54. When selecting butler-passed foods, go for visually pleasing nibbles. Red gazpacho shooters with a green garnish look great lined up on a tray.
55. Start your meal with an amuse- bouche, a tasty pre-dinner bite. Try: an espresso cup of soup, a mini crab cake or a single scallop. Dropping the salad course and replacing it with an amuse-bouche is usually done at no extra cost.
56. Presenting food in eye-catching ways creates a chic impression but doesn’t have to add costs. “Most chefs enjoy creating unique presentations,” says Zachman. “If they have items available, like shot glasses, ceramic teaspoons and so on, they can use these at no further cost to you.”
57. Plan your menu around such inexpensive ethnic cuisines as Mexican, Indian or Greek.
58. Treat your guests to an appetizer duo or dessert trio. Price’s insider secret: If your venue offers four courses, negotiate down to three and use the “credit” to pay for the duo or trio. For a dessert trio, for example, you might serve a mini flourless chocolate cake, a berry tartlet and a shortbread cookie.
59. Adopt a leaf motif. For a summery look, serve appetizers on petite tropical leaves and use a leaf as a charger under the dinner plate, says Clare. “You can even use a long pod or a sturdy leaf as a serving tray. Guests will really enjoy the ingenuity!”
60. Add an unexpected accent to dishes with pretty herbs or edible flowers, such as pansies or squash blossoms, says Clare.
61. Classic cocktails—an old-fashioned, anyone?—are making a comeback. Offer one or two kinds of mixed drinks, and you’ll imbue your reception with a sophisticated, vintage feel that guests will be sure to remember.
62. Have waiters work the room. “Passing specialty drinks can upgrade your look, and most venues will include it in their package,” says Price.
63. The champagne tower is back in style, says Clare. Create one by stacking glasses in a pyramid shape. There may be a small setup cost. Drop single raspberries into glasses for extra effect.
64. Float a slice of lemon, orange, lime or a strawberry or raspberry in each guest’s water glass.
65. Instead of a budget-busting full, open bar, offer your guests a signature cocktail, chosen to complement your wedding colors, suggests Griffith.
66. Decorate your wedding cake with fresh flowers to match your décor (less expensive than sugar paste!). “Most florists will provide this for you at a minimal charge if they’re already providing other elements of your wedding,” says Price.
67. Sweet and simple: Have your caterer decorate dessert plates with a swirl or drizzle of chocolate or fruit-flavored sauce.
68. Make coffee chic by serving each cup of joe with a rock candy swizzle stick, says Price.
69. Ask your baker to cover your confection in a soft gold fondant rather than white. “Fondant airbrushed in gold looks really rich and extravagant,” says Zachman.
70. Display your favorite goodies—cookies, candy, potato chips, whatever you’re known for noshing—in containers or even vases of different heights, shapes and sizes.
71. Take your goodie bar up a notch by providing customized “to go” bags or boxes with a stamp or sticker with your names or logo, says Griffith.
72. An elaborate wedding cake can be very pricey. Instead, offer miniature pies, petit fours or individual servings of crème brûlée.
73. A cupcake tower is another fun and budget-friendly change from a traditional cake. A five-tier tower may cost as little as $60.
74. Or steal an idea from one of Zachman’s brides and have an outrageously rich brownie tower.
75. Choose favors that do double duty as escort card holders. Clare suggests writing each guest’s name on a pot with a keepsake plant tucked inside.