It’s a tricky task to keep your reception budget-friendly without coming across as cheap.

Reception-experienced Ball Event Center has a few tips to help save you money and celebrate your big day in a special way.

The second biggest slot in the wedding budget often goes to reception food and drinks. One of the best ways to cut costs in this area is to serve a simple meal buffet style – the key here is to choose delicious but inexpensive food that won’t rack up a large bill.

Some families will order local pizza or have a local restaurant cater their reception; others do it potluck style with wedding party family members bringing the courses. In many cultures, including Mexican and Italian, the reception may include wedding cookies, often baked by the aunts of the family. This is a fantastic way to involve the family in your special celebration.

Wondering where to start? Ball has several themed wedding reception ideas for inexpensive dinners!

Affordable Wedding Reception Dinners 

Classic Wedding Dinner Buffet: this scrumptious comfort meal often starts with a green salad and dinner rolls, followed by a roasted chicken and penne marinara dish. Add in a warm vegetable like corn or green beans, roasted potatoes, and finish with a slice of wedding cake!

Holiday Wedding Dinners: If you’re getting married close to a holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas, it can be fun to include some of the warm and savory traditional foods in your wedding food lineup. Try a pumpkin cream soup, roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, dinner rolls, a vegetable or two, and of course, the wedding cake!

Fun Wedding Reception Alternatives

As an alternative to a pre-chosen meal, some couples may keep the dinner even simpler – while still allowing guests with a pickier palate to pick and choose their specific courses.

Soup and Salad Bar: Prepare 2-3 soups ahead of time that can be served warm from a crockpot, for example. You might try a tomato, a chicken noodle, or a butternut squash for fun options. Then set up a wide selection of salad ingredients like lettuce, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, hardboiled eggs, olives, etc. Offer a few meat choice as well such as chicken or even salmon. With a couple of dressing options and some extra toppings, like croutons, quinoa, and sunflower seeds, your guests can create their own salad to their taste. Add some bread and butter at the end of the line, and you’re all set!

Pasta Bar: Fill your guests’ bellies for a lower price with a DIY pasta bar. Fettuccine noodles, penne, linguini, and tortellini are great choices! Offer a red sauce and a white, as well as a couple of meat options, like chicken, sausage or shrimp. The choice to include pesto is up to you! Along with parmesan and chili flakes for toppings, serve a few vegetable choices to round out the meal. Mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli could be served with the pasta, or offer a veggie tray and dip.

Taco Bar: At Ball, we’ve never met a person who didn’t love tacos, and we hope we never will. Simply set up common taco ingredients and let your guests mix and match! Taco shells, flour tortillas, and nacho chips make a great base. Chicken and beef, refried beans, lettuce, onions, tomatoes, guacamole, salsa, shredded cheeses, sour cream and cilantro will complete your table. You could even offer a rice side.

Burger or Sandwich Bar: Aim for the basics – bread, meat, toppings, and spreads. Keep it simple with burgers and buns, or get fancy with the focaccia bread and grilled chicken. Your options are almost limitless here! Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles and cheese are easy ingredients to include. Offer condiments and spreads like ketchup, mayo, butter, mustard, or even vinaigrettes. Add a few easy sides like pasta salad, a fruit blend, or a green salad as a finishing touch.

Breakfast Bar: Hosting a sunrise wedding? A breakfast or brunch themed reception is a fun twist on a classic wedding dinner. Offer just about any mix of the following and you’ll have surprised and delighted guests: fruit, bacon, sausage, ham, scrambled eggs, yogurt, croissants, pancakes, waffles, French toast, danishes or other pastries, muffins, bagels, hash browns, coffee, hot teas, and juices.

Dessert Bar: If you’re celebrating an evening wedding, or an early afternoon wedding, a dessert reception is a fantastic way to serve a little something while saving money. Set out a variety of cookies, cupcakes, dessert bars, ice cream bars, churros, pies, and chocolate covered fruit. If you’d like to include a savory option for your guests without a sweet tooth, you could add a few cheese, meat, crackers and vegetable/dip trays.

Coffee Bar: Another great mid-afternoon reception idea is to offer coffee, cream, cookies, pretzels and a few other snacks. You may be able to order large batches of coffee from your nearby coffeeshop, or use a couple of large percolators and brew the good stuff yourself!

Charcuterie Bar: Inexpensive and versatile, this snack-style reception is perfect for mid-afternoon or post-dinner parties. Unless your guests are vegans or vegetarians, a charcuterie spread is a great option to include on the side while guests enjoy reception activities like games or dancing. Just make sure nobody is eating ON the dance floor. You don’t want anyone choking on an almond in the middle of your party. With a few large wheels of cheese, you’ll also need: breads, crackers, nuts, fruits, and even hummus or veggie dips. Think appetizers-only reception. To save money, you could even ask close family members and friends to each bring an item or side to contribute.

DIY Bar: Catch the DIY Food Station bandwagon that’s trending! Not only are these snack tables fun, but they’re also fairly inexpensive! Create shopping lists, prepare the ingredients, set up the table and you’re good to go! If you’re worried about guests needing help or having questions, ask a close family member or friend to man the station during the reception; certain friends could even rotate turns at the table so everyone gets a chance on the dance floor. Try a s’mores fire pit, a donut station, or pick-your-own-toppings ice cream sundaes!

Let Your Guests Know What to Expect

No matter what reception seems right for your wedding, just be conscientious of those gathering to celebrate with you. If your wedding day itinerary won’t follow a traditional cocktail hour, dinner, and dancing time frame, just be sure your guests know what to expect ahead of time.

Include a note in your invitations that gives guests a heads up about the reception plan. Breakfast, brunch or lunch receptions should be fairly intuitive based on the time of your wedding; just clarify this with a phrase such as: “Breakfast to be served immediately after.” For evening appetizers-only receptions, try “Happy Hour at 8 pm, Appetizers will be served.”

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to impress your guests. Just serve refreshment appropriate for your wedding time and style. As long as your guests feel welcomed and appreciated, your budget won’t matter in the end.

Trim Your Biggest Cost: The Venue

Did you know that reception food and drinks are often the second most expensive part of the wedding budget? First place money-drain goes to….wedding venues! You shouldn’t have to go deep into debt just so you can share your special day with family and friends.

At Ball Event Center, we solve that problem by being a full-service event center at a more affordable price. We just want to help you celebrate! View our full-service amenities here!