How to save money on wedding catering: 11 quick tips
by Stephanie

It's a pretty much undisputed fact that weddings aren't cheap — but your catering bill is one of those areas where your budget might just start to feel stretched. Between providing a delicious meal, desserts, drinks and china, many wedding catering estimates can quickly run over $10k if you're not careful! So how do you provide a great dining experience for your guests without spending more than you want? You do your due diligence and research of course! And these 11 handy tips for how to save money on wedding catering can't hurt too.

Read on for simple tips and tricks to help you trim down that catering invoice to a more manageable figure!

1. Look past traditional caterers

Googling wedding caterers in your area might just be a mistake, especially if you're looking for a creative and cost-effective vendor to serve your wedding day food. Look past the traditional catering companies and try local food trucks, farmers market stands, or even your favorite cafe or restaurant. There are many food providers in the area who will create a beautiful meal for you and your guests without the obligatory wedding markup, all it takes to find them is some due diligence!

2. Make the buffet work for you

I know what you're thinking — you'd like your wedding day and the high school lunch line to be as far apart in the similarity scale as possible. But if we're going to be realistic (and your budget is real, so your expectations should be too!), a buffet at your wedding really is one of the most economic ways to serve all your wedding guests a good meal without blowing the bank. And let's face it — your guests aren't going to think twice about a wedding buffet; it's so common that it honestly doesn't even warrant a second thought!

3. Don't serve a traditional meal

Photo by  The Mullers

Photo by The Mullers

Who says your wedding day meal has to have hors d'oeuvres, a salad, entree and dessert? It's your big day, so it can honestly be whatever you want!

One good way to get around the cost of serving a whole meal is to time your wedding at a non-meal part of the day — brunch for a morning wedding, heavy hors d'oeuvres or even a dessert reception are all totally appropriate options if you have a wedding ceremony and reception at a non-dinner time of day.

4. Shop around. And then shop some more.

Caterers come in all shapes and sizes — and this is reflected in the final estimated invoice you'll get after talking over a potential menu with a caterer. Make sure to shop around at at least a few different catering vendors before making a decision on who to go with. You'd be surprised by the range of prices offered!

5. Provide your own linens, silverware and table settings

A quick way to mark up your catering bill is by using the high-quality linens, silverware and china that your caterer provides. Oftentimes it can be much more economical to provide them yourself, or even to rent them from a local event rentals company.

6. Limit your hors d'oeurves served

While having a plethora of delicious hors d'oeuvres for your guests to snack on sounds like a must, in reality you really don't need more than 2-3 different bits and bites to serves your guests before dinner. Especially when you consider that the more appetizers you add, the higher your catering bill!

7. Cut down the number of entrees available

Who says you need to offer three different entrees for your wedding day dinner? Having a beef, chicken and vegetarian option may seem like a no-brainer, but it's actually probably more extravagant than you need, especially if you're on a tight budget. Having one great entree that is done well (think a delicious stuffed chicken breast or tasty main pasta dish) with a couple sides will probably satisfy even the pickiest guest. And if not, don't worry. It's your day — they can live with a chicken entree for one evening.

8. Read the itemized list!

Where there's a wedding, there's extra ways for vendors to make money; and this is especially true for wedding catering! Before signing any contracts or invoices, make sure to go over an itemized list of all costs line by line. You'll be surprised at what you find — markups for cake cutting, passing glasses for a champagne toast or the super-fine china is common. Zero in on those extraneous costs and ask your caterer what you can do to limit the spend there — or, eliminate them altogether.

9. Have less guests

Okay, so this is a no-brainer. But, your catering bill is going to climb quickly for every guest added to the list. Twenty dollars per head doesn't seem like a lot until you see it written down in an invoice! If you can, try to keep your guest list to a minimum to get the most cost-cutting catering bill possible.

10. Find ways to minimize staff needed

One of the quickest ways your catering bill can add up is for the labor your catering company provides to the event. Take a close look at how many servers, chefs, or other staff they have allocated to your event on the invoice, and ask your caterer if there's any way to cut down those costs. It can be as simple as opting for stationary vs. tray-passed appetizers.

11. BYOB, if you can

If your vendors give you the option, try to BYOB. Markups for beer, wine and spirits can be a little on the insane side, so you're better off stocking the bar yourself, even if there is a corkage fee. Places like Costco or BevMo can be a very economical choice for brides and grooms who don't want to spend too much of their catering bill on alcohol.

Well brides and grooms — are you going to use any of these tips to help cut down on your own catering bill? What did you do to make your wedding catering more affordable? Let us know in the comments!