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Posted at 9:27 AM ET, 02/19/2009

Dazzling Reception, Delicious Prices

By Julia Beizer

Unless you plan on wearing this gown, chances are food will be the most expensive line item on your wedding budget. The easiest way to cut costs is obviously to cut guests, but if having a big party is the most important thing, here are a few options for trimming food fees.


Question Formality
John Snedden's catering company offers seated, plated dinners of beef tenderloin and salmon, but they also dish out the downhome barbecue cuisine we've come to love at his local restaurants, the Rocklands Barbeque & Grilling Company chain. "There are three major costs for catering: food, equipment, labor," he says. "As the event gets more formal, food goes from being 50 percent of the total cost to 30 percent." Formal plated dinners come with a heftier rental fee for linens, glassware, flatware and china. Couples can cut costs by looking at ways to loosen up the formality of the event. If a backyard barbecue is too informal for you or your family, Snedden's team (like other area caterers) can work with you to figure out what items are important to you for your event (china dishes instead of paper plates, let's say) and what items you could do without to cut costs (hello, charger plates!). Prices obviously vary depending on the type of food and level of formality, but event prices at Rocklands Catering can range from $24 per person to $140, Snedden estimates.

Think Sweet
Who says you have to serve a full meal anyway? Dessert receptions put the emphasis on the sweet stuff and not on a full plated dinner. Festive Foods, a Rockville-based caterer, has a full pastry staff in house so they can create menus of truffles, mini cupcakes, petit fours or cookies and brownies. They even created an all-Italian dessert menu featuring biscotti and tiramisu. "It's a good way to economize and really stretch the wedding dollar," says Lauren Levine, director of special events for Festive Foods. Dessert receptions are likely to require less equipment (because everyone might not need a seat or as many utensils) and they require slightly less staff in the kitchen. "I've had brides who have been able to do the whole thing, full service, at $50 per person, which for the typical wedding, you really can't touch that," she says. Dessert receptions aren't only for the nighttime. Some of Levine's clients have had the sweet celebrations at 3 p.m.

Downsize Your Cake
Wedding cakes are priced by the slice, and locally, starting prices of $5 to $7 per person aren't uncommon. You can cut that fee in half by ordering a cupcake cake. Penny Karas, owner of Dupont Circle's Hello Cupcake, reports getting quite a few orders for the creations lately. They're made up of cupcakes and arranged on stands. "It's tiered so it looks like a wedding cake," she says. The shop charges its usual $3 per cupcake, but for an additional 50 cents, couples can add a fondant topping that stamped with a monogram of their initials, a wedding bell or other design. Cardboard cupcake stands, which can be decorated with ribbons, range between $20 and $40. Still want a formal tiered cake? Buy a smaller wedding cake for show and serve the majority of your guests cupcakes or slices of a less-expensive sheet cake.

-- Julia

By Julia Beizer  | February 19, 2009; 9:27 AM ET
Categories:  Misc., Restaurants  
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