Whatever your wedding budget, it is important to give food and refreshment a sensible percentage of it. I am not just saying this as a caterer, I am saying this as an experienced guest and host.

The most important thing you are hoping to create at your wedding is atmosphere. Yes, you could have forked out on an amazing venue, an incredible dress and every stylish detail possible, but if you have hungry guests there’ll be less smiles for your photographer to capture. Trust me, people always talk about the food; most clients I meet tell me about their bad experiences before anything else!

Peach Wedding Dessert

Here are my 10 tips for saving money on the food portion of your wedding reception, without affecting the atmosphere of the day…

Be Flexible

The easiest way to save money is to be flexible about your date. Weekdays and Sundays are increasingly popular, and avoid the busy months of May to September. You can get much better value cleverly picking a date out of this period.

Get Married Later

Make the most of new laws and get married later in the day or even in the evening. The worst time of day for a budget-conscious couple to marry is 1pm, as this means you will need to feed your guests twice, once covering lunch and once in the evening.

Most of my clients get married at 3 o’clock and start off with generous canapés, which means dinner is at dinner time and then little if any evening food is required.

Keep Things Short

Think about your favourite film that you can watch again and again. Would it be any better if it were twice as long? Weddings are very similar. A shorter event leaves everyone satisfied and wanting more, rather than over-tired, underfed and looking for an excuse to leave. Guests who want to party longer will always find a way to do so, and such after-parties become the stuff of legends.

Think Local and Seasonal

Create a wedding menu of local and seasonal ingredients. Using food that is in season is more cost effective, plus it tastes much better. A good caterer will know this and help you to decide. www.eattheseasons.co.uk is a great resource if you need some inspiration.

Service, Service, Service

Never scrimp on service. You won’t be saving money, you’ll be creating problems with the flow of food and drink.

Pick Experience

Pick a great and experienced caterer; someone who you trust and who can direct you. Caterers are often the hub of everything in your day and will be liaising with and managing all of the other suppliers on the day. An experienced caterer won’t just save you money on food; their Little Black Book of contacts could save you hundreds or thousands on every other part of your day.

Fake the Cake!

This sounds strange but I’ve seen it done successfully time and again by stylish couples who want the power of a huge showstopper, without the inevitable waste that comes with it (I’ve seen so much delicious cake go straight to the bin, it’s heartbreaking). Ask your cake designer to use foam insides for the bottom two tiers of your cake and have the top two tiers of ‘cutting cake’ to serve to unsuspecting guests.

Passed Food Options

Opt for a London-style passed food menu of canapés and bowl food. This creates an impression of a continuous flow of never ending, delicious food. Choose a wider variety in your menu to increase this perception of quantity even more.

It will take guests longer to eat their way through this type of food and they will become fuller faster as a result. As an extra bonus, this type of menu allows you to mix and mingle with your guests rather than become stuck at the top table.

Edit the Bar

Bring the list of drink options right down, especially if it’s an open bar. Selecting a few stylish drinks, and avoiding costly cocktails, can save money over having a full bar

Less Guests!

This last one is only for the brave! Instead of trying to stretch your budget to feed 120 guests a basic dinner menu, use the same budget to give 40 special guests the most unforgettable dining experience of their life. I have catered at 40 guest receptions where we have created a seven course tasting menu, and it was phenomenal — and the couple saved money.

Guest post by Julie Gray of Bovingdons

Image from Lloyd Dobbie