25 Creative & Cheap Wedding Reception Food Ideas For Your Special Day

The food is the main attraction at your wedding reception so there’s a lot of pressure to get it right. This pressure can mount significantly when you’re trying to serve up great meals with a small budget.

Fortunately, we have cheap wedding reception food ideas that don’t necessarily scream “Hey everyone, we’re working with a small budget.” These food options are incredibly versatile with international twists and will win your guests overall on a budget.

Cheap Wedding Reception Food Ideas and How to make them Restaurant Quality

Picture source from Instagram @dolce_catering

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Pasta is an incredible menu item that gets your guests well-fed for an incredibly low price. And no! You won’t have to serve up your quick dinner spaghetti recipe to get away with the prices. Here are a few pasta ideas that are bound to winners at your station;

1. Creamy garlic chicken penne

This is an Italian-style pasta made with butter, heavy cream, parmesan, Italian seasoning, garlic, and chicken breasts. It’s an amazing dish that looks great on any plate and utilizes some of the cheapest ingredients, pasta, and chicken, as the base.

2. .  Fajita Style Pasta

This is a Mexican-style pasta that packs on maximum Mexican flavors with ingredients like ground coriander, cumin, and smoked paprika yet still uses Italian herbs and heavy cream to finish off the sauce.

This sauce can be served as a standalone or with chicken bits. This pasta plates beautifully due to the burst of color brought in by the red and yellow peppers and tomato puree used in the sauce.

3. Fettuccine Alfredo

Alfredo is another Italian sauce that pairs well with pasta and is made with butter, garlic, heavy cream parmesan, and pepper. It is silky smooth, and creamy and pairs well with fettuccine and optional chicken breasts. It can be served with a fresh parsley garnish and shredded parmesan.

4. Linguine with lemon garlic sauce

This is another Italian classic that includes a pasta base and a rich sauce made by sizzling butter in olive oil with garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and parsley. Despite being a quick and simple pasta dish, it is full of flavor and can be garnished with parsley.

It plates beautifully when topped with fresh parsley and parmesan and maybe even a little freshly squeezed lemon for extra tang.

5. Pasta Bolognese

This is undeniably one of the most popular pasta dishes. The sauce is made with classic kitchen ingredients, ground beef, Italian herbs, tomato puree, beef broth, and red wine simmered to pack a ton of flavor. Even served with a basic spaghetti, Bolognese will always bring the flavor. For garnish, add fresh parsley and shredded parmesan or a Mexican cheese blend.

All our pasta dish recommendations are incredibly kid-friendly despite the little heat element addition.


Chicken is incredibly cheap all year round and some pieces more than others. It wouldn’t count as an article detailing cheap wedding reception food ideas if we simply left off this lifesaver! Chicken breast is incredibly affordable, carries flavor, and can be used to build other more complex menu items or cooked up on its own to create wonderful meat dishes

6. Garlic Herb Roasted Chicken

This chicken is made by coating your raw chicken with garlic butter, lemon, white wine, rosemary, and parsley ensuring it gets under the skin and inside the bird. The follow-up is simply baking it in the oven and basting occasionally until the chicken is a beautiful golden brown. It is a minefield of flavor and a great dish that goes well with multiple sides.

7. Bruschetta chicken

This Italian chicken is made with chicken breast, garlic, shallots, fresh basil, a balsamic glaze, and a mozzarella finish topped with a tomato mixture. It’s easy to make, looks great plated, and is a great way to add an Italian spin to your chicken dishes.

8. Tandoori Chicken

This is an Indian-style chicken made with chicken thighs coated in a marinade that packs a ton of Indian flavors like cumin, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, fenugreek and paprika or Kashmiri powder.

It can be cooked in the oven or tossed over the grill for that charred effect. It is beautiful to plate and can be brushed with butter for a glossy finish and served with mint or cilantro chutney.


Potatoes are our go-to affordable menu item as they are consistently cheap all year round! Here are a few potato ideas;

9. Roasted Potatoes

Roasted potatoes are easy healthy, easy to make, and even easier to infuse with flavor. They give you the delight of biting into a crispy potato while being fluffy on the inside.

They are made by parboiling your potatoes, allowing them to cool slightly, tossing them in olive oil mixed with salt, paprika, mixed herbs, and other preferred seasonings to add flavor, and baking them in the oven till crisp. They plate incredibly due to the red hue added by paprika and green flakes added by mixed herbs.

10.  Baked Potatoes

These potatoes are the easiest to make as they require minimal hands-on while they cook. Once the potatoes are clean, coated with olive oil and salt, and forked multiple times, the rest is a hands-off prep.

These potatoes can be topped with sour cream, cashews, bacon, chives, and maybe even a little butter and freshly chopped parsley. Don’t worry about the last guest getting theirs warm because they’re great when served warm instead of straight out of the oven.

11. Mashed Potatoes

Mashed potatoes are a classic all year round and a perfect addition to your wedding menu. They are smooth, creamy, buttery, delightful to eat, and surprisingly easy to prepare with easy-to-find ingredients like butter, heavy cream, and of course potatoes. They are also increasingly versatile and can incorporate multiple different flavor combinations to add a unique twist.

Vegetable Sides

12. Roasted Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts are a classic way to add veggies to your fancy plate. They are made by coating the sprouts in olive oil and throwing them in the oven until they are golden brown.

13. Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic

This is an easy-to-make side that can be whipped up with only three kitchen staples and fits into any plate. It is made by boiling the green beans until they are bright green, draining, and then tossing them in a pan with olive oil and minced garlic.

14. Parmesan Roasted Broccoli

This is made by tossing broccoli with olive oil, Italian-style breadcrumbs, shredded parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper and then cooking them in the oven for 12 minutes. It is an easy fix that gets the job done.

Red Meats

Unless you have a vegan menu, there’s no way to skip the red meats. You might not be bringing out the prime cuts from your favorite restaurants, but these meat options will pack enough flavor to compensate;

15. Texas BBQ

Everyone loves a good BBQ and what better than an authentic Texas BBQ made with authentic Texas BBQ sauce? The brining, smoking, and oven cooking may sound a tad tedious, however, the fall-of-the-bone short ribs brushed with a rich BBQ sauce are definitely worth the wait.

16. Pork Belly with Cherry Bourbon Sauce

This combination of sweet and savory yields a BBQ that deserves a seat at the high table. It’s a classic smoked pork belly coated with a cherry bourbon sauce made with cherry juice, cherries, BBQ sauce, and a splash of bourbon. They are mouth-watering and a great surprise at any table.

17 Jamaican Jerk Steak

Banishing the prime cuts from your buffet menu doesn’t necessarily mean no steaks are allowed. If you’re settling for some budget cuts, you can make them feel and taste prime by adding a burst of flavor to your steaks.

One way to do that is by marinating the steaks in a jerk seasoning blend for a few hours before setting them on the grill to cook until the preferred doneness. This steak is bound to be a hit and add in an unexpected flavor profile.


Salads are a great way to offset the little voice that gets louder every time you’re looking at yet another piece of steak, chicken, or cheesy goodness. It’s also a great side to balance out a meaty main.

18 Potato Salad

potato salad in a peel with parsley and mayonnaise

Potatoes seem to have taken over this buffet menu and rightfully so because they’re so versatile! The rule of thumb with potato salads, the creamier the better! The prep is as easy as boiling your potatoes, letting them cool a little, and then mixing in your dressing and favorite toppings. Word on the street is that a French dressing before your regular dressing is the way to keep building the hype around a secret menu.

19. Caesar Salad

This is another easy-to-make salad that adds variety to your buffet menu. It is made with romaine lettuce, shredded parmesan, crisp croutons, and a Caesar salad dressing. It’s in and out and will be cleaned out of the plates equally as fast!

Things to consider to execute these cheap wedding food ideas seamlessly

1. Dietary restrictions

If you’re going to invite people to share a meal with you, it’s only fair that you cater to their dietary needs whether they involve allergies or different lifestyle choices.

While your menu should be tailored to fit the majority of the guests, you don’t want to have some of your guests feel like an afterthought. If you can afford to have a few plated meals made specifically for guests who RSVPd with their dietary needs, please do! If not, ensure your buffet menu has enough safe food options to cater to them.

2. Season

Picture source Instagram @luckygraze

While most of our meal ideas can be executed all year long, it helps to make use of some of the perks that come with the cheap prices that are associated with an ingredient being in season. If you plan to serve up fruits or have desserts with fruit fillings, try to stick to the fruit in season to ensure you get more bang for your buck and hopefully even cut your allocated budget by a bit.

3. Serving-Style

The serving style you choose has a direct impact on your budget. If you opt for plated dinners, you can control the meal options to ensure they stay within your budget, however, you would have to account for the cost of wait staff which will have a direct impact and maybe even affect the menu items left available to you.

A family-style dinner is a more welcome option if you’re trying to have your guests seated the entire time. It requires little input from the wait staff hence you can have a smaller team who simply deliver food to the tables and let your guests help themselves.

A buffet-style dinner is a more affordable serving style where your guests are allowed to serve themselves or are served by a small catering team. With a buffet, you can offer multiple food options to cater to all your guest’s dietary needs while saving a buck.

4. Catering options

Picture Source Instagram @dekorweddingmurah

There’s no shortage of wedding catering options ranging from the most sought-after wedding caterer to doing it at home with your friends and family. Being on a budget may limit your ability to pick a top-shelf caterer however it doesn’t mean you have to slave away the night before your wedding if you don’t want to.

Visit as many caterers as possible within your budget and compare the options they have and what you like best. Don’t shy away from going with a food truck for your wedding meal if they have great food options for an affordable rate. Great food is great food regardless of which caterer is providing it.

5. The Drinks Menu

Serving drinks at a wedding doesn’t have to leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth. If you’re on a budget, steer clear of the open bar and choose a limited bar instead. You can even close the bar before serving meals and during meal time to ensure you limit the amount of drinks people end up drinking during the reception.

Finding cheap wedding reception food ideas isn’t always easy but we hope this article comes in handy to help you catch a break when planning your big day.

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