Don’t let time or a limited budget stop you from designing the wedding reception of your dreams. With a lot of planning and a little creativity, you can craft a reception from scratch that will be anything but cookie cutter. From food to flowers, it’s the personal touches that guests will love and remember.
A successful DIY reception requires precise planning and organization. Start by setting a budget and allocating funds to each reception element, paying special attention to key expenses such as food and beverage, rentals, and any hired help or entertainment.
Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to enlist friends and family to help with preparations as well as on the big day. Whether they’re slicing cucumbers, setting up chairs or arranging the buffet, volunteers will allow you to stay focused on what really matters.
Set the Tone
Selecting a theme or color palette and deciding how formal or casual you want your reception to be will help you stay on track throughout the planning process. For an intimate reception, seat everyone at one long table. For a more informal affair, let guests seat themselves. Fresh-cut wild flowers in jelly jars or votive candles scattered about create instant ambiance without breaking the bank.
Plan the Menu
Tailor your menu to reflect the season, your heritage or a favorite destination. Pick foolproof recipes to avoid any surprises and keep it simple to reduce stress. For help determining how much food you will need, check out this cooking for a crowd guide.
Seasonal Tip: For an impressively fresh menu, ask vendors at your local farmers’ market what ingredients will be available during your reception, then inquire about buying in bulk.
Keep It Simple
Offer a few informal appetizers for guests to nibble on while the reception gets underway. A signature cocktail will set the mood for celebration.
The Main Event
Build-your-own buffets—think sandwiches or hot dogs—are easy crowd-pleasers. Try dressing up a cold-cut deli platter with homemade accoutrements such as hummus, pickles, fire-roasted peppers or garden-fresh produce. If it’s grilling season, nominate a pit master and put your own twist on a gourmet hot dog bar. Let your guests make their own creation with Chicago-style toppings (tomatoes, pickles, sport peppers and onions). Keep it casual with picnic-inspired salads and sides:
Seasonal Tip: If it’s an outdoor wedding, avoid mayonnaise-based salads. Potato and pasta salads tossed with a simple vinaigrette won’t spoil in the heat and can be prepared the day before to enhance flavor.
Build a Dessert Bar
Creating a homemade dessert buffet can actually help stretch your budget while appealing to a variety of tastes. Cupcakes, bars and cookies are delicious ways to end the meal and are easier than slicing pieces of cake for every guest. For visual effect, consider sticking to a single color, such as white or yellow.
Tip: For a dramatic effect, consider sticking to one color like white or yellow, or decorating treats with petals or blooms that coordinate with the wedding flowers.
Honor your guests with a personalized gift they can sink their teeth into. From cookies and candy to jars of homemade jam, these favors are an affordable yet meaningful memory of your celebration. Tie on a handwritten note to express your gratitude.
Mini Banana Breads