Here are some tips from the horses’ (local hotel banquet captains and caterers) mouths:
Set the date in the month that hotels and caterers are the most starved for business. In the DC area that’s January (unless Obama is being inaugurated).
Sundays and weekdays are better than Friday and Saturday nights.
Daytime weddings cost less than evening weddings.
A brunch reception is the least expensive option.
Guests consume less alcohol when they have to walk to the bar rather than when they’re served wine at their tables.
DJs cost less than bands, because it’s only one vendor meal versus four or twelve (and yes, you have to feed your vendors).
Fake cakes (if you must). Purchase round cakes from your local bakery to be cut in the kitchen and served to your unsuspecting guests.
Served meals are cheaper than buffets (IMO, they’re six of one; half-a-dozen of the other).
Eliminate the cocktail hour.