13 Cheap but Classy Wedding Reception Ideas

There’s no two ways about it! Planning a wedding requires you to dig deep into your pockets however, how far beyond the budget is too far? When planning your wedding, you can easily go from approaching your desired budget to being grossly over budget while barely spotting the culprits until it’s too late.

Worry not, because we’re going to show you how to get the glitz and glam without going into debt with these cheap but classy wedding reception ideas. As a plus, we’ll help you spot the culprits from a mile away so you can look out for them and make wedding planning a little easier on the back.

So, how do I go from being within the budget to being stressed out of my mind?

It always seems like you’ve got it all under control until you don’t! Here are a few parts of wedding planning that can get away from you and end up giving you a hard time with the budget.

Check out these other popular picks:

1. The Venue.

Wedding venues will take up a big chunk of your wedding budget. After all, it is the blank canvas from which you bring your reception ideas to life. Picking the venue with views, overlooking a picturesque landscape with manicured lawns and dedicated flower gardens at the peak of wedding season is bound to cost you an arm and a leg while a less popular venue with equally well-maintained grounds would be priced more reasonably.

While deciding on a venue while on a budget, remember you can always work with your venue to bring out its full potential.

2. Food

The food budget can get a little tricky because you want to ensure your guests are well-fed without going completely off the roof. When it comes to cutting costs around the food, skip the plated meals and opt for buffets instead.

You can also cut back by taking advantage of seasonal items that are bound to be retailing for a cheaper price hence bringing the cost down. If you’re on a budget, try to skip prime cuts of meat and exotic menu items.

3. Drinks

This is one understandably debatable wedding item. Have none and it’s frowned upon, ask guests to bring their drinks or pay cash at the bar and you’ve entered the taboo territory. So how do you get around the drink’s expense at a wedding? Simply do not have an open bar. Instead, opt for a limited bar or better yet serve bottles at the table.

If the venue allows it, buy your drinks at a wholesale price elsewhere and have them served to your guests all night. And for the champagne? Scrap it out completely and only have a bottle for the couple if you must.

4. The Wedding Cake

Wedding cakes are a work of art and even act as beautiful centerpieces at the reception however, these do not come cheap. Even worse, most of the cake doesn’t get eaten anyway because it comes up way late into the party. Instead, opt for a smaller cake to serve your guests or a dummy cake to enjoy the presence of a centerpiece cake without the cost. 

5. The number of guests

The number of people you invite to your wedding automatically affects your budget as you have to consider them when selecting a venue, the amount of food, drinks, and cake to get, and how many caterers to have on site. Keep this number reasonable to keep your budget reasonable.

6. Flowers and Décor

Floral arrangements and wedding décor pieces are a large wedding expense especially when having a larger wedding venue. Try to keep the intricate pieces as part of the cake setup and head table and pick cheaper pieces for the guest setups. If you can, thrift, hire, or DIY your wedding décor.

12 Cheap but classy wedding reception ideas

Despite some of the unavoidable wedding expenses, it’s still possible to have an elegant wedding without overspending. Here are some cheap but classy wedding ideas;

1. Have a Backyard reception.

Small Backyard Wedding Ideas

Having a backyard wedding is the simplest way to completely eradicate the wedding venue cost which takes up a big chunk of the wedding budget. Doesn’t that sound plain and boring? Not so fast because with a little work, you can transform your backyard into the perfect wedding reception venue for you and your guests.

If you’re unsure of how to start the transformation journey here is an article we have on backyard wedding reception ideas. If you and your partner don’t already own a home, you can request to use a relative’s backyard. Even if they asked for a small fee, it would be nothing compared to the cost of a wedding venue.

2. How about a Reception out in the Garden?

You can never go wrong with a garden reception as nature already does all the work for you! The outdoor and laidback experience allows you to deviate from the standard formal wedding setting and take on a more laid-back vibe which can manifest in décor pieces that are less chic and less pricey.

You can also take advantage of the fact that you’re already in a place filled with nature’s very own floral arrangements and do very little with the table setups to complement the venue by allowing less to be more.

3. Lunch with a view of the lake

There’s something magical about setting up right by a lake. Even better yet it holds fond memories of your days as a young couple oblivious to the fact that the lake metaphorically watched your relationship bloom into a marriage and would be a constant throughout all your milestones.

The backdrop is also perfect for photo ops and to tie in with simple and affordable décor pieces like fairy lights, lanterns, and decorated tents that allow nature to take center stage. And as a plus, the venue can be free or have a very low fee attached to it if it’s part of a park.

If you’re going to be out late into the night, kindly bring bug spray for you and your guests so you can stay out late and enjoy the beautiful night sky and a bonfire.  

4. A Destination-like wedding next door

If you’re lucky enough to live by the beach, then head on over and plan to have your reception overlooking the ocean. The scenery is a beautiful base to build a glamorous wedding setup that captures a boho-chic aesthetic that can be brought to life by thrifting and a lot of home DIY projects.

Unfortunately, if you’re not located on a private beach, you can’t hope to monopolize the space.

5. How about a cupcake wheel?

Wedding cakes are expensive and unfortunately, not all of us are lucky enough to know someone who would be willing to do the cake for free or for a low price. Fortunately, by the time we get to the cake, everyone is tipsy and stuffed so it’s okay to have just enough.

If you don’t want to offer pre-packed cake, cupcakes are a great way to scrap dessert off the menu while serving as the cake as well. And with cupcakes, you can mix the flavors and have minis just to make sure there’s variety for everyone.

6.  Embrace DIY Projects

If you want to save big, you’re going to have to cut off the decorators, vendors, and everyone that’s bringing convenience to the table. The good thing is if you start early you can have all your décor pieces and floral arrangements ready just in time for your wedding. And no, DIY items don’t always have to look cheap and homemade.

With a little effort and practice you can make your centerpieces and other décor items from scratch for a fraction of the price of buying them. While we encourage these DIY projects, we also recommend enlisting help so you don’t burn out before your wedding.

7. Have a small wedding

Society seems to have cheated us into the idea that big weddings are the way to go. We’re here to tell you that small weddings are in style now. Weddings are after all intimate and should be spent with the dearest of our friends and loved ones.

As a plus, cutting down the guest list leaves more spending money that allows you to have your dream wedding without worrying about going over the budget. 

8. Open bar with a twist

It’s definitely a no-no to have guests bring their drinks but you know who’s not forbidden from bringing their drinks? You! If you want to serve unlimited drinks without deviating from the budget, buy the drinks yourself from a wholesaler and have your friends pour themselves as many drinks as they’d like.

If no one wants to keep heading to and from the bar designated area, bring a bar cart that will be passed around the room all night with fewer trips to the drinks table.

9. Digital Invitations for the Win

We’re moving into the digital era anyway and there’s no room for waste while you’re on a budget. Send your friends a digital invitation to offset the cost of printing lots of invitations. If you’re feeling creative, you can even design your invitations that serve as an entry pass at your wedding reception.

10. Embrace a buffet at mealtime

Having plated meals seems standard for weddings, however, it comes at an added cost. If having wait staff serve your guests at the table limits your food budget, simply opt for a buffet.

It allows you to have more food options on the menu and can even be self-service with occasional refills by the catering team. Feel free to check out our cheap wedding reception buffet food ideas for restaurant quality meals on a budget here.

 As a plus, your guests can interact with each other while waiting in line and since seating places aren’t rigid for serving purposes, you can scrap them altogether and let your guests eyeball it.

11. Convert a barn into a venue

Barns are associated with a rustic wedding theme however, they are very well capable of being the base for a formal and elegant wedding reception. Simply opt to use the available space to bring to life your vision for your wedding reception to cut the venue cost.

If a rustic theme is well within your vision, try as much as possible to make the barn the standout feature of your décor so you don’t get lost in the décor and end up with a large décor budget.

12. Have a brunch wedding reception

A brunch wedding reception is one way to ensure you go all out on the food menu without actually having spent too much. A brunch menu is significantly cheaper than a dinner menu and you can pick out amazing treats to fill up your guests for a good price.

Well, you can’t serve brunch at dinner so to pull this off, you’ll have to plan your schedule to ensure your reception falls right around the brunch hour. It’s unique, fun, classy, and budget-friendly.

13. Ditch the DJ.

Bringing in a DJ to man the station the entire night is convenient and fun, however, they don’t come cheap. Fortunately, a good playlist to keep the night alive goes a long way and you can have a volunteer within the family stay on top of the station and ensure no speeches or big moments of the night are drowned with background music.

You don’t want to have to leave the head table to turn the volume down or try to speak over the noise only to find out when watching your wedding video that most of your special moments weren’t quite captured due to the chaos.

Final Thoughts

Planning a wedding with a small budget can get frustrating when you don’t know where to start and how to ensure your wedding doesn’t look like it was quickly scrapped together. Saving money doesn’t have to appear cheap and we hope that these cheap but classy wedding reception ideas will help you bring your dream wedding to life. After all, knowing when to put a cap on spending is the real class act.

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