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