Less Expensive Wedding Reception Alternatives

Traditionally wedding receptions are held in some sort of rented hall and involve a formal sit down dinner or buffet. It generally also involves an open bar/alcohol, cake and dancing. And all of this can get very expensive. If your’e not a traditional kinda gal or want something a little more unique that fits your personality and budget, then this formal type of reception may not be for you.

Fortunately, there are many fun and less expensive wedding reception alternatives to the traditional formal reception. These will not only save you money but they will let your unique personality shine through and have guests talking about how fun and unique it was.

Cake & Champagne Reception

cake and champagne reception

{via Jamie M Swanson Photography}

Instead of a traditional reception where a meal is served, why not have just Cake and Champagne served? What a better way to have your cake and eat it too? It’s a much less expensive option than a sit down dinner and can easy be made into a classy event.  Choosing good quality champagne and cake is key here. Since you won’t be serving anything else, you want these to be memorable. Just be sure to mention on the invitation that there is a cake & champagne reception to follow, so guests won’t be anticipating a full meal.

Cocktail Reception

Cocktail-Reception-Fried-Vegetables{via Tuscan Dream}

The Cocktail Reception lies somewhere between the full meal and champagne & cake. You’ll serve cocktails and other beverages and some hor dourves but not a full meal. If it’s within your budget you could also have some platters of cheese, cold cuts, dips, etc. These are pretty easy to prepare yourself, which could save you some extra money. Again, just be sure to mention on the invitation that there is a cocktail reception to follow, so guests won’t be anticipating a full meal.

Barbecue Reception

reception-menu-bbq-buffet-line{via My Wedding}

How fun would it be to have a BBQ reception?  You could have BBQ inspired decor and maybe even provide some fun bibs so the guests don’t get their clothes dirty when eating ribs. Another way to really get into the mood is to have it in a rural outdoor setting or even in a barn.

Although this will probably be a pricier option than the rest, it will still probably cost less than a full sit down dinner. You could have your favorite barbecue house provide the food rather than a regular caterer, which could save some money. And you’ll know you’ll be getting some great food. Another way to save is by having it hosted at your home or at one of your parent’s homes.

Lunch Reception

cheap wedding reception food{Chelsey Boatwright Photography}

Depending on the caterer, lunch fare will generally cost less than dinner. This is perfect for an afternoon wedding, You can still have a formal menu but in a more relaxed setting and at a cheaper price.

The Picnic Reception

picnic-reception{via The Sweetest Occasion}

This laid back and fresh type of reception is perfect during the warm summer months. It’s not literally a picnic blanket on the ground type of thing nor do you have to use actual wood picnic tables and checkered table clothes. (Although that could be fun too). It’s more of the picnic feel you’d be going for. Think lemonade, fresh and cold salads, finger sandwiches and fresh fruit. This type of food is much cheaper than a formal menu and is something you could possibly even prepare yourself with the help of a few friends and family.

One important thing to remember for this one is if it’s being held during the hotter months, you may have to provide electric fans for your guests. Or else they and their makeup will melt in the heat. Another thing to consider with the heat is food safety, you’ll have to provide a way to keep cold food cold and hot food hot. Or else your guests could get sick. 

Pot Luck Reception

pot luck reception{via Once Wed}

If your wedding is super casual and are only inviting close friends and family, this may be worth a try. You can have guests bring their signature dish. This does involve a bit of menu planning but will save you a lot of money and guests will have fun trying what everyone else has made.

Just make sure you’ve tasted and really like these signature dishes. You wouln’d want to serve something no one eats at the reception. Also make sure to have backups (similar dishes) just in case one of the guests who’s bringing something has to cancel at the last minute or is unable to bring their dish in for whatever reason.

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