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Hire a caterer to make only the main dishes and save money by making your own salads and buying your own bread.
Hire an advanced student at a local culinary institute to be in charge of catering your reception.
Have close friends and family members do food prep. Consider their help to be their wedding gift to you. Hire students to serve as waiters. Just don't be tempted to have a pot luck wedding reception. Tacky!
At Smart and Final, you can buy inexpensive chafing dishes. They stay warm from a flame under the dish. You can also rent better looking ones from a party store. It may be cheaper to buy plates from a thrift store or 99 cents store than it is to rent them.
The following book, available on Amazon, offers a complete guide to DIY catering: Cater Your Own Wedding, Revised by Michael Flowers and Donna Bankhead.
Wedding receptions and parties in a restaurant generally cost less because you don't pay to rent a hall or party equipment. Many restaurants close down for a wedding or other event so you will have the whole place to yourself. Asian restaurants are generally pretty affordable with great food and decor that matches an Asian theme wedding perfectly. My own reception was at a restaurant and it was perfect.
When your caterer gives you a quote that you can’t afford say, “It’s out of my price range.” Often, the first price they give is what they hope you pay for catering your wedding, not their lowest offer. Let’s say that you can afford their first offer, but you think that it should include more menu items, some heat lamps, non-alcoholic drinks etc. Ask for it.
Do not be shy to keep asking for whatever you can get, but without saying anything negative about them or their catering services.
Many hotel chains offer discounts on catered events if you book rooms in their hotel. Some also offer rewards points that help pay for your honeymoon!
Don’t forget the catering service charge. When you get a catering quote, look at the fine print. There is often an 18% or 20% service charge for the staff. If you have ever worked in a restaurant, you know how hard they work, so it is not an unreasonable fee. But, you have to figure that into your catering costs.
You can rent a very elaborate looking fake wedding cake like the ones you see in bakery windows. Your guests will think, you spend thousands of dollars on your cake. It comes with one real slice of cake for the bride and groom. You can buy a separate Costco cake for the the guests. Servers can bring slices of a Costco cake from the kitchen so nobody has to know! The cakes like this one below cost $100 to rent from www.cakerental.com.
Cupcakes are now popular for weddings. Cupcakes cost about $2 a person, compared to $5 a person for wedding cake and they are a lot more fun. You even incorporate cupcakes at centerpieces by purchasing tiered cupcake stands. (www.mainecakesandcookies.com).
Stock up on candy after holidays, especially Valentines Day. Find interesting candy buffet containers around the house, at the 99 cents, or at thrift stores. You can also save big by ordering wholesale candy online. In addition, there are many people who design candy buffets for weddings and other events. The custom candy buffets below are by (Candy-So-Suave.com).