Lets start with the cake. Make your own cake or have a friend make it. Ask around to find the appropriate sized cake pans and then find someone willing to make it for you. Many times for the donation of the cake mixes and frosting a family friend or relative will make the cake as a gift to the bride and groom. What a wonderful expression of friendship and love by a family friend or relative.
Of course you are going to want some sort of food. Just keep it simple and use simple foods such as peanuts, pretzels and such as opposed to full blown dinners. Consider sparkling cider in lieu of alcohol. Even a simple punch will do as well as tea and coffee. If a dinner hour is the time for the reception consider a pot luck where everyone helps by bringing a dish to the event. More and more receptions are being done this way. Its a sign of the economy and a super easy trend to follow.
For the music you can have a family friend or kid brother run the CD player and rotate music for you. In lieu of hiring a band or DJ to run music.Your kid brother would have a blast with this as he gets to do something deemed “important” at the wedding. Not to mention all the young teen girls will be wanting to know who the cute DJ is. Everyone can benefit from this.
To keep the reception affordable, consider having it at the same location. A church or park or friends back yard can also double as a great place for a wedding reception.
Use the wedding decorations for the reception in lieu of getting more decorations for the wedding. Use plain white paper, white sheets or such for table cloths. Then simply scatter a few flower petals around the table and put the other flowers in as center pieces. Consider crepe paper streamers in the wedding colors. Crepe paper streamers can be purchased for as low as 75 cents each.
If you are out of doors have friends and family bring their patio chairs or consider borrowing folding chairs from your church. Also if you are in someones back yard remember that their landscaping can double as decor.
Keep those teens busy and have them be servers keeping water glasses filled and empty plates removed from the table. Most teens love to dress up and pretend to be more formal. Give them the opportunity and let them have some fun with this. They can also be a super clean up crew if you promise them pizza and a movie later.
Keep wedding favors simple also. Simple origami boxes (again, enlist some young teens in this endeavor) filled with nuts or mints (or both) make an easy favor. Choose pretty papers that match the wedding colors and most of those can be purchased at a dollar store.
A beautiful reception does not have to be expensive.