Board #184 | Cocktails & Hors D’oeuvres (Budget Friendly #1)

Hi all! So sorry about the late post – hopefully it was worth the wait. I’m pretty excited about the boards I have for you this week – I challenged myself to come up with five different boards that try to keep a limited budget in mind (because let’s be serious, not everyone can or wants to spend $30,000 on a wedding). Of course, there are more than five ways to have a beautiful wedding on a budget. I just hope that this week’s boards will provide you with some new ideas.

As we saw with Amanda and Matt’s beautiful wedding, one key to keeping costs down is having a smaller guest list. It requires less food and beverages, fewer invitations need to be sent out, there are fewer tables hence fewer centerpieces… Along those same lines, I’ve noticed that many women who are a few years removed from their weddings will say that if they could do it over again, they would have a smaller, more intimate affair. This isn’t to say that everyone feels that way, but I have yet to hear anyone say they wished they’d had a bigger more elaborate wedding (of course, now I’ll receive emails and comments to the contrary…). But, if you have a huge family (like me) or you just can’t get around the huge guest list, there are other ways to cut costs without sacrificing style.

The Plan: Cocktails and Hors D’oeuvres
Mood: swanky, elegant, modern
Palette: black, white, yellow

{click image to enlarge}

Top row from left: invitations by Charming Paper, photo from Divine Studio via Brooklyn Bride, Melody Ginn veil from The Knot
Row 2: onyx earrings by Silver Mist Studios, miniature cupcakes from Rebecca Thuss, suit from J.Crew, lemon drop from Cocktail Times
Row 3: Nine West shoes from Zappos, Elie Tahari dress from Saks Fifth Avenue, orchid cascade photo by Jessica Johnston, photo by Sara Remington for Anna Kuperberg
Row 4: caviar napoleons from Brides, branch arrangement by Birch SF, clutch by A and V Designs, orchids photo by Christina Schmidhofer

10 Ways to Save:
1. Charming Paper‘s invitations are gorgeous and a great deal. Do some assembling yourself, and they run about $4 each. She also sells lovely do-it-yourself kits.
2. When you have a cocktail party instead of a sit-down dinner, you can fit more people into the same space, which should really increase your venue options. The more options you have, the more likely you are to find a good deal.
3. Save on your accessories.
* Melody Ginn’s tulle pouf veil is only $65, and it’s a great look for a cocktail party.
* These onyx earrings are a steal at $27. I also like these ones for only $38.
* Yellow sandals by Nine West for only $73 – and Zappos is a great resource. Shipping is free, shoes arrive quickly, and if you don’t like them, you can send them back for free.
* The fun black-and-white handmade clutch is only $29.
5. Save with one miniature cupcake for each guest, instead of an elaborate tiered cake.
6. Buy a non-wedding designer dress. As a wedding dress, this gorgeous chiffon number by Elie Tahari is a deal for $598. And the fun yellow band across the bust means you can easily wear it again.
7. Strings of lights, or clusters of lanterns, are an easy and cheap way to create drama.
8. Serving hors d’oeuvres in place of a sit down dinner will definitely save you money. Just make sure to state on your invite that it’s a cocktail reception, and to hold it late enough in the evening that guests have time to get dinner on their own. You can either set up a buffet, several buffet stations, or have servers pass food.
9. Branches are a dramatic element that won’t really increase costs. If you don’t want natural branches, just spray paint them the color of your choice (black would be a good choice here; gold is also a pretty alternative).
10. At a cocktail party, you’ll need fewer tables that are smaller – this will allow you to use a bloom that would be costly in larger amounts.

Bonus Tip: Instead of a D.J., take a note from Amanda and Matt, and fill your iPod with some favorite tunes and play that. A fun detail is to include a place on RSVP cards for guests to make a song request.

1. The groom’s suit. But pick something he can wear again, and it ends up being an investment.
2. Flowers. The bride’s bouquet will show up in lots of photos, and an orchid cascade really makes a statement. Orchid centerpieces are also a more expensive choice, but because you don’t need as many as you would with a sit-down dinner, they’re not an over-the-top expense.


  • reckless mind says:

    Thank you for this post! We are having a wedding for 200 people– mostly family, and we are on a budget. Every ‘wedding on a budget’ article I read can’t stop talking about cutting the guest list. I get that, but I can also say that we have huge families, we made as many cuts as possible, and we are at 200. We want them all there, we are excited to have them all there, and we’re making cuts elsewhere (candle centerpieces, good but non-superstar vendors, a venue that isn’t nickel and diming us and doesn’t need too much decorations, etc.) Thanks for acknowledging that there are other places to save money that don’t involve excluding family! If only there were more posts/articles like this one…

  • Amanda says:

    Hi Kathryn!

    I think that orchid bouquet shot was taken by my fab photographer Jessica Johnston (I believe Lydia + Kurt wedding).

  • Stephanie says:

    speaking of cocktail hour… having a signature drink cuts down on costs. love the pic of the lemon drop!

  • Tanya says:

    Like Reckless Mind, I’m planning a wedding for aobut 180 guests on a budget and trying to be as friendly to the earth as possible. I’m choosing similar centerpieces as she is, but I wanted to share about my invitations. I chose the beautiful wedding invitations from After printing I think my total per invitation price came in around $2.50 each. There is a little labor involved with putting them together (the printer printed 4 invites to a page so we had to cut those, same with the RSVP postcard, and then put them in the invitation itself) but I’ve received tons of compliments on them, which made the few hours of putting them together totally worth it. Plus it is great knowing that this paper making process is environmentally friendly and socially responsible as it acts as these villages only export and real source of income. I highly recommend these invitations…espeically for the price!

    Also check out etsy for handmade hairpieces/veils. I am getting a fabulous one from etsy seller myrakim for less than $60.

    Thanks Kathryn for your great site, full of ideas and inspiration!

  • Lisa from Blush says:

    Wow Kathryn, you never cease to amaze me. Your research and devotion to your blog is envious!

  • Meg says:

    Yay, yay, yay, yay. I’m glad to see that sensable budgets are making their way around the blog o sphere. I actully started my own blog recently after getting engaged, because I needed to cheer myself on, coming up with creative ways to, well, not mortgage our future on a party!
    To be fair, I totally think of your blog as a bright spot in creative wedding planning anyway. Being creative is how to save cash, hence, your blog is so helpful to me. But I love the new focus.
    Also, you can: do your own flowers, rent a venue that is public (ours is in a park and lovely), negotate with vendors – maybe you don’t need all the items in the package and can get a lower price, have a brunch/ lunch wedding (your brunch board was a big insipiration to me!), and our biggest tip? Plan FAR ahead. We gave ourselves a 16 month lead time, and it’s saving us a fortune.

  • ZenadiaDesign says:

    This is a great post! Lots of wonderful tips and information, I can’t wait to see what you come up with as the week progresses.
    Its funny because I also posted today about how to do your invitations on a budget on my blog. As a custom invitation company, our invitations start at $3.00 per set. I know a lot of brides out there are working with-in a budget and we like to help them out as much as we can!

  • Cassandra Burton says:

    I love this post. Change the yellow with pink and this is what I hope my wedding will be.

  • east side bride says:

    One warning: Be sure you’re providing sufficient hors d’oeuvres to offset the cocktails. People won’t necessarily eat beforehand, and I’ve heard a few horror stories about bridesmaids and wedding guests barfing at this type of reception b/c they drank too much. Even well-behaved people sometimes act crazy at weddings…

  • Kathryn says:

    East Side – excellent advice! That would definitely be a nightmare scenario.

  • Alicia says:

    I totally second East Side Bride – I worked a wedding where the bride actually had to get her stomach pumped (how un-romantic!!!). Granted, she’s a pro-thlete who has ZERO body fat & probably never drinks b/c she trains all the time, but definitely make sure that everyone, bride & groom included, have enough to munch on to offset the alcohol!

  • Kirs10LA says:

    I REALLY wanted to do a reception like this… Do a late evening romanatic ceremony at like 8 PM and late night party. But I realized it’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to do.

    I’m getting married in San Diego in August and EVERY hotel/event in has 15K minimums for their ballrooms which means you pretty much have to serve dinner. In order to bring your own caterer you pretty much have to rent a park or another outdoor venue. But San Diego has a 10 PM noise curfew in the whole city. So that would mean that we’d have to stop the music and clear everyone out by 10 PM which would make the whole affair last only like two hours.

    If you can pull something like this off in your city, fantastic.
    One word of caution… be sure to start the ceremony after the Dinner hour so people are not expecting dinner or else you will have a ton of hungry, drunk people on your hands.

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