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DIY Wedding Food Ideas on a Budget

I enjoy preparing food on a budget and I enjoy giving tips to others.


Cooking: Tastier and Cheaper Than Catering!

DIY wedding food is certainly not for everyone. If you're serving hundreds of people, the logistics are a nightmare. And if you don't know anyone who can cook, you're kind of stuck with paying to have food made for you. In addition, the preparation, cooking, serving, and clean up is a lot of work (which caterers usually take care of).

As long as you're willing to put up with all that, making your own wedding food can be a great choice that will keep you under budget, especially if you know people who can make really good food!


Cooking your own wedding food is not as crazy as it sounds—trust me, I know! After all, you can see a picture of me above, enjoying the fruits of the homemade-wedding-food labor taken on by my family and some very helpful neighbors (supplemented by some wise prepared purchases from our local grocery store).

Below you'll find tips for preparing food for your (or someone else's) wedding, along with some suggested dishes and recipes. If I've left anything out, be sure to let me know in the comments below! Bon appetit!


Budget DIY Wedding Food Dish List


Stick to things that you know will taste good, not fancy foods that take forever to prepare. It's not like people are expecting complex dishes—why do you think steak and lobster are so popular at weddings?

Grilling or smoking foods at home is a great way to serve a lot of people at once, especially if the items don't take a lot of preparation, such as steaks and other meats.

Here is the wedding food spread from my sister's wedding—are you feeling hungry yet?

Here is the wedding food spread from my sister's wedding—are you feeling hungry yet?

Tips for Making Your Own Wedding Food

  1. Simplicity is best. Chances are that you're going to be running around a lot on the day of the wedding, so don't make things more complicated than they have to be. Keep dishes simple and supplement with prepared foods (such as chips and dip). Purchasing fruit or vegetable platters can also be a time saver.
  2. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Having a potluck event is great, but not everyone wants guests to worry about bringing food. Alternatively, get family members, neighbors, or good friends to help with the cooking.
  3. Cook in bulk. Consider cooking one or two large items for the bulk of the food. For example, we marinated large sirloin steaks the night before the party. We also smoked a large pig in our smoker. These main dishes didn't take a lot of time to prepare or cook.
  4. Now is not the time to experiment! New recipes almost always take a few tries to get right. Even if someone else swears by the recipe, it may not work for you. Only prepare dishes for the wedding that you know will work. This is a great time to break out all of the "tried and true" family recipes.
  5. Plan, purchase, and prepare way ahead of time. Start to stock up on ingredients several weeks before the actual wedding and finish the bulk of the shopping with a few days to spare. Sure, you may have to run to the store the day before, but you won't have a whole laundry list of things to buy. And make as much as you can (especially any desserts!) ahead of time.

Homemade Wedding Cupcakes

Don't forget to prepare dessert!

Don't forget to prepare dessert!

If there's one thing that you really shouldn't feel bad about outsourcing, it's cake-making. Many people just aren't very good bakers (myself included). My mom actually made these delicious little beauties—she's an all-star when it comes to baked goods!

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The funny thing was, though, that by the time the wedding cupcakes came out, everyone was so full of good food that it wasn't really a big deal. After all of our work, they were something of an afterthought! You should keep this in mind when deciding whether to splurge on expensive wedding cupcakes.

This is what you're going for!

This is what you're going for!

What Is Your Experience with DIY'ing Wedding Food? - Vote Here!

Suggestions For Staying on Budget by DIYing Wedding Food? - Share Them Here!

Carol Schnell on February 19, 2019:

I actually made all the food but the chicken for my wedding back in 87. I even made my wedding cake and all the cookies too. But I hired two women to serve it.

Teresa R Strother on January 16, 2019:

I cooked over half of the food for my daughter's 115 person wedding reception four years ago. On one hand, it was wonderful. The food was good old, tried and true, fixed a thousand times food that I didn't even need recipes for. But instead of focusing on that one thing, I was doing too much of the decorating, floral arranging, etc. Everyone truly loved the home-made food much better than catered, but I was an exhausted and overwrought mess. Make sure if you make food yourself or with a couple of others that you're delegating other details to friends or family.

HayleylCanning250 on September 03, 2013:

What an original way to save money for your wedding!

emmaklarkins (author) on August 08, 2013:

@kurtkenobi: Right??? I like that it has a nice casual, comfortable feel to it. No stuffy catered food for me!

emmaklarkins (author) on August 08, 2013:

@chat2vishakha: You're welcome :)

kurtkenobi on August 08, 2013:

I may just go and start crashing weddings everything looks so goog. not really (about crashing)

chat2vishakha on July 03, 2013:

Great ideas.Cupcakes are a good choice.A big thanks for sharing these ideas.

emmaklarkins (author) on May 17, 2013:

@anonymous: That sounds amazing! And yummy :) I bet it will taste as good, if not better, than any fancy catered food you could get. Just make sure you have some help with cooking, serving, and cleaning!

anonymous on May 14, 2013:

I put pencil to paper today (actually mor like fingers to excel) and determined that I could do spaghetti with salad and bread for 300 or chicken fajitas with tortillas, toppings and beans for about the same number for roughly $2 per person or about $600 for a crowd of 300. That means thighs on the fajitas but, still, very reasonable prices, I think.

anonymous on May 12, 2012:

Great ideas food looks yummy :9

MichelleFriend on May 09, 2012:

Maybe an eco-freindly or green one

emmaklarkins (author) on April 17, 2012:

@ismeedee: Cupcakes are a great choice. In my experience, it's easier to make them look nice than it is trying to decorate a whole cake. And it's easier to serve them - you don't have to worry about cutting! Best of all, they're just as fun for the bride and groom to get on each other's faces!

emmaklarkins (author) on April 17, 2012:

@shellys-space: Hey, everyone likes hot dogs!

ismeedee on April 17, 2012:

I'm not actually planning a wedding, but scouting around for ideas for my best friend's potluck reception- I think I'll make the wedding cupcakes; they look lovely and people usually love cupcakes!

Shelly Sellers from Midwest U.S.A. on January 11, 2012:

Hot dogs? Ha :) Great lens and love your ideas!

PropheticBlogge1 on November 08, 2011:

In these difficult economic times anything to save money when planning a wedding must be good. Great lens and it looks like you enjoyed the grub. ;)

Winter52 LM on October 11, 2011:

What a great idea. My mom's church friends cooked our wedding dinner and we couldn't have asked for anything better and the cost was minimal!

anonymous on October 11, 2011:

The wedding food looks delicious! We are thinking of having an outdoor reception. I am a bit worried about insects though. Did you have any problems with flies?

Jeanette from Australia on October 10, 2011:

This looks like such a great idea!

emmaklarkins (author) on October 08, 2011:

@aquariann: Hope it works out well!

aquariann on October 08, 2011:

Yummy ideas! We're thinking of going potluck for our wedding, so this lens will come in handy.

emmaklarkins (author) on October 08, 2011:

@anonymous: I think the trick is to just prepare way more food than you'll need. Grilled meat especially makes for good leftovers!

anonymous on October 08, 2011:

Lovely lens and a lens idea! The only point is covering for shortage of food when a crowd comes in - more than the expected numbers! :)

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