Easy ways to keep catering costs from chewing up your food budget.By: Sharon Naylor
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.
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