“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.”
While your wedding ceremony can feel like a fairy tale come true, happily ever after starts at your reception. Your wedding reception is a chance to eat, drink, dance, and celebrate your newfound union with family and friends. In other words, it’s an excuse to throw an epic party! But, like all parties, a wedding reception needs a budget to get started.
According to data from The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 is $30,000 – up $2,000 from the previous average. However, it’s not entirely clear how much of this “average” number covers the reception, since plenty of wedding expenses overlap with the ceremony, like a photographer and decorations. But don’t worry: We’re here to make it simple for you.
Below, discover a breakdown of the average costs of a wedding reception, and get tips on how to save money.
Average wedding reception cost breakdown
Wedding Reception Venue
For most weddings, the venue is by far the largest expense. The average couple spent around $11,200 on their wedding venue in 2023. Some venues may have space for both your ceremony and reception, while others may only accommodate one or the other.
If that number is unattainable for you, luckily, there are venues available at a more affordable price.
How to save on your wedding reception venue
More affordable reception venue options to consider include:
RESTAURANTS OR BARS
Plenty of restaurants and bars offer private rooms for larger parties, and some restaurants may even let you rent out the entire space for the night. According to the venue rental platform Peerspace, it costs around $100-$500 per hour to rent out a restaurant, plus the cost of any food. If you’re planning a wedding earlier in the day, you could even book a private brunch or lunch. Yum!
If you’re into the great outdoors or want to take advantage of the weather, try heading to a local park. The cost to rent a private pavilion at a park depends on your location. For example, it can cost between $50-$125 per day to rent a private space in Orange County, Florida, while pavilion rentals in upscale Colorado Springs parks can cost between $100-$250.
Photo by @noblephotoco
Regardless, this is a great budget-friendly option to host your wedding reception, since there’s real potential to book a space for under $1,000.
If all else fails, you can always take your party back to your own backyard. If you’re not lucky enough to have a backyard, try asking your family members or friends if you can host in their spaces. By hosting in a family-owned location, you can create memories in a familiar space, while saving money on your celebration. Double win!
Photo by @katherinerose.co
Wedding Reception Decorations
“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”
- John Lennon
Overall, most couples spend around $2,400 for floral arrangements at their weddings. It can be a bit tricky to determine the exact amount that most couples pay for the reception alone. After all, some couples may opt for more understated decorations while others might want a dining room overflowing with florals.
Below, you can see the average cost of many common wedding reception floral arrangements, courtesy of data from Brides.
- Centerpieces: $300 to $650 per table
- Table cloths & runners: $100 to $200 per table
- Welcome table florals: $250
- Signs & decor: $1000 to $4500
How to save on your wedding decorations
If you’re reeling from sticker shock on flowers, don’t worry. There are plenty of ways you can save on your floral decor without sacrificing your aesthetic.
Instead of choosing real flowers, consider opting for faux flowers, like those from Ling’s Moment. They look just like real flowers, but come at a much more affordable price tag. For example, while real floral centerpieces can cost between $300 to $650 per table, a set of two large floral centerpieces from Ling’s Moment is just $109.
There’s serious potential to half your overall floral budget, or use more decorations than you initially thought were possible.
DIY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.
You can save even more by flexing your creativity and DIYing your reception decor. For example, one designer flower box from Ling’s Moment costs $29.99 and contains a variety of flowers to make a centerpiece. You can put a personal touch on your reception decorations, and take them home to repurpose in home decor or other DIY projects!
REUSE CEREMONY DECORATIONS.
Speaking of reusing decorations: No one says you need to have all new decorations for your wedding reception. Instead, try repurposing key floral arrangements from your ceremony.
Once your bridesmaids are done snapping photos, have them place their bouquets inside vases and use them as table centerpieces. Take the floral swag that adorned your altar and drape it across your sweetheart table. Once again: Faux flowers are amazing for this step since they’re lightweight and don’t require water. That makes them easy to move without fuss.
For more in-depth tips, check out our guide to decorating your wedding venue for under $800.
You can’t have dinner and dancing without dinner. However, the average cost for full-service catering at a wedding reception dinner is $75 per person. For a wedding with 100 guests, that adds up to $7,500. If you just lost your appetite hearing that number, we don’t blame you.
How to save on your reception catering
While traditional catering could easily eat into a small budget, (pun intended) the following alternatives could help you feed a crowd for less.
FIND A FOOD TRUCK
Ever considered a caterer on wheels? Plenty of outdoor reception venues can accommodate space for a food truck. According to Thumbtack, a food truck can feed a crowd for just $8 to $30 per guest. Not only is it a fun way to cater your reception for less, but the food truck can provide a great opportunity to stage some adorable photo-ops.
MAKE IT A COOKOUT
If you’re hosting in a backyard or at the park, you have the perfect reason to break out the grill and DIY your wedding food. A cookout can create a cozy, homey vibe perfect for more casual wedding receptions. It’s like a good old-fashioned family reunion in the park!
KEEP IT LOCAL
For more ways to save, consider curating your menu around locally seasonal foods. For instance, plan a salad with fresh greens in the spring, or opt for a warming winter squash soup in the fall. Not only does this help you capture the magic of your wedding season in food form, but you might also enjoy cost savings on ingredients when you purchase them locally.
“A party without cake is really just a meeting”
- Julia Child
Well said, Julia. However, some cakes are more expensive than others. The average wedding cake costs $510. If you’re not up for spending nearly half a grand on cake, there are other options to cut back on the cost.
How to save on your wedding cake
Channel your inner Marie Antoinette and let your guests eat cake with the following tips.
Make it yourself
If you’re handy in the kitchen, this is your chance to roll up your sleeves and save by baking your own cake. Curious exactly how much you can save? We broke down the cost of baking a cake yourself in our previous blog: How to plan a wedding for $1,000 or less.
GO FOR CUPCAKES
According to Wedding Wire, the starting price of wedding cake is between $4-$5 per slice. Meanwhile, cupcakes start at $3 each – and cupcakes are single-serving, too! No extra cake-cutting fees. (Yes, those are real.)
Choose an alternate dessert
If you’re not a cake person, some desserts can feed a crowd for even less. For example, plain donuts can start at around $0.89 to $1.50 per donut. Plus, you have the opportunity to stage a unique and adorable dessert display with them.
Photo by DSTICHERTPHOTOGRAPHY
If you’re hosting a wedding with alcohol, you can expect it to account for approximately 20% of your overall budget, according to Brides. Thumbtack estimates that the starting price for an open bar in the Los Angeles area is between $20–$30 per guest. In other words, if you have 100 guests, you can expect to spend between $2,000-$3,000 for an open bar. But keep in mind that the number can vary, depending on your location.
How to save on your wedding drinks
If you plan on having alcoholic drinks available at your wedding, you don’t need to take out a loan to pay for them. Instead, the following tips could help you toast to a more affordable reception.
Curate a drink menu
To keep from stocking multiple types of alcohol, consider restricting your cocktail menu to only a few limited selections. For instance, come up with a pair of signature cocktails with your partner. By restricting your menu to only a few types of alcohol, you don’t need to pay for additional drinks and can still offer harder beverages for your guests.
CUT BACK ON COCKTAIL HOUR
Beyond limiting the drink menu, consider lowering the time window for your cocktail hour. Instead of serving drinks all night, offer a window for guests to use the bar before closing it off for dinner. You could always continue to serve a dialed-back drink menu at dinner, like only beer and wine.
BRING YOUR OWN DRINKS
Instead of hiring a bartender or using your venue’s bar, why not just bring your own drinks instead? A cooler full of beers is perfect for a more casual cookout reception, and you won’t need to splurge on a greater variety of drinks.
CHOOSE AN ALTERNATE TOAST DRINK
Raising your glasses for a toast is a quintessential wedding moment. However, not everyone prefers champagne as their toast drink. If multiple guests end up not drinking their glass, you could waste money on a drink that your guests don’t even enjoy.
Instead, ask your guests ahead of time if they’d prefer an alternative – like sparkling cider or even Sprite. You could potentially save money on a bottle or two without wasting any bubbly.
“Love is friendship set to music.”
- Jackson Pollock
You’ll need some music to stage your first dance. But the music-makers can vary in their fees. A live band costs an average of around $3,900, while a DJ costs $1,500. With prices like these, the sound of silence has never seemed more appealing. But a fun party doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
How to save on reception entertainment
Try the following tips to save on music and entertainment for your wedding day.
Be your own DJ
Consider renting DJ equipment and speakers, then letting a trusted family member or friend handle the music for you. This can give your guests an opportunity to contribute to the party in their own way, making it feel more personal as you dance and celebrate.
To provide more entertainment options than just music, consider staging affordable games for your guests, like cornhole. Ling’s couple Emily & Jackson took the chance to DIY custom cornhole boards that they took home as souvenirs. Not only does this help you save on more expensive rentals, but it also gives your guests a fun activity to play together.
CONTACT COMMUNITY PERFORMERS
Instead of opting for a professional band or DJ, consider reaching out to local schools, or other communities for amateur musicians or singers. They’ll likely charge less to entertain than their professional counterparts. They’ll gain experience, and you’ll enjoy a musical wedding reception for less!
Who pays for the wedding reception?
Traditionally, the expenses at a wedding reception are divided between the bride and groom’s families. According to tradition, the groom’s family pays for the DJ or band and alcohol, while the bride’s family pays for the other expenses, like the reception venue, cake, and decorations.
That said: You’re under no obligation to follow a traditional payment plan. Plus, now more than 50% of couples pay for the majority of their wedding expenses themselves. It’s completely up to you and your family to divide expenses in a way that makes sense for you.
Can guests pay for the wedding reception?
In general, it’s considered a faux pas in the U.S. to ask guests to pay for certain aspects of the wedding reception, like their drinks. After all: You’re the hosts.
That said, there are ways you may be able to help distribute the cost for receptions with small budgets. For instance, you might ask guests to bring a dish to your reception and form a potluck dinner instead of hiring a caterer. Just make sure you talk things over with your family and friends beforehand, so they understand the expectations and are all right with the arrangement.
Other ways to save money on your wedding reception
If you’re still looking for more ways to save on your wedding reception, try the following ideas on for size:
- DIY your guest favors. Instead of purchasing wedding favors for your guests, consider DIY-ing them for a more affordable gift. For instance, consider making mini floral arrangements they can display at home.
- Choose an off-season. For better prices on wedding vendors, like catering, consider getting married in the off-season. Winter is currently the least popular wedding season, which could give you the unique chance to stage a holiday wedding.
- Make your own photo-booth. Instead of renting a photobooth, which can cost between $425 to $1,000 according to Wedding Wire, try setting out a polaroid camera for your guests. They can snap selfies of the event as souvenirs, or you can use them in a scrapbook later!
Conclusion: How much does a wedding reception cost
There’s nothing “average” about your special day. Where you choose to splurge and save is a personal decision between you and your fiance. But with a little effort and creativity, you can make it more affordable.
And if you need budget-friendly flowers and decorations for your special day, Ling’s Moment makes it easy to elevate your event.
You can enjoy pre-arranged flowers to decorate your reception, like centerpieces, floral swags, and garlands. Or, DIY your reception decor with our designer flower boxes. No matter what your preference is, we’d be honored to elevate your special day with designer-quality decorations.
Check out our blog for more insight on planning a budget-friendly wedding day!