An affordable fun reception option for the couple on a budget
A BBQ Wedding Reception
TDS Reader Contributors
Cutting Food Costs at Your Wedding
26 Ways to Cut Your Wedding Bill
Planning Your Wedding
Help With a BBQ Wedding Reception
I am getting married at 6:30pm. We are doing a lot of it ourselves and having a small wedding. However, the most expensive thing is, of course, the food. We are planning on having a bbq in which we do it all ourselves. Our reception is outdoors in the park. Does anyone have any suggestions to making this affordable? A pot-luck is not an option. Thanks in advance.
An Inexpensive BBQ Starts With the Farmer
Do you know any farmers who raise hogs? Are any of them relatives or friends? Or better yet, did you invite any to the wedding?
When farmers sell their pigs, they are docked for any that are disfigured. For example, hogs frequently break a leg. If the farmer tries to sell this pig, he will be docked substantially and, in a sense, will practically be "giving" it away to the slaughterhouse.
My dad used to raise hogs. When one broke a leg or injured itself, he would take it to be butchered. Since it was hardly worth anything at the sale barn, the meat was practically free. All we had to pay for was the processing.
Very often, if you talk to a farmer, they will have a hog they need to butcher, and they will sell it to you very inexpensively. Then you just have them take it to a local butcherer. Tell the butcherer what you want the meat for. They will make nearly the whole thing into rolled roasts or whatever. You will have to pay for the processing, but the price is inexpensive when you consider how much meat you will get.
Local BBQ Caters Weddings
My wedding was catered by a local BBQ company. They charged a little under $4 per person and provided brisket, sausage, potato salad, beans, bread, pickles, onion, sauce, tea, napkins, plates, cups and plastic eating utensils. It was much cheaper to feed our guests a full meal than doing "party food" like cheeses and veggies. It was nice that the caterer provided the cups, plates, etc. which can add a large expense to the wedding meal. We still had the imprinted cake napkins, and had to buy our own plates and forks for the cake. Skip the appetizers, and that will save a bundle! Also, find a "home owned" business or a friend to make your cakes...many retired people and homemakers make cakes as a hobby, but be sure to ask for photos of the cakes they have done in the past.
Don't go too cheap on your wedding. You want it to be special, and not known as the frugal event of the year!
Angela S. in Houston, Texas
Don't Forget Potatoes
How about baked potatoes? They are cheap and filling, hopefully reducing the amount of other food your guests eat. You might be able to have a local grocery store bakery do the baking (or have several friends donate oven space), and store the hot potatoes in an insulated cooler until reception time. Have some chopped green onions, sour cream, butter and maybe shredded cheese on hand for topping.
Prioritize, Decide and Stockpile
I know what you mean about the food. We did all the food for my daughter's reception four years ago. We didn't do too bad.
Luckliy, you have chosen what can be one of the cheapest ways to entertain (jambalaya being the cheapest) a large group of people. Baked beans and coleslaw can be made very inexpensively yet be delicious. Also, the type of meat you plan to cook will have a lot to do with the cost. I would stick with chicken. Chicken quarters have frequently been on sale here for as little as 29 cents a pound. Start buying now and stash in the freezers of people you trust.
Chicken is also easier to handle and a lot classier than hamburgers. Add chips and dip and that is all you need. The secret is not a lot of different items, but a lot of a few items.
Decide on what you will serve to drink and start stockpiling. Alcohol should be kept to a minimum if served at all ( we didn't). Stores here are selling 2 ltr cokes for as little as $.68 each and there a many off brands you can buy even cheaper.
Don't stint on your wedding cake. There is nothing worse than having an ugly cake. However, you can save money on it by making your own cake top. When my daughter got married, I nearly died when we priced the cake tops ($60 and up). My daughter bought the pieces, and with a glue gun, she made a beautiful one for about $15. Instead of going to a regular bakery, check out some of your local food stores that have bakeries. There are two here in town that are as good as the big name and twice as expensive bakeries. Try out a small cake first to check taste.
My husband and I just got married ourselves, and cost was definately an issue. We had an outdoor wedding at my grandpa's house with a picnic afterwards. Being college students, we really had to keep everything as cheap as possible, without looking cheap. Here are some of the things that we did to keep prices down.
For the reception, we had BBQ Beef, baked beans, potatoe salad, chips, a veggie tray, beer, pop, and tea. All of the food we made ourselves. We decided on BBQ beef instead of grilling because we knew that there would be a lot of children at the wedding and we didn't want any of them to get burned accidently. Besides, it was nice to have everything ready to eat when we were ready. We bought a brisket and cooked it really slow for several hours, and then just mixed it with some BBQ sauce. It was really good and we got several compliments on it. To serve it, we just had some crock-pots. For the beans, we just bought some of the REALLY big cans of pork and beans, and mixed them to taste and then baked them for several hours. We served them the same way.
The veggie tray we got at Sam's. If you decide to do something like this, I highly reccommend them. It's way cheaper than buying all of the vegtables, you get dip, and it's only $9.99. You can also buy just the bags of veggies, already done up in different mixes for about $4.00.
We bought some pretty bowls that fit in with our colors at Wal-Mart for chips and potato salad (which we also bought at Sam's at two quarts for $2.99) and set the bowls in coolers of ice to keep everything cool. The bowls were $1.00 each.
For our cake, we were lucky to have a friend that worked in a florist's shop that did the cake and our flowers for only $120, but I have seen some beautiful cakes where people just have bought several different sized square or round cakes and then they take them to the reception and decorate with real or fake flowers.
For decorations, we used LOTS of ballons (240 or so). It was $35 bucks to rent the helium tank and the ballons were about $12. We later used the ballons instead of throwing rice or bubbles when we left. We attaced a card with our names and wedding date on them. For center pieces, we used potted plants that we did ourselves. We covered the pots with wrapping paper to match our colors. To decorate for the ceremony, we got hanging baskets that we planted and hung from shepard crooks. You can also rent arbors from Hobby Lobby for pretty cheap. (I think around $30 or so)
All of the paper products (plates, napkins, silverware, cups, tablecloths) we got a discount party store for about $35.00. There was enough for 75 people.
I am so very glad that we went with this type of wedding. It was so nice that we could just have a nice "family picnic" where we could sit and talk with our friends and family and not feel like we were putting on airs. We told people to dress comfortably, bring their kids and be ready to have a good old fashioned time. Good luck with your wedding!!
Avoid Last Minute Cooking
There are some ways to cut your costs and cook it all yourself. Some of this can be made the night before, so you're not going too nuts on the wedding day itself.
Fruit salad is refreshing and not too expensive if you leave out the strange fruits like kiwi, passion fruit, mango, and the rest. It's my experience that most people pick those out anyway, so why pay for them?
Instead of beef barbeque, do chili con queso barbeque. Simply substitute cooked red beans for half the ground meat in your usual barbeque recipe. Same taste, but the beans are much cheaper.
Egg salad can be stretched by adding chopped firm tofu (whether this is cheaper or not depends on the best price you can find on the tofu and eggs.)
Create an Amazon Wedding Registry.
I'm sure this has already crossed your mind, but just in case it hasn't, buy your supplies in bulk. There are many food warehouse stores around. Compare the prices for things you will be buying, such as condiments, meat, etc. There are also many meat stores out there that give discounts on their meats when bought in package deals or larger amounts and they'll even have it cut and/or prepared to your specifications at no extra charge. They're also very helpful when asked for advice about amounts needed and other details.
Try making the rolls and buns instead of buying them. They are unbelievably cheap when made at home. I have a bread recipe that makes five loaves of bread and we use the same recipe to make anywhere from 36 to 48 hamburger buns, 60 finger rolls, or 60 dinner rolls. You can adapt practically any bread recipe and also use the ingredients you want.
Also, if you're going to make a salad, it's cheaper in the long run to make it from scratch. I know because I help to make the purchases and prepare the meals for a senior's group at our church and these are some of the things I've learned to do.
Joyce in MA
We have used the following menu to feed a crowd (20+) with great success on several occasions. It's a Greek-style meal that lets you cook all the meat on one BBQ at the same time.
- Pork souvlaki (chunks of marinated pork on wooden skewers) - We buy ours in 10-packs from the butcher at the Price Club for $6.99 per pack. You'll need one or two skewers per guest.
- Greek pitas - Use the thick kind without the pocket. They can be bought from the Price Club at $4.29 for 20 pitas. Have one per guest.
- Bowls of chopped tomato, chopped onion, shredded lettuce, and tzatziki for garnishing the souvlakis
- Large Greek salad with lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, black olives, cucumber, feta cheese, and vinaigrette dressing.
- Roasted potatoes (with olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, black pepper) - These could be roasted in somebody's oven at home ahead of time and then kept reasonably warm with the pans wrapped up well in foil. A 10-pound bag of potatoes will easily feed 20+ people.
To feed 20 guests, it costs $20.97 for the souvlaki (allowing 1.5 per guest), $4.29 for the pitas, about $12 for the salad, $3 for the potatoes, and another $10 for the garnishes. So there you have a full meal for 20 people for about $50.
Carolyn, St. Catharines, Ontario
Don't Forget Veggies
You may consider grilling vegetables along with some sort of meat on skewers. Alternate the meat with vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, onion, and red, yellow, and green peppers. This will stretch the meat and help save on costs; vegetables are less costly and more healthy than meat! Also include some sort of inexpensive, yet appealing starch, such as rice pilaf, home-made breads, or pastas. Rice, pasta, and bread are rather filling, and if artfully and thoughtfully prepared, are greatly appreciated by one's guests.
One solution for saving money for the wedding reception would be to check and see if there is a meat packing plant in the area. I know they will sometimes sell to outsiders, and that should cut the meat costs considerably. If you are planning to serve chips, you might want to see if there is a distributor in your area for that too. Sometimes they will sell what they call "out dated" items that are perfectly fine for consumption. If all else fails, chase down the guy who delivers to the grocery store and ask him where you can purchase them at a cheaper price. As for the buns, check for a bread store. You can buy bread, buns, and other items for a fraction of what you pay at a grocery store.
Take the Next Step
- Could spending 5 minutes reading a newsletter twice a week save you time and money every day? Dollar Stretcher Tips readers think so. Subscribe and find out how many ideas stretch your day and your dollar! Subscribers get a copy of our ebook Little Luxuries: 130 Ways to Live Better...For Less for FREE.
- Discover more smart tips for planning a dream wedding on a small budget by visiting the Dollar Stretcher Library.
More Money-Saving Lifestyle Tips
- 7 ways to travel the world for free
- Learning to be self-sufficient
- Homemade natural products for beautiful hands
- 4 steps to a simpler (and more frugal) life
- 6 tips for a fabulously free vacation
- Secrets to living luxuriously for less
- Saving-money secrets of the rich and frugal
- This week's Readers' Tips