Cheap Wedding Reception Ideas

Lavish or low key, rustic or ritzy – with these cheap wedding reception ideas you can plan a smartly budgeted affair that will thrill both you, and your guests.  Every bride and groom want to throw the party of their lives, but who wants that party to keep them from actually being able to afford living after all the cake is gone? Incorporate them all or even just one, these tips and tricks will save you money without sacrificing your vision of your dream wedding.

You might already know this, but THE numero uno way to save big bridal bucks on the whole shebang is to narrow the guest list as much as possible. Does your 2nd cousin’s ex-wife really need to be invited? (You’d be surprised!) What about your dad’s college roommate that he only sees once a year? I know you really want to invite your Pilates instructor (and guest, of course) so that she can see how beneficial her classes were to your kick ass figure in your dress, but let’s be very budget savvy about this one, girls.

cheap wedding reception ideas - barn
the brides cafe

If you have smartly divided your guest list into:

A – MUST be invited
B – SHOULD be invited
C- WOULD LIKE to invite if possible

then you shouldn’t have a whole lot of trouble shaving the list down a bit.Think about what removing just 8 people from the list would do. You would need one less guest table, which of course means one less table linen, 8 less place settings, one less centerpiece, 8 less chairs, 8 less favors, not to mention 8 less mouths to feed and hydrate. If you are able to minimize your guest list as much as possible, you may not even have to make any serious budget slashes in any other areas of your wedding planning. That’s how much of an impact your guest list has on the overall cost of your wedding.

This is the easiest, but at the same time, can be the hardest, cheap wedding reception idea to incorporate.

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If you choose a location that already has tables, chairs, etc. and includes them in their pricing, their overall fees might be less than having to find a separate vendor to rent them à la carte from. Check around and do your research and then make an apples to apples comparison. Either choice can end up costing you more if you don’t do a line item by line item comparison.

This is a great cheap wedding reception idea that is hugely growing in popularity. Consider having the ceremony and reception in the same place as you will most likely save on several different wedding items.

*Flowers from the ceremony area can be easily transported over to the reception area thus saving you on centerpiece costs

*The ceremony chairs can also be moved from the ceremony area to the reception area

*You won’t need transportation from the ceremony to the reception, which can often be several hundred dollars

*One site = One rental fee

*Guests don’t have to travel to another location

*It cuts down on vendor time – from the florist to the photographer

Consider an “off” day or an month. Even though Saturday night weddings are still the most popular and the most expensive, Friday night weddings are quickly rising in popularity so word to the wise, book as far in advance as you can. Also remember when booking your Friday night wedding that you might have rush hour traffic to contend with, and so will your vendors and guests. So give that some thought when deciding on a 5:30 or even 6:30 ceremony.

Wedding vendors adjust their pricing accordingly in order to attract more brides during the “off” days and months. Not only are you sure to get a better price, but you are sure to get better service from less harried vendors.
cheap wedding reception ideas

Choosing an offbeat or unusual site that doesn’t typically specialize in weddings will not only ensure you don’t have a cookie cutter wedding (who wants one of those?!), but it will save your bottom line big bucks. Big. Check out these ideas for unique outdoor and indoor sites.

This is a no-brainer cheap wedding reception idea. Consider locations of wedding professionals before booking. Don’t pick a baker or even a florist who is 2 hours away from your reception site. You will pay for it!

Be flexible with your date if your “must have wedding reception place that you can get for a song” is booked on your date.

I love this cheap wedding reception idea! Ix Nay on the Receiving Line! It eats up precious reception time and time is money here, girls!Spend that time mingling and by the end of the night, you will have surely gotten to speak with every guest – and not had to stand at attention while doing so.
cheap wedding reception ideasThis is one of the fastest “growing like wildfire” cheap wedding reception ideas. A food station setup or buffet can be much cheaper than a served sit down meal. The food tends to be less expensive (even if the items are similar), and you won’t need nearly as many wait staff, saving you in that area as well. Additionally, guests will obviously mingle more when they aren’t stuck seated waiting for each course to be served.

Another cheap wedding reception idea that is gaining popularity by the second, is serving heavy appetizers and hors d’oeuvres and skipping the “main course” food items altogether. If you serve enough of the apps and hors d’oeuvres, people won’t go hungry and neither will your wallet. Afternoon weddings are also gaining popularity as they are always less expensive than evening weddings, and less alcohol is usually served thus saving you even more money. These types also naturally lend themselves to a shorter reception time – so you can book 4 hours or even 3 versus the usual 5. More and more brides are choosing these alternatives over the usual evening 4 course sit down reception.

What Wedding? This is sort of sneaky, but nevertheless I still love this cheap wedding reception idea. Call a prospective vendor before your visit torequest menu and rental pricing for an “event”. Not a wedding, just an event. If they ask, tell them it’s a family reunion or 100th birthday party. Who cares, just don’t say wedding. When you go meet with that vendor and they hand over their “wedding package” pricing and you notice the prices are considerably higher, you will be in a much better position to negotiate with them since you are privy to their “real” pricing!
If your wedding reception place is à la carte and you will be doing the rentals on your own, don’t rent any type of utensil, cocktail glass, plate, etc. etc. until you have checked out IKEA, cheap wedding reception ideasKole Imports and Dollar Tree Direct. Bride Alyssa bought her wine glasses and plates (and her reception centerpiece vases!) from dollar tree direct for LESS than she could have rented them for. They ship to your closest DTD store for a very minimal fee – approx. $4.95 – (they only ship to DTD stores) and you pick it up from the store. Even if your closest DTD store is an hour or so away, it could still be worth it. This is one cheap wedding reception idea that you *must* research if you are considering booking a venue that doesn’t come with items such as these. Your wallet will thank you for it!
I love love LOVE this cheap wedding reception idea. Love it! Instead of just telling you to not serve any hard liquor and only offer beer and wine (which is TOTALLY a great idea, I just like this idea much more!) Have signature cocktails of your choosing (3 or so) with beer and wine versus a totally open bar.

cheap wedding reception ideas - signature cocktails cheap wedding reception ideas - signature cocktails - martini

cheap wedding reception ideasGuests LOVE them and they are super budget friendly. You can even make adorable little cocktail menus to display so that people know what to expect. Some fun drink names might be “Something Blue” or “Marrymojito”. You can even make it more personal by making them a fun spin-off of your and your honey’s names or names of your pets. You get the idea. Create your own fun bar menu for free at BarMenus .

And instead of stocking a full bar, you will only need to have the ingredients for your signature drinks. Money in the bank, sista! It will be less work for your bartender and you might only need 2 bartenders instead of 3 or 4. I recommend at least 3 different signature cocktails (i.e. 1 vodka, 1 rum, 1 gin, etc.) so that there will most likely be an option to please everyone.
Check out these sites for some intoxicating inspiration!

UV Vodka Recipes


Cocktail Times

Drink of the Week

Signature Cocktail Finder Courtesy of The Knot!

Skinny Cocktails!


Want to shave that budget even more? Make your own signature cocktails and serve them in large glass containers with ladles, so that guests may fix their own drinks. You save on alcohol costs (if your venue allows you to bring in your own alcohol – make sure to check on fees for that) and can eliminate the bartender.

Have I mentioned I love this cheap wedding reception idea?!

cheap wedding reception ideas

This is another semi-sneaky cheap wedding reception idea, but don’t worry you won’t lose any sleep over it! Play devils advocate and let your #1 venue choice know that you absolutely would love to have your wedding there, but your 2nd choice is coming in a lot cheaper. Ask them if there is anything if there is anything they can do to make it an easier decision for you – whether it’s a discount, some freebies thrown in, etc. When using an “angle” like this, it’s important for them to know your interest level, but understand that ultimately your budget will be the deciding factor.

Building off of the tip above, never just say OK to any wedding professional when a price is quoted. Make sure you are talking to a manager (only they have the authority to negotiate – usually), and ask for their best price. You might have to step out of your comfort zone a bit, but be as politely aggressive with it as your personality will allow. You will thank yourself later! Another tip, if this can be done in the form of an email, even better because you will have documentation of your negotiations.

You know that great deal you just scored on your dream wedding reception place thanks to your savvy negotiation skills? Well make sure you get every single detail of that awesome deal in writing.

cheap wedding reception ideasThis is a cheap wedding reception idea that is often overlooked. Think about what memberships you have, and how you can use them to your advantage. For example, if you are a member of your city’s botanical gardens, “friend” of a local park or perhaps you belong to the junior league. Some incredible discounts are given for those that are members of establishments and clubs. You would be surprised at the discount you will get for being a member and most of the time your annual fees are nominal. And if you’re not a member? Do some research and figure out if becoming a member of your local country club or your preferred wedding reception place is worth the yearly fee.

If you have a very short engagement, there is a very good chance you will get a great deal on the available wedding reception placeof your choice, because it’s unlikely they will book the space if the lead in time is less than 4 months or so.
cheap wedding reception ideas

For the toast, serve Cava (Spanish) or another sparkling wine variation as opposed to champagne. Those 2 options are much more budget friendly, and it’s very unlikely anyone will notice you aren’t serving actual champagne.
cheap wedding reception ideasThis is a GREAT cheap wedding reception idea!!Check Craigslist for ALL types of wedding vendors. You might find a culinary student willing to make your cake (among other things) for super cheap, just to get the experience for their portfolio. Same goes for all types of wedding professionals. You will also find oodles of unique wedding reception places being advertised. I was very pleasantly surprised at all the wedding goodies for a great price listed on Craigslist.

I said it once and I will say it 12 more times probably - the “easiest” cheap wedding reception idea is to scale back your guest list as much as humanly possible. Just reducing your list by a handful will save you hundreds right off the bat. Think about what scaling it back by 8 or more will do. Wow. Now that’s money in the bank.