Reception ideas on a super tight budget

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Michigans Posts : 10 Registered: 5/19/09
Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 27, 2009 4:08 PM

Hi all,

I am super stressing out. Its amazing how fast it comes. Anyways, I still have a lot of time in our favor for our wedding and reception. We are planning on having a small wedding for many reasons including money. I guess this is what it breaks down to.
1. Money is super tight, so the more inexpensive they are the better. (the more I can do the better too!)
2. I am sure what I want. I was thinking of doing a dessert only reception but I don't
3. How long do I make a reception for something like and how short it too short?
4. What about timing...inbetween the ceremony and reception, and for pictures?
5. Decor...I don't want to put too much into it, I looking for ideas that are simple and elegant.
6. I'd like to make it pretty traditional too!

So, anything any of you can think of would be great! Thanks for you help! :)


auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 27, 2009 7:45 PM Go to message in response to: Michigans

dear Mich,

You are in good company, these days. I first want to assure you that you need only do the best you can within your budget. Do not go over your budget, and especially do not borrow money. Do the best you can and hold your head high. There is virtue in living withing your means. I'm serious about that. Do the best you can and forget about what you cannot afford. You'll still be married at the end of the day, just like the bride with a super-glamourous wedding.

A few suggestions:

A cake, punch and coffee reception is pretty much the bare minimum. You can add things like finger food, small sandwiches, and other snacky-type stuff if you have the funds. There is nothing wrong with just serving cake, punch and coffee if that is all your budget allows.

A dessert-only reception is fine. Just make sure you advertise it so people won't show up hungry and ready to chow down on a full meal. Say "Dessert reception" on your invitation. They'll eat lunch or dinner, first.

The length of the reception is variable. In a minimalistic reception, you would just greet the wedding guests, get congratulations and introduce each other to family and friends. For a small wedding, an hour or so would be fine.

For a larger wedding, figure on a bit more time.

Timing is variable. Some people like to get all the posed photos over before the ceremony, then go straight into the reception. Others like the superstition of the groom not seeing the bride before the ceremony, so posed bride/groom photos have to come after the ceremony. Allow about a half hour for that, but have some light refreshments for the guests.

Personally, I am of the non-superstitious variety. I got all my photos done ahead of time, and went straight into the reception.

DIY stores are you best friends for inexpensive, yet elegant, decor. Look in crafty magazines and on line for ideas.

A few other tips: Skip the Save-the-Date cards. They are absolutely unnecessary and are expensive to get printed and mailed. Skip, also, party favors. Party favors for the guests are a nice touch, but if you are pinching pennies, no one will get upset about going home without some kind of trinket. If you really have to do party favors, think of things like M&Ms in little bags, or something like that.


Gaby0 Posts : 45 Registered: 5/25/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 27, 2009 7:51 PM Go to message in response to: Michigans

If you are going to do a dessert or appetizers you need to let your guest know. So they make dinner plans.


MrsPochatko10 Posts : 1 Registered: 5/27/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 28, 2009 12:09 AM Go to message in response to: Michigans

I've just started planning on a relatively small budget myself, so I'm also looking for ways to save money. Of course, my first suggestion is to keep it small.

Luckily, my fiance's brother is the techie type, so he's willing to do the music for the reception, so we don't have to hire a DJ. If you have family members or friends who can do stuff like that for you, it's always a plus. It also depends what kind of wedding you want to have. On a smaller budget, you'll probably need to have a more intimate, shall we say, type of wedding. Try showcasing things that are important to you rather than looking to what everyone else does. If you spend too much time aspiring to things that are out of your price range, you'll end up disappointed, so really try to focus on the elements that are important to you and play those up rather than going all out and spending money you don't have. I absolutely agree that there's nothing wrong with living within your means and still having a wonderful wedding.


Elizabeth40245 Posts : 59 Registered: 5/11/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 28, 2009 11:13 AM Go to message in response to: Michigans

Hi! Here are some ways I saved money on my reception:

Selected a cool, hip site (an arts center) that allows you to bring in your own booze, plus any caterer you want. We would have been able to stock up on liquor during our engagement. You also get the site for a full 24 hours. I wouldn't have thought of this place without research.

I am getting a restaurant to cater a pasta bar (yum) for only $8.50 a head! Check into your favorite restaurants. They don't stay like a normal caterer, but some friends with food service experience are going to make sure things stay hot and nice looking.

Instead of floral centerpieces, we are using candles in a variety of heights. Saves tons. Candles in general give a very romantic, elegant feel for less.

Luckily, FH's brother is in a band and the keyboard player also DJs. He is offering us a discounted rate.

Our photographer is an old friend of FH.

We are skipping favors - unnecessary.

We are doing pics of FH and I together after the wedding. It's not because I'm superstitious and actually think it's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding; it's because I want the first time FH and I see each other on our wedding day to be as I'm walking down the aisle. That's important to me. We will keep the photo session short though. I don't need tons of formal photos.

Good luck!


Michigans Posts : 10 Registered: 5/19/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 29, 2009 2:11 PM Go to message in response to: Elizabeth40245

Thank you all so much for the suggestions and support. I have no idea how I am going to pull this off but I pray by the grace of God it will happen!!! :)

P.S. I have another post about wedding dresses, if you have any info on that let me know! Thanks a million again!!!


BBGF Posts : 66 Registered: 5/5/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 31, 2009 1:48 AM Go to message in response to: Michigans

Hi fellow Michigander and may I say congratulations. I am an Event Planner in Michigan and us Michigander just have to stick together. I don't know how much your budget is, or were you are located at in Michigan, but if you are on a super tight budget look for places that will give you a discount on everything. Start by making al list of what you absolutely must have at your wedding ( not the groom thats a given :) ). Second things you like to have, and the big one things you need at the wedding. Write down what you think these things would cost and what you are willing to pay for them. Have your FH do the same and don't help him make his list let him do it on his own and then compare the two list. This will be your jumping off point. It will also keep both of you on tract and will let you see whether these things are affordable or not.Will you be getting married in a church? If getting married in a church or any other religious house of worship is not important to you, then I would suggest at looking for somewhere that could accomadate the wedding and the reception. I would also suggest to stray from any outdoor parties as you know our weather could be sunny, rainy or we could have snow showers and some times we can have all three in the same day. Even in the month of June. Your choice of what you would like to serve at your reception but I would also suggest to inform your guest of that with your invitation packets. Have you looked at doing your own invitations compared to buying them. Hey give me a call @ 734-308-2613 and ask for Paula. I would love to give you some free advice. The main thing is stick to your budget, but work with reliable people. By the way do you have a photographer? If you don't or are still looking for one I have one that has been in business for I believe over 20+ years and he does absolutely wonderful work and my last client he did their wedding for $620.00 for 500 pictures and went to 4 different locations with them. He was with them from 9:30 am until 11:00pm. They decided to print up their own photos as a way to keep their cost down. See there are people out there willing to help you. There entire wedding ran around $6,000. I say not bad esp. with thee average cost of a wedding running 20k + depending upon were you live.

Let us showcase your unique style.


alleak135 Posts : 54 Registered: 5/15/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 31, 2009 11:25 AM Go to message in response to: Michigans

I know how you feel about thaving a wedding on a small budget I too am having the same issue. one thing you could do if you haven't already set a ceremony site is to look for places that you can do the ceremony and reception all in one if you live near large bodies of water you might be able to find a party boat that you can rent many times you can save money plus they will include things in the package such as linens, dinnerware, and seating, some places may even throw in a DJ. If you go with something like that find out the cost of food and get party platters or check out your local warehouse stores those are great for large food platters on a small budget. Also, if you know of anyone who is a great cook or knows how to make a cake enlist them to help you maybe have them cook and you'll provide the ingredients say that can be their wedding gift to you. If you know anyone who has a great backyard or lives in a community that has a clubhouse find out if you can use it. good luck with everything I'm sure you're wedding will be beautiful.


Gypsy27 Posts : 3 Registered: 5/31/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 31, 2009 10:23 PM Go to message in response to: alleak135

Hi there Michigans :)

I'm also from the glove State! Congrats on your upcoming wedding. I'm on a pretty tight budget myself. To make things inexpensive, we are going with a light afternoon tea. This will include an array of small h'orderves, cake, champagne, coffee and tea. I've also crunched the numbers on my guest list to just under 100.
I saved alot of money on my dress because when I went to the dress shop, I got a discontinued gown off the sale rack. I was able to get it for 50% off.
I plan on getting pretty creative with this wedding planning. I don't think you have to spend a ton of money to have an elegant wedding. I am still amazed at the little things I find at the craft stores that I plan on using. Hope that helped and good luck with everything :)


auntofthebride Posts : 9,354 Registered: 4/2/06
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: May 31, 2009 11:01 PM Go to message in response to: Gypsy27

Dear Gypsy,

"I don't think you have to spend a ton of money to have an elegant wedding."

You are right.

Do the best you can with what budget you have and hold your head high.


delmarplatinumb... Posts : 33 Registered: 5/29/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: Jun 1, 2009 4:55 AM Go to message in response to: Michigans

I have been to many budget conscious weddings and have found that the successful ones all did the same thing:

1. have it in a backyard. do not shell out money to rent a hall or anything. if you have a nice backyard, host it there. If not see if any relatives/friends have a nice backyard that you can have it in.

2. have your wedding on a Sunday afternoon.

3. keep the guest list small.

4. if you are not going to serve food, please let your guests know.

5. if you have it in a backyard, you can set up your own "bar". have someone designate as the bartender. that way, you can buy your own booze/drinks. It will save you a ton of money buying in bulk at Sams Club or Costo for your drinks.

6. take your pictures before the ceremony. traditionally you take pictures during cocktail hour, but if you are not doing that, take your pictures ahead of time so your guests can go straight from ceremony to reception without having to wait.

7. depending on how many guests, you can feed them decently without costing too much. you can do a buffet. it is easy to put together a salad, potatoes and roasted chicken on a tight budget. You can get buffet servers that keeps the food warm, and you can order your chicken from Costo. Its simple food, but people will like it. Food doesnt need to be fancy to be good.

8. order a small wedding cake just for pictures and your cake cutting. then order sheet cakes from Costo.

9. Buy flowers in bulk from wholesellers, then arrange them yourself. Small short square vase, votives candles and bunches of flowers in it will give a simple yet chic look.

10. If hiring a pro photographer is not within budget, get one of your friends that has an SLR camera to take pictures, then print out pictures yourself or upload to a site like Mpix to get an album. Mpix is more expensive than other picture sites, but their product is much more professional.

11. Or you can hire a student photographer or an amature trying to build their portfolio. They usually do it for a very low cost or free!

Hope all these ideas help.

Edited by: delmarplatinumbride on Jun 1, 2009 4:57 AM


mrsgilby Posts : 9 Registered: 5/8/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: Jun 1, 2009 2:19 PM Go to message in response to: delmarplatinumb...

We are also on a tight budget and fellow midwesterners. We live in a small town outside a large city. Obviously the further away from the big city the cheaper it is.

1) We always wanted it in a hotel to reduce possible driving risks, but some of the best deals are coming from country and golf clubs - this is especially with our wedding being off-season (winter).

2)We are limiting flowers to just the bridal party, we haven't decided yet what our centerpieces will be, but we are looking at candlescapes - buy seasonal colors the month after the season, so since ours will be winter 2011, we'll be buying a lot of things dec, jan, and feb 2010. Our colors are Sapphire, Blue topaz and silver.

3)It may be a trade off as far as prices, but we are going with a dessert bar/candy bar instead of a large cake. Guests can take cupcakes, brownies, candy home with them and we can use the left overs at the gift opening the next day. We are also considering using these as the centerpieces and then they get moved to the "dessert/snack" table for the dance.

4) I had always thought you needed to give a gift to each guest, I was wracking my brain with the possiblity of 150-200 people, how we would be able to afford it. Then my mom said that unless you have the funds for it, it's not necessary, we are already paying for them to eat, getting them a discounted hotel rate, providing entertainment, we would basically be "paying/bribing" people to attend. So what we are going to do is create little gift bags for our out of town guests who are also staying at the hotel - including our parents and grandparents. It's not a bag per person, its a bag per room. It'll include a votive, mini bottle of Asti champagne, some hersey's minis, and if possible 2 plastic champagne flutes. This reduce our items to less than 50! I saw in a recent mag that you can get a 4 pk of Asti champagne for $20. We got our price down to about $10/bag for 50 instead of $10/person for 200.

5)Most places, while you cannot bring in homemade items, you can bring in your own commercially bought items. So since we are having about a hour-hour and a half break for pictures between the ceremony and reception, we are going to buy large bags of bar snacks and the onsite coordinator will fill their own clear glass bowls with our items at no cost.

6) find out what decorations the reception site already has. Our location has offered to let us use their christmas trees at no cost. We can decorate however we want, we have a ton of silver and blue ornaments. They also provide either own cream colored votives for the tables if we want.

7) If it's not already a part of the contract, negotiate to have any room rental fees be applied towards the final invoice. This could save $500-2000.

8) to add color without breaking the bank. Table runners are usually $5 each, chair ties are $1.50. Use a Chair tie as your table runner. I saw this this past weekend and I didn't know the difference until someone told me.

9) Limit who you invite to the dinner, but invite your co-workers or close aquaintences to the dance. I think everyone understands budget constraints.

10) instead of an open bar, do time limits - that hour between the ceremony and reception or not at all, or just a 1/2 barrel of beer, or at each place setting, have a ticket done up like your invitations for 1 comp'd drink at each place setting.

*note doing all of this, cut our expenses in half! When we first went through we were looking at a $12,000+ wedding, we are now very comfortably at a $5000-$6000 reception.


mrsgilby Posts : 9 Registered: 5/8/09
Re: Reception ideas on a super tight budget
Posted: Jun 1, 2009 2:45 PM Go to message in response to: mrsgilby

Forgot to mentions a couple other ideas:

1) we are having a small 2 tiered cake for the cake cutting, we are saving the top half and the 2nd tier would then be an additional treat at the dessert tabl.

2) Because of the nature of my work, I have some close event planner contacts to take a look at my site contract. They have then been able to let me know what I can cut, any hidden fees, and other negotiating I can do. They also offered free negotiating for those times when I didn't feel I could be hard headed enough. You know, those little things that a more expereinced netogiator could get - like a free champagne toast, access to a bank's parking lot as a gathering site. (our reception is on a hilly area, by a lake, and gravel roads - during Feb - a little treterous for those not familar with the area and those who have had too much to drink).

3) I also have 3 teenage cousins who will be 17/18yo by wedding time and will be chauffering guests to and from the site for the hour before the reception and from 9-10pm. This give safe passage for most of our attendees and will possibly give them a little cash in hand from tips from drunk family and friends.

4) don't know if this saves any money, but our location is using their dinner tables pushed next to each other for the dinner. they are decorated so that when it comes time for the dance, they can "break away" and become small square cocktail tables. It's convenient and saves time on the breakdown portion of the reception.


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