June 28, 2024

How to Budget for Your Wedding Catering Without Compromising Quality


Planning a wedding is an exciting yet challenging task, and one of the most significant aspects to consider is the catering. Your wedding meal will leave a lasting impression on your guests, making it essential to ensure that the food and service are of the highest quality. However, high-quality catering can come with a hefty price tag. The key to balancing this is to budget wisely. Here are some tips on how to allocate and manage your wedding catering budget without compromising on quality.

Erica Kay Photography

1. Determine Your Overall Budget

Before you can allocate funds specifically for catering, you need to know your overall wedding budget. Sit down with your partner and discuss how much you are willing to spend in total. Once you have a clear idea of your overall budget, you can start breaking it down into different categories, such as venue, attire, decorations, and catering.

2. Allocate a Catering Budget

Catering is one of the top expenses of your overall wedding budget.  According to The Knot in 2023, catering costs averaged 28% of a couple’s overall budget.  

We’ve heard it so often lately, but with inflation and rising food costs, you should expect to see catering taking upwards of 30%-40% of your wedding budget, depending on the number of guests and the type of meal you want to provide.  So, if your overall budget is $30,000, you might allocate around $9,000-$12,000 for catering. However, these percentages can always vary based on your priorities. If food is a top priority, you might allocate more, and if other aspects are more important, you might allocate less.

3. Choose Your Catering Style

The type of catering service you choose will significantly impact your budget. Here are some common catering styles:

🌟 Pro tip: When you opt for a cocktail reception, consider the time of day you’re hosting the reception.  You don’t want to host a reception over the dinnertime hours and not plan for enough food for guests to feel like it was a full meal.  You could also specify your reception style in the invitation to give guests a heads up of what to expect so they won’t show up with empty bellies and be disappointed in the lighter appetizer spread.

Erica Kay Photography

4. Limit the Guest List

The number of guests you invite directly impacts your catering costs.  ← Read that point again.  More guests mean more food, more staff, more tables, more place settings and a larger venue. Consider limiting your guest list to close family and friends to keep costs down while still providing a high-quality experience.

Now, one thing you can play with is that the wedding industry has historically seen an average of 80% guest list RSVP to attend.  Meaning, if you invite 200 guests, you would more than likely expect to host around ~160 guests.  So you can use that measure to allow some wiggle room, as long as you don’t continue adding to the guest list as your RSVPs come in.

5. Opt for Seasonal and Local Ingredients

Using seasonal and local ingredients can reduce costs and ensure that your food is fresh and high-quality. Talk to your caterer about what ingredients are in season and plan your menu accordingly. Local ingredients not only support local businesses but also tend to be less expensive due to reduced transportation costs.

Erica Kay Photography

6. Simplify the Menu

While you may want to impress your guests with a lavish menu, simpler can often be better. Focus on a few high-quality dishes rather than a wide array of options. A well-prepared three-course meal can be more memorable than a mediocre five-course one. Discuss with your caterer to create a menu that highlights quality over quantity.

7. Negotiate with Caterers

Don’t be afraid to negotiate with your caterer. Ask for a detailed breakdown of costs and see if there are any areas where you can cut back without sacrificing quality. For example, you might be able to save money by providing your own alcohol or choosing a less expensive dessert option.

🌟 Pro tip: Another way to look at this is to start the conversation with the caterer with your budget.  It’s much easier for the caterer to navigate their menu, services and other fees/costs to build a quote around your budget.  This can often weed out caterers that aren’t affordable and also give you a refined list of top ones to consider!

8. Consider a Daytime Wedding

Daytime weddings, such as brunch or lunch receptions, can be less expensive than evening weddings. Caterers often charge less for daytime events, and guests tend to eat and drink less. A brunch menu with high-quality breakfast and lunch items can be both elegant and budget-friendly.

9. DIY Where Possible

While you should leave the main meal to the professionals, there are areas where you can DIY to save money. Consider if the venue will allow you to bring in your own desserts, alcohol or drink stations. Another DIY option can be tablecloths and place settings, however make sure to do your homework as to who is going to set the tables and how much you need – it’s a lot to think about when figuring what size tables/linens you need, plus how many appetizer plates, salad plates, dinner plates, forks/knives/spoons, cups etc. for your guest count and dinner service.  Just be sure that you have the time and resources to pull it off without adding too much stress.

Erica Kay Photography

10. Limit Alcohol Options

Alcohol can be a significant part of your catering budget. Instead of offering a full open bar, consider limiting the options to a few signature cocktails, wine, and beer. This can reduce costs while still providing your guests with a good selection.

What's the latest trend in wedding beverages?  Mocktails! 

As health and wellness become more important to many, zero-proof cocktails—delicious drinks made without alcohol—are gaining popularity at weddings in 2024. Socializing doesn't require alcohol anymore, and with a variety of flavorful non-alcoholic options available, it's easy to enjoy a sober celebration. Be mindful of guests who choose not to drink and promote responsible consumption by offering more than just soda or water. By providing expertly crafted wedding mocktails, you ensure all your guests feel included and can fully participate in the festivities.

Check out these unique ideas for a fun beverage station or mocktail creation:



Erica Kay Photography

11. Book Early

Booking your caterer early can sometimes result in discounts or locking in current rates before prices increase. Plus, it gives you more time to plan and make adjustments as needed.

We can never say this enough!  Make sure you’re booking your preferred caterer 12-15 months in advance of the wedding day.  Dates fill in quickly!  There will always be time to adjust your menu selections and ultimately your guest count will change too, so getting the basics of your costs within the budget should allow you to book early and not be too concerned with minor changes drastically adding to the final cost.

12. Seek Out Recommendations

Ask friends, family, or your wedding planner for recommendations on affordable yet high-quality caterers. Personal referrals can often lead you to hidden gems that you might not find through a simple online search.

Reviews are also helpful.  You can read some of their best or some of the not-so-good ones to understand what other clients have liked or disliked about that particular caterer.

Curious about reading our reviews?  Take a look at what former clients/couples have had to say about Hudson’s Edge:


Erica Kay Photography


Balancing your wedding catering budget without compromising on quality requires careful planning and smart decision-making. By determining your overall budget, choosing the right catering style, limiting the guest list, and focusing on quality ingredients, you can provide a memorable meal for your guests without breaking the bank. Remember, the key is to prioritize what’s most important to you and find creative ways to save money without sacrificing the overall experience.

Happy planning!






Featuring: Amanda & David 

Venue: Wren Farm

Photographer: Erica Kay Photography 

Caterer: Hudson’s Edge Catering & Events

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Reach out here: https://www.hudsons-edge.com/contact-us

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