30 Creative & Cheap Wedding Reception Ideas For a Memorable Celebration

The entire wedding industry thrives on the idea of elegance, glitz and glamour and anything else seems a little out of the norm. Well, here’s the confirmation that not every wedding has to feature crystal ornaments, tiered cakes from renowned pastry chefs or red carpets adorning every pathway.

You can have a beautiful and memorable wedding on a budget and here are some cheap wedding ideas to help you stretch your money.

Cheap Wedding Reception Ideas

Picture source Instagram @iamflower.co

There’s no proven formula for wedding planning and the pressure can mount considerably when you want to get a lot done with a small budget.

We have some cheap wedding reception ideas for you, however, we decided to take it a step further by breaking down some of your biggest expenses and delve into how you can get around them even just by a couple thousands.

For the perfect budget-friendly wedding ideas, check out these other top picks:

1. The Venue

The wedding venue is undeniably one of the biggest wedding expenses. While most couples would love to enjoy their wedding at an elegant wedding venue with a massive dance floor, ballroom-like halls, beautifully manicured landscapes, fountains and beautiful pools, the price tag is a huge deterrent for a couple working with a small budget.

On the bright side, most venues can be brought to life with a little bit of work and love. Here are some great venue alternatives for your wedding reception;

2. A backyard

A backyard is the perfect place to have a wedding reception when on a budget and working with a small party. If you use your own backyard, you’ll have a wedding venue on your hands at literally no cost. If you don’t have one, you can request to use your friend’s or a family member’s backyard and you would only have to part with a small token of appreciation.

A backyard may look plain and uninviting for a wedding reception, however, you can bring it to life with a good plan. Here’s an article with great ideas for a small backyard wedding reception. We love a backyard wedding reception because it combines elegance with a homely vibe that is the best atmosphere for a relaxed evening with friends.

3. A garden

A garden is a great and affordable wedding reception venue because it allows you to enjoy an outdoor vibe while integrating your already beautiful surroundings into your wedding décor.

If you’re lucky enough to find a flower garden in full bloom, you’ll cut your flower arrangement expenditure by half by simply letting the picturesque backgrounds and greenery do the heavy lifting for you and simply adding centerpieces, and ambience lights to complement the venue.

When planning an outdoor reception, make sure you keep an eye out for the weather and hire a tent or two if you’re unsure.

4. A Barn

Barn wedding receptions don’t always have to have rustic themes! Don’t shy away from requesting to use that empty space at grandpa’s for fear of having to compromise your wedding vision.

If a rustic theme is right up your alley, the barn in its bare state may play right into your vision; however if you envision a more chic reception, play around with the whites, curtains, tulles and intricate table settings to bring out the elegance in the simple space.

5. Religious hall or community hall

These may not be at the top of the list when it comes to wedding venues however they have the space, tables, chairs, and basic linen that you can use as a base for your décor and they’re incredibly affordable. With a little patience and help from your friends, family or decorator, you can make these plain halls the perfect venue for your reception.

6. A vacation rental

Vacation rentals may not appear cheap at surface value however, if you consider the price of an actual wedding venue, they may start to appear affordable. If you envision a lakeside reception or dinner with a view of the beach but can’t afford the cost of a regular venue with these features, this is a close second.

Vacation homes are well-maintained and can be a great ground zero for a wedding reception with phenomenal views. Just make sure to let the owner know that you will be hosting your small party there to make sure they’re okay with that.

7. The food

It wouldn’t be a party if you didn’t bring out the delicacies. Unfortunately, wedding menus can get pretty expensive. Here are a few cheap wedding reception ideas catered specifically to your food budget;

8. Have a buffet-style dinner

Picture source Instagram @tina_marie_pr

Plated dinners are great but do you know what’s better? Buffets! They allow you to offer your guests multiple food options without the exaggerated rate. If you opt for a buffet, you can spend more on food because you don’t have to worry about the cost being able to cover both the food and wait staff to accommodate your guests.

If you can’t quite put your finger on what foods to bring out as part of your buffet, feel free to browse some great options here.

9. Have a brunch reception

Just because dinner receptions are the common way doesn’t make them the only way! You may not be able to afford a big hearty dinner but a brunch menu may be right within your budget! In this case, move your wedding timeline to ensure your reception falls right within peak brunching hour and enjoy a lovely inexpensive meal with your friends and loved ones

10. Have a cocktail party reception

A cocktail is the perfect blend between chic and affordable. You can have your beautiful setups and serve up snacks, cocktails, and appetizers. This reception style is more casual and guests are able to move around freely and interact with each other.

If you opt for this reception style, kindly let all your guests know beforehand that no full meals will be served at the reception. Pro tip; keep it short because people are bound to get hungry at some point.

11. Enlist your local food truck

Suggesting a food truck for a wedding reception would have raised some eyebrows a few years ago but it has become an embraced way of going about dinner time. The treats are great, affordable and more importantly filling. You can even get away without the fancy setup by adding a few picnic style tables for the guests that prefer to eat while seated.

12. Have a potluck reception

This one may not be for everyone but if you and your guests embrace community living, you can have your friends bring their signature dishes to add onto your food table. While this may take a lot of the work off your hands, you still have to do a lot of the heavy lifting to create most of the main course meals.

When having a potluck reception, scrap the gift because taking time to help you cook is doing enough.

13. Enlist your local family-owned restaurant as a caterer.

If a great dining experience is important for you and your partner, you don’t have to compromise on it. Instead, you can settle for catering by a small local restaurant with a great menu and good food. You’ll be happy to find that they’re rates are better than big time event caterers. It’s a win for both the business owner and you!

14. Serve in season fruits, more vegetables and low-cost proteins

One way to make sure there are delicacies on the table for good prices is to make use of the fruits that are in season. They can be served as part of the appetizers or incorporated into desserts. 

Vegetables are also affordable all year round and choosing more vegetable sides will bring the budget down. Lastly, skip the prime cuts, salmon and other fine dining luxuries. Instead, build great and diverse menus with the low-cost meat options.


Drinks can be a controversial wedding topic because most people just can’t fathom attending a dry wedding. We think it’s perfectly okay to skip the drinks if having them strains you financially but here are a few more was you can save on the drinks menu.

15. Have a limited bar

Picture source Instagram @vvplanningco

While you may want your guests to be spoilt for choice, it might be unattainable financially. You can still give them the freedom of walking up to the bar on you but with limited drink options to ensure the bill doesn’t go through the roof.

16. Have a beer and wine bar

Hard liquor is incredibly expensive and can easily run up your drinks bill. Instead, you can open the bar for wine and beer all night long as they are more affordable and easy to stock up on yourself from your  local wholesaler.

17. Serve signature cocktails

You may not be able to bring out the hard liquors in their truest form, but you can still sneak them into cocktails throughout the night. Simply agree on two cocktails to serve and let your bartender do the magic.

18. Reserve the champagne for the bride and groom

It would be beautiful to toast to the new couple as part of the reception, however, champagne can easily run up a bill. If you must have champagne at your wedding, keep it sectioned away for just you and your partner. Better yet, skip it altogether.

The Wedding Cake

It’s hard to imagine a wedding without the classic tiered cake but there’s so many other ways you can serve dessert at your wedding.

19. Serve cupcakes

Unlike a wedding cake, cupcakes are incredibly affordable and you can mix them up to have bigger ones and mini cupcakes in multiple flavors to give your guests an assortment. When deciding how many cupcakes to order, plan at least one standard cupcake per guest or three minis a guest.

20. Have a dummy cake

If having the tiered as a centerpiece is important for your big day, have a dummy wedding cake and serve up pre-packaged get. You get to enjoy the traditional “cake cutting ceremony” and a beautiful centerpiece without dropping the big bucks.

21. Settle for a smaller cake

The tiered wedding cake is a delight to look at and into but unless you have a big wedding, there’s no way to get through all that cake that far into the reception. You can argue that some tiers will be given away to the parents and one for you and your partner to save for your one year anniversary, but is it really worth it?

Instead, pick a smaller wedding cake that will be enough to go around and is priced reasonably.

Wedding décor and flowers

Wedding décor and flowers take up a huge chunk of the budget only to be used once! Here are a few way to get the décor and flower budgets in check;

22. Thrift décor items

Most wedding décor items can only be used once and even if you try to incorporate them into your home décor, you can only use so many! Which means most of these pieces end up collecting dirt in a basement somewhere or in a thrift store.

Make your way through thrift stores and find unique pieces to add into your setups for great prices. If you know any recently wed couples, ask if you can take their old pieces off their hands.

23. Hire instead of buying.

If there’s an option to hire instead of buying, pick the former! It is cheaper, creates less waste and a great way to access high quality setups and finishes without breaking the bank.

24. Create DIY pieces

Your wedding is personal to you and your partner, incorporating a touch of both of your creativity by DIYing décor pieces to add onto your tables.

25. Leave the intricate décor pieces for the head table and centrestage

You can’t adorn all the tables with crystal ornaments when on a budget but you can incorporate them into your décor by having them at the head table and centrestage. It satisfies your vision to have these pieces as part of your ceremony without the financial burden of having them on each table.

26. Make use of fairy lights and paper lanterns to create ambience

Playing around with the lighting will bring a plain space to life any day. Use beautiful fairy light, paper lanterns along with your main lighting to create a romantic space that reflects the mood for the night.

27. Make the dollar store your friend

You may not want to shop for larger pieces at the dollar store but you can definitely find some great finishing touches for dirt cheap. Vases, candle holders and even table markers can be made by polishing dollar store items and making them look fancier.

28. Buy your flowers in wholesale

It’s always convenient to get your flowers from a vendor because they do all the work and deliver your bouquets and flower arrangements ready to go. You can bring the cost down by buying your flowers and creating your own bouquets and arrangements. If you don’t pick the freshest flowers of the lot, you may bring the budget even lower.

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