25 Ways To Cut Your Wedding Catering Costs

25 Ways To Cut Your Wedding Catering Costs
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By Sharon Naylor for Bridal Guide

Take a bite out of your food and drink budget with these clever ideas.

1. Hand pass pricier appetizers, like shrimp, scallops or other seafood items, rather than setting them out for guests to serve themselves. Caterers say guests consume 40 percent fewer pieces this way.

Photo Credit: Heather Rice Photography

2. “Put out big bowls of colorful, lush salads with grilled vegetables, which allows you to show generosity without spending a whole lot,” says Shai Tertner, award-winning chef at Shiraz in New York City. Tertner suggests adding punch to your presentation by using colorful bowls, giant woks and other unusual platters.

Photo Credit: Mark Brooke Photography via Eco Caters

3. Comparison shop for seafood. For example, calamari and mussels are often half the price of shrimp cocktail and scampi. Ask your wedding caterer for a list of less costly seafood appetizers.

Photo Credit: Jennifer Crow

4. Skip the big cubed-cheese platter. It’s often the least popular item at a wedding cocktail hour, because most guests have had cheese platters at office parties and family get-togethers. No one will miss it.

Photo Credit: Amanda Wright

5. Just because you’re on a budget doesn’t mean your crudités have to show it. Instead of carrot sticks and cucumber rounds, choose artichoke hearts, broccoli flowers, radishes cut in heart shapes or other creative choices, with flavored dipping sauces.

Photo Credit: Ana & Jerome Photography

6. Use unique plates. Leila Miller, award-winning event planner at Feastivities Catering in Philadelphia, says, “People eat with their eyes first, so focus on the presentation. Serving trays that are a bit different, like small tapas-style plates, can add a twist to the fare without adding to your bill.”

Photo Credit: Jamilah Photography / Event Design and Coordination: Aviva Samuels of Kiss the Planner

7. Serve macaroni and cheese in martini glasses, mini grilled cheese bites made in sandwich presses and tiny crab cakes with tartar sauce. These perennial crowd-pleasers come at about one-third the cost of traditional cocktail party fare.

Photo Credit: Hendrick Moy Photography

8. Offer theme stations, such as a fajita station or Thai station. “The Asian station, where it’s more about the display, is very popular now,” Tertner says. “We set out large woks or serve food in take-out containers that coordinate with the wedding’s theme or colors. We also create pyramids of basmati and jasmine rice, lots of egg noodles and a range of condiments. These ingredients are not costly, but it looks as though you’ve invested a lot.”

Photo Credit: Jerry Yoon Photographers / Event Design and Coordination: Mango Muse Events

9. Skip the raw bar — though trendy, it's one of the most exorbitant kinds of stations. Instead, Miller suggests a hand-passed hors d’oeuvre, like tequila-cured salmon served in martini glasses.

Photo Credit: Sherman Chu, courtesy of Sasha Souza Events

10. You don’t need to have a carving station. Prime rib, ham and pork loin are too heavy and filling, not to mention quite pricey, for the cocktail hour, says Bill Chriswell, catering director at The Park Savoy in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Photo Credit: Amanda Marie Studio

11. In cool weather, serve mini cups of clam chowder (again, you’re serving seafood at a minimal price), lobster bisque, acorn squash, or any other flavors that are easy on the wallet.

Photo Credit: Aura Marzouk

12. No one will need a five-course feast after cocktails — three will do just fine. If you offered salads at the cocktail party, eliminate the salad at dinner (double savings!).

Photo Credit: Jayd Jackson Photography

13. Keep the salad and combine it with an appetizer. A salad with two grilled shrimp is a budget success because the chef can buy less for both courses.

Photo Credit: Josh Lynn Photography

14. Use a great sauce on less expensive chicken or pasta dishes. Tertner suggests doing something unusual — an espresso sauce over chicken, for example.

Photo Credit: Eric Vest Photography

15. Miller says, “Forget a top-dollar filet! Less costly braised boneless short ribs are a wonderful choice, served plated or at food stations.” Ask your wedding caterer to show you price options for different cuts of lamb and pork as well as beef.

Photo Credit: Will Pursell Photography

16. Make pasta more interesting by choosing pumpkin ravioli, or spinach and goat-cheese manicotti.

Photo Credit: Beechwood Inn

17. Instead of offering a choice of three entrées, design a platter with beef medallions and grilled shrimp or crab cakes. You’ll use far less food than if you had to plan for a large quantity of all three entrées to have on hand should guests change their minds.

Photo Credit: Erin Kranz Photography

18. For savings of up to 20 percent, consider family-style dishes. Try platters of sliced meat or pasta that guests can pass around.

Photo Credit: Dominique Bader on Snippet and Ink via Lover.ly

19. If you plan to have children at the reception, choose a wedding caterer who offers free or half-priced meals for children up to age 16.

Photo Credit: Misty Miotto Photography

20. If you design a tasting menu of seven or eight small courses instead of four big ones, you’ll save about 15 percent.

Photo Credit: Evin Photography

21. Go bite-size with desserts, like tiny chocolate-covered cheesecakes. By controlling portions, you’re saving one-third the price of a full dessert buffet.

Photo Credit: Erin Johnson Photography

22. Instead of a full bar, serve beer and wine with one or two signature cocktails that you’ve personalized with a clever name and your wedding colors.

Photo Credit: Renee Sprink Photography

23. Dress up your signature drinks with fun garnishes, suggests Miller. Ask the bar manager to provide curled lemon and lime peels, orange slices or mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks to coordinate with your wedding colors. These garnishes are often free, and because they add to the festive look, everyone thinks you’ve spent more than you really have.

Photo courtesy of Ladurée

24. If you can’t negotiate the corkage fee out of your contract entirely, at least discuss lowering it. At up to $2 per bottle, it’s worth a try. If you’re stocking your own bar, research less expensive wine vintages on winespectator.com.

Photo Credit: Nick Brown Photography

25. Skip the champagne for your wedding toast. Guests can toast you with the drinks they have in hand. Or look into serving easily available sparkling wines from France (cremant), Spain (cava) or Italy (prosecco) instead.

Photo Credit: Mike Peyzner and Natasha Valik of Choco Studio Photography

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