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 £5,700. 

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. 

In this post, we’re going to take a look at the many ways you can save money on wedding catering while still keeping 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 – Roast chicken, 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. While it can be more affordable to hire other vendors, an all-inclusive option is usually your best bet. According to our 2024 Wedding Report, couples save over £1,000 when the venue cost includes catering versus external catering costs.

If you do want to hire external caterers, though, do plenty of research before you book your wedding venue. Make sure your chosen venue is flexible, as this will open up your choices and allow 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 would allow this first.

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 looking at not just 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

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Once you’ve decided on a location for your wedding and you’ve found your perfect venue, try to choose local caterers if you’re outsourcing them. 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 provided catering for 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’ll be supporting local businesses.

Bridebook has a fabulous 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, but they’re also major crowd-pleasers – not to mention they’re generally cheaper than a traditional wedding breakfast.

With full table service, you get to be treated like royalty on your special day (which is obviously amazing), 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 of this. While a buffet isn’t quite as luxurious as a table service meal, your guests likely won’t mind so long as they get something to eat.

4. Cut your guest list

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The number of guests you invite to your wedding directly affects the total cost of catering, because the more mouths to feed, the more food you need. 

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, more affordable venue.

It might be tough, but very few couples can invite everyone. A little bravery could potentially save you thousands, without you having to forgo the food you want. 

5. Take peak dates and times into account

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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 weeks and months, vendors have to raise their prices, and this includes caterers. So, you could save a lot of money by setting your date on a common-or-garden weekday between October and March, when caterers’ rates are generally 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 more than 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, opt for more affordable options such as chicken, potatoes and vegetables. A skilled catering team can make even the most affordable ingredients look and taste fabulous.

It’s even better to go for in-season and locally-grown ingredients. This will be much cheaper while also allowing you to support 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.

While it’s vital to make sure dietary requirements are fulfilled, the more bespoke dishes the team has to cater for, the pricier it will be. So, it’s important to provide food for 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 what to ask, read 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, see our post on how to save money on wedding alcohol.

8. Ask for smaller plates

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You read that right – ask your vendor for smaller plates during the evening buffet. This will limit the amount of food your guests can pile up. Instead of taking mountains of food, most guests will take considerably less, which will reduce the amount of waste too. And don’t worry – if someone wants to go for multiple rounds, they can! No one 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 will help 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 great way to keep costs manageable while offering your guests some unique and mouth-watering food. Plus, with food trucks being one of the hottest wedding trends of 2024, this kind of catering is all the rage right now. 

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 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 will you leave the event with a full stomach, but your budget will also thank you for it.

For more information, see 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 which 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 – a far more cost-effective option. Because you’re only feeding your guests once, you’ll 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 costly. 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 ahead of your big day.

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Happy Planning!