Weddings can be expensive.
Depending on how many people are on your guest list, you could be spending tens of thousands of dollars once all is said and done.
Obviously, not everyone has the same kind of wedding budget, so managing costs is part of successful event planning.
Is it cheaper to make your wedding food?
Some people save money on weddings by self-catering. It’s certainly cheaper to make your own wedding food. The main concern you should have, however, is what it will cost you in terms of time and stress.
When people start booking venues, designing invitations, finding a photographer, and designing the menu, they’re often surprised at how expensive food costs are. Paying over $100 per guest is normal, and going lower than that means you have to start cutting things out.
If you’re looking for ways to save money on a wedding, making your own food is a cost-effective option. Here are some things to consider if you’re thinking about self-catering for your wedding.
Can You Handle It?
The biggest question about whether you should cook your own wedding food is whether you can manage the task.
Your mom might be the best cook in the whole world, but can she cook for 100 people and deliver hot food that looks great all at the same time?
Good caterers can charge so much because there aren’t many people who can do what they do. The food falls flat at a lot of weddings simply because it’s hard to cook for that many people.
Good catering companies charge a premium because people remember the food, elevating the wedding experience.
If you and the people helping you have experience cooking for large groups, or you feel like your wedding is small enough that you can handle it, then you should go for it!
You’ll save up to 50% or more on food costs if you self-cater. That money can go elsewhere, or you can save it for your honeymoon!
Nontraditional Wedding Food Options
Not everyone is going to have a formal wedding with a seated dinner. It’s fancy, and it costs a lot of money. Also, some people prefer more intimate settings that are less formal.
You don’t have to go the steak, chicken, or fish route.
People have backyard BBQ wedding receptions, dessert buffet receptions, and weddings catered by food trucks where guests can order what they want.
Here are some ideas for making your own wedding food that will be cheaper than a professionally catered reception.
Make It a Cocktail Party
Use some of your food budget to pay for a professional drink mixer to spice up the open bar.
Hiring a mixologist to churn out fancy drinks will be something to remember and make your wedding more unique!
And instead of paying people for fancy hors d’oeuvres, get in the kitchen with family and friends, and make your own finger food. You can skip the cost of sitting down to a bland, over-priced dinner.
People will love standing around with a drink in hand as shrimp cocktails, pigs in a blanket, ceviche, and other yummy bites make their way around the gathering.
The Backyard BBQ
If your dream wedding involves bare feet on the grass or a beach, you can save a ton of money by grilling your wedding food.
Who doesn’t love a good burger or brat with some cold drinks?
The food will be a hit, you can do it yourself, and you’ll save a ton of money!
Making artisan pizzas for your wedding will be fun and delicious. It’s a great way to give people different food options instead of picking one thing off a catered menu.
Pizza can be tricky, though; you’ll need more than one oven.
If you have backyard ovens (available for purchase online) or can engage your neighbors for help, give it a try!
This is a good option because you can do much prep work before the ceremony. Build the pizza bases days ahead and store them for the big day.
The Pick-and-Choose Strategy
If the thought of cooking all of your own food is terrifying, but you still want to save money, then you can opt to cater portions of your reception.
Work with your caterer on ways to deliver professional food while you pick up the rest.
For example, if you want to serve Mexican food at your reception, have the caterer handle the hard stuff like enchiladas or tacos. You can take care of making the chips and guac, margaritas, side salads, and everything else.
You also can save a lot of money by skipping the fancy wedding cake. Cakes can cost a ridiculous amount of money. You’d never pay that much for a professional cake any other time in your life.
You can make cupcakes and a dozen different homemade cakes in your oven, and you’ll still save money.
Remember, you don’t have to cater or make everything yourself. Pick what works for you and what you can handle comfortably.
Tips for a Successful Homemade Wedding Menu
OK, you’re committed to making homemade wedding food work. Follow these tips to reduce your stress ahead of time and on your wedding day.
Ask friends, family, and anyone else you know who’s good in the kitchen to help out. If you have more than a couple dozen people coming, you need a team in the kitchen to pull it off.
Start Prepping Early
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can wake up super early on your wedding day and start cooking. It’s not going to work.
You will need to do your washing, cutting, peeling, and even some cooking in the days leading up to your reception. This takes careful planning to decide what can be done ahead of time and what needs to happen right before the party.
Buy in Bulk
If you make your own wedding food, you’ll need all your own glasses, cutlery, dishes, and cooking supplies! Buying in bulk will help you manage costs.
Stick with What You Know
Your wedding is not the time to try something you saw Gordon Ramsay make on that one show that one time. Stick with what you know.
Make food that’s second nature to you and that tastes great. You can put more effort into the presentation to make it fancier, but people will mostly care about how things taste.
Know When Cooking Is Not an Option
Making your own wedding food is a terrific way to save money. However, it’s not a good idea unless it fits your wedding setting and theme.
For example, if you’re booking the city hall for your reception and you have hundreds of people coming, then maybe it’s not such a great choice to cook your own food.
Cooking your own wedding food is definitely cheaper than paying for a professional catering company. However, it comes with its challenges and requires way more planning!