Cheap Chic Wedding Reception Ideas

August 10, 2010

in Reception

What couple isn’t looking to save a few bucks when it comes to their big day? Budget limitations are almost always a concern and at the top of the list when it comes to wedding stressors.

BUT, just because they want to save some money on the particularly special day doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice style. Even with the smallest of budgets, couples can pull off chic, fabulous events. Check out these money saving ideas to help you save a few bucks without skimping on style.

Use your ceremony decorations to spiff up the reception space. While you may know your floral arrangements like the back of your hand, your guests won’t. Get some extra mileage out of your ceremony décor by incorporating it into your reception space. Consider placing your altar arrangements on or by the head table, or DJ or band stand. Put your bridesmaids bouquets around the cake table. Incorporate aisle decorations into your tables’ centerpieces. You get the picture!

Do late night drinks and desert or a mid-morning brunch instead of a plated or buffet dinner. If you’re having an evening wedding (sometime after 7 or so), guests don’t necessarily need dinner. Create a nightclub vibe by treating your guests to cocktails and a dessert bar along with dancing. If you are morning people, offer a light brunch after your morning ceremony instead of making everyone wait until lunch or dinner for a heavy (and more expensive) meal. Either way, you’ll still get the reception feel with out the full dinner price tag.

Dress up tables with desserts or family-style food instead of floral centerpieces. Flowers and glass containers can be pricey. If you’re looking for something to feature on your reception tables, consider using something you’ll already have there! Set each table up with it’s own cake and cake stand, or enough food for the people at that table. It’ll make the tables look full and inviting, and give your guests the warm fuzzy feeling of sharing with the people they are dining with.

Instead of one huge expensive cake, consider having a collection of smaller cakes displayed on a single table. Not only is this budget friendly, it’s very en vogue! Bakers don’t have to worry about structural issues when they make non-tiered cakes, and even if each of the cakes has an intricate design, the prices of each cake added together could end up being much less than a single tired cake. Fill your cake table with all white cakes of different sizes or the same sized cakes with different shades of one of your wedding colors. Or mix and match designs, shapes, and sizes to create a fun, eye-catching table! Add cake stands to create some dimension.

Speaking of cakes, if you want flowers on your sweet confection, use fresh flowers instead of gum paste flowers. Sugar flowers have to be hand created – each and every petal – and add a lot to the overall cost of the cake. If you want to create a cake that’s decked out in luscious flowers, opt for the real deal and save big. Connect your florist and your baker so they can make sure they are on the same page with which, and how many flowers are needed and when they will be delivered and added to the cake.

Pick a venue with lots of personality and natural beauty. Up front, the price tag might be a bit higher, but you’ll spend far less time and money trying to dress it up. A naturally eye pleasing space can really add a “wow” factor for your guests without requiring you to add significantly to the space. Pick an old building with gorgeous architecture and an amazing ceiling or opt for an outdoor space with perfect landscaping and an abundance of flowers. Add tables, chairs and guests and you have a beautiful space!

Get creative with lighting. Some say lighting is an interior designer’s best friend. Take a tip from décor design masters and consider adding some special lighting to your space. We don’t mean hiring a professional lighting team and renting fancy lighting equipment. Instead, add color and depth to your reception venue with can lights and colored light bulbs. Place them along pillars, in nooks and crannies, or along the walls of your venue to light up the space!

Forget knickknacks and offer guests “experiential favors”. Why spend money on something guests will just trash in a day or two when you can give them an experience they’ll remember forever? Instead of spending money on coasters or heart-shaped cookie cutters that your guests will likely never use, hire a caricature artist, set up a photo booth backdrop, or ask a dance troop to perform sometime during the reception. These things are unexpected and won’t be forgotten!

Use banquet style seating and keep centerpieces simple. If your guest list and reception space allow it, consider using banquet style seating (long rectangular tables lined end to end, with people on both sides) instead of round tables. Instead of trying to come up with impressive centerpieces for each table, you can get away with smaller, simpler arrangements that float down the center of the table. For instance, use a table runner and a row or two of votives and you have a modern, stylish, and cheap spot for all of your guests!

This post was written for the budget conscious readers of Budget A Wedding by Katie Olson, thrifty bride and owner of, a custom wedding gown company. 

Pictures:  Source: and

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle August 10, 2010 at 9:34 pm

I love the idea of hiring a cartoon artist or something to draw at the wedding. Favors are fun but capturing the moment is fun too!:)


LittlePeopleWealth August 14, 2010 at 10:01 pm

We still have the photos from a photobooth at the last wedding we attended. It is more fun than the more typical gifts.


nurse practitioner December 6, 2010 at 8:54 am

Great information! I’ve been looking for something like this for a while now. Thanks!


Heidi January 3, 2011 at 3:28 am

You’re welcome, glad to help.


nancy July 1, 2011 at 10:02 am

If anyone in the Philly/NJ/DE area is looking for a caricaturist try Mike Garibay, or email:


Heidi July 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Thanks Nancy


Christopher June 14, 2013 at 3:37 am

Simplicity is beauty. I love your wedding reception ideas. This is less costly than hiring a wedding organizer that will manage your reception.


Heidi June 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thanks Christopher
Heidi recently posted..How to Plan a Memorable Bridal ShowerMy Profile


sudha108k March 18, 2015 at 5:58 am

Great blog. Yes budget wedding is important. Many spend lots of money on wedding preparation.


preethika108k March 25, 2015 at 7:09 am

Nice article. Cake table ideas where different.


Mary July 26, 2016 at 9:09 am

Great ideas! I think weddings have gotten so out of hand anyway. Couples do so many things that are just not necessary. So many people out there looking to make a buck, and I think people sometimes get caught up in all the hype. Another great way to save is to use dried flowers. It wouldn’t work for all weddings but is great for rustic or farm weddings


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