1. Dont break the bank on drinks
There are a lot of quality proseccos on the market nowadays that are much less expensive than champagne, says Molly Ronan, director of London event catering company bluestrawberry.co.uk. So long as people are getting something bubbly and it tastes nice, they wont mind the substitution.
2. Small touches, major impact
Drop raspberries into your fizz to impress guests on the cheap, says planner Erika Unbehaun from flutterflyevents.com. Your caterer will often throw them in for free. Amanda Baird, founder of Wiltshire-based catering company the utterlysexycafe.co.uk, agrees: We serve our signature Love Potion #9 a blend of apple or cranberry juice and ginger cordial in art deco Moroccan tea glasses, simple but very effective.
3. Stay in season
If your wedding is in October and you ask for asparagus, its going to be expensive, says Rafika Bouguermat, events manager at limefooddesign.co.uk. Seasonal awareness is very important. Your local farmer can tell you what works with your wedding date.
4. Save the meat for the main
Whether its risotto served in shot glasses or Asian-inspired spring rolls, vegetarian canapés can keep costs down, Erika says, while still giving guests something substantial to snack on.
5. Avoid going buffet barmy
True, buffet-style catering can help reduce staffing costs, but dont eat up those savings by offering a wider variety of foods than you would have at a sit-down meal. People sometimes expect a buffet to be a wider selection, but we suggest that you stick to one or two options, Amanda says. When you have a million choices, the guests dont necessarily appreciate it any more.
6. Presentation is everything
Erika recommends experimenting with different colours and shapes on plated dishes. Very simple, very cheap foods, beautifully presented will be stunning for your guests. Fan out carrots rather than piling them up, complement spinach with a bold cherry tomato, or serve noodles in a martini glass. It looks fun.
7. Keep your cool
Hot starters require more equipment in the kitchen, which means more cost. Stick to cold dishes to save money.
8. Skip the starter
Serve more canapés during the drinks reception instead and youll save on equipment, cutlery, crockery and staff, says Molly. Plus, guests will enjoy being able to taste a wider variety of dishes than a traditional starter offers.
or kick things off Italian-style
Swap a plated starter for an antipasti selection on each table, so guests can serve themselves from three or four serving dishes full of delicious Italian ingredients. Its really colourful, with lots of different flavours, like chargrilled vegetables, cold meats, cheeses, breads and olive oils, says Molly.
10. Break bread together
Replace a full first course with bread and differernt oils and vinegars, says Rafika. Guests can help themselves, and that can also help get them talking to each other.
11. Factor in special diets
Generally, if we have more than two or three different kinds of dietary requirements (like gluten and lactose intolerance or vegetarian), we design a special menu that suits all of them, says Molly. Its easier, its cheaper to produce because were making it for multiple guests and it allows us to be creative on what we offer them.
12. Get game with meat
Break out of a chicken rut and go for seasonal game instead. Ask your caterer what game is in season the month of your wedding, advises Rafika. We all know that chicken is cost effective, but being a bit more adventurous while still using things that are available on your doorstep is going to really get people talking about your wedding breakfast.
13. Play with your food at the tasting
As the name implies, the tasting is your chance to OK the flavours on your wedding menu, but use it as a chance to think about the presentation of each dish, too, from the shape of the plate its served on to the styling of the garnishes. Its whats on the plate and how they drizzle it that makes a course stand out, explains Erika.
14. Count up the kids
Tell your caterer exactly how many children will be attending, says Amanda. If theyre little under eight or so we design a childrens menu which is a much smaller portion and priced accordingly. It should also include things theyll actually eat, like sausages and fish fingers.
15. Keep the puddings simple
Things really add up when you try to be trendy for dessert, because youre creating a design on each plate, says Rafika. But people love the great British classics like Eton Mess and crumble. Theyll rave about it, like, Oh, I havent had this in such a long time its special for a wedding.
16. Cut straight to the cake
You save so much money serving the wedding cake as dessert, and people are more likely to actually eat it that way, says Erika. People often dont want wedding cake straight after a dessert course, and then it goes to waste. You can save about £5-£7 per head this way, then put that money towards a late-night buffet with comfort-food like fish and chips in cones, mini hamburgers and a selection of petits fours.
and make it a flavour to remember
If youre serving your wedding cake as dessert, have a more decadent flavour than traditional fruit cake, says Molly. We did an amazing one that was pistachio sponge with chocolate-mousse filling.
18. Sprinkle some sugar
We also recently decorated each serving of wedding cake with a bit of spun sugar, so each plate had a lovely hat on top, says Molly. That created a big wow factor, but in terms of ingredient cost it was almost nil.
19. Get cheesy in the evening
Rather than a full finger-food buffet, which can get pricy, people are going for locally sourced cheese buffets, served with chutneys, fruits, and rustic breads, says Rafika. This sort of thinking can halve your costs.
20. Less staff, big savings
By shaking up the usual three-or-four-course wedding breakfast formula you can cut down on catering staff. By serving, say, filet steak as a main course, then placing baskets of hand-cut chips, bowls of salad and little jugs of béarnaise sauce on the tables for guests to help themselves to, you could save about three or four staff for every 100 guests, says Molly. That can cut up to £500 from the total bill, and you can buy a lot of wine with that!
21. Make yours a Mongolian BBQ
Each guest gets a bento box individual containers with lots of different compartments for different foods which are much cheaper than traditional china which they fill up at a buffet stocked with meats, tofu, rices, sauces and vegetables, says Rafika. Then, they take their box to a chef who cooks it up in a wok, which also creates an interactive form of entertainment for guests.
22. Treat them to tea
A tea party is a little ritual that instantly looks elegant while also being more economical than a three-course wedding breakfast, says Amanda, whose Utterly Sexy Café offers a quintessential tea-time menu for £42pp including service, vintage china and glassware hire. Serve classics like scones with jam and clotted cream, finger sandwiches and savoury tarts, wraps and an assortment of pretty desserts.
then go all-out with a hog roast
After a beautiful vintage afternoon tea, the big burly blokes in your party will love a classic barbecue, Amanda adds. Prices can start from £8 per head, so if you need to feed 140 people, its a bargain-basement way to do it.
24. Tap into the tapas trend
Rather than one plate per person, present a variety of dishes of cured meats, hot dishes and salads garnished with beautiful microherbs and flowers, says Rafika. People can actually pick as they would at a Spanish tapas restaurant, plus its also great for catering to different dietary requirements and encourages people to mingle.
25. Viva la local flavour
It always saves money to work with local ingredients, Rafika points out. If you or your caterers speak to local farmers and say, I have a wedding and this is what I can spend, youll often find they will do everything they can to work with you.
Words by Julia Scirrotto