Wedding Reception Ideas for Any Budget

How much can you afford to spend? Here, experts come up with six great reception ideas for three different budgets.
By: 
Kristen Finello

The Budget: $5,000

Relaxed Outdoor Romance (Guests: 50)

wedding reception ideas for any budget“A picturesque meadow at sunset is a beautiful spot for a late summer/early autumn reception,” says Scott Corridan of Corridan and Company Design in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. “Seat your guests at vintage picnic tables, dressed with festive flea market table runners for a cozy look. (You can rent picnic tables at a party store; you’ll need about eight for 50 guests.) Opt for linens in rich harvest colors such as avocado, burnt orange, golden yellow or chocolate. Finish each table with a grouping of glass canning jars filled with petite column candles or loose bundles of wildflowers.”

Great Grilling: “Serve delicious barbecue fare cooked over an open pit. Menu items to include: steak, ribs, chicken, salads and farm-fresh vegetables like corn on the cob, green beans, split peas and artichokes.”

Down-Home Drinks: “Serve wine in old-fashioned decanters. Also offer spiked lemonade, iced tea and water. Use big galvanized tubs to hold ice and bottles of beer.”

Step Lively: “Book a bluegrass group to provide lively music. Gather your guests for a home movie or photo collage of yourselves presented against a crisp white bed sheet.”

Decadent Desserts: “Have an enormous cheesecake topped with seasonal fruits. Or serve a big ice cream cake.”

Budget Breakdown
Food/drinks:$2,000
Cakes:$600
Tables/flowers:$640
Linens:$320
Bluegrass group:$850
Bouquet:$50
AV equipment for movie:$50
Total: $4,510


Swanky Cocktails & Comfort Food (Guests: 60)

“You can transform a restaurant, community hall or the party room of a nightclub into a fantastic setting for a glamorous cocktail soiree,” says Samantha Goldberg of Gold Events in Chester, New Jersey. “To achieve a light, airy feeling, work with a palette of sky blue, raspberry and ivory. Give tables a standout look with arrangements of blue hydrangeas, burgundy-hued flowers and white orchids. Place the blooms in square vases with submersible floral lights for a warm, glowing look (flowersandsupplies.com). Complete the table with a collection of six votive candles in varying sizes.”

Best Bites: “For the biggest impact, think small. Serve an assortment of comfort finger foods like mini Angus burgers, chicken satay, mini grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup in shot glasses, petite macaroni and cheese casseroles, tiny sandwiches from the carving station and classic pigs in a blanket. Have the wait staff pass these treats until it’s time for dessert.”

Signature Sips: “In addition to an open bar, stocked with alcohol and mixers purchased by you, choose a few signature cocktails. Consider the season when making your choices. An apple-cinnamon martini is ideal for autumn, for example, while a raspberry champagne cocktail is tasty any time of year.”

Dance Party: “For $500, you can book a DJ for five hours. Have him play tunes that get everyone dancing!”

Cake Cutting: “Skip the traditional cake in favor of individual mini cakes in your wedding colors. You can also have the wait staff circulate with trays of penny candy and dainty desserts like tiny tarts or bite-size brownies or blondies.”

Budget Breakdown
Food/drinks:$3,000
Cakes:$100
Flowers:$300
Linens:$200
DJ:$500
Favor/donation:$300
Venue rental fee:$600
Total: $5,000