Not having lots of money to spend on your wedding reception does not mean that it can’t be elegant and stylish, some of the most wonderful marriage celebrations I have attended have been on the lower end of a budget allowance and I’ve also attended some really awful tacky weddings that have had a huge budget. Choose quality over quantity and try not to skimp on the things that are most important to you. Leave out what you don’t want or need, it’s your wedding reception, it does not need to follow a traditional or set pattern. Start out with the mindset that your reception will be small, informal and relaxed and keep that attitude in mind, this way it will be easier to stick to the budget as you go along.
Before you spend a dime on your wedding reception, plan your budget carefully and decide who will pay for what. Try not to overburden one side of the family, spread out the cost as seems fair to you all between both families and bride and groom. Check out this free online budget calculator that will help you determine estimates of overall costs. It’s a good place to start and to decide what you want to include and what is not necessary for your big day.
Keep the number of guests that you invite as low as you can, this will save a lot of money. Don’t be pressurized into inviting hundreds of guests many of whom you don’t know and will probably never see again.
There are many budget friendly locations that would be great for a Summer time wedding reception. An outdoors reception is perfect for this time of year. Look for; someone you know could let you use their huge, nicely landscaped back yard, pretty small gardens or parks in your area (some may let you even use the space for free), the beach and historic areas. Generally, outside venues are cheaper than indoor ones.
Try to have the wedding and reception at one location, so that you only have one set of flowers and decorations that can be used during the ceremony and the reception. To save money don’t plan weekend long events such as a Friday night rehearsal dinner, Saturday wedding/reception, Sunday brunch and gift opening; costs add up. Plan a simple event such as an evening wedding and then straight to dinner reception, an afternoon wedding and serve just cake and coffee/soft drinks or a morning wedding followed by a brunch. A beach wedding could be followed by a picnic lunch or a back yard informal ceremony could be followed by a potluck, whatever you are comfortable with and feels right to you. If you plan to have your reception at a restaurant you may ask about week day rates as these may be much cheaper, guests may be more inclined to come to a midweek celebration during the summer.
Look around for talented family and friends that may provide live music for your reception. Whatever your taste runs to; you may know a piano player, acoustic guitar player or a band that could provide entertainment for the night for free or very cheaply. Alternatively, plan canned entertainment. Hire a juke box or make your own play list on a laptop or MP3 player and set up speakers for continual play. Have someone in charge of keeping the flow of music going through the reception appropriately.
Food and drink
An informal buffet style reception is often the cheapest option and lends itself to guests socializing with each other as they line up for food. Everyone helps themselves and gets what they want, keeps things simple.
If you are providing alcohol, buy it from one of those big warehouse stores in bulk to get the best deals or consider a cash bar to cut costs even further.
Buy or bake a small wedding cake for cutting and photos and then serve guests from sheet cakes, which are much more economical or as is popular these days serve cupcakes instead. They can be artfully arranged on a cake stand for the photos to look like a tall wedding cake. You can even use them as wedding favors for guests to take home.
Again turn to artsy and creative family and friends to save money on decorations and flowers by making them yourselves. Make centerpieces out of silk flowers and ribbon or use home grown fresh, seasonal flowers, grasses, herbs and fruits. If you are going to buy flowers learn a lesson from this hilarious video, don’t mention they are for a wedding! Look for great deals for materials online and at craft stores use the coupons often found in Sunday newspapers. Rose petals strewn on a reception table is a simple but effective alternative to a fancy centerpiece. If you buy flowers; be sure to choose in season flowers as these will be easier to find and cheaper. Summer time has an abundance of roses, calla lily’s and daisy’s. Use Boston and Asparagus ferns in pots around your reception location for greenery. Use tea lights and potpourri in vases on your tables, string small lights around the area for an evening outdoor reception. Buy candles of all sizes at wholesale prices and in one color for a dramatic, romantic outdoor atmosphere. For place cards, have a friend with calligraphy skills write them for you to save on expensive printing. I like this site Do it yourself weddings for great ideas and photos to help you make your own decorations and favors.
Photography and Video
One of your friends with photography or video skills could photograph and video the reception for you; be sure they know exactly what is expected of them, what you want them to capture etc.
So, in short, the best way to save money on your summer wedding reception is to use your myriad of talented and creative family and friends. They will be honored to help you make your day special by doing their bit; maybe making the cake, cooking food for the reception, some flower arranging. Everyone has a talent, make your wedding a family affair to create a beautiful meaningful reception that won’t break the bank.