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Topic: Money saving tips for wedding reception

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Subject: Money saving tips for wedding reception
Date Posted: 3/14/2010 3:44 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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My husband I recently married and are planning a post-marriage reception for all the folks who couldn't make it to the out-of-town ceremony.  I was wondering if anyone here had some tips from their own experiences they could share? We are planning to have the reception at a friend's backyard, so the location is free. But I'm finding that things like food, etc., add up to a substantial amount.

I thought it might be a fun topic to discuss in the forums, and get some ideas as well. I've found some tips via books which I am sharing below:

  • Do you own invitations - My hubby and I are printing and assembling the invites ourselves. The end result is 75 invitations for less than $200, including postage for invitations and RSVP cards.
  • Cake - We are getting the main cake from the supermarket and ordering an extra sheet cake in case we need extra slices
  • Food - we are using a Costco membership to purchase and assemble our own appetizers and deserts. We may get a caterer for a few main courses, but so far that has turned out to be expensive ... We may do all the food ourselves ... But that seems like it would be really stressful.
  • I'm throwing around the idea of having favors double as placecards. We would buy inexpensive wallet-size picture frames in bulk and put names in place of pictures. THen the guests could take the frames home.
  • For table Centerpieces, we are going to borrow punch bowls and fill them with something like candy, decorative stones, etc.

Any other folks here have some good money-saving wedding ideas?

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 12:45 PM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2008
Posts: 2,800
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Good golly, Melva! It sounds like you are off to a great start (and beyond). I'll think about this a bit and if I come up with somthing, I'll share it, but you've already thought of some really good ideas.

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 2:09 PM ET
Member Since: 11/16/2007
Posts: 745
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You have a good start on food. For a main course, ask family members to be in charge of it (cook it and place it in warmers) but you could pay for it. If you have the reception at a church or VFW hall, be sure to bring your own expendables, like warming alcohol for under the warmers. There are 2 cans of alcohol per warmer.

Church and Veteran's halls are often cheaper than hotels.

Date Posted: 3/15/2010 10:15 PM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 300
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Little picture frames for place cards are a great idea!  There are so many to choose from and you can find a great deal buying them online. 

Oriental Trading Company has a huge selection of all sorts of party supplies and favors for very cheap prices.  These items are really inexpensive and usually plastic, paper, etc.  http://www.orientaltrading.com/   Wedding Favors is a step up in quality and price but still inexpensive.  They have place card frames and candle favors, etc.  http://www.weddingfavors.com/

For candy, you can get personalized M&Ms these days (http://www.mymms.com/) or John & Kira's Chocolates make adorable bee and ladybug chocolates on the more luxurious and expensive side (http://www.johnandkiras.com/).  You could also go with "decade" candy in that there are several sites that sell batches or boxes of candy from a particular era.  You could fill the centerpieces with this if most of your guests can connect with an era.  You can save a lot by buying in bulk from one of the many online stores (http://www.candyfavorites.com/index.php; http://www.hometownfavorites.com/).

There are lots of ways to save money if you spend some time thinking about each item.  For some examples:  Having tail-on shrimp costs a lot less than fully prepared chilled shrimp.  A fruit salad is something you could easily prepare yourself for a fraction of the cost of ordering it from a caterer so you could afford to have better variety of fruit and still save.  Punch can be made with a much cheaper sparkling wine or even gingerale and keep the actual champagne for a toast. 

Just as a general idea, since you are having the reception outside I would suggest that unless you do a lot of decoration, it will mostly get swallowed up in the great outdoors.  Concentrate on the tables.

I would also urge you to think about having 1 to 3 friends, depending on the size of reception and number of out-of-town guests, designated as helpers for the big day.  It will be easier for you if you have in place a way to say "call x" rather than trying to field the endless last-minute phone calls you might receive.  I advise this because of my own surprise at the huge number of requests my sister received the day before and the day of her wedding for rides from the airport, extra nylons, lunch restaurant ideas, you name it.  Be prepared to offload these requests to someone else!

Date Posted: 3/19/2010 6:58 AM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2007
Posts: 5,244
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hmmm.... backyard reception can be formal or very casual, depending on what you're wanting. Will you be wearing your wedding attire for the day? Will dinner be a sit down affair with cloth covered tables & real dishes or a buffet with casual seating & paper plates? Is the backyard a lovely garden or pretty much just yard? When? What about an alternative for bad weather?

You could consider a Garden Party theme day or more of a Cookout/Picnic Style day. A lot of decisions to be made about what kind of reception you want before you decide on food & decor. How casual or formal do you want to be?

Garden Party... cloth covered tables, designated seating, floral centerpieces, real glass & china, etc. Dressy attire, music & possibly dancing.

Cookout/PIcnic... mix & matched tables/chairs (even picnic tables), designated seating only for Bridal Party & immediate family, potted plant or bucket of peanuts centerpieces, food could be as simple as burgers & brats or you could hire someone to roast a pig, etc. Casual dress & think about setting up the Croquet set, the Volleyball net & the Horseshoes.

Check the catering prices of a local BBQ place or one of your favorite restaurants rather then a catering company.

Reconsider a supermarket for your cake... sorry, I'm a cake snob! Or have a small simple cake & offer a variety of desserts. If you do the whole big wedding cake thing then desserts aren't necessary.

One of the cutest favors I've seen is tiny clay pots that have one of those peat/soil discs in it & a teeny paper of flower seeds such as Forget-Me-Nots. The pots can be decorated in some way if you want & wrapped in a piece of tulle tied with ribbon & a note from the Bride & Groom... usually something kitchsy about 'love growing' etc. Dollar Tree has them right now 3/$1.

I've helped with lots of weddings, showers, parties, etc. so I'm happy to throw a lot of ideas your way. Just need to have a better idea of what you're wanting. Debbie

Last Edited on: 3/19/10 2:57 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/19/2010 9:06 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 188
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Thanks!! These are great suggestions!

Date Posted: 3/19/2010 10:35 PM ET
Member Since: 8/24/2008
Posts: 1,362
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You might try looking at your local dollar stores to see what they have.  I know that one of the stores near me gets things from places like Oriental Trading Company and Giftco when they change their catalogues at a much reduced price.  They sometimes have Wilton brand wedding decorations there...so you might take a look.  Check different dollar shops, you find different things at different ones.  Good luck. 

Date Posted: 3/20/2010 4:36 AM ET
Member Since: 7/11/2007
Posts: 5,244
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Here's a link to a site about wedding themes...



ETA: They have lots of wedding info... not just themes.

Last Edited on: 3/20/10 4:41 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 3/29/2010 11:22 PM ET
Member Since: 5/10/2005
Posts: 2,367
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A friend of mine had a pot luck reception in the back yard.  He said it went really well (I met him many years after he was married, so I didn't go).

Balance your time vs cost.   One of our appetizers was mixed nuts.  Very easy to serve--dump them in bowls, set them around where you want people to gather.   They also don't require silverware, which is nice.

I'd say think casseroles and simple veggies for the main dishes.  Pasta dishes are cheap and easy to make.  I admit, we balanced our time and stress and the fact the ceremony was right before--we had a caterer do our reception.  It was worth it to us to not have to worry about the food!

Subject: Money saving tips for wedding reception
Date Posted: 4/5/2010 8:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2010
Posts: 3
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Music -  my husband and I mixed hours and hours of our own music which cut out the need for an expensive DJ. We had a specific CD which included the "traditional" dance music as well. For example, Father/daughter dance, Money Dance etc. Congrats on your new marriage!!

Date Posted: 4/9/2010 9:34 AM ET
Member Since: 4/7/2007
Posts: 335
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Recently there was an article in New York Times about homemade cookies being very popular at upscale wedding receptions. Apparently, it's some kind of a cultural tradition  but it's becoming mainstream. So if you want to save money on an overpriced wedding cake, you can ask friends and family to all bake homemade cookies and display them beautifully on platters across several "cookie tables." Have fun at the party!

Date Posted: 4/9/2010 10:23 PM ET
Member Since: 6/3/2007
Posts: 652
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I'd skip the wedding favors.  At my reception (we sort of eloped) we incorporated it into our centerpieces.  We got some black charges, put a candle the hall provided in the middle, and surrounded it with silver wrapped hersheys kisses. 

My mom spent hours tying little tulle bags of candy for two cousins' receptions, and swore she'd never make anyone else do that for her girls.  If its candy, people just open and eat it at the reception, so why mess with the little tulle baggies, you know?


Also, if you're going to do flowers- go with fake.  They look just as good as real now, and won't wilt.

Date Posted: 4/16/2010 11:14 PM ET
Member Since: 7/23/2005
Posts: 7,520
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I can only offer a perspective based on our area, but maybe it will help:

Homemade cookies are a must at most weddings here.  They rate their own 'cookie table', but they aren't meant to be a substitute for the cake, just an added bonus.   Less formal weddings and very formal weddings here usually include cookies.

If you're planning on making the food for the reception, you may want to splurge and purchase some items and initiate family and friends for the less extensive stuff.  Receptions with homemade food here usually include:  a tossed salad, rolls, a simple rigatoni or stuffed cabbage, fried or baked chicken, new potatoes with butter and parsley and two veggies.  Most peeps generally purchase the chicken and prepare the other entrees themselves. 

If you're doing the bridal dance (money dance) you can offer either a slice of wedding cake or a shot (usually peach schnapps or whiskey) to the guests once they've danced with you.

Instead of hiring a photographer, some peeps place disposable cameras on the tables and have the guests take the pictures.  This can turn out really well or really badly, LOL.

Last Edited on: 4/16/10 11:15 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Subject: saving money
Date Posted: 4/20/2010 4:00 PM ET
Member Since: 4/17/2010
Posts: 1
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As a photographer I have been to several weddings, and have seen tons of money wasted.  The biggest waste I've seen are on favors.  I think most people are just happy to be invited and share the time with the bride/groom.  I personally, don't expect a favor for attending.  I DO however, love candy for favors.

For centerpieces/decorations I think the candy is a great idea.  People can 'eat' your decorations and you have less to get rid of after its all over.  I have also seen people paint sticks and branches (usually with silver or gold) and I was really surprised at how elegant it looked.

I love the cookie bar.  I have also seen people do candy bars using candy that matched the colors of their wedding. 
I made my own cake (with the help of my mom) and it costs about $100.  I think I could have purchased a professional cake for the same or less, and avoided the stress.  I have seen people do a 'potluck' for the reception and it works pretty well if you have  a decent sized crowd.  If it's in a persons backyard and it's big enough, you could do something like a picnic lunch.  Maybe even with the red/white gingham tablecloths.  If you were really adventurous you could let guests sit on a picnic blanket and eat (keeping chairs for the older guests).  Just a random thought.

My greatest suggestion is spend the $ on the things that are important to you.  As long as the food keeps people from getting hungry and doesn't taste like crap, does it really matter what it is?

As for the photographer, I think it's a must for the actual ceremony, but you could get by much cheaper by doing the disposable cameras for the reception.  If it is during the day, you should get decent pictures pretty easily.  If it's at night, at least get the ones with flashes.  An idea might be to set up a snapfish or other photosharing site, and give the address to guests to upload pictures to it.  You could also use a facebook page. That would make it really easy to share/print photos from the event.  This wouldn't work very well with the disposable cameras obviously. 

Date Posted: 8/11/2010 2:14 PM ET
Member Since: 2/23/2006
Posts: 4,505
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We had an extremely tight budget for our wedding.  We paired down the guest list to famliy and only very close friends.  We had the immediate family help with food.  My FIL smoked a huge turkey, Mom made several gallons of potato salad, MIL made a huge batch of fruit salad etc.  It worked well!