Wedding Receptions on a Budget!
by Amy Davis
Whether or not you’ve been affected by the economic downturn, the cost of a wedding can make you want to elope. With wedding receptions comprising 40 to 50 percent of the budget — including facility rental, food and beverage — most brides and grooms are looking for ways to stretch a dollar.
As you compare the price tags of venue options, always compare apples to apples, advises Maggie Daniels, a professional wedding consultant and the author of “Wedding Planning and Management: Consultancy for Diverse Clients.” Be sure to include all of the costs.
“That’s where people get themselves into trouble,” Daniels says. “Often it’s misguided to think you’re truly saving money.” She suggests creating a “laundry list” of minimum expectations for your wedding. Find out what’s included at each venue and anticipate any additional cost.
Perhaps you and your fiancé have a favorite restaurant that would be the perfect spot to host your reception. Check out options for a private room. At some venues, you pay only the food and beverage tab, while others charge a nominal room fee and have a food and beverage minimum. In today’s competitive environment, you sometimes can negotiate the room fee, Daniels notes.
Small Inns and Hotels
In today’s economy, many venues are offering special, all-inclusive packages to bring in business. You generally can cut costs dramatically by choosing less expensive options for hors d’oeuvres and entrees. Also consider house wines, which are generally a better value than bottles from the wine list.
Church halls. Hosting the reception at the same place of worship as the ceremony can save money. Generally, there’s no rental fee for the room if you’re a member, though a donation is customary. In addition, you might save on the photographer and videographer because they won’t spend extra travel time going from the ceremony to the reception. Keep in mind, however, that some places of worship have preferred vendors and charge extra if you hire someone not on the list. Also check to make sure you can serve alcoholic beverages if that’s important to you.
VFW, Knights of Columbus and Other Organizations
Most groups allow non-members to use their banquet halls for a small additional fee — typically $100 to $200. But watch for hidden costs such as linens and chair covers. Also check to see how early the caterers can arrive for prep work. Often you have to pay extra if they arrive more than two hours in advance.
Your Alma Mater
Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of being married in the quaint chapel of your college, but never considered holding the reception on campus. Many colleges and universities have meeting spaces you can reserve for a reasonable fee. Most provide catering staffs or have arrangements with outside catering services. Check with the alumni office for the particular policies and fees.
As the saying goes, there’s no place like home. If you’re shaking your head because your 400-square-foot condo simply won’t do, see if a friend or family member’s home is appropriate for the occasion. Also consider a party room in your apartment or condo building. Such rooms are generally available to residents at a low fee.
If you prefer an outdoor setting, perhaps a friend or family member has a nice yard or garden. This option in particular has hidden costs, Daniels cautions. Remember that you have to rent things such as china, linens, tables, chairs, gifting accessories such as a wedding card holder and tents. Also check noise ordinances in the area. You may have to end your celebration much earlier than you would like.
Many websites can assist you find a reception spot. Check out The Knot, Wed Alert and Web for Wedding. Another useful site is Here Comes the Guide. Originally created for the California wedding market, the site now has links for the Chicago and Washington, DC, areas, with plans to expand to other metropolitan regions.
If, after all the research, your heart is still set on a luxury venue such as a five-star hotel or historic mansion, don’t give up before looking for ways to reduce costs. Moving your wedding from the most popular months of the year to winter or early spring brings discounts. Even the day and time can make a difference. For example, Thursday evenings are less expensive than Saturdays and a buffet brunch costs less than a sit-down dinner. But the best thing to do is have a smaller wedding, Daniels advises. Simply paring down your guest list translates into significant savings that can turn your wedding fantasy into a reality.
Amy Davis is a freelance writer in Acton, Mass. After considering the hidden costs of an at-home wedding, she and her fiancé chose a small colonial inn.
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