I’ve been posting quite a bit about budgets and wedding costs lately and that’s simply because with the large amount of newly engaged couples starting the wedding planning process, creating a budget is a very necessary beginning step. And it’s often one of the toughest. And what is typically the largest wedding expenditure? That’s right…FOOD! So many people freak out when they see the average cost of a wedding but a large chunk of that money goes to feeding your guests (in addition to the venue they’ll be eating, the chairs they’ll be sitting on, the tables they’ll be sitting at, and the plates and utensils they’ll need to eat with). Now you don’t have to go all out with a five course elaborate meal, the food you serve can be a simple buffet, a light brunch, or a variety of tasty desserts or hors d’oeuvres (I can never spell that term on the first try, even after writing it hundreds of times). But you do need to serve your guests SOMETHING, and it should correspond to the style and time of day of the wedding.

Here’s some background on why wedding receptions are customary to begin with. Prior to the 19th century, wedding ceremonies were followed by feasts typically at the bride’s residence for family, friends, and other members of the community. The ceremony itself was often held in the morning so the meal that followed was usually breakfast or lunch. As weddings became larger and more elaborate, couples starting hosting balls in the evening to celebrate the marriage. Since these feasts or dinners were hosted by the bride and her family, and the wedding couple would “receive” the guests at the door, they became known as “receptions”.

So back to food costs for your wedding. In the Nashville area, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15++ per person to $80++ per person on average and depending on what you serve.  On the lower end of the scale, you can have a very nice brunch reception or hors d’oeuvres reception, or even a casual southern BBQ buffet. For a dinner which includes appetizers, multiple side dishes, and a meat entree, the price starts to go up. And the pricier the food choices, the pricier the meal, filet mignon and lobster will always cost quite a bit more than a simple pasta or chicken dish.

Side note – you might be wondering what the “++” is all about. That signifies that the price does not include a service charge or state sales tax. Here in TN you can expect to pay 20% service charge and 9.25% sales tax on top of the actual price per person. Always remember to factor that in to your budget!

Another thing to keep in mind is that some caterers include the cost of tables, chairs, silver, china, and glassware in the price per person, and some don’t. So just be sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at various caterers.

So how do you decide how much to spend and what to feed your guests? Well of course it’s going to depend on how much you have to start with and what type of meal you’d like to serve. If you have an evening ceremony followed by a 6:00 PM reception, you need to serve DINNER. You could still have an hors d’oeuvres reception, but you need to have plenty of food; enough to satisfy your guests during a dinner hour since chances are they haven’t eaten since lunch. If you are planning a dessert reception to cut costs, push your ceremony time a little later in the evening, and make sure to notate on the invitation that it is a dessert reception so your guests can plan to eat beforehand.

What’s the simplest way to cut your catering costs? (and the wedding cost in general)….cut your guest list! I’ve had couples who thought they wanted a 250 person wedding until I showed them how much it cost per guest. They quickly realized that maybe it was smarter not to invite those distant cousins they had never met or those friends they hadn’t spoken to in five years. Another point on this, if you do decide to invite 300 people to your wedding, please don’t be skimpy with the food and accommodations. It’s very important to make each guest feel well taken care of. And if you don’t have the money to properly feed and take care of each of your guests, please just invite less people.

And finally for all those who think destination wedding are a great way to save money (which they can be). Please please please, if you invite someone to the Caribbean, and they are paying for round-trip airfare and hotels, not to mention taking extra time off work to be there, please serve them a decent meal! I’ve heard crazy stories of brides planning destination weddings and guests spending thousands of dollars to be there, and then only being served a plate of pasta (with a cash bar no less). Yeah sorry to be blunt, but that’s just horribly rude. The more guests have to spend to be at your wedding, the better you should take care of them.

So there you have it, the basics of wedding catering costs and budgeting. Love to hear your thoughts or any additional questions, leave a comment!

Simply Stunning Events
Nashville Wedding Planner