I love wedding stuff that's not only fun to plan, but a blast for guests and relatively cheap. Inspired by a vendor we featured recently, Bella's Concessions, I spent an hour or two admiring country-fair and carnival style weddings all over the web (check out my resulting pin board). I love the idea of fairground-style food, barbecues, and casual buffets to keep things fun for all ages and easy on the wallet. It might take some creative planning on your part, but it can also be an unforgettably fun time for all involved.
One of the great things about fair-style food is that it's great for a diverse crowd. Kids love it, and meat lovers and vegetarians love it too. Many of the foods that are the most loved and the fun to eat, however, are pretty humble to look at. Grilled corn, kabobs, burgers, and sausage and peppers have lots of fans, but look a little too low-brow for some. I know I'm an exception to the rule. Creative presentation goes a long way. Craft stores often carry paper cones and cartons which are perfect for all manner of deep-fried sin: onion rings, fried pickles (my favorite), kettle corn, or zeppoles. If you're creative, you can add some personalization and coordinate them with your colors and decorations. As far as disposable containers go, there are also lots of eco-friendly options now that are actually cute. Here's a few for example.
While cotton candy-machines and the like can be rented for around $45-$60/day from party supply stores, there are plenty of caterers and vendors out there who will take care of the grilling, frying, dipping in chocolate, rolling in nuts, etc. You can have the whole thing catered, or DIY some parts like dessert perhaps - it's up to you. Try extending your search for caterers beyond the usual suspects. Your favorite barbecue joint might give you just what you're looking for. Weddings are great exposure for businesses. Even if they don't regularly cater weddings, they might be happy to work with you to create the menu you're looking for. If you find yourself splurging on the menu (wise decision,) you can save some money by reducing your serving costs. Going the buffet route means you can skip table-service altogether.
Of course, if you're really worried about guests giving your corndogs a judgemental side-eye, you can always limit finger-foods to your cocktail hour while doing something more traditional for the main meal. Or surprise your guests with a late-night snack if you're partying into the next day (many caterers offer a snack-buffet. Check out this late-night menu). If you're going the buffet route another great idea is a drink station with lemonade, sweet tea, punch, etc. Save some money on booze by sticking to a few hot-weather favorites. Desserts work well buffet-style too, check out our post on that subject. Candy apples make great fair-style favors. Or rent an ice cream cart like this sweet little number. Most desserts are even better deep-fried and on a stick, but you don't have to go that far.
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