Cheap Wedding Reception Ideas

Amy Hoover
inexpensive wedding reception ideas

Planning an inexpensive wedding reception that is still worthy of your special day isn't always easy. After all, you want to keep things cheap without actually looking cheap. With a little bit of research and planning, there are ways to keep your budget in check while still hosting a proper reception.

Cheap Reception Venues

While glamorous venues like ballrooms, castles and historic theatres are stunning reception venue choices, they are not cheap choices. Many affordable venues have plenty of potential for a reception - they may just need a little extra decorating to create the right atmosphere.

Religious Hall

Most churches and religious buildings have a kitchen with large dining hall attached. If you plan to wed in a church, consider booking the dining hall or commons area for your wedding reception. They typically have plenty of tables, chairs, basic linens and table settings included in the rental price.

Make sure you understand what activities are restricted within the area before booking - after all, you don't want to sacrifice a dance if the church won't allow secular music in the building.


The backyard of your home, your parents' home or a generous neighbor provides a wonderfully cheap reception venue. Borrow picnic tables from friends and neighbors for a rustic feel, or set up card tables and chairs with cheap linens to create a more elegant atmosphere.

A backyard can be cheap, but if you live in a climate where it rains often or inclement weather is forecast, you may need to rent a reception tent or canopy. This can add significant costs, so be sure to take this into consideration before planning the reception.

Also keep in mind logistics such as electrical hook-ups, guest restrooms and food safety before choosing to host the reception in a backyard.

Club Hall

A club reception hall is a great inexpensive venue for a wedding reception. Local AMVETS organizations, 4-H clubs, firemen's associations, and recreation centers often have small banquet halls with kitchens or kitchenettes. These halls are generally well-kept, but they may not have enough tables and chairs to suit all of your guests. Additionally, there may be alcohol restrictions or other rules you need to check on before you book.

Save on Reception Food

Next to the actual location, the food and drinks are what end up costing most couples the biggest bucks for their wedding reception. Even if the place you choose offers a full menu, you usually have plenty of room for creating a cheap wedding reception menu.

Keep in mind that serving non-alcoholic drinks is the cheapest option at all receptions; however, you can always limit the drinks to one type of beer, one brand of champagne and one mixed cocktail to keep costs down.

Simple Sandwiches

While carved prime rib is delicious, it is also expensive. Instead, provide turkey, roast beef and ham sandwiches for guests to enjoy. Have cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and other condiments for guests to choose amongst.

Include inexpensive and easy side dishes you can make ahead or purchase cheaply from local grocery stores or delis. These might include pasta salad, scalloped potatoes and a fruit medley. Serve guests a delicious but deceptively cheap grocery store wedding cake as dessert.

Dessert Bar

If your wedding will be held mid-afternoon, few people expect a full meal. Instead, put out a dessert bar filled with yummy cookies, chocolate covered strawberries, bars, pies and wedding cake. If desired, add a small table with some cheese, meat and cracker trays and vegetables with dip.

Decorate on a Dime

Decorating a cheap venue may be a little more involved than decorating a venue that is already elegant. You may need to cover unsightly wall paper or scratched tables. Tulle, candles, balloons, and silk florals and garlands are all cheap and versatile decorations that can be used throughout the reception venue.

If you know people who recently wed, ask them what reception decorations they kept after the festivities were over. Newlyweds are often hesitant to throw out their décor, but don't want to store it for years, either. Ask if you can borrow things like marbles, fish bowls, candles, or mirrors. Before you alter any of the borrowed items, be sure to okay it with the couple first.

Plan Low Cost Entertainment

Entertainment doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Make your own playlist on an mp3 player or iPod and hook it up into the central sound system at your reception venue for a cheap alternative to a band or wedding DJ.

Wedding reception games, like bride and groom trivia, are always fun and are extremely low-cost. Be sure you ask someone to lead the games if you don't want to do so yourselves.

Inexpensive Reception Favors

Reception favors don't have to cost you a bundle. It's the thought that counts when you want to express your thanks. Make favors do double-duty as both the place setting assignment and favor by using cheap frames from dollar stores. Small bags with wedding colored candies tied inside are also cheap and easy. Packets of flower seed are perfect for a spring or summer wedding, while single-serve coffee or hot cocoa is great for a fall or winter wedding favor.

Cheap Wedding Reception Budgets

Even small budget weddings can be stunning with the right planning. Nobody has to know you did things "on the cheap" if you take your time planning out the reception. After all, it's all about the fellowship and the fun at a reception, not the funding of the party.

Cheap Wedding Reception Ideas