How to Save Money on Wedding Catering

Depending on the duration of your wedding, your guests are served food and drinks at different intervals throughout the day. This can include arrival drinks and canapés, a three or four-course breakfast and a glorious buffet in the evening. But, how much does it cost to keep your guests wined and dined?

Wedding catering is one of the biggest expenses in most wedding budgets, second only to the cost of a wedding venue. According to our ultimate guide to budgeting a wedding, the average cost of wedding catering for 80 – 90 guests is £5,000. 

We understand that this is a huge expense, and one obvious way to save money on wedding food is by cutting the number of guests. However, we also understand that this might not always be possible. If this is the case for you, fear not – there are still plenty of ways you can save money and still make sure your guests have full and happy bellies.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the many ways you can save money on wedding catering but still keep your guests full and happy.

What type of food is the cheapest at a wedding?

Photo © Touchays Wedding Caterer | See their Bridebook profile

Food that is easy to cook in bulk and requires little prep time will be among the cheapest food you can serve at your wedding. This includes the food served at both your wedding breakfast and the evening buffet.

At the reception, simple food cooked well will keep the costs down. An example of an affordable three-course wedding breakfast meal could include:

Starter – Soup

Main course – Chicken, roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables

Dessert – New York cheesecake

In the evening, the same applies to the buffet. Simple, tasty food that your guests can eat with their hands will make sure everyone is more than satisfied. Examples of cheap and easy wedding buffet food include pizza, pasta, salad, chips, chicken, wraps, tacos and more. You could even have a theme for your evening buffet, such as American, Asian, Mexican or barbeque.

12 ways to save money on wedding food 

Photo © Blame Frank | See their Bridebook profile

Now that you know what factors can increase the cost of wedding food, let’s look at 12 ways to do cheap wedding food.

1. Compare venue catering to outsourcing wedding catering

Photo © Taverna Catering | See their Bridebook profile

If your chosen venue has an all-inclusive package, this likely includes food. However, don’t assume this is the cheapest option – sometimes, it may be more affordable to hire other vendors.

Do plenty of research before you book your wedding venue, as some venues don’t allow outside vendors. That means you don’t have much of a choice when it comes to food, and have to go with whatever the venue offers – which means also paying their prices. 

Make sure your chosen venue is flexible, which opens up your choices and allows you to hire other caterers. So, if you want a fancy countryside venue but also want to serve woodfired pizzas in the evening, ask the venue whether they allow it.

It’s best to research wedding caterers and venues at the same time so you can see which option is the most suitable for your budget. During your research, make sure you’re not just looking at the cost, but also the services they provide, their location and recent reviews to make sure they provide exactly what you want.

2. Choose local caterers

Photo © Strawberry Shortcake | See their Bridebook profile

Once you’ve decided on a location for your wedding and you’ve found your perfect venue, try to choose local caterers. If your wedding is on the outskirts of Birmingham but the caterer you’ve chosen is based in London, they’ll charge you an additional fee to travel all that way, which could be a flat rate or a cost per mile outside of their usual catchment area.

By choosing a local vendor it will keep costs as low as possible. It’s also possible that they’ve already catered at an event at your chosen venue, so may also have a professional relationship that will help things go smoother on the day. An additional bonus is that you’re also supporting local businesses.

Bridebook has an excellent selection of wedding caterers, so regardless of where you’re getting married, you’ll find the perfect food options for your wedding.

3. Go for a buffet 

Photo © Bristol Event Catering | See their Bridebook profile

Who doesn’t love a buffet? Your guests are free to choose whatever food tickles their fancy and can load their plates up with as much or as little food as they like. Not only are buffets versatile, they’re major crowd-pleasers – not to mention they’re actually cheaper than a traditional wedding breakfast.

With table service, you get to be treated like royalty on your special day, but this service does come at a cost. Typically, you’ll need one member of wait staff per 10 guests at a table service wedding breakfast. That means, if you have 100 guests, you’ll need 10 wait staff – and this is before you even take into consideration the kitchen and bar staff.

Even though buffets offer a wider variety of food than a three- or four-course table-service meal, a far smaller team is needed to prepare and serve the food. Whereas a breakfast might cost £30 – £40 per head, a buffet will cost around half this. While a buffet isn’t quite as luxurious as a table service meal, your guests won’t really mind so long as they get something to eat.

4. Cut your guest list

Photo © Pro Roasts Events | See their Bridebook profile

The number of guests you invite to your wedding directly affects the total cost of catering.

With the cost of food per head averaging £62, costs can quickly add up. Suppose you’ve invited 100 guests – 100 x £62 = £6,200 for the food alone. If you’re in a position to, cutting just 10% of your guest list will save you around £620, and this doesn’t even include other savings you can make, such as decor, stationery, favours and the ability to choose a smaller – and more affordable – venue.

It might be tough, but very few couples can invite everyone. A little bravery could potentially save you thousands.

5. Take peak dates and times into account

Photo © Caper & Berry | See their Bridebook profile

A huge number of couples want to tie the knot during peak wedding season, when the weather is more likely to behave itself, flowers are blooming and you have more options for beautiful outdoor photographs.

However, with so much competition during the most popular months, vendors have to raise their prices – this includes caterers. So, you could save a lot of money by setting your date between October and May when caterers’ rates are far lower.

So, instead of booking your wedding for a Saturday in August, why not consider a Tuesday in February? This will slash the cost of catering, as well as other wedding costs such as your venue and entertainment.

6. Craft your menu

Photo © Crafted Events | See their Bridebook profile

Your first instinct might be to get one of everything when you see the menu options, as that way, you can cater to everyone – from meat eaters to vegetarians while knocking out any allergy-causing options too. 

But, to keep costs down, don’t offer your guests a wide variety of options at the wedding breakfast. It’s usually far more cost-effective to offer a limited number of choices, as the catering team will be able to focus on making sure every plate is perfect. So, one meat and one vegetarian or vegan option is usually enough to meet the needs of the majority of your guests.

The type of food you go for will also influence the cost. Instead of choosing fancy or time-consuming dishes like lobster, sushi or beef Wellington, you can opt for more affordable options such as chicken, potatoes and vegetables. A skilled catering team will be able to make even the most affordable ingredients look and taste fabulous.

It’s even better to go for in-season and locally-grown ingredients that’ll be much cheaper while supporting local businesses. Have a chat with your catering team to see what they can do to get the most out of your budget. Fancy food doesn’t automatically have to mean expensive.

It’s also vital to make sure any dietary requirements are fulfilled; however, the more bespoke dishes the team has to cater for, the pricier it will be. It’s important to provide food for any special requirements, but you should try to avoid making changes purely because your cousin is a fussy eater and will only eat chicken nuggets.

Remember, whenever in doubt, speak to your wedding caterer. If you want to know the kind of questions you should ask, read out our guide on questions to ask your wedding caterer.

7. Consider your bar options carefully

Photo © Mambo Mobile Bars | See their Bridebook profile

A fully stocked bar with all kinds of drinks or a mixologist putting on a fancy show might be a must-have for some couples, but this will add to the cost. This is especially true if you choose to offer an open bar, which will potentially add thousands to your final bill. You’ll save more than £2,000 by asking your guests to pay for their own drinks (with the exception of a bottle of wine at the table and a glass of fizz for the toasts). Plus, weddings with an open bar are in the minority, so it’s not something your guests will expect.

When it comes to the fizz, Champagne is a luxurious option, but your guests will be just as happy with a cheaper alternative such as prosecco or Cava. This is often more affordable than supplying your own bubbles, as most venues will charge a corkage fee which can be as high as £35 per bottle.

Another option is a mobile bar service that will handle all your drinking needs. Some of the best options Bridebook has to offer are Mambo Mobile Bars, Louisiana’s Mobile Bars, and The Mobile Bar Company.

For more information, check out our post on how to save money on wedding alcohol.

8. Ask for smaller plates

Photo © Create | See their Bridebook profile

You read that right – ask your vendor for smaller plates for use during the evening buffet, as this will limit the amount of food your guests can pile up. This means that instead of taking mountains of food from the buffet, they’ll take considerably less, which will reduce the amount of waste. And don’t worry, if someone wants to go for multiple rounds, they can, so nobody will go home hungry.

9. Consider a food truck 

Photo © Feast It | See their Bridebook profile

Renting a food truck to provide freshly cooked plates is a great way to add a personal touch to your wedding and helps keep your catering budget down.

Think about it – food trucks are used to cooking and serving delicious, crowd-pleasing dishes at busy, fast-paced events. The same can be done for your wedding – just tell them your budget and they’ll handle the rest. This is an excellent way to keep costs manageable while offering your guests some unique and mouth-watering food.

10. Go for special promotions 

Photo © Squisito Italian Celebrations | See their Bridebook profile

Keep a look out for wedding fairs where a selection of vendors come together to showcase their offerings and encourage you to have a taste. This is a great way to see what options are available and try the food from a wide selection of local caterers. During events, a lot of caterers will offer exclusive discounts and promotions, which could save you a nice chunk of change. Not only could you leave the event with a full belly, but your budget will also thank you for it.

For more information on saving money, check out our list of amazing discounts for couples and read our ultimate guide for saving money on your wedding.

11. Have a twilight wedding

Photo © Dine | See their Bridebook profile

A twilight wedding is a wedding that starts much later in the day, usually around the time the sun starts to set. This means, after the reception and photographs, you’ll likely want to bypass the wedding breakfast and dive straight into the evening buffet, which as we’ve already highlighted is a far more cost-effective option. And, because you’re only feeding your guests once, it will drastically reduce the amount of money you spend on catering as well as various other parts of your wedding.

12. Limit or cut the canapés and arrival drinks

Photo © Jacaranda Catering | See their Bridebook profile

Canapés and arrival drinks add a touch of class and elegance to your wedding, but they can be rather expensive. To save a little money, consider only offering a single canapé option or even cutting it completely, together with the arrival drinks.

Find your dream caterer on Bridebook 

Here at Bridebook, we have a wide range of wedding caterers to suit all styles, tastes and budgets. You can also check out our ultimate guide to saving money on your wedding for more cost-cutting tips. Sign up today and start planning your wedding!

Browse other similar articles…

Happy Planning!