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Food Ideas for Brooklyn Budget Wedding

Hi there,

I'm getting married (in Dumbo) next summer on a tight budget, but food is super important to me. Because I'm on a really tight budget (hoping, perhaps crazily, to spend $1000-1500 on food for 120-150 people), I'm considering throwing a simple cocktail party with hors d'ouerves and cupcakes or cake.

Does anyone have any experience with providing good food on a budget for a large group? Does anyone know of any affordable caterers or restaurants that cater? Any suggestions for specific items to serve? Our venue doesn't have a super workable kitchen, just a "catering nook," by the way.

Thank you!


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  1. Passed canapes will cost just as much as a sit down dinner due to the staff/cutlery/labor involved. Your budget seems quite unrealistic for that many people if you want it caterered with really impressive, "fit for foodies" food, especially when you include tips, taxes, fees, etc.

    Cupcakes are definitely a good alternative to an expensive wedding cake (Sugar Sweet Sunshine in Manhattan is delicious and affordable and does weddings all the time). You also need to determine if you HAVE to have a tiered cake. I would also look into just picking up several different kinds of cake from a local bakery.

    If you want cheaper, I'd do buffet or something that's family style (BBQ or non-Western food like Indian?). Something where the restaurant drops it off, or you guys come pick it up?

    For more wedding specific stuff in Brooklyn, especially in keeping costs down, I would direct you to kvetch.indiebride.com.

    1 Reply
    1. re: kathryn

      To clarify, the food doesn't need to be impressive, just good.

      I love really simple food and some of my favorite restaurants are dives with good food. Non-Western is an option-- we love Indian-- though some of our family is less adventurous. Thanks for the indiebride recommendation.

      Does anyone know of any restaurants that would do drop off/pick up? We' d probably need a server for a buffet?

    2. You might consider havinga place like Sahadis or Waterfalls cater this. most likely you would still have to find someone to set up a serving (self-serving) area and a bartender. Who knows, maybe you could even have a REALLY GOOD place, like DeFontes make you some 6 foot heroes and supplement that with some lovely salads and snacks.

      Re the cake, why not consider a sheet type cake (red velvet, carrot, or such) from Cake Man Raven or another bakery in the community as a Brooklyn alternative to a highly styled wedding cake or cupcakes. The new Cake Ambiance store on Flatbush Ave could do such a cake for you. I havent decided to be a fan yet, but they are in this genre.

      2 Replies
      1. re: jen kalb

        Friend of mine did something like this--sprung for Cake Man sheet cakes. Great cake, it was a hit. I've heard very negative things about Cake Ambiance--you like?

        1. re: Mandymac

          I was not personally impressed but they do make red velvet and similar cakes.

      2. $10–12.50 per person isn't a realistic budget. But just to play ball with the numbers a bit... even going DIY and raiding the appetizers section of Trader Joes (Costco, your grocery of choice, etc.) for 7 different apps to feed 150 people (30 5-serving boxes of Thai spring rolls @ $2.69 = $80.70--six more similarly priced things) you're already up to about $570; add for dessert 1 1/2 CakeMan Raven sheet cakes (160 servings) or 150 CakeMan Raven cupcakes= $300, grand total almost $900.

        If you want to have alcohol at all, you'd probably need to do just beer/wine/soda--you can do a bulk order at many liquor stores and return any unopened unchilled bottles for your money back. Your "bar" would have to be self-serve (a bartender costs $35-$100/ hr plus tips) and I dunno if there are any permits involved.

        If $1,500 is your limit, I'd suggest slashing your guest list to 50 people or fewer. It's still a wedding even if it's smaller.

        1. Liz...
          Have you spoken with the Mgrs of the venue you're using? They may provide some suggestions.

          1. Wow. That budget is totally unrealistic. Cocktails/snacks/cake for 150 people? Booze alone for cocktails will eat almost the entire budget. You could get 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe's and order pizza. Maybe there is some cutsey way you could present it? I second the rec for Cake Man.

            3 Replies
            1. re: malibu

              I think it would be perfectly possible to feed a group that size something within the budget planned, not cocktails perhaps, but whats wrong with mags of pinot grigio and merlot from Costco liquors, say? or a few cases of cava for toasting? It depends on what the expectations of the OP are - there are a lot of ethnic or neighborhood food sources where the cost will not be so high, so I say dont despair - what will drive it up is service costs.

              1. re: jen kalb

                Right, I agree about the wine, which is why I suggested Trader Joe's. I have no ethnic food ideas for the OP. Dumbo isn't exactly an ethnic food mecca, which is another hurdle. Food will have to be transported from wherever *someone* can suggest. I wasn't being snarky when I suggested pizza. I think it could be done in a cute, quaint and for lack of a better descriptor...'Martha Stewart' way.

                Anyway, I would love to hear the outcome of this. If you can pull it off, you should document it and try to get it published in a wedding magazine.

                1. re: malibu

                  well, I already suggestted waterfalls and sahadi - either could do a delicious mezze spread. there are places like Soul Food Kitchen Ruthies, etc.which could do fried chicken, salmon cakes, mac and cheese etc if a more substantial meal was wanted. Two or three spiral hams from costco (about $25 each).would be an excellent supplement, cheese trays fruit trays, veg trays can be created at relatively little expense if there are a few helpers.

                  this is a chowhound board not a style site, so the OP has to decide whether interesting tasty and inexpensive food will meet her needs and whether she has the resources (friends and family) to cater for herself.. Little squares of pizza could be nice but it degrades when cool - ordering in pizzas for a wedding could be ironic I suppose, but if they dont taste good by the time they are eaten, it might not work too well.

            2. BOOZE: Visit Warehouse Wine and Spirits, Astor Wine or Trader Joes and buy a couple of bottles of red white to sample (and bubbly if you love it) under $8. Buy your favorite by the case.
              Get a keg of a crowd pleasing beer, or buy a couple of cases. Costco has the best beer prices as far as I know.
              BARTENDER: ask your favorite bartender if he/she is interested in working your party. Some bartending schools have a "hire a bartender" service too.

              FOOD: Waterfalls, Fairway cater. Marco Polo on Court, any old school Italian place will deliver delicious trays of Penne a la vodka etc. Heck, a friend of ours had Boston Market in disguise on lovely platters... nobody had to know, and it was delicious. BBQ is also fun and affordable.

              If you want to DIY: a crowd this big is a bit much to plan, purchase, pick up, coordinate, refrigerate, reheat and platter yourself/with pals and stay sane.

              SWEETS: We served generic ice cream sandwiches, a $40 cake from BAKED, and assorted cookies and bars (Cut in half for nibbling) also from BAKED. The ice cream novelty was a hit, and could not be more affordable.

              HELP: the trick is, you really can't be plating stuff up on your wedding day. You need a non-guest person in charge, and staff. Look for a discount day-of-coordinator on indie bride or craigslist.
              Lastly, I want to emphasize that you should not be working on your wedding day. Just getting married and socializing with everyone who loves you and has traveled to see you is work enough!! Do whatever you can to enjoy the day.

              GOOD LUCK!

              1. A friend of mine, who is a food professional, had The Soul Spot cater her party. The food held up really well in ordinary hot trays, and guests helped themselves. I would guess it was fairly inexpensive. Their website has prices.

                Also, Savoia gave us some HUGE trays of extremely tasty lasangne (with and without meat) and gnocci for a party. I forget the exact cost, but we thought it was really cheap.

                1. not sure what you're looking for exactly but check out bassetcaterers.com or jacquescatering.com. the food is brooklyn italian type so i'm not sure if you're into that but i know they have some really inexpensive packages.

                  1. Thanks for all the tips. We're definitely not doing cocktails (just cheap-o wine and beer... we'd thought of serving 3-buck Chuck in carafes) on our budget... and I'll keep y'all posted on what we figure out!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: lizisinflatbush

                      You could do what my wife and I are doing for our wedding party - do a football wedding. Popular in the 40's-50's with Italian American's, basically it gets its name from the sub sandwiches served. They are individually wrapped and easy to throw from table to table (hey, you gotta ham over there?). If you have Italian American family, you may get a nod of appreciation for nostalgia as we have experience from my family.

                      Several places still do sandwiches for this including Defonte's in Red Hook. $1000 budget for food is very doable for your qty of people.

                      1. re: dhs

                        Well, dhs, that's my fiance's favorite suggestion... I'll look into it. Thanks!

                        1. re: lizisinflatbush

                          liz- not sure if you settled on a caterer yet but i just posted a short review of bassett caterers. we used them for my sister's baby shower this past weekend and were very pleased. our package was $45/pp when all was said and done but that included loads of HDs & apps, 5 stationary buffet entrees & a chateaubriand carving station w/fixins but i know they do far more reasonable packages, especially for a party your size. i would give them a call and let me know if you have any specific questions i can answer. best of luck with your planning! here is their website for your info:


                          forgot to add- our package also included desserts and coffee/tea.

                            1. re: giftergirl

                              So, update: I just called them. WITH waiters and a bunch of buffet food options, it would come to about $1925. I'm very, very attracted to the ease of having a catering company and servers. We're going to price out our drinks and check into a few Indian restaurants. But thanks, giftergirl, for the info!

                      2. I just feel the need to post a quick update. Our entire wedding budget totaled $10,000, but we adjusted our food budget. We decided to go with Cobblestone Foods and just for appetizers. That was the priciest element of our wedding-- around $4,500-- but they took care of everything: delicious appetizers, servers, a bartender, tables, chairs, set-up, take down. We did get our own plates and utensils at KMart, because they were charging a weirdly large amount for them.

                        We got beer on Court Street (Miller High Life in cans) and wine at Trader Joe's (three-buck-Chuck and their cheapest sparkling wine). We got a large sheet cake at an Italian bakery on Court Street for about $100 and then a small, beautiful, delicious tiered cake at One Girl Cookie in Park Slope/Carroll Gardens.

                        We managed to stick to our original overall budget, though we adjusted our expectations about food. We got our pictures and music very cheaply because we have a lot of fantastic creative friends; we bought our flowers (simple red roses and some greenery) wholesale in the flower district for a whopping $88 (my stepmother arranged them).

                        It is absolutely possible to have a budget wedding for like 150 people... it isn't, probably, possible to get really great food for under $4000.

                        One Girl Cookies
                        68 Dean St, Brooklyn, NY 11201

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: lizisinflatbush

                          This sounds incredible!! MInd sharing the venue that you guys used.


                        2. How's this for retro? Have an old-fashioned "football wedding!"

                          It would fit your budget very nicely, I'd think. And it'd be fun and memorable.

                          All you'd need to do is choose your favorite sandwich maker.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Mister Meatball

                            Sorry, I'm told some may be unfamiliar with the term "football wedding." It's not for NFL (or even soccer) fans. It's an old-time thing, referring to one wedding guest tossing another guest a sandwich. Here, I found this:

                          2. I am a food caterer, I run www.nybiteclub.com and that seems really inexpensive.. I am trying to think of places that you may be able to get this done. I am thinking, you should check out Spanish Places. I know there is a place in Elizabeth NJ called, Alvarez Cafe. I was there for lunch when I had seen a ton of food go out. I read their catering menu and it seemed cheap and I know the food is great.

                            So maybe check out some Dominican Spots.. You would get like a bunch of pernil or roasted pork, oxtail stew, you would get rice and beans, maybe a chicken stew. Some boiled yucca, plantains, avocado salad, maybe a steak but, probably not..

                            First place comes to mind is El Cofre in Brooklyn but, I would definitely hit up alvarez. if one of your guests can pick it up that morning as it's only 15 miles away, I think you can do it. http://alvarezcafe.com/

                            Good luck!

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Daniel76

                              I would also look into places like Mama Meenas in


                              Lots of roasted and fried pork.

                              1. re: Daniel76

                                Ahh, I see the wedding has already taken place.