Huffpost Style
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Big Girls, Small Kitchen Headshot

How to: Chop a Wedding Budget

Posted: Updated:

2011-08-02-food_007b2.jpg

Photo Courtesy of Brooke Courtney Photography

In my town it's the hipsters, the Christians, and the high school sweethearts who get married right out of college. Because I surround myself with all of these crowds, I thought getting married at 23 was a normal thing. Apparently not, according to the U.S. Government Census of 2010. It was actually normal in 1984. Nowadays, college grads are waiting to get married until they are in their late 20s. Most people want to start a career and be financially stable before they get married. I thought I wanted that too, but when my high school-sweetheart-Christian-hipster boyfriend proposed back in November, I realized I was wrong.

So while my college friends studied for LSATs and GREs, I was picking out linens, flowers and -- most importantly -- food... to feed 250. Catering is possibly the biggest expense when planning a wedding. Not to mention, when a wedding reception runs out of food or alcohol, you can be sure the guests are leaving early. So how do you keep the food and wine flowing when your cash flow is limited?

Choose a venue that doesn't require you to use their caterers (e.g.: a park, a backyard, an art gallery, etc.). This way you can customize food choices and bargain with vendors. At our wedding, we served small plates by way of self-serve stations. Each station had a different theme and, therefore, a different caterer. This allowed us to hand pick our food and our prices.

Ask your favorite restaurant to cater a small selection. More than likely you will be able to bargain with them and because you are loyal customers, they should be willing to work with you. It's also a cute way to personalize your wedding with your favorite dish, or your first-date food.

Choose a caterer who's just starting out, or works out of their home. Unlike big catering companies, they are still feeling out their value, so their prices will probably be lower. There is a risk factor here, so make you sure you do plenty of research by asking around. The best way to find a great, lesser-known caterer is by word of mouth.

There's nothing wrong with asking for a little help. Having family or close friends make your favorite dishes for the wedding in bulk will make the food more meaningful to you. For our wedding, my grandmother made her famous mac 'n cheese with stewed tomatoes. It was a hit, especially with picky eaters.

BYOB. Probably the best financial decision we made at our wedding was purchasing all of the wine, liquor and beer ourselves, instead of being charged by a company or a venue for each drink or bottle. We hired bartenders at an hourly wage and saved thousands of dollars.

--Alexia Miller for Small Kitchen College

Alexia is a recent grad (and newleywed!) living in Lancaster, PA. She loves to travel, experiment in the kitchen, and shop locally. The best breakfast she's ever had is Swedish Oatmeal Pancakes.