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Food & Beverage is Always the Biggest Part of Your Wedding Budget – Here are 4 Ways to Reduce This Cost Without Compromising Guest Experience

No matter how you spin it or play with the numbers, food and beverage will be the biggest item on your wedding budget. Typically, this accounts for about 40% of your entire budget; that’s nearly half!

With food & beverage taking up such a large chunk, it’s important to make sure you’re not overspending on this big ticket item. After all, money saved here can be used for other wedding day priorities, like upgrading your florals, or splurging on a videographer. 

You also want to make sure that you’re not just doing the minimum to meet a venue or caterer’s requirement and end up compromising guest experience. We’re all about making sure your wedding is the best night possible. That means being true to your vision and creating lasting memories for you and your guests, without going over budget.

Here are a few easy ways to reduce or eliminate food & beverage costs so you can splurge in other areas.

Ditch the Mandatory Champagne Toast

We do love a glass of champagne, but gone are the days of pouring champagne at every place setting. Guests can easily toast with whatever drink they have in hand from the bar. And oftentimes, you’ll find that many of your guests don’t even enjoy champagne so never even touch the glass.

However, if champagne is important to you, opt for half pours from your venue or caterer. This will save you money as you’ll be able to pour more glasses per bottle.

Rethink Cocktail Hour Food

If you signed up for our download, you know we advise against  couples cutting back on cocktail hour food to save money. While we always advise against this, we also have a few tips and tricks for reducing cocktail hour costs without sacrificing guest experience.

One way to reduce your cocktail hour costs is to reduce cocktail hour time. Most couples have a standard 1 hour for cocktails in mind, but you can shave off 15-minutes and offer cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres for 45 minutes without affecting guest experience. We promise, they won’t even notice. 

With a 45 minutes cocktail time, the bar will be open for less time (those 15 minutes help!) and you can get away with 4-5 passed hors d’oeuvres and not the standard 5-6 we recommend. If you add a station or two (hearty ones) you can even go down to 3 passed hors d’oeuvres.

Time Your Bar Package Right

While it may seem more expensive at first, opting for a bar package is a smart move. We’ve seen the couples who haven’t followed this advice shocked when their bar bill comes in at the end of the night. After all, this isn’t only a celebration for you, the couple. It’s also an opportunity for your friends and family to let loose too, and they do. They eat, drink and dance in celebration of you!

Before you start negotiating your bar package price, look at your timeline for the day to avoid keeping the bar open longer than it needs to be. 

Make sure your package is closed:
  • During Ceremony – If you want alcohol served, have it passed so you can be charged on consumption. This trick also limits the amount of alcohol served and the time it’s served.
  • When guests are in transition. Whether they’re transitioning from ceremony to cocktail hour or cocktails to reception, ask that the bar remain closed. 
  • Save even more and help your guests get into your reception by closing the bar when guests enter your reception. Then wait until after your grand entrance, first dance set and welcome speeches to reopen.

Choose Entrees Wisely

Entree selection can make a difference in your food price. It all comes down to the meat. Not all proteins are valued the same. When it comes to entree options, the most expensive is red meat.  Fancy seafood like sea bass and scallops typically fall somewhere in the middle while chicken tends to be the most cost effective.

When we worked in 5-star hotels and couples wanted to host their wedding with us, but needed to cut back a bit on food & beverage in order to afford the venue fees, we always suggested having a chicken entree. A good chef can make eating chicken a delight and guests will be happy to have a wonderful meal (that they didn’t have to prepare) either way.

One last pro tip: Surprisingly, when guests pre-select their entree, you can save big. This means your guests will mark their entree selection on an RSVP card if you would like to give them a choice. This helps your hotel/caterer order ahead and results in less waste and more savings to you.


These are the top things to review on your proposal, so you can spend your money in other fun areas, like dessert!

  • Make a decision on serving champagne at your dinner tables.
  • Don’t skimp on cocktail hour food, but be efficient and find a balance between time and amount of food served.
  • Check your wedding day timeline to make sure you don’t have the bar open any longer than needed.
  • Review your proposed entrees one more time.

As wedding and event pros, we know taking care of your guests is a top priority. With the handful of tips outlined above, you have the skills to review any menu proposal or paperwork from your food & beverage vendor and know exactly where to reduce costs. 

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