How to Save Big on Your Wedding Menu

Easy ways to keep catering costs from chewing up your food budget.


Cocktail Party

An elegant cocktail party may take place during the daytime or evening hours and is often a semi-formal event.
  • Mix stations with hand-serving so that guests enjoy the upscale service aspect; be sure the food is presented beautifully at stations or at a bar, with attendants presiding over each to keep everything neat,” advises Michelle Rago, wedding planner and Google’s wedding spokesperson.
  • Consider offering a wine and food pairing, like a wine and cheese station,” says Maya Kalman, wedding and event coordinator at Swank Productions in New York City.
  • Calamari and mussels often cost less than shrimp, lobster and crab. 
  • Skip the raw bar—it’s one of the priciest stations for a cocktail party.
  • Guests love inexpensive hummus in flavors like roasted red pepper and pesto, offered with pita triangles.
  • Pasta is one of the least-costly station options, but go with choices like pumpkin and goat cheese, spinach and brie, or lobster and goat cheese for a more impressive twist.
  • Another always-popular yet inexpensive idea is a Thai station with lots of tasty noodles, colorful vegetables and spicy sauces.
  • Instead of pricy seafood sushi, create a guest-pleasing veggie sushi station with hand rolls made of brown rice and filled with avocado, pumpkin or sweet potato.
  • Especially in fall weather, a soup bar is a budget-friendly option that impresses and warms guests with shots of creamy lobster bisque, acorn squash soup, clam chowder, potato and leek, and other seasonal flavors.
  • A hot trend in budget-friendly stations is the risotto bar, offering creamy gourmet risotto with toppings. It’s a new spin on the old-fashioned mashed potato bar.
  • Make your inexpensive cocktail party menu items look more stylish by serving them on unique plates in cool shapes and colors.
In addition to the bar tips from the sit-down dinner section, our experts suggest:
  • Have a vodka-tasting bar. Staff it with a vodka expert as a special offering that impresses guests. You’ll still save on the cost of a full, unlimited bar,” says Kalman.
  • Add fruity-fresh sangrias to your drinks menu for a trendy drink that stretches how much you get from each bottle of wine.
  • Plan a champagne cocktail bar. Guests can select a half-champagne, half-fruit juice or nectar drink that triples each bottle’s serving capacity.


Cut Your Cake and Desserts Cost

  • “I always love to create a dessert station of hot, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies,” says Rago.
  • Try a late-night passed dessert tray, filled with bite-sized treats, like mini brownies and cupcakes.
  • “Have a server hand out little servings of really good ice cream,” Rago suggests.
  • A platter of fruits like mango and pineapple isn’t expensive and saves guests lots of calories.



More Ways to Save:

► Sit-Down Dinners
► Brunch