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Wedding Food Ideas on a Budget

Wedding food can take up a large chunk of the budget. Here are wedding food ideas on a budget that are delicious, simple, and cost-effective.

When it comes to your wedding budget, a whole chunk can quickly be chewed up by the food cost involved. The more guests you have, the more mouths to feed. 

Luckily there are ways to trim the reception food costs and utilize wedding food ideas on a budget which is a great way to bring down overall wedding costs!

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Backyard barbeque party at summer wedding

Cocktail hour food ideas 

During the cocktail reception hour, wedding guests can mill around and chat while photos are being taken and everything is getting ready for the reception. This is a perfect time to present appetizers to guests so they have something to tide them over until the wedding dinner.

  • Crackers and cheese. Sounds simple, but most people are a fan of crackers and cheese! You can add a personal touch too, by using the bride or groom’s favorite cracker or favorite cheese and writing a little sign near the plate. Eg ‘ This brie cheese was the variety that Alan and Jess ate on their first date.’
  • Vegetable crudités and dip. This is a cheap and cheerful option. Use vegetables that are in season and they’ll bring color and freshness. Dips are easy and cheap to make and you can make large amounts to feed a crowd.
  • Fresh fruit – Seasonal fruit will keep costs down.
  • Flatbread – Flatbread is very cost-effective. Change the toppings to bring color and variety. Herbed flatbread, tomato, and cheese, roasted peppers, or parmesan cheese. Cut circle flatbread into slices like a pizza and it’s easy for guests to grab a piece. 
  • Tiny sandwiches – These are easy to make and the fillings can be different to suit dietary requirements and tastes. 
  • Bacon-wrapped prunes – Salty and sweet. Serve them with a toothpick so guests can easily grab them.
  • Bruschetta – Change the toppings depending on flavors and seasons. Fresh tomato and basil are great in summer, while squash or mushroom is more suited to fall weddings.  
  • Dumplings or potstickers – Buy them in bulk and garnish them with fresh green onion to bring color. Serve them in a large spoon, drizzled with a little soy sauce. 

How many appetizers you choose for your wedding will depend on the main meal you’ll serve too. You could choose to serve many appetizers and only a light main meal. Or, do the opposite and serve some light bites and then a bigger main course. 

Homemade Italian Bruschetta Appetizer with Basil and Tomatoes

Dinner ideas

Buffet table-style wedding catering or a grazing table will be cheaper than plated meals. This also reduces the cost of waitstaff since guests can grab their own meals. Here are some buffet wedding dinner ideas on a budget. 

  • A meat option or two – A roasted beef or a pulled pork tray is always popular. You can also do a chicken option for those that don’t eat red meat.
  • Pasta – Pasta is a cheaper option that can be served in all sorts of ways to suit different dietary requirements. Gluten-free pasta options, vegetarian or vegan sauces… Sometimes pasta can be messy though, especially those with a red sauce so you might want to avoid that and go for something like an alfredo instead. Food stations with different pasta options can be set up.
  • Taco bar
  • Salads – You can do a salad bar with salads as simple as a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette, or a full-on salad with all the trimmings. Using seasonal vegetables is a way to keep costs down. 
  • Potatoes – Roasted, mashed, boiled…potatoes are always a crowd favorite and easy on the wallet.
  • Dinner rolls – This is an easy way to provide a bit more sustenance and ensure your guests have enough to eat. 

Have a few different vegetarian or vegan options available. Popular vegetarian or vegan options may get chosen quickly by all guests, and this can leave those with dietary restrictions with not enough food. 

Potluck ideas

If your wedding is a backyard wedding or informal, you can choose a potluck wedding style! This is an inexpensive wedding food idea as guests can bring a plate and this will keep costs right down.

people group catering buffet food indoor in luxury restaurant with meat colorful fruits  and vegetables

Dessert ideas

Serving your traditional wedding cake as a dessert is a great choice. To keep costs down, use a smaller cake for cutting. Bake the same flavor cake as a slab cake and cut that later for the guests.

Other wedding dessert ideas on a budget include –

  • Wedding cupcakes or cookies
  • Chocolate truffles
  • Ice cream sundae bar
  • A candy bar
  • Candied nuts
  • Mini fruit tartlets
  • Fruit salad
whipped cream frosting vanilla cupcakes with purple edible flowers

Final considerations

If you’re choosing to cater some of the food yourself on your wedding day, make sure you’re taking into account whether or not the food needs cold storage or heating. Consider food safety. It is important especially if the food will be made in advance or left out for a period of time. 

Work out which elements will save you money if made from scratch and which are best store-bought. A salad dressing is cheaper to bulk make from scratch and so are the dips. Dumplings or potstickers may also be cheaper homemade, but they would be so much easier to prepare when store-bought. 

Chocolate truffles, candied nuts, and fruit tarts will be cheaper made from scratch, but the effort these take means a store-bought shortcut may be preferable also. For example, for fruit tarts, mini pastry cases could be bought but the fillings can be homemade. 

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