Make it a daytime reception. “It’s always cheaper to serve lunch or brunch than dinner,” says Fields.
Try a combination plate. Eliminate a choice of entrée to save on your food bill. “Serve a couple of grilled shrimp with a couple of beef medallions," Naylor says. “This cuts down on the cost, since the chef doesn’t need to buy enough of all the entrées to allow for people to change their minds.” Or serve an inexpensive dish like chicken and pasta and let the chef shine by creating great sauces.
Avoid the traditional sit-down dinner or buffet meal altogether. Instead, host a cocktail reception with cake and punch or cake and cocktails. Or have a potluck reception, which makes for a less formal, more intimate wedding with a nice feeling of community.
Serve signature cocktails. “Alcohol is one of the biggest expenses of a wedding and can burn a hole in your budget fast,” says Fields. Since most reception sites charge for every bottle opened, even if it was for just one drink, consider offering a limited bar. Choose a signature cocktail (or a series of signature cocktails) that use one type of liquor. Then, ask to stock a few other bottles based on the wedding party’s preferences (i.e., if your dad drinks only scotch). Another option is to serve just beer, wine, and enough champagne for toasts.