by opting to have a sit-down meal. Family style service also runs into a similar issue, so best to steer away from that, too.
Know when to seek advice.
When in doubt, ask your caterer for help. They're professionals who slice and dice food budgets all day long and they're usually happy to help you reach your goal numbers.