Having trouble affording your ideal reception? Try these thrifty alternatives.

1. Minimize your catering bill.

√ Individual meals can get costly, so try a family-style meal instead. Each table will be given platters of food instead of individually plated meals and guests can serve themselves as much as they like. In traditional Russian weddings, tables are given multiple plates of meat and other side dishes as well as a bottle of vodka so that guests can serve themselves throughout the meal. If supplying vodka for each guest is not a family tradition, then a ‘family style’ meal can be less expensive than an individually prepared and served dinner for each of your guests.

2. Minimize your bar tab

√ Offer one or two signature cocktails or types of wine instead of a fully stocked bar. You can even skip a floral arrangement on the bar and instead personalize the area by writing  the name of your drinks on a mini chalkboard. Personalize your signature drinks by choosing a colored drink to match your theme or rename your signature cocktails with names such as White Weddingtini, Something Blue, True Love, or try naming your drinks after the newlyweds with names like Blushing Bride or the Groom’s Gimlet.

√ Look for a venue that does not have a liquor license such as a home, barn, loft, museum or city center where you can bring your own libations thereby cutting out any of the restaurant
venue’s pricing ‘add-ons’.  Discuss your options with your wedding planner, caterer or favorite liquor store when it comes to choosing the amount you want to spend and the estimated amount to include at your reception.  Many liquor stores will deliver and even set up all the extras such as limes, lemons, sodas, and ice and some may allow you to return unused bottles.

3. Minimize your venue costs.

√ Look for a venue that specializes in weddings. Venues that don’t specialize exclusively in weddingsmay have more requirements or minimums for various arrangements, so you will have to pay fees for things such as cake cutting, or a corkage fee for champagne toasts.

√ Host an afternoon reception for just close family and friends invited to your ceremony. Later in the evening host an “after-party” in place of a private reception and invite friends and family to a karaoke bar, a bowling alley or even a roller rink. Order some pizzas and pitchers of beer and let the rest of the night be a fun, less formal celebration.

√ Host a brunch reception in place of a dinner reception. Brunch menus and venues tend to be less expensive than dinner menus and rentals for a Friday or Saturday evening and a liquor tab will be significantly less since most people don’t typically hit the Scotch before noon. You could offer mimosas and Bloody Mary’s as your cocktails, but you won’t need to offer a full bar.

4. Maximize your decor.

√ Try a monochromatic look and order the same color or same type of flower in bulk. Usually the more you order of a single flower, the lower the price.  Use a battery operated light and place it under your arrangement, or use a submersable light that can be placed in your vase. The lighting will create a focus and make your arrangements stand out. Some venues offer small mirrors for your guests tables. By placing your arrangements on the mirror, light from chandeliers  will reflect, adding movement and depth to your decor. You can purchase battery operated lighting and mirrors at your local craft store.