Save or Splurge – The Guide to Making Your Wedding Budget Work

The longer you have been planning your wedding, the more you have dealt with the juggle between what you want and what you actually need. There are so many options and features when it comes to a wedding, how do you decide what to prioritize for your budget? Here are a few tips for things you should keep as well as things you may want to ditch.

Programs – SAVE
Realistically, guests don’t need a program to know what happens – there’s no intermission and if they are at your wedding, they know your name.  Not to mention, ceremonies always end with ‘I do’!  Other than the five aunts, grandparents, and close family friends who have watched you grow up, not many people will care to have a program as a keepsake.  If you feel a program is a must-have, keep it simple and only print enough for the first 3 rows on each side. The most important people who care to have a program tend to have reserved seats closer to the front. To ensure they each get one, have your house party or coordinator place them on each chair in those special rows. If you have any leftovers, leave them by the sign-in book for others to grab.

Specialty Linens – SPLURGE & SAVE
It might sound confusing, but it’s simple – splurge on your important tables and keep the others basic.  Your sweetheart/head table, cake, gift, and welcome tables get the most attention, so it makes sense to deck those out!  Spare yourself from going overboard – no one will have eyes on random guest table #11, it can have a basic linen without hurting your wallet or anyone’s feelings.

Cocktail Hour Bites – SPLURGE
I may be biased, but I feel offering food is never a waste, especially after your guests have just sat through your ceremony.  Depending on what time dinner begins, some of your guests may get a bit cranky waiting for the main meal.  Cocktail hour is designed to keep your guests happy and entertained while you are taking photos.  Food is the easiest way to do this, and it doesn’t break the bank!  Passed hors d’oeuvres can be ordered per person or per dozen, which makes them more flexible for your budget.

Top Shelf Bar – SAVE
I see a lot of couples who feel pressured to offer nothing but the best for their guests, but realistically, guests are happy to spend the day with you!  Offering a well or call level bar is nothing to be ashamed of, after all,  an open bar is an open bar!  As long as guests don’t have to pull out their wallets, they won’t care what you are serving.  Some wedding budgets don’t have room to host open bar for more than 2 hours (or any drinks at all) and that’s okay too!  Don’t stress about it.  If you are worried about impressing a guest based off of what you have paid for them to enjoy, maybe they aren’t the right guest to keep on the list.  Offer whatever works for your budget and know that your guests will have a great time.

For most couples, maintaining your budget is the most stressful part of the wedding planning process.  I hope these tips help you to better prioritize where your wedding budget is going.  In the end, this day is all about you and your new spouse celebrating your love.  Whether you spend top dollar on every aspect of your event or go the money saving route for everything you can, your guest will just be happy to be able to share the wonderful memories to come with you!  You’ll be surprised at how well some money saving tips can ease the stress on your budget and your mind.  Happy wedding planning!

Wedding Catering Charges Breakdown

As you start researching caterers for your wedding, you may find you are seeing charges and fees you didn’t expect. Rest assured, the additional charges stated on your proposals are not your caterer’s way of scamming you – they are very much part of the norm.  Keep in mind, while hiring a caterer means you are purchasing food for your event, you are also purchasing a service.  Here is a breakdown of the most common charges that come with catering:

Service Charge
This one always gets the biggest reaction out of couples, so let’s start here.  A service charge is a fee that is typically 18 – 22% added to your total event costs. Couples think that this covers the staff tips, but it doesn’t.  It’s used to cover things like fuel costs, overhead, and wear and tear of equipment and serving ware. Think about what it takes to serve your family at Thanksgiving, now imagine doing that for 150 – 200 guests, in addition to having to set up your own kitchen in a new place to do it!  There are a lot more details and equipment needed than people realize. Even so, every company may work with a slight variation of what is included, so it is not taboo to ask what each company includes in their service charge.

Rentals
Once you choose your delicious menu, don’t forget you will need to provide a way for guests to enjoy it!  Venues may provide linens and napkins, however, they typically depend on your caterer to provide china, glassware and silverware. Be sure you confirm what the price covers – some caterers price things per person, while others are per item. You want to make sure you have all the bases covered, from cake plates and forks to coffee mugs and champagne flutes if you are planning on serving it.

Staffing
The food and drinks won’t serve themselves, and I certainly don’t want you or your bridal party bringing out giant pans of hot food while wearing beautiful attire. Servers are crucial for keeping your event running smoothly and your guests taken care of.  I’m sure I don’t even need to begin to explain how important bartenders are, and in some states, they are legally a must. All alcohol must be served by licensed bartenders. Most companies pay their staff $20-30 per hour, and while it can sometimes feel like a heavy hit to your budget, it is more of a necessity than anything. Your wedding should be a fun day for you and your guests.  The only time you should be breaking a sweat is on the dance floor!

Tax
Just like everything else you purchase, your catering is subject to the standard state tax. This applies to all goods and services provided by a business. If you do not see tax stated on a received proposal, check with the caterer to see if it is worked into another area/charge. While I hope all caterers are upfront about all charges and fees from the start, some may run things a bit differently, and you may have a second bill outlining the behind the scenes costs.

I hope this breakdown has helped shed some light on the commonly misunderstood catering charges.  It is no secret that planning a wedding is expensive and seeing so many charges can be overwhelming, but it is important to remember that this is one of the most important days of your life!  A great caterer is worth it, in the end, your guests will enjoy every aspect of the night and so will you.  An experienced caterer will ensure that everything goes along without a hitch and leave you stress-free to enjoy the best day of your life!   Don’t go with a second-rate wedding caterer just to save a few bucks, choose based on who you think will  help make your day as special (and delicious) as possible.  Happy wedding planning!

Wedding Venue

5 Important Questions to Ask Your Venue Before Booking

Planning a wedding can be extremely stressful and time-consuming, not to mention, very expensive! One of the biggest and costliest decisions, when it comes to your special day, will be choosing your venue. That is why it is important for you to know the right questions to ask when shopping for your venue. These questions can help ensure you are getting everything you want, and most importantly, they can save you a significant amount of money! So don’t stress, we are here to help, take a look below at the five questions to ask before booking your wedding venue!

  1. Does the Venue Supply Tables and Chairs?
    Believe it or not, there are several venues out there that may not supply tables and chairs for your event.  A question like this may be easy to overlook, but renting tables and chairs is no small expense and can add up very quickly!
    -Chiavari chairs are the most common and desirable for weddings, these chairs can run up to $10 per chair to rent.  White garden chairs are another common wedding chair, averaging at about $4 per chair.  120-inch tables seat 10 people and typically rent for about $10 each.  In the end, it will cost you about $11 per guest if you were to set up with chiavari chairs and round tables with seating for 10.  If you have 150 guests, that already an additional $1,650!
  2. Does the Venue have China, Glassware and Silverware?
    This information is not always presented at the beginning when getting a quote from a venue or caterer. Unfortunately, most independent venues do not supply china, glassware, and silverware and these necessities can end up being extremely expensive.
    -On average, china, glassware, and silverware can cost $5 to $10 per person, depending on what type of event you are having. If you have 150 guests, that can add up to an additional $750 to $1,000.
  3. Does the Venue have a Dance Floor?
    There is no better day to celebrate and dance than your wedding day, but your guests are going to want to join you!  Make sure there is room on the dance floor for both you and your guests to enjoy your special day.
    -A 20 by 20-foot dance floor can cost you about $1,000.
  4. Does the Venue Supply Table Linens and Linen Napkins?
    If the venue you are looking at does not supply tables and chairs, like we talked about previously, it is likely that it does not supply linens either.
    -Napkins start at around 75 cents each and liens, for the average 120-inch table, go for about $17 each.  You must also keep in mind, you are responsible for covering more than just the tables for your guests’ seating.  Buffet tables, cake tables, gift tables, registration tables, and whatever else you may have will also need to be covered and should be added into your cost.  A 150 guest wedding will consist of about 22 tables and 150 napkins, bringing the price for linens to around $486.50.
  5. Does the Venue Charge for Parking?
    If you are having your reception in or near a downtown area, there is a good chance your venue either charges for parking or requires valet service.
    -Parking could cost anywhere from $5 to $15 per car. If you calculate a 150 guest wedding by one car per two guests, you would have 75 cars, averaging an additional cost of $750.

We hope we didn’t scare you too much with all of these big numbers! As you can see, the necessary items for your wedding can add up fast! If you don’t ask the right questions you could be facing thousands of dollars in additional charges that possibly could have been avoided. Be informed, ask first and save money!