Board #186 | Casual Dinner (Budget Friendly #3)

One way to keep costs down, and still include absolutely everyone you love, is to have a dinner that leans toward the casual end of the formality spectrum. The key to making it special is not only in the guest list, but also in the details. The example I’ve chosen is a crawfish boil, one of my favorite social meals of all time. I’d definitely recommend offering warm washcloths at the end of the meal, or providing an outdoor faucet of some kind for washing hands. If crawfish isn’t really your thing, a picnic, barbecue, or potluck are other fun ways to go.

The Plan: Casual Dinner
Mood: casual, family, fun
Palette: red, white, yellow, kraft paper brown

{click image to enlarge}

Top row from left: bouquet photo by bb photography via Peonies and Polaroids, crawfish boil via Matt Bites, band photo via Brooklyn Bride, pies from Brides
Row 2: string of lights from Lena Corwin’s flickr, take-a-wish jar from Portland Bride & Groom, photo from Martha Stewart Weddings, Vans photo by Tiffany Aicklen
Row 3: red checked napkin, bouquet from Amorology, eyelet dress by J.Crew, cherry favors from Rebecca Thuss
Row 4: crawfish invitation by Snippet & Ink, crayon photo from The Knot, wedding signs photo by Mantas Wright, bouquet photo by Whitebox Weddings

10 Ways to Save:
1. Mix inexpensive flowers and foliage (daisies and greens) with pricier ones (tulips, garden roses, dahlias), and wrap bouquets with a pretty ribbon.
2. A crawfish boil is simple and an inexpensive way to feed a lot of people: crawfish, sausage, red potatoes, and corn on the cob, all with spicy seasoning.
3. Ask friends and family members to bring homemade pies and tarts, then arrange them on cake plates of various heights. It’s a great way to save money, and to include people in the day.
4. String lights are such a simple element, but they really add a lot to a venue once the sun goes down. You can wrap them around trees or a deck railing, or hang them to create a border around the dance floor.
5. This idea is sweet, simple, and inexpensive. Clean out two large mayonnaise jars (the economy size) and label one “Take A Wish” and the other “Give A Wish.” Fill the first with folded notes from the couple (or quotes, song lyrics, etc.), and have paper and pens for guests to write notes and place them in the second jar.
6. A casual dinner means casual dress, which (as far as I’m concerned) means comfortable shoes. And at $37 – $50 a pair, these Vans are a great choice! Also, when you’re not trying to find a ballgown, it’s a whole lot easier to find reasonably-priced dress options. This adorable eyelet one from J.Crew is only $395!
7. One of the great things about a crawfish boil is that there’s no dishware needed! But I would definitely provide guests with a serious napkin. And if you want to assign seats, write guests’ names in chalk or white paint on a small smooth rock. It’s thoughtful, but still casual.
8. Save by giving in-season fruit as a favor. Here, glassine bags are trimmed with scalloped edge scissors and filled with cherries. Any leftovers can be eaten or used for baking!
9. Did you see Deanna’s beautiful invitations that she and her fiance made themselves for under $2 each? If you’re creative, crafty, and/or comfortable with a computer, make your own invitations! Or get a creative friend to do it for you. This one that I made, using clipart I found online and free fonts that I downloaded from, was inspired by Unless Someone Like You‘s wedding posters. Also, keep in mind that 2-color invites can be significantly cheaper than 4-color ones.
10. Instead of flowers at the tables, or alternating between flowers, provide guests with cowboy hats (or any container) full of crayons. Cover tables with kraft paper, and let guests draw to their hearts’ content.

Bonus Tip: Beer makes a whole lot more sense at a crawfish boil than champagne does, and it’s easier on your budget. Fill metal tubs with ice, and then stock them with bottles of your favorite brews, as well as soda, water, and juice.

1. Live band. A casual, outdoor wedding with all of your friends and family just cries out for a really good band. I’d pick a local blues band, but anything you can dance to will really set the stage for having a big ol’ time (for those of you not familiar with this saying, it’s what my dear Mississippi friends call “a good time”).
2. Wedding posters. Mailing these out in mailing tubes will cost more than mailing regular invitations, but they really set the tone for a fun event. A fun idea is to have one at the reception for guests to sign, then frame it as a keepsake.

Update! Check out this great barbecue wedding – they even have the paper tablecloths to draw on!


  • Belle says:

    I love a good crawfish boil that this is amazing AND beautiful. Which is something I never thought I would say about a crawfish boil…

    -Belle Abroad

  • Martha says:

    Yup…this is one of those weddings I want to attend! It makes me hungry, too! :)

    Martha B.

  • Angel says:

    Wow, there are a few elements we used here to save some money at our wedding. I had a ‘no strangers’ rule and that ran through everything. I wanted the familiar around me that day. The BBQ was catered, but all the side dishes were potluck (family favorites!), we had a two-piece live band which was actually cheaper than others we found because they were friends of ours, we had the metal tins filled with beverages, simple and colorful invites that we made ourselves with casual language, a family member as an officiant, and a great big home made wedding cake.

    Love this board!

  • The Christiansons says:

    your board is beautiful! what program do you use to make them? you are so talented!!

  • rebekah @ elizabeth anne designs says:

    You’ve inspired me. I might just thrown one in a few weeks… :)

  • Emily says:

    Ive really been enjoying the budget friendly boards. The ideas you suggested have been great!

    emily@once wed

  • lovemelisssa says:

    I love this! The colors are beautiful and I love the idea of having a crawfish boil.

    Melissa R.

  • east side bride says:

    This is f’n fabulous! And you know how I feel about vans :)

  • Alicia says:

    I love the idea of a wedding like this – it just seems that much more personal than super fancy food… I’m going to a rehearsal dinner crawfish boil & I am so excited – I don’t think that I’ve ever even seen a crawfish is real life!

  • Kirs10LA says:

    OK- not to be Debbie Downer here, but Potluck, seriously? Do people really have Potluck weddings? Maybe it’s because I’m from Los Angeles and we definitely don’t have the community, pitch-in attitude, but something about Potluck screams Cheap.

    I went to a totally adorable BBQ Wedding in the Oregon woods and they spent less than $8000 on the whole thing. Budget dinner, yes. Potluck, noo.

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