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Bridal Club Magazine

Low Cost Catering Ideas

Many people cannot afford a lavish four-course sit down dinner or a full buffet feast for their wedding or event. In most cases, the food and beverages are the largest expenses of a wedding or party. You need to consider the time of the day of your reception or party. The time of your event plays an important role in the type of menu that you are planning. Your guests will expect different types and amounts of food depending on the time of the day of your affair.

General Meal Times:

Breakfast 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
Brunch 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Lunch 12:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
High Tea/Snacks 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Dinner/Cocktails 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Passed or Stationary Hors d'oeuvres 8 p.m. and later
Dessert 9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

If you cannot afford a fully catered event here are some low-cost party ideas. Do not forget to serve beverages and wedding cake if you are getting married. Even the simplest of foods can appear special when presented with flair. In addition, time of year and the corresponding temperatures should be a large factor in menu planning. Generally buffets are cheaper than sit-down meals because the caterer has to provide less waitstaff.

A Tea Reception

A tea reception is inexpensive and it should be held between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Tea and coffee is served with a variety of "tea sandwiches" also known as "dainties". The crusts are cut off of these small sandwiches. Tarts, scones, and pastries may be served, as well. Make sure that you add "Tea Reception Following Ceremony" on your wedding invitations. For our take out menu:

A Salad Luncheon/Reception

A salad luncheon reception is wonderful if your wedding is late morning. In addition, this type of meal is cheaper than a sit-down meal or buffet. Offer a wide selection of salads such various pasta salads, potato, rice salads, Chinese salads, coleslaw, fruit salads, gelatins with fruit, and green salads. Provide a few salad dressings, fruits, and breads. Include "Salad Reception Following Ceremony" in your invitation. For our take out menu:

Hors d'oeuvres Reception or Deli/Party Trays Reception

This type of reception/event is appropriate between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. or after an evening wedding. Provide light finger foods such as chips and dips, fruit and vegetable platters, cheeses, and crackers. Write "Light Hors d'oeuvres Reception Following Ceremony" on the invitations. If you would like to include more substantial foods that are more filling include meat and cheese trays, shrimp cocktails, oysters, egg rolls, sausages, chicken wings, and tea sandwiches. Include "Hors d'oeuvres Reception Following Ceremony" if you are serving appetizers with meats. For our hors d'oeuvres menu:

Hors d'oeuvres and Cocktail Reception

This type of reception or party is similar to the one above in regards to time and menus. However, you are serving hors d'oeuvres, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages. Include "Hors d'oeuvres and Cocktail Reception Following Ceremony" on your invitations. Request your caterer to include bartending staff. For our hors d'oeuvres menu:

Decadent Dessert Reception or Dessert Party

This type of reception is suitable between 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. or after an evening wedding. Serve an extensive assortment of rich desserts such as cheese cakes, tarts, tortes, cookies, pies, cakes, pastries, cobblers, biscotti, ice cream, sundaes, and candies. Serve coffee, tea, and other beverages. Add "Dessert Reception Following Ceremony" to your invitations. For our desserts menu:

A Simple Cake and Punch Reception

You can "Let them eat cake" as long as your event is not during a normal mealtime. Have a simple but elegant cake and punch reception. It must be planned for the mid morning, for the mid afternoon, or for after an evening wedding. In addition, you may include some candies, cookies, and nuts to the menu. Be certain to include "Cake and Punch Reception Following Ceremony". This will inform the guests ahead of time not to expect a full meal. For our wedding cakes menu:

Other Cost Considerations Location/Rental Equipment

Does the site include tables or chairs or do you have to rent them? Do not forget that you many need to rent tents, linens, and kitchen facilities. You many cut costs by using paper and plastic goods instead of glassware, china plates, cloth napkins, and silverware.

Waitstaff/Duration of the Event

How long is the event? If the event runs over you may have to pay overtime charges. How long do you have the reception site/facilities for? Does the time of the rental of the site and the waitstaff include the time of the set-up and clean up? Ask you caterer to start cleaning up while your guests are still there. If you cannot afford waitstaff consider ordering drop-off food or self-serve buffet food. Or you can have your friends pick up some deli trays or take out food and set up the food with their assistance.

Bon Appetit!

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