A cake and punch reception is one of the most affordable and popular ways to follow a wedding ceremony. However, you don't have to stick to tradition just to save money. Your cake and punch reception can be a truly memorable affair with a few creative touches and a bit of imagination.
Avoid the high cost of professional bakeries and get your friends and family involved. Make a list of the most popular kinds of cake and ask close friends and family members to volunteer to bake one of them and bring it to the reception. Decorate the cakes with funny ornaments or use food coloring to turn your cakes different colors. Purchase several sheet cakes in different flavors from a large discount bakery. Or, make your own three-tiered wedding cake. You'll have plenty of decorative freedom to create a truly one-of-a-kind masterpiece.
Don't feel limited to serving only cake and punch at your reception, even if you're trying to cut costs. Keep in mind that your guests may have special dietary needs, so offering gluten-free, sugar-free or low-calorie alternatives may be appreciated. Buy a deli meat and cheese tray and several kinds of crackers and dips. Set up a small ice cream bar. Offer three or four popular flavors and a toppings area with chocolate chips, sprinkles and cookie crumbs. In addition to punch, serve inexpensive table wine and soft drinks. If you think your guests may need something more substantial than sweets and snacks after the ceremony, try a potato bar. Potatoes are inexpensive and can be cheaply topped, too; butter, shredded cheese, sour cream and chives are all you need for a solid toppings area.
The right colors can give a low-budget reception an elegant feel. Hang silver and midnight blue fabric from the walls to create a relaxed atmosphere. Use inexpensive silk flowers -- purchase them in bulk from discount crafts stores -- to create your own centerpieces. Hang clotheslines from wall to wall and use clothespins to hang up black and white photos of you, your new spouse and your friends and family. Let your wedding party's bouquets double as centerpieces. For an evening reception, trade harsh overhead light for scented candles. For a festive atmosphere, fill the ceiling with multicolored balloons.
Don't feel obligated to hire a live band to provide music. Instead, ask a friend with a large digital music library to loan you his computer for the evening. Hook it up to speakers and let guests make requests. Have a friend dress up as a gypsy and tell fortunes. Hire a local comedian to provide laughs. Set up a microphone and let guests make toasts. Pass out disposable cameras as party favors and let guests make their own memories of the day.