Sunday, June 27, 2010

wedding reception food and drink ideas (part 5)

by now you have read about having a right heart in wedding planning, tips on getting the dress and flowers for the right price, rethinking the ring, and ideas for a cake and hair/make-up.  today, i am going to focus on what is usually one of the main aspects of a wedding: the food and drinks.

there is no way around it, food and drinks will take a good chunk of your wedding budget.  some will suggest cutting down your guest list to save money on this.  however, i believe that a reception should be more about people than stuff.  alex and i placed a higher value on a variety of people celebrating the day with us, rather than making sure a few people are well wined and dined.

another idea would to have a reception without any food [this is rare, but the field is pretty open when you are rethinking traditions and trends].  however, because hospitality was a main focus for us, we definitely wanted to have food so that our guests to feel valued and loved.  furthermore, since food has been a part of celebrating for millenia, i believe that it is a healthy and God-honoring tradition [jesus even attended at least one wedding feast!]

you may be stunned to know that we spent around $400 for our food and drinks [including alcohol] for 200 people.  and it wasn't just any old thing we could scrounge up... i thought that the food at our wedding was absolutely delicious!  and i wasn't the only one who thought this, because we got a lot of compliments on this aspect of our reception.

how did we do it? we had friends [very good, wonderful, amazing friends!] make all of the food.  our menu was a nacho bar, with tons of different toppings for people to choose from.  our friends made guacamole, grilled chicken strips and pico de gallo from scratch.  they also put out some  other toppings we bought at the store: sour cream, salsa, shredded cheese, black olives, diced tomatoes.  one of my regrets from the wedding was being so busy talking to people that i never got to finish my plate of nachos.  they were amazing! :)

and for $400, we were able to serve a variety of drinks (pop, coffee, lemonade, water), even including some alcohol [sangria]. it made me happy to find a frugal option for serving wine at the wedding, since red wine is one of my favorite things [not to mention that jesus apparently also thought that it was an important part of a wedding :) ].

how did we do it for so cheap?  a big thing was that our friends made and served all the food.  that cut out the cost of a caterer.  furthermore, they made huge homemade batches of guacamole, pico de gallo and grilled chicken strips, which saved a lot of money over buying each of these things pre-made.  skipping serving alcohol is definitely something that can save a big chunk of money, but we were able to do it frugally since we made it into sangria, which is about half juice and half wine.  it also helped that we found wine for only about $1.50 a bottle.  also, i shopped around:  i went to about 4 stores several weeks before the wedding and priced everything.  needless to say, i am a "j" on the meyers-briggs test :D

by the way, on our invitations we wrote that we would be having a "reception with hors d' oeuvres" so that people wouldn't come super hungry, because we were "just" serving nachos and not a full meal.  however, i almost regret doing this because we had so many leftovers!  if i had to do it  again, we would have made a little more chicken and counted it as a full meal.  i think we still would have come out easily under $500.

i loved that this worked out!  [if you cant tell, i was very enthusiastic about our nacho bar :D ] for some other ways to re-think this aspect of a wedding, here are more frugal food ideas:

i LOVE the idea of having a potluck wedding.  if we didn't do the nacho bar, this would have been my next choice for the food.  for a potluck, simply ask everyone to bring a dish to share (or you can ask a big chunk of people, say your whole family or something, to contribute a food item).  you may want to come up with a theme, as this will help people decide what would be appropriate to bring (for example, a dessert buffet).  remember to plan for logistics (ie, power strips if many people will bring crock pots, refrigerator space, etc.)

two friends of ours who got married last year just ordered a ton of pizzas and put out two liters of pop.  this not only made for a fun/casual environment at the wedding, but perfectly fit with their personalities. 

relatedly, we had some other friends get chinese take-out food in large pans for their wedding... complete with tons of fortune cookies! 

pre-made food from a bulk food store.
another idea that would save tons of money is to get pre-made food from a store that sells in bulk, such as costco.  for a full meal, you could buy tons of pans of frozen lasagna, and some garlic bread, and have friends heat it in the oven and serve it (it would be helpful to have access to industrial sized ovens for this!)

even easier would be to serve hors d' oeuvres or desserts in this fashion.  you would just need the help of a few friends to set it all out and make sure it stayed stocked up.

how did you save money on food at your wedding?  what other frugal food and drink ideas do you have?

go on to part 6 here...

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