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How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget: The Food

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How to Plan a Wedding on a Small Budget: The Food

Wondering why it’s so hard for a venue to feed 500 people for .35 cents per head?

I hope not. For the record, that’s $175 for the entire meal.

During a wedding you are hosting a party. A deep, possibly spiritual, important one, but a party no less. You have to pay for your guests’ food and drink, at a minimum. Some people go further by supplying entertainment or favors or a variety of other niceties. But when it comes to budget weddings, it’s usually down to the essentials.

What Even is the Average Cost of Catering for a Wedding?

Weddingwire estimates the average cost is about $40 per head, leaving average wedding catering bills around $4,000. There are other options, including buffets, instead of plated meals. Buffets are generally less expensive and still make sure your guests eat well. Buffets average around $27 per head instead of $40.

You have to keep in mind that average is an important word in this information. States and areas were catering costs more are going to reflect that in the catering bill. You won’t get the same bang for your buck if you have a wedding in Washington DC vs. Sumter County, Alabama. A few calls to local caterers can help you find out what a good average is, as well as a low and high.

Can I Go Without a Caterer?

I’m going to assume this question is not suggesting you let your guests go hungry during your reception. Deciding to make someone a caterer for a day could be what you’re referring to. However, it’s not as simple as telling the family cook to draw up a menu. Here’s why.

  • Some venues won’t allow unlicensed caterers to serve food due to health code regulations: Should something go wrong and guests end up sick, no one wants to get stuck with the liability. Least of all, your venue.
  • Your loved one will have to work on your wedding day: While it’s sweet that a helpful friend or family member wants to give you a hand on your big day, keep in mind, you won’t be able to enjoy this person’s presence at your wedding if they’re cooking and providing for all of your guests.
  • Are they up for the job?: Be realistic about what your loved one can do. If they have to feed 50 people all by themselves, you might want to reconsider. It might be unrealistic to expect one person to cook for that many people. That said, it could be tempting to add helpers, but then you have two (or more) people who won’t be able to enjoy your wedding day.
  • Is this a risk you’re willing to take and willing to let your guests take?: While there are always ways to cut costs, running the risk of giving people food poisoning should never be one of them. Even if your loved one is a wonderful home chef, they probably don’t know, let alone follow, state health code regulations. When cooking an everyday meal, it’s hardly important. But when preparing food to give to guests at an event, it takes on a larger meaning.
  • It might not be legal: If you give your loved one money for the food they produce for your wedding and they don’t have proper permits and licensure, it is not legal. Sound silly that you can’t pay your aunt to cook a wedding meal for you and your family and friends? It’s not. It’s the law.

So I Have to get a Caterer… Now What?

Now the fun begins.

Finding a caterer doesn’t have to be a painful process. Once you get your guest list under control and you know how many people you are expecting, you can start looking for a caterer who serves the type of food you want at your wedding.

Are you going to do plated, a more formal sit-down type of meal? Are you going to do buffet, a popular and casual option? You could also do stations. This helps break up the meal and gives you a chance to do a more themed menu around each station. You could also do heavy appetizers. This is helpful if you wedding is not at a traditional meal time.

What best fits the theme of your wedding?

How Do I Have a Budget Wedding when it comes to Catering?

First of all, breathe deep, you don’t have to let your guests starve in the name of budgeting. 

Next, the information is out there. Go get it! Google for caterers who can fit your budget, ask about them in Facebook wedding groups, compare them on sites such as TheKnot.com and WeddingWire. Find someone who can deliver the food you want for a price you’re comfortable with and don’t get discouraged if you run into a few roadblocks.

Budget weddings are equal parts sweat, grit, and problem solving. Go find the most awesome food for your guests.

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