When you start your wedding planning journey, you may already have an idea of what kind of food you want to have at your reception. You want your reception to be a great party, and with a great party it just seems right to have great food. The standard idea of a wedding dinner is one that involves a multi-course catered meal. And this may very well be the option for you. But it is important to note that full-service catering is not your only option! From restaurants, to food trucks, to potluck dinners, there are tons of ways to treat your guests to some delicious eats. Even with all of these options, choosing a wedding food service option doesn’t have to be stressful! Here’s our guide to figuring out what’s right for you.
Guests and Budget
Before you make any major decisions about the food you’ll be serving at your wedding, have your guest list worked out. You’ll also want to have an estimate of your budget and have an idea of what you are able to pay for food and drink. This way you can make the calculations and decide what food to serve based on how much you can afford to spend per guest. You may quickly find that food and drink will be one of your biggest wedding expenses. If making a full-service caterer work on your budget is going to be tough, don’t sweat it! There are all kinds of ways to feed your guests, and you can choose one that fits the vibe of your wedding as well as your budget.
Full-service catering involves the caterers coming to your venue to prepare and serve the meal. They usually also handle all of the logistics around the meal, including setting up chairs and tables and cleaning the kitchen.
The main issue with this option is the expense. The cost per person can make it particularly expensive for larger weddings. Going with a caterer doesn’t mean you can’t save money or have something unique, though. Caterers often offer different types of food service. A buffet or family-style meal may cost you less than a traditional plated dinner, for instance. You can also seek out caterers who are willing to prepare less traditional fare.
Another great options for a seated meal is booking a restaurant. Be aware, though, that the price of a wedding dinner at a “nice” restaurant can rival the cost of catering. The great thing is, you can have your wedding at any restaurant that will allow it. If you have your heart set on a particular restaurant, there may still be ways you can save. Instead of booking the entire restaurant, you can also ask them about a partial buyout. Also ask if the price for booking would be cheaper on certain days.
If you’ve decided this option is for you, there are a few other things you should ask about. First of all, you’ll want to make sure they have enough space for your guests. Inquire about serving options as well. They may be able to offer a buffet or family style service. A limited menu is also a great option than can cost less.
Other important questions to ask:
- If you bring your own wedding cake, will there be a slicing fee?
- Will you be able to have your own DJ to play your own music?
- Is there space for dancing?
And last, but certainly not least, you should ask about billing. The usual ways that restaurants charge are a flat fee, per head, by item, or with a food and beverage minimum.
Having food trucks provide your wedding food service is an option that is growing in popularity. Partially because it is a cool idea, and partially because it’s very cheap. One other benefit is that you may not need to worry about plates and silverware (though you’ll still have to provide tables). Though hiring food trucks is relatively cheap and easy, it’s not free of logistical issues (such as where they will park, collecting garbage, etc.). Be prepared to do the requisite planning to make it go off without a hitch.
Yes, this is an option. And under the right conditions it can work marvelously. It mainly depends on what you (and your guests) are comfortable with and willing to commit to. If your family and friends already have a strong tradition of hosting potluck dinners, this option may be for you!
Doing it yourself can be the cheapest option, but can cost more than you may expect. It is also guaranteed to take way more time and effort. That said, if you’re a seasoned cook, you can pull it off if you do lots of planning ahead of time and have plenty of help.
Wedding food service options
What kind of meal you offer your guests can affect the price. If you’re working with a full-service caterer, which type of meal is cheaper may depend on the details and on the particular caterer. You should discuss with caterers which option would be most cost-effective for you and spend time doing your own comparisons and calculating costs. There are a variety of options, and they can all work out stupendously in the right context. Just research options that sound appealing and take time to think about what really fits in with your wedding (and your budget).
This is the most formal option, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Seated meals are usually multi-course, and the cost can vary a lot depending on the type of food and number of courses. Overall, the expense is usually higher than other food service options because it requires a lot more servers to wait all of the tables.
A family-style meal, where guests serve themselves from platters at their table, can be a very efficient option. It can also lend a more social atmosphere to the meal. This option can still be relatively costly however, since it may require paying for more platters and serving pieces and generally requires more food.
A buffet is often the most affordable and casual option for a full-service meal. It requires far fewer servers, and variety of choices can make it easier to accommodate guests with allergies or dietary restrictions. It can require more space, however. If you’re having a large wedding, the cost of food may still be pretty high, as you’ll likely need more than one buffet to serve everyone. Food stations where different types of cuisine options are offered can also be a fun option if you have space for it.
Brunch or lunch
If you’re planning on having your wedding earlier in the day, a wedding brunch or lunch can potentially cost less than a dinner. It can be a great option, but don’t go changing the time of your wedding just to save money on catering. There are ways to save that don’t require you to get up before dawn!
A cocktail-style reception with heavy appetizers is a way to offer your guests enough food to tide them over while still saving money. It can also be a really fun option, and is particularly great for a small venue. Of course, guests will probably drink more, and you should budget more for alcohol.
A “cake and punch” reception
If serving a meal or having a cocktail hour just won’t work with your budget, you can always have a cake and punch reception. And “cake and punch” doesn’t have to mean just cake and punch. You can have whatever drinks and snacks you like. The most important thing is to make sure your guests know what to expect! Your aunt and uncle from out of town may not get into the spirit of the event if they show up to your wedding with an empty stomach and are only offered cake.
Making it fun for you and your guests
Your wedding reception is meant to be an awesome party. Making sure it will be fun for your guests should definitely be on your mind when doing the planning. Your guests will probably have more fun if they aren’t hungry, but there are lots of ways to make sure they’re well-fed. Whatever you choose, your guests will enjoy it all the more because of the great atmosphere of joy and celebration at your get-together.
Get Started – Make pages public or private
You can use your Joy wedding site to communicate everything your guests need to know about your wedding meal. But maybe you don’t want the whole world to knowing the drink limit at your cocktail hour. Good news! You can easily choose which information to make private while keeping other info public.