DIY Wedding Reception Food on a Budget

A bride and groom sitting on the ground against a vintage truck eating pizza.

We all know weddings are expensive. And what takes a major chunk out of the nuptial budget is the food. Let’s face it: if you’re doing even a small-ish wedding at around 50-75 people, that’s still a lot of mouths to feed. But feeding your friends and family doesn’t have to be expensive, especially if you’re willing and ready to cook something up yourself. With a little creativity, you can present a DIY food menu at your wedding that will blow the most uppity caterers away! Here are some DIY food ideas to help get you started.

Chips, Salsa, and Guac

Who doesn’t love chips and salsa (and guac?!). Not many. This is a great snack for an appetizer or as a bar snack. To make it more fancy, you could even have a nacho station with bowls of chips plus servings of shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and jalapeños.

Offer a Hearty Soup

While you definitely don’t want to pass out a heavy and hot soup during the summer, serving a hearty and popular soup (think seafood chowder or a tomato bisque) is a cheaper alternative than a shrimp cocktail for an appetizer.

Serve Up Family Style

Reduce labor costs and individual plates by having guests serve themselves out of communal dishes placed on their tables. Some easy and inexpensive family-style dishes can include lasagna, pulled meats, macaroni and cheese, and any casserole you can think of. It’s not only cost-efficient, but also invites conversation at the table.

Cheese and Crackers

A selection of cheese and crackers at a weding reception.

This is a classic standby for a reason. Cheese and crackers are the perfect bar snack as guests mingle. You don’t even need to buy a number of expensive cheeses. Instead, save some money and stick with two to three popular types (an aged, something soft and creamy, and a blue cheese usually works). Another budget tip? Skip on multiple boxes of crackers and opt for a baguette or two, which is more cost-effective.

Host a Potluck

If you’re having an intimate wedding with well-known family and friends, hosting a potluck dinner for your reception could be a budget-friendly option. Divide apps, snacks, and dinner plates among your tribe, and offer up a theme, like “Italian wedding” or “Tex-Mex Fiesta,” to give them ideas. Or if they have a go-to specialty, you might choose that option. People love to cook, and some express their love through meals, so don’t be afraid to ask!

Bake Some Cupcakes

An aerial view of wedding cupcakes decorated like flowers.

Wedding cakes are expensive, and are often skipped over by guests who’ve stuffed themselves on apps and the main meal. Baking up some homemade cupcakes is a cheaper, yet equally delicious, option. You could make it fun by inviting over your wedding party to help bake and decorate them.

Serve Some S’Mores

You don’t have to skip a dessert table on a tight budget. Serving up s’mores with plates of graham crackers, chocolate, and bowls of marshmallows is not only an enjoyable task for guests that will send them back to their childhood, but will also cost you less money than fancy macarons.

Pop Some Popcorn

Everyone loves popcorn, and thankfully it’s an inexpensive snack. Serve some along with a variety of flavorings wedding guests can sprinkle on top like ranch and cheese for a light bar or post-meal snack.

Hold a Barbecue

Get your grill on! Everyone loves a good BBQ and a grill offers the opportunity to cook up a variety of food in bulk, including everything from burgers to veggie skewers to corn on the cob, which can serve as the main meal and everything in between. Divvy up the cooking duties and serve up some fun in the process!

Order Some Pizza

Everyone loves pizza. Whether it’s for the main meal or for a midnight snack, order a variety of pies from your favorite pizza place, and you’ll see them disappear quickly.

Food and drink costs are sure to account for a significant share of your wedding reception budget, but with some simple tweaks, in addition to calling in some reinforcements (like your grandmother’s signature casserole or your brother’s famous burgers) and you can reduce your bill without forgoing flavor and fun.

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