Cutting Down on Your Catering Costs

In most cases wedding catering is the largest expense of a wedding. Aside from the cost of the food itself, you’re paying for beverages, kitchen staff, waiters, cutlery and crockery rentals, and potentially extra decorations. But this needn’t cost you an arm, leg, and your firstborn.  If you’re working within a tight budget, read on for our simplest and most effective tips.

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  • Do your research and do not be afraid to ask. Many venues who include catering in their quotes have a bit of flexibility when it comes to their budget. Try asking if there’s any compromise you can reach, such as bumping up the number of attendants to get an overall better price on the food. If you’re organising your venue seperately from your catering service, ask the venue for particular recommendations. Ring around and see which companies can work within your budget, and which are most flexible. Those that won’t budge are simply weeding themselves out- chances are that they’ll be inflexible in other respects too. The main idea here is to simply find where to get the most bang for your buck.
  • Be ruthless with your guest list. Less people= less food needed. Enough said. 

  • Forego formal service. A substantial portion of your payment will go towards the service itself. So bypass paying the wages of the waiters and either organise a buffet-style layout, or get family and friends to serve the food. 
  • Better yet, cater yourself! If your venue allows for you to cater yourself, consider organising a pot-luck meal! Have everyone bring a dish (you can even specify a theme, such as ‘authentic Greek cuisine’) and enjoy the spoils! This is one wedding meal that definitely won’t be forgotten. Alternatively, if you and your family/ friends are into cooking and it wont be far too strenuous, you could simply cater the wedding yourselves.
  • Go vegetarian! For those whose family and friends may have specific (and expensive) meal requirements, such as halal or kosher foods, cut out the meat. This will by no means cut down on the diversity available- think of meat alternatives, such as tofu, seitan, falafel, quorn etc. This also means for religious groups that you can have dairy included in the meal! And having a hearty falafel pita pocket followed by cheesecake is certainly something to praise God for, am I right ladies?

  • Use meat sparingly. If you don’t want to go all- out veggie, simply use meat for the main. There are plenty of delicious vegetarian appetiser options that will ensure that meat is not missed.
  • Don’t fall prey to the idea of an elaborate buffet. Sure, organising a buffet will save you money on service, but many overcompensate with numerous entree, main course, and dessert options, which can end up being more costly than a simple plated dinner. Avoid this trap by offering your guests a couple of options- just because there are more options doesnt mean they’ll appreciate the food any more.

  • Presentation is key. Remember that all people eat with their eyes before their stomachs! In other words, no matter how simple your menu is, plate it up like a professional would. For instance, don’t just spoon out a dollop of mashed potato, pipe it into a beautiful, intentional shape with a piping bag. Fan out your celery sticks rather than heaping them into a higgeldy- piggeldy pile. Use opposite colours when you can to create a dramatic effect- for example, garnishing steamed greens with roasted beetroot or tomato. This will give your food a distinctly refined edge, and encourage your guests to appreciate the flavours and textures of the food more.

  • Away with alcohol! It’s considered particularly bad etiquette to not have an open bar, yet free flowing drink could easily run you into thousands of extra dollars on your bill. Skip the alcohol altogether and and instead serve up virgin versions of popular drinks: think sparkling cider for champagne, and virgin cocktails. Bonus: you won’t have to deal with any overly drunk attendees, which is one of the fastest routes to ending an otherwise great night.

  • Hold a cheese buffet. Serve a
    variety of cheeses with rustic breads, chutneys, jams and fruit. Voila!
    Cultured catering for a fraction of the cost.

  • Get symbolic by breaking bread together. For centuries, breaking bread with others has been regarded as the great equaliser- the act of sitting together and sharing one of the most basic foods so intimately has been regarded as the symbol for comraderie, mutual respect and appreciation. Instead of offering a starter’s course, offer a variety of breads with an array of different oils and vinegars for dipping. This is not only delicious, but the informality of using your hands to eat is fun and will encourage a relaxed atmosphere.

  • Eat seasonally. Not only will eating foods naturally available during your wedding season keep the costs down, but it’ll taste better and is far more environmentally conscious (you’ll be saving plenty of energy that would otherwise be used to artificially produce the product, as well as that energy used for transporting the goods).
  • Don’t bother with renting cutlery. You can cut costs by using paper and plastic goods instead of glassware, china plates, cloth napkins, and silverware. Additionally, you can order biodegradable and reusable options online- perfect for future picnics or simply donating them to those in need.
  • Create a special menu for those in need. For instance, those who are lactose or gluten itolerant or vegetarian. Creating these meals in bulk will not only save you money, but allow the caterers to spread their creative wings, and show the guests that they have been thought of specifically. Win- win- win.
  • Keep the kids in mind. Count exactly how many kids under 10 will be attending, and organise a separate menu accordingly. You’ll save money on the actual food they eat as well as the portion size, and just as importantly, the kids will love it.
  • Pay attention to the clock. If the event runs over your allotted time, you may have to pay extra charges. Be sure
    to find out how long you have the reception site/facilities for.
  • Don’t restrict yourself to a sit-down dinner reception. In fact, choosing a different time of day for your reception will generally result in significant savings. You should, however, make clear in your invitations the set-up of  note on the invitation, however, the type of reception you are holding in order to save guests Consider the following options, for instance:
    • Tea receptions. Generally held at ‘tea time’, between 2-4 pm. Traditionally, served items include: canapés, finger sandwiches, tea, scones, pastries, cakes, cupcakes and a variety of cheeses (the specifics of whichwill depend on your caterer).
    • An hors d’oeuvres reception can take place at almost any time of the day- either between 11am-5pm or
      after an evening wedding. As the name suggests, you would serve light
      finger foods such as: chips and dips, fruit and vegetable platters,
      cheeses, and crackers, meat and cheese trays, shrimp cocktails, oysters,
      egg rolls, sausages, chicken wings, and tea sandwiches.
    • A cocktail reception can similarly be held between 11am- 5pm or after dinner. This could include passed trays of food as well as small stations with finger food. Be sure
      to have to have plenty of napkins, plates, cutlery and seating on hand
      to avoid messy dining. The reception’s finale
      will be the cake-cutting ceremony and coffee service, which can be
      supplemented by after-dinner drinks and petites fours.
    • An all dessert reception can be held after lunch or dinner- between 1-5pm or from 8pm onwards. Here, an extensive assortment of rich desserts such as cheese cakes, tarts,
      tortes, cookies, pies, cakes, pastries, cobblers, biscotti, ice cream,
      sundaes, and candies are served. Supply with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, milkshakes, soft-drinks and/ or juices. Again, your wedding caterer should be able to provide your with options.
    • If you’re looking for a super-simple option, hold a classic ‘cake and punch’ reception. This is usually heald either mid-morning or mid- afternoon. It can additionally be made as simple or elaborate as you like- varying from simply offering a piece of the wedding cake and some home- brew, to a number of different cakes, drinks, lollies, biscuits and nuts on offer.