Alternative Reception Meals that Will Save You Money

Food can take a huge chunk out of your wedding budget. It's often difficult to figure out what's acceptable as it is an area in which expert's (etiquette or otherwise) opinions vary widely. It can also be difficult to choose what type of food to serve at your reception, especially when you consider all of the different varieties of food available to you.

 If you are having your reception at a hall that offers food service as part of the package, choose your menu wisely. While you may dream of a steak and lobster meal at your reception, this will be quite expensive and is not really viable when throwing a wedding on a budget.

 There’s nothing wrong with an elegantly prepared chicken breast for your wedding meal.

 Perhaps offer a vegetarian alternative like fish as well.  Beef tends to be more expensive than poultry or fish, so be completely committed if you must have steak, you'll pay for it!

 Consider having hors-d'oeuvres if your reception hall will be catering.

 

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 Hors-D'oeuvres

Almost always, these will be cheaper than a sit down meal, and guests can enjoy them just as much.

Here are some general tips for your wedding dinner catered by your reception hall:

It's a myth that a buffet-style meal is less expensive than a served one. In reality, buffets require more food and more labor so their cost is higher.

If you are working with a smaller group (say 40 to 70), piggyback onto another group's menu. This allows the hotel to buy in bulk and lowers your price.

Consider other main entrees besides beef and chicken. Chefs can do a lot of things with pastas and the price is usually very reasonable.

 For halls that will allow you to bring in your own caterer, the key here is to shop around. Check with a local family restaurant and see if they have bulk meals they will offer for your reception.  Almost all will or at the very least, will try for the money.

 If serving your guests a full meal isn't within your budget, don't worry there are other options for you to choose from.

 All of these options are less expensive than a full meal (whether buffet style or sit-down) if you don't mind doing a good bit of the work yourself and you aren't holding the reception during meal-time.

Breakfast is often served around 8:00 a.m., Lunch at 12:00 p.m. and Dinner at 6:00 p.m. and these are the times in which a full meal is generally expected by guests. These times also vary depending on your

area. You should hold your reception two hours before or after these times if you don't plan on serving a full meal.

 

Pancake Breakfast

 

Let's talk about some of the types of reception in which a full

meal isn't served.

 

- Cake and Punch Reception

 The most common time of day that this type of reception is held is early

afternoon (approximately 2:00 p.m.), but it can also occur in mid-morning (approximately 10:00 a.m.). A cake and punch reception generally consists of the wedding cake and refreshments.

 Refreshments can include: punch, coffee, tea, champagne, etc. You can also supplement the wedding cake with other types of cake in different flavors and textures.

 

- Dessert Reception

 

This type of reception is one in which desserts are served.

 

Desserts can include pies, cakes, doughnuts, cookies, pastries, brownies, etc. Another option, which can be combined with a normal dessert reception if you'd like, is a sundae bar.

 

In this type of reception, you serve bowls of ice cream (usually vanilla) and let your guests choose their topping. Toppings can include chocolate or fudge sauce, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, crushed walnuts, whipped cream, fruit toppings, etc. Basically, the same things

you'd find in any sundae bar.

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Summer is the most common time of year for a sundae bar. A normal dessert bar can be used year round though as there are desserts specific to season. For example, pumpkin pie and apple pie would be a great choice for fall weddings. This type of reception is also an example of an inexpensive choice if you purchase the items on your own.

 

- Hors-d'oeuvres Reception.

 

There are actually two distinct types of hors-d'oeuvres receptions. The first is light hors-d'oeuvres and consists of a lighter fare than the second  is a heavy hors-d'oeuvres menu.

 

A light menu often includes items such as: crackers, vegetable platters with dip, fruit, cheese, etc. A heavy hors-d'oeuvres often includes these as well as items such as: meat and cheese trays, chicken fingers, egg rolls, etc.

 

These types of receptions are also (casually) called "finger-food receptions" in some areas. In order to save money on this type of reception, check your local grocery store deli for prices on "meat and cheese" trays as well as "vegetable" and "cracker and cheese" platters. Their prices are often very reasonable. Another option is to buy the ingredients yourself.

  

Tea Reception

This type of reception is a relic from a bygone era. Originally, tea receptions were meant to reflect the mood of an "afternoon tea." An authentic tea reception will include items such as petit fours, watercress sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches, scones (biscuits), etc.

Be sure to cut the crusts off the sandwiches and cut in a diagonal cross (X shape) for an authentic look. If you're looking for a more modern approach you can also serve coffee with the tea.

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 You can also serve: bite-size pieces of cake (such as carrot), any manner of sandwich which is easy to cut, cinnamon rolls, etc. This type of reception is relatively inexpensive depending on the items you

decide to serve and can be relaxing for both the couple and the guests.

 

- Salad Reception.

 

This choice is becoming more popular and is a viable choice for vegetarians who don't want to serve a full meal. Items served can include: green (lettuce, spinach) salads, fruit salads, pasta salads,potato salads, coleslaw, etc.

 

A veggie bar (to supplement green salads) can be added as well and may have such choices as: chopped onions, carrots (baby or sliced),celery, broccoli, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, etc.

 

A salad dressing bar can be chosen as well and may include such choices as: vinegar and oil, Italian dressing, garlic and olive oil,balsamic vinegar and lemon juice, etc.

 

Other dressing choices could include: bleu cheese, ranch, French, etc.This type of reception is also inexpensive if you prepare most of the

items yourself.

 

Here are some other quick ideas for the food at the reception:

 

- Try a pasta reception in which your guests are served plain pasta with their choice of toppings.

 

 Pasta Plate             

 

 - Have a Mexican buffet.

 

- Provide simple lunch meats and cheeses with bread for sandwiches.

 

- If you’re a member of a church and will be having your reception there, check with the ladies auxiliary and see if they'll do the food in exchange for a donation to their organization.

 

- Try a local service organization:  the Kiwanis, the Jaycees

 

- Call a community college and see if their culinary students would cook for you if you provide the food.

 

Now there is some debate on whether it's a good idea to add a line on your invitation stating what type of reception is occurring.

 

Some examples of this are:

 

- Cake and Punch Reception to Follow Ceremony

- Light hors-d'oeuvres reception to follow at two o'clock

- Dessert Reception Following Ceremony.

 

My personal opinion is that it makes it easier, not only for the you, but for the guests as well. It's a clear way to inform guests that a full meal should not be expected and give them the option of eating a meal (if needed) prior to or after the wedding.

 

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