Food at the reception is often one of the larger expenses of a wedding. You can keep the cost down by going with a buffet; making your own food is another way to keep it under budget. Guests at the wedding do not require food to be expensive or fancy; they just want it to be tasty.
Have a potato bar at the wedding. You can make it baked or mashed, depending on your preference. Put the mashed potatoes in martini glasses to make it more elegant and fun. The baked potatoes can be wrapped in foil or just arranged on a platter in their skin. Provide plenty of toppings that guests can put on themselves: butter, shredded cheese, sour cream, chives, green onions, bacon pieces and seasonings.
Pasta is another inexpensive food. Have large bowls of several types of pasta from which to choose. Spaghetti with meatballs is a favorite with most people; also provide a meatless variety for guests who may be vegetarian. Baked ziti, macaroni and cheese or lasagna are also perennial favorites. Choose a pasta with a green pesto sauce for more colorful table. You can also provide a cold macaroni salad for those who want a lighter version of pasta.
If your wedding is after 7 p.m., you can get away without serving a meal, assuming everyone ate before coming to the wedding. Instead of dinner, provide a dessert reception. Set up tables with cupcakes, candy, cookies and brownies. Set up a station where guests can make ice cream sundaes with chocolate sauce, nuts, bananas, strawberries and other toppings. Save cutting your wedding cake for the end; pack each person's piece of cake in a little box to take home, since they have probably eaten their fill of dessert already.
Barbecue food is inexpensive and nice for an informal wedding. Most large restaurants cater for large crowds; you just may want to transfer the food from the take-out containers to a glass or metal dish. Pulled pork, ribs, barbecue chicken and baked beans laid out on the buffet table is perfect for an outdoor or western-themed wedding reception. If you are having the reception at someone's home, you could cook out yourself. Hamburgers, hot dogs, coleslaw and potato salad are easy and inexpensive.