So you're getting married. Congratulations! You have probably already priced a wedding reception hall or two--and balked at the price. Don't despair: your wedding reception can be beautiful without spending $200 a plate. Check out these cheap wedding reception ideas for the perfect day.
Forgo the Wedding Hall
Locations specifically designated as "wedding halls" are bound to be more pricey than your local Lion's Club or restaurant. Check around to see what locations offer private party service. You might be surprised at what types of establishments will welcome a wedding reception. Price these out in total first (including tax and tip).
There's No Place Like Home
Another idea that's gaining popularity is a wedding reception in one's home (or the home of a parent or other relative). Be careful--you can still rack up the dollars at an in-home wedding reception unless you do your homework. Get a rough estimate of what renting tables and cutlery and purchasing or making food will amount to. With a little imagination, you should be able to hold a cheap wedding reception in the home that rivals the fancier ones you might find at a hall.
Since an in-home wedding reception can be a pretty complex affair, wait for an invitation from family members rather than making them feel obligated. But once the invitation is on the table--take it! Locate a reputable cleaning service as part of your reception budget; those who so generously offered their home to you will appreciate it once the party is over.
The Great Outdoors
If you're the woodsy type, you might consider a park with a gorgeous view for your wedding reception location. Clear this with the park's ownership first; this might be a private party, but usually it's your town, county or state. Call your local town hall to find out the park's rules about the allowable number of people, hours of operation, music, and any other stipulations they may have. Rent tables with beautiful cloths and rent or make a canopy or arch hanging with lovely pink-and-white roses for a picture-perfect look.
If your aunt is a wonderful large-order cook, see if she'd like to whip up some delectable desserts. If you're not too busy yourself, consider cooking your own menu ahead of time and freezing it. Or gather a group of relatives the day before the wedding and make cooking a family affair.
Simple yet elegant ideas include rolled meats and poultry, a decorated salmon dish, potatoes with rosemary, stuffed tomatoes with garnish, pastry hors d'ourves, and tiny dessert cakes or chocolate-dipped strawberries.
If you feel cooking would be too time-consuming (most brides-to-be do), consider catering as your second choice. Catering can be much less costly than pre-served plates. Call around for menus and prices.
Other areas to enlist in local talent include a band (make sure you've heard them first!) or even a solo singer. If your Auntie has a voice that would soothe the angels, ask her for a song or two rather than hiring a soloist. If musical talent doesn't run in your family, consider a disc jockey rather than hiring a band--they are usually more reasonably priced. Double check with at least three disc jockeys and three bands before making your decision so you know you're getting the best talent for your money. And insist on an audition.
If you are holding your wedding reception at a location that doesn't supply its own cutlery, tables or other items, consider renting these. Furniture, dish and glassware rental establishments will almost certainly be able to cut you a deal that will save you money, even with the cost of food figured in.
You may even have a friend or relative who has sets of beautiful tablecloths or dishes. Watch out--only borrow items that, if broken or stained, will not be mourned. Make sure ahead of time that your lender realizes not everyone at the party will be as careful as the owner would be. If there's any question at all, rent instead.
Complete your cheap-yet-chic wedding reception with favors made, or helped along, by you. If you're not confident in your craft abilities, some stores will offer pieces that you can glue together yourself. This will be fairly easy to do, and less expensive than if you had bought the favors ready-made.
Food favors can be a great idea, too. Buy wedding chocolate molds; these can be had in most craft stores for as little as a dollar or two per mold. Then buy chocolate in colors that coordinate with your reception; melt and pour into the molds, then chill. (Be sure to buy chocolate pieces that are made specifically for molds.) You can make batches of ten, twenty or even more chocolates at a time in just minutes. Seal these well, stock them in your freezer and have Mom and a few relatives tie pretty bows on them as the wedding day nears.
With a little preplanning and creativity, you will pull together a cheap wedding reception that's worth its weight in gold.