Thursday, December 3, 2015

DIY Reception Guide 25% Holiday Discount

The DIY Reception has become more and more popular as engaged couples and their families look for ways to have a memorable day without depleting the bank account to finance it.

My book Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions is a step-by-step guide for doing just that. It also happens to be the perfect gift or stocking stuffer for the bride-to-be, or MOTB.   

The perfect gift for someone who:
  • is looking for ways to save money on the reception
  • is considering a DIY reception but is not sure what is involved
  • needs help in determining how much total food to prepare
  • wants a selection of recipes (already modified for 24 servings) to choose from
  • needs help in determining the food preparation schedule
  • might want to have a pot-luck reception but is not sure how to organize it.
  • needs help with scheduling the reception - when to cut the cake, have the toast, first dances etc.

 DIY Reception Guide

The *****Amazon Reviews says it all

"Overall a great book with information I didn't find anywhere else."

 "A FAQ section with everything from how to cut the cake to whether to rent or purchase glasswar....Reading it is like having a conversation with a caterer.  When you are done you can envision just how to put it all together.

"The Recipe Selection chapter is great because it includes recipes for Brunch, Lunch and Dinner."

"This book is worth buying for the WORKSHEETS alone!  The author walks you step-by-step how to plan, prepare and present marvelous buffets for 50 to 150+."

"All in all, a great book for creating a classy, budget friendly reception.

And since "tis the season", and I am inspired by all the post turkey-day sales, order now and receive a 25% discount.

    The book is available from 2 sources;
    Amazon, and Createspace (Amazon's publishing company)

    To order your copy and receive the 25% discount 
    1)  Place your order with Createspace at
    2)  Enter Discount code SCHAGY6B  during the check-out process 

    I know you will find the book extremely helpful in saving money while having a stress-free, organized, fun and classy reception.



    Friday, October 10, 2014

    DIY Appetizer Quantities for a Crowd

    Here is a quick reference guide to use if you are planning appetizers for a crowd, either before a meal or by themselves.  One thing to bear in mind if you a selecting recipes to be used for a reception or event where you might not be available to do last minute food preparations.....unless you have lots of help don't plan on the cute looking sampling portions arranged in little cones, spoons, shot glasses etc.  There won't be enough time to plate all those adorable looking goodies  Period!  If you have your heart set on this type of presentation redo the budget so you can hire the caterer to do all the set-up.

    I will be including quantities for a crowd for various types of food in upcoming blogs, but for now I address the appetizers. If you are planning an event where you will be tied up taking pictures and the guests will be waiting more than an hour for your appearance, plan on having the some nibbles for the guests to enjoy with their liquid libations.  No matter what, the liquor, beer and soft drinks should be iced and ready for the first guest who walks through the door.   If children are attending set up a small table for them with kid friendly goodies,,,Gold Fish crackers, cheese cubes and black olives are favorites.  Also set out an assortment of juice boxes so they don't fill up on sodas before the meal.

    About half of my clients chose to serve appetizers in with the salads on the buffet if the meal was served shortly after the guests arrival.  This seemed to add to the richness of the buffet and helped fill up the plate before the guests reached the protein at the end of the buffet..... another money saver.  I recommend only serving two appetizer type dishes if they are included in the buffet.

    Here are the quantities....have fun.
    Appetizers for a Crowd


    Wednesday, January 29, 2014

    You Are Engaged - What's Next?

    What comes first - determining the budget, or the setting the date, finding a venue, etc,? 

    Set an approximate sum for your budget and then use the following percentages to determine the total available for each category. 
    The average amount spent on a wedding in 2012 was close to $27,000    
               Reception                               50%
               Music                                     10%
               Flowers                                   10%
               Wedding Attire                       10%
               Photography                           10%
               Stationary                                 4%
               Extras – at least                       6%  

    But…..the 50% figure is based on having your reception catered.   If you need to trim the budget the reception is a good place to start.

    Date/Venue/Food/Time of Day  

    Changes in any of these areas can make an impact on your budget.

    Venues come in all varieties and sizes.  
    The internet has increased the visibility of suitable locations and if you live in or near a large metropolitan area you will probably be amazed at what is available. Venues might have natural decor, a view or even an architectural feature, which could reduce the time, energy and money needed to create the environment you want for the occasion.

    On-line Keyword Search Terms

    Rental Halls, Reception Halls, Banquet Halls,Party Rooms, Party Halls, Cheap Rental Halls, Reception Sites

    Additional Resource

    •      Call all the local Fraternal Organizations:  the Elks Club, Shrine Temple etc. 
    •      Check with your City and/or Country Parks Department regarding facilities available for rent 
    •      Also check with your local Recreation department.
    •      Check with alumni clubs.
    •      Botanical Gardens
    •      Museums
    •      Art Galleries
    •      Historic Estates
    •      Vineyards and Wineries
    •      Bed and Breakfast Inns
    •      Ranches (Rustic weddings have been very popular the last several years)
    •      Penthouse suites in the larger cities

    Quasi-Destination Wedding 

    The glamour of a location away from home, but without the price of plane tickets.  I lived a short distance from Lake Tahoe and several of my clients rented large vacation homes to use for the ceremony and reception. The lake provided a lovely backdrop for the weddings, the receptions were set-up on the lawns and decks of the homes, plus; there were a large number of bedrooms for family members' use.  The out-of-town guests enjoyed their visit because there were many local attractions for them to enjoy.  Check with your local Realtor for any large local properties that might be available for rent for a long week-end.

     Or, consider having it at home if your guest list is not too extensive.   I will be writing about setting up mini-buffets in confined spaces is an ideal way to handle a large number of guests in a private home.

    Most restaurants, country clubs etc.with banquet facilities did not allow outside food and beverages to be brought in.  However, I see that many venues that could not afford to advertise in the yellow pages previously now have an on-line visibility and do allow outside food and beverages to be brought in.  The down-turn in the economy has forced a change in the way some businesses function, which can be to your advantage.

    One Important Aspect of Renting Any Type of Location for a DIY Event is the Amount of Time Available For Your Function.   

    • Plan for at least 2 hours for the preparation and set-up of the bar and food for 100 guests. Either additional help, or time, will be needed for set-up and decoration of the room and guest tables.  
    • Allow for at least 1 hour for clean up at the conclusion of your event.  
    • To determine your time schedule begin at the end and move backwards through the various 
      • clean-up
      • bouquet and garter toss and bridal couple leaving 
      • dancing
      • "first dances"
      • cake cutting
      • toasts
      • meal
      • bride and groom arrival
      • guests arrival
      • room and food set-up  
    Another is The Kitchen.  Is there a stove(s) with an oven, a refrigerator and plenty of counter space?  
             If you know what is available at the venue when you are planning the menu it will help when selecting menu items, and then planning and organizing how it is going to come together.

    Make a list of the various areas that might be required.
             Table for gifts and cards (place slightly away from the main entrance to the room)
             Areas for non-alcoholic drinks, beer/wine or bar (separate areas for a large crowd)
             DJ table, speakers
             Dance floor
             Head table or Bride and Groom table
             Guest tables and chairs
             Cake table - your guests will want to see you when you cut the cake and you will want a nice
             backdrop behind the cake for your pictures.
             Table for guest book or other memorabilia etc.
             Table for escort cards
             Children's Table
             Photo booth 
      Here is a great tool from weddingwire which allows you to create a floor plan and seating charts.

    THE FOOD  

    Should I plan a full meal, or just appetizers? 

    Dinner Buffet 

    This question involves many deciding factors – food preferences, time of day, resources and more.  Due to the variety of factors an evaluation is included in the book that helps you define which option will work best for you.  Two things to bear in mind is that appetizers are much more labor intensive, and due to the ingredients -usually cost more per person than a full meal offering multiple salad options, pasta or potatoes, 2 or more meat selections and rolls.

    And because we are talking about a DIY reception a buffet is the most effective way to serve the food.   However, if you decide to have your event catered this information could still be useful.

    Appetizer Buffet (photo by

      Notice the difference in the how the food is presented in the dinner buffet and appetizer pictures.  The individual piece presentation increases the set-up time dramatically.  And an extensive menu of such items will require significant additional help on the day of the event.

    How does the time of day and season affect the plans?

    The time of day will determine the type of food you serve; the most economical meals are brunch, lunch and  dinner.  If your budget is very very tight you could consider a later afternoon reception and serve a few nipples with a beverage before you cut the cake.  
    Breakfast Brunch

    If you have a late morning wedding the breakfast brunch requires the least preparation in the days prior to the wedding, is very economical and requires the least amount of time to set-up.

    The season will affect several things.

    One of the most important is the weather. If you have a summer wedding, obviously you can plan for your guests to 
    go outdoors.  If your venue has a roof we find it best to plan for each person to sit 
    inside and then provide additional seating outside.  If space constraints won’t allow for this make sure that the DJ is aware of this so he can include the 
    outside guests in the various activities.  The other seasonal consideration
    will be the fresh fruit and vegetables that are more abundant during certain periods of the year.  

     A winter wedding provides an opportunity to serve seasonal favorites (hot chocolate with snapps - yum) and decorate with a holiday themes if desired.

    It is very popular to plan weddings for long holiday week-ends providing more time for out-of-town guests to travel.  If this is your plan book your venue A.S.A.P.!

    Formality of the Reception 

    I am not even going to put "how does" in front of this.  If your reception venue is decorated with crystals, opulent flower arrangements and an elaborate dinner service you might not be serving BBQ,   But my clients found that their guests just appreciated good food, regardless of what it was.  A buffet that is arranged attractively with a few varieties of each menu item will be welcomed by your guests.  And if you offer a unique item or two me they will rave about it.

    How does the location of the reception facility affect our plans? 

    • If the ceremony and reception are not in close proximity of each other, you will need to consider the travel time for the guests to reach the reception venue after they leave the church.  
    • Consider the interval of time the guests will be at the reception while the bride, groom and family members are being photographed.  
    • Beverages should be available when the first guest walks through the door of the reception facility.  
    • It is a good idea to have simple snacks or appetizers available during this period of time if there is more than an hour delay before the bride and groom arrive.   

    A Game Plan for Finalizing the Venue

        Set an approximate budget figure.

        Look at a date for your wedding.
        Pick several dates that would be acceptable and check availability of wedding facility & officiant
        Make a rough estimate of the number of guests who will be invited.
        Select several venues which can accommodate your party  and then find which ones have your 
        dates available.  
        Compare prices.   The reception is going to need a large portion of the budget.  By getting a feel       for the cost of reception you will have the information needed to help make future decisions
        regarding where you spend your budget dollars. 
        Verify that your approximate guest count can be accommodated by the venue. 
        Once you have a list of available options, select the venue you prefer and book your date as soon     as you have finalized your budget.  
       If you plan on providing your own food and beverage verify that this is included in the contract prior to signing.   

        The rental hall might look bleak when you go to see it.  But, with all the DIY decorating ideas on Pinterest and the various wedding sites, the possibilities for transformation are endless.

      How Far In Advance Should I Rent the Facility?


      Seriously, finding an available facility for the day you want could be the biggest challenge you will face.  So, this is your first priority.  My clients actually stood in line on the day that reservations were opened for the new year to book their receptions for several of the city park facilities .  

      Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions was written after years of helping clients save thousands by self-catering their receptions.  It is a step-by-step tool kit for planning a DIY reception that you can have at your finger tips as you go through the planning process.  The book is available for immediate shipping at for $16.95  

       Win a free copy of Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions and a complimentary consulting package from Frugally Fabulous.. details will be published in the February 1st blog.

      Saturday, January 18, 2014

      Before we visit LET THEM EAT CAKE...

                I am very excited to announce  that Rules for the Frugally Fabulous Reception Spring 2014 Contest will be announced in the next two weeks.

      The winner of the contest will receive :

      A copy of Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions 

      1. Menu planning assistance 

      2. Adjustment of recipes to fit your guest count
      3. A shopping list organized by grocery department 

      4. Schedule for menu item preparation 

      5. A master list for all the serving pieces you will need
      6. A suggested buffet layout based on your menu.
      7. One-on-one Skype consultation

      Contest rules will be posted before the end of January on my Pinterest board and here on my blog. Sign up to follow both so you don't miss a chance to win one of these packages. A winner will be chosen at the end of each quarter and the consulting service must be completed within one calendar year of the award.

      And now...on to  LET THEM EAT CAKE


      Number 3 in a series where I am sharing ways to reduce the amount of money you spend by looking at each specific part that contributes to the total budget of your reception.

      How to Save Money on Your Cake includes lots of great options and alternatives that range from making and decorating your own cake to buying individual layers of wedding cakes at a national discount chain.

      1. DIY. Yes it is possible.

      There are instructions and step-by-step pictures to for making the beautiful white cake with the blue ribbon you see in pictured above.  The baker has included some fancy designs on the side of the cake illustrated, but you could use fresh flowers instead.  If you are not a fan of fondant, follow her instructions for constructing the cake and use her luscious butter cream recipe instead.  There are many additional sites listed in the sure and check them out.

                                                Arsty Crafty Mom's Home Made Wedding Cake

      Frugally Fabulous Pinterest DIY Wedding Cakes also has links to numerous sites with recipes and instructions for baking and decorating  wedding cakes. let's look at other possibilities that you might not have considered.  These can save you lots of money, without adding additional stress to your life.

      Con Paulos

      2.  Have a friend who is experienced in decorating cakes "gift" you a cake. Some sites advise not to do this, but I have seen it done many times with wonderful results...including my own. This cake consists of specialty lemon cookies with a Bavarian Creme Frosting and would be perfect if you prefer cookies over cake.  You could have several of the cookie cakes constructed using different types of home-made or gourmet cookies.  One of my dear friends was an accomplished "hobby" baker and was able to duplicate the cake I saw in a magazine.  If you aren't as lucky as I was, see the list toward the end of this blog for some other resources that might be able to accomplish the same goal. 

      3. Or, order a small elaborately decorated 2 tiered wedding cake for the "cake cutting" photos, but serve your guests from sheet cakes you have ordered with yummy fillings and a great tasting frosting.  These can be ordered from your local box store,  bakery, or you can DIY.   Or, just decorate all of your own sheet cakes.
      Tamra Smith

      This started                                                                              
      Instructions for Frosting Roses


                              as this

      4.  Order Decorated Sheet Cakes

      5.  Order a variety of cakes from a gourmet bakery

       To formalize the presentation put a few of the cakes on a stand
       If you are serving a variety of different flavors of cakes, use matching or coordinating stands to unify the presentation   

 for stencils

      6.  Order a plain frosted cake
      Use a designer stencil to apply butter cream frosting on the sides.  Place flowers similar to those in your bouquet on top. 
      Stencil colored butter cream on the sides and top

      7.  Ask several friends or friends of the family (who might have already asked if you need any help) to make their favorite cake.  Set up a "cake bar" and let guests serve themselves to the cake of their choice after you have "cut the first slice" from one of the cakes.  And yes, traditional cheese cakes would be included.


      8.  CAKE-POPS

      Sweet Luna Deserts

      Aren't these fun!  What's nice about cake-pops is that the "pop" is coated in melted chocolate, which prevents the cake from drying out if they are made a few days in advance.    For a dramatic display a holder of some sort is helpful.

      Bellagala Minneapolis
      Place the pops on plates as illustrated here.

      Cake mix can be used for the cake portion so they are definitely economical.  I made a batch for the holidays one year and found working with liquid chocolate something that one needs to practice.  So play with these first.

      Here is the link for the instructional video for these goodies, featuring Bakerella , the author of Cake Pops 
                                         Cake Pop How To

      9 And Then There Are:

      Wedding Cakes Layers from Walmart.

      At the time this picture was taken each layer was selling for $7.48
      Put some pretty flowers on top on each cake and place on cake stands - you are set.

      Caution:  Don't try to stack these cakes on top of each other without cake boards and some sort of support within the cake...The link above to Artsy Crafty Mom shows you how to assemble the cake in layers using lollipop sticks if you would like to stack the layers.


      10.   And from yummy cakes we move to Yummy Cupcakes 
                      These displays are from which is an excellent resource if you are                                                            considering any type of  DIY cake

      Uploaded by PeggyMichel
      Approximately 45 cupcakes   

      Uploaded by Joey
      Approximately 92 cupcakes
       There are several challenges to cupcakes for a DIY reception.
           Transporting a large quantity of decorated cupcakes to the venue 

         The time required to set up the display.

      The secret is to plan 

      Uploaded by Michellew
      Approximately 74 cupcakes
      You can also set up a side table to hold additional cupcakes if you have a large number of guests to serve.


      As you look that the three pictures please notice the presentation.  If the table shape matches the cake shape it enhances the presentation.   Very simple; round cake = round table, square cake = table with square corners. say - I don't have time right before the wedding to bake and decorate a cake.
      I bet you didn't know that professionals bake the cake in advance and freeze it.   Ahhhhhh...that makes the task a little less daunting yes?  But it still feels like more than you want to bite-off.  Read on and see more options for DIY possibilities   And are not going to spend $700.00 on a cake for 150 guests.

      Project Wedding

      Search DIY Wedding Cakes on Google and Pinterest

      This cake features lace doilies as the inspiration for the decoration.
      to see numerous ideas for cakes that actually look like they can be decorated by someone without formal training. 

       Unique and Different Cakes

      Photo: © 2012 Ann-Kathrin Koch Photography

      "Cheese Cake"

      The combinations are endless.  This would be perfect for a vineyard wedding.

        All I can say is "OH YUM!"

      Where else to look for someone to create your dream cake?  

      Note:  Ask to see the portfolio of anyone you interview...they should have a picture collection of all the various cakes they have created.

       a.)  A local supplier of cake decorating supplies; frequently they offer classes and can refer                    you to an accomplished "student" who is trying to build a business.

       b.)  Craig's List - Services - Event

       c.)  A local Junior College or Culinary Academy.  Call and leave a message for the head of                   the Culinary or Pastry Department.  Ask if they can refer a recent graduate, or                                 advanced student who might be interested .  

      d.)  On-line wedding planning web-sites with vendor listings by region

      WHAT NOT TO DO - from a popular on-line wedding magazine.  And....I am adding my own observations to the comments.

      1. Don't choose an inedible color. Reds, royal blues, purples, and hot pinks are least favorites. They will stain guests' lips and tongues, and even worse, if the groom smashes cake in the bride's face, it can permanently stain her wedding gown! A safer option is to use those colors in other ways like fabric ribbon or the flowers.   Okay
      2. Don'f ask a friend to bake the cake. We said it before, and we'll say it again, it's better to politely decline the offer than be disappointed with the cake later. Plus, do you really want someone who is uninsured, unlicensed, and uninspected? (I think she means the kitchen isn't inspected -  not the baker.  At one time I had a commercially licensed kitchen - the health inspector looked at the kitchen but if he inspected me - I wasn't aware of it.   If the friend is experienced - why not?  People would be amazed if they knew how many bakers started out rogue in their own kitchens.

      Saturday, January 11, 2014

      20 Things To Consider When Budgeting for Beverages at Your Reception

      How much do people like to drink - of what?  It depends.........
      Season or Time of year
      Time of day
      Activity level....a dancing fool needs to re-hydrate!

      An example of a full bar and suggested serving quantities will be listed at the end of this posting.  But first let's look at the most popular options.

      The first must have drink is water!  
      Lots of water.  The warmer the weather the more water.  If you plan on dancing the night away, having cold water available could cut down on the amount of beer or liquor the guests consume.  Granted some serious drinkers won't touch the stuff....but oh well.   If you are having a DIY reception you basically have two options; bottled water or carafes of water on each table.  I costed renting pitchers for each table compared to purchasing bottled water.  Both will require ice. The cost difference wasn't that great.  But the deal breaker is that you need someone to replenish the ice and water on each table from time to time.  You will be amazed at how much water a table of eight to ten people will drink over a several hour period - especially if they are dancing.  I can't remember any of my clients opting to rent water pitchers; they picked up multiple 24 packs of water over a period of time, usually when they were on sale, and tucked them away for the big day.  How much water do you need?  Figure on 1 bottle per guest.  True, not everyone will drink it it.  But those who do may drink several bottles.   If your event takes place during the hot season figure on 1.25 bottles per guest.

      Flavored Waters
      I am retired and live most of the year in Mexico.  A big favorite here, served both  in the home, and at parties, is Aqua Fresca...a fruit water with very little sugar. The fruit flavor is very subtle, while being very refreshing   Unfortunately the fruit has to be pureed and then strained.  Part of this could be done before the reception set-up and then mixed with water on-site.  This drink looks very appealing in a fancy glass beverage server...but it tastes just as refreshing served in a pitcher.  The easier option is a fruit flavored water.  The fruit is sliced or cut into chunks and placed in water to "steep" for several hours.  Simple.  To see 50 suggestions for fruit, or fruit & herb combinations, visit
      A presentation with a variety of fruit flavored waters is very attractive and would cut down on the cost of bottled water.  It would also avoid the necessity of transporting all the bottles to the venue.

      Tea and Lemonade are both popular summer drinks and can be elevated to another level with the addition of either fresh fruit, or liquor.

      Hot Chocolate has become a very popular addition to the winter wedding scene and can become the signature cocktail with the addition of a single, or variety of liquors.   It will take some planning to maintaining a constant supply of the drink at the proper temperature.  But, this could be as simple as making it during the set-up and keeping in crock pots on low temperature behind the scene.  

      This is a very popular rice based drink, with a hint of cinnamon, that is served everywhere in Mexico; from the food cart on the corner to high-end restaurants . It is surprisingly refreshing because, although it does have some sugar, it is not overly sweet.   Here it is made in a large glass jar, large chunks of ice are added and a ladle is used to pour the drink into glasses.  It took me quite a while to get up the nerve to order it 
      (rice and water - ugh!) but now it is my go-to drink when I am thirsty.  One of the reasons I have included it is because it is available in a easy to use powder form, and is very inexpensive.  Look for it in the powdered beverage section at your supermarket, or nearest grocery store that has a large Mexican food section.  Add Kahlua, or a dark rum, to the Horchata and you have a yummy signature cocktail.    

      Punch versus soda?  Either / or  ......but not both.  From my experience if you have both, the majority of the guests will grab a soda and you could be left with copious amounts of punch base.  If you want to trim the budget punch is a good option.

      The key to a good punch for a reception is to have one that is not too sweet.   Angel Punch is one of the favorites of my clients....there was never any left over.  It is refreshing without being overly sweet.  Did you know that if a punch is too sweet it will not quench the thirst, but will have the opposite effect and make you thirstier?  

      Soda - The next question is individual cans or liter bottles?  My clients usually opted to purchase cans, for several reasons.  A large assortment of soda flavors can be offered, it is easier to put the cans in a large container and add ice to chill, you don't need to rent or purchase additional glasses, or calculate how much additional ice you will need to put in the glasses.   At the end of the evening there are no open liter bottles of soda that have to be dumped down the drain.  There might be a few stray cans with a little remaining soda to be emptied at the end of the evening...which are much easier to deal with.   If there are leftover cans of soda sitting in the ice...drain any water out of the tub, (keep the ice) put any leftover food on top and place in a vehicle to be taken back to the house.  Many times there was enough ice in the tub to keep everything cold until late the next morning, which is good because everyone is going to be tired when they get home.  Note:  soda is not always cheaper at the box stores.  Watch your local paper for sales on will save a substantial amount of money.  Plus you can pick up a variety of flavors over a period of time.

      BEER...always a favorite  - iced cold beer.  The men will walk in the door of the reception venue and head straight toward the beer.

      Keg, Bottles of Cans?
      One of the challenges with having a keg is finding a large enough container in which to set the keg and still have room to pile in the ice. A deposit will be required for the keg, ask your vendor if a container for icing down the keg is included - more likely available at a liquor store than a supermarket.   There are more brands of premium beers available in kegs now, or check with a local micro brewery to see if they off one of their specialty beers in a keg or pony keg.  Depending on your guest count you might want to offer a light and dark beer.  A key with the keg is to serve large enough portions so that people are not constantly lined up to be served.   It will be important that one person be assigned the duty of tapping the keg before the guests arrive.  How much do you need?  There are 1920 ounces in a keg of beer, which is 140-150 14 oz servings, and 960 ounces in a pony keg of beer which is 70 14 oz servings.  This does not allow for foam on the top so the actual serving amount will be a little higher.

      Next on the list....the vino.
      White or red or blush? question if you are going to serve wine you need to offer all three. Most people prefer one over the others.  You can choose to either select one type of each and then purchase multiple bottles.  Or, determine how many bottles of each you will need and then purchase a variety of types of each.  My clients did it both ways and it worked fine.  Once you decide how much wine you will need, check for case prices at your local liquor store, Trader Joe's (yes Chuck is big at weddings), box stores and even your local grocery store.  Most stores will offer case prices even if the brands and varieties are mixed.

      Find recommendations for good wines at a decent price at  Also if you anticipate making a large wine purchase consider joining a wine tasting club for 15% to 20% discounts.  Ask at your local liquor store for a referral to the closest club.  If you live close to a winery definitely make a tasting trip and check for clearance specials and sales.  Ask if there are certain times of the year when they offer specials?

      Moving on to the hard stuff.

      This can be the area where a DIY reception differs from a catered reception in a hotel banquet hall and several factors come into play.

      Cost...if you choose to have an open bar, or a signature cocktail, it is going to significantly impact the budget.  To give you an is the basic bar list for 50 guests.   Note, if you offer hard liquor a lot of your guests will have a mixed drink, rather than beer, so the option of a keg does not come back into play until the guest count is much larger. To help the budget, check to see if your local liquor store has a member's club that you can join which will entitle you to discounts.  

      Another budget saving idea is to have a set bar menu, avoiding any drinks which are made with different kinds of liquors.   Also,  guests drinking shots will put a serious dent in the liquor supply very rapidly.  If you anticipate this occurring,  plan and budget accordingly.  However, if no shot glasses are available this situation might be prevented from occurring. 
           1 large bottle each   Tequila, Gin
           1 bottle                    Vermouth
           1/2 bottle each         Rum, Scotch, Vodka, Whiskey
           2 bottles each          Red, Blush and White Wine  
           36 cans                   Lite Beer
           18 cans                   Beer
             3 cans                   Non-alcoholic beer

          12 cans each            Cola and Diet Cola
            6 cans                    7-Up
            3 cans                    7-Up Diet
            3 liters                    Club Soda, Ginger Ale
            6 liters                    Tonic, Bloody Mary Mix
            1 Gallon                 Orange Juice
            1 Quart                  Cranberry and Grapefruit Juice
            3 Quarts                 Margarita Mix

      And notice that this does not include champagne.

      If you decide to have a bar but don't want to include all the various varieties of alcohol or soft drinks, just increase the quantity of those you are serving.

      Beer and wine can be self-serve.  If you have a bar you need someone to act as bar-tender.  There has to be control to prevent the possibility of the bar running dry before your event is over.  We won't even discuss the potential for disaster when some folks have access to complimentary liquor and mix their own drinks. 

      Most guests are not big champagne drinkers.  One way to save in the budget is to not pour a full glass of champagne for the toast.  If you pour 4 ounces of champagne in each glass you can get by with 5 one liter bottles or 3 magnums for 50 guests. Suggestions and options for setting up the champagne service at a DIY reception is included in my previous blog;

      Cash Bar 
      One of my clients had a reception with 300 guests and chose to set-up a cash bar with a experienced bar tender.  No one seemed to mind paying for their mixed drinks;  perhaps because of the large guest count, or maybe because they had served themselves from a fantastic buffet with a wide variety of food selections, the DJ was exceptional, and everyone was having a great time.  We had planned the buffet so all 300 guests could be served in 45 minutes one was left sitting at their table wondering if it was ever going to be their turn to go get their food.   This further illustrates one of the key points of a DIY event; if it is well planned, the guests will have a great time, the bridal party and their families will be relaxed and enjoying themselves - it will be a success!

      Signature Cocktails
      An option to offering a variety of mixed drinks is to select a signature cocktail.  There are numerous advantages to this, including the fact that it is easier to determine the quantities of ingredients to purchase and the amount of liquor in each serving is consistent.  My clients that served signature cocktails set up a bar with a hired bartender; who also served wine by the glass and bottled or canned beer.   There are an endless variety of cocktails on Pinterest; the biggest problem you could face is determining which one to serve.  

      The majority of my clients chose to serve beer, wine, soft drinks and water.  They would roughly anticipate how many guests would be drinking beer, wine or soda and then compute totals based on the following.  If you are serving a signature cocktail figure 1 drink before dinner, 2 drinks in the hour after dinner and then 1 drink an hour after that.

      Rule of thumb for computing quantities of various drinks...
      Beer - 2 beers per hour per beer drinking guest
      Wine - 2 glasses of wine per hour per wine drinking guest
      Soda - 2 sodas per hour per soda drinking guest
      Water  - 1 bottle per guest

      Drinks for Children
      Offer juice boxes for the children.  They are usually running around so much that the cans of sodas will get warm before they are finished and will be left sitting on the table.

      Other budget helpers.  Check party supply stores for drink stirrers.  If you are using disposables plan your drink menus so glasses can be purchased in bulk.


      Information on my blog is taken from my book; Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions.
      The book also includes numerous organizational and planning tools that are not available anywhere on the web.  Have a planning guide at your fingertips to walk you step-by-step through planning your DIY reception - order at  Ships to arrive in 2 to 3 days.

      Sign up now - If you would like to receive additional planning information each week just enter your email address address in the space provided.  I do not see your information and to the best of my knowledge it is not shared with anyone. 

      Saturday, January 4, 2014

      12 Plus Ways to Save Money on Food for a DIY Wedding Reception

      1.    Schedule your reception at a time of day when a brunch or luncheon menu would be appropriate.

      2.   Request close friends help you prepare an item to bring to the reception in lieu of a gift - you provide the recipe and ingredients

      3.  Have a pot-luck reception - yes it works if it is well organized.

      4.  Don't have you heart set on serving "tasting portions" in cute little dishes - they are extremely labor intensive.

      5.    Don't think that serving appetizers will be more economical than a full buffet.  Rice, potatoes and veggies cost much less than the quantities of meats and cheeses needed for an full appetizer menu.  Appetizers can also be much more labor intensive to set up - which can put a strain on your helpers.

      6.       Plan your menu to use seasonally available items - a fruit platter in the winter will be more expensive than one in the summer.

      7.       Plan your menu as soon as possible. Adjust the recipes for your guest count and prepare your master shopping list. Watch grocery store advertisements for staple and meat items on sale and freeze until needed. Purchasing food items over a period of time will feel like less of a strain on your budget.  Freeze beef for six months prior to your event, poultry for 3 months, without a loss of quality.

      8.     Purchase fruit and vegetables from your local farmers market.  My clients used to save money by arriving late in the day and buying bulk quantities at a discount.  The vendors would prefer to sell the produce at a discount, rather than pack it up to move to another market.

      9.     Adjust meat recipes to serve approximately 4 to 6 total ounces of meat  to each guest.  If you are expecting 100 guests and are serving Ham with Cola Lime Sauce plus Chicken with Wine and Oven Roasted Tomatoes you are not going to prepare 100 serving of both recipes.  (Worksheets to help determine how much of each recipe to prepare are just one of the planning tools included in Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions)

      10.      If you have a favorite entree at a local restaurant order just the entree in bulk "to go" and then have someone pick it up before the reception.  

      11.     Purchase meat in bulk from a wholesale meat market - there will be more variety and better cuts of meat available.  Roasting a large piece of brisket, rather than purchasing and cooking several smaller pieces bought at the local grocery store, will save you money and produce an dish that your guests will rave about.

      12..    Have "the father of......" BBQ his "specialty" two days before the event and then re-heat in chafing dishes.

      13.     When planning your menu be aware that if you are using a rented facility for your event there is a good possibility you are going to have time constraints.  If you are serving over 75 guests having any type of burger, salad, taco, or build your own bar is going to significantly slow down the time it takes for people to serve themselves and eat.   I had one client who insisted on setting up the buffet with bowl of greens surrounded by a large variety of additional salad ingredients . It was somewhat time consuming to put the assortment of 12 additional items in their serving dishes.  But then it took forever for each guest to look over the assortment of items available to decide what they wanted to put on their bed of lettuce.  And then they had to decide which salad dressing they were in the mood for.  Instead of taking 45 minutes for the guests to serve themselves it took at least twice that amount of time.  And the china and flatware rented for the function came back to be cleaned and returned to their containers about an hour late.  Due to this delay the helpers were so far behind schedule that the kitchen doors were almost locked with everything still inside - which would have meant the loss of the deposit.  It wasn't a pretty site.  A simple salad consisting of crisp greens tossed with croutons and dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette will both save you $$, and, it will be a big hit.

      14.      Plan your menu around food that you both love.....remember this is about creating a day that you will remember forever.  If there is some menu item that you "have to have" and it is putting a wrench in the budget; cut corners somewhere else.

      15.      Don't schedule a formal  "appetizer hour"  prior to the beginning of the buffet service.  It will increase your food cost and probably throw the schedule out of whack if you are holding your reception in a rental hall.  Do have the drinks and beverages iced and ready to serve when the guests come in the door.   An appetizer or two served with the dinner on the buffet table will provide a nice touch of variety and will be appreciated.  I do recommend setting up a small side table with drinks and a light snack if any children are invited.

      16.     Purchase one or two bulk filler items from your local box store.  The Artichoke Dip from Costco was always a favorite with my clients and the cost was comparable with making it from scratch.  Don't be afraid to include some purchased "short cut" foods.  But, it is less expensive to purchase a #10 size can of good baked beans and add some mustard and brown sugar, than to order from your local deli.

      17.    Compare prices before purchasing items in bulk at your local box store.  Usually soft drinks and beer can be found on sale at a lower cost than the everyday price at the box store.  Once you determine what quantities you need (early in the planning stage) you can pick these items up over a period of time.

      18.     Check for a local wholesale food outlet that sells to the public.  You will be amazed at the variety of canned, fresh and frozen items available in large quantities, at prices that your budget will love. They also offers excellent prices for dairy goods and bulk cheeses.    

      The next several blogs will continue to explore various ways of saving money on a DIY wedding reception; sign up now so you don't miss any valuable information. 

      To have all the DIY information from my blog at your fingertips, plus additional worksheets and planning tools order Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions at

      If you have a question about any aspect of a DIY reception please post it in the comment section below and I will post an answer in the next blog.