The greatest impact on your wedding budget will be the number of guests you invite. Choose wisely, determine your priorities and keep track of all wedding related expenses.
Whether you prefer an open-air soiree under the stars or a sophisticated gathering in a grand hall, budgeting for your wedding reception can be quite a balancing act. While any couple can save money on their wedding if they are willing to hold it on a Tuesday night in January with only forty guests, that's not what most couples prefer. The real goal is to spend your money wisely without compromising on what you really want. The following is a common sense approach to budgeting for your wedding reception. SETTING THE BUDGET The first order of business is to discuss and agree upon a firm but realistic budget. Keep in mind that the cost of most weddings range between $20,000 and $28,000. The reception alone will account for approximately 46-50% of this amount. To avoid budget overruns, familiarize yourself with a detailed list of potential expenses in the Budget Manager (found in the Planning Place). SIZE IS MOST IMPORTANT Once the reception budget has been determined the first order of business will be to address the size of the guest list. There are three ways to approach this situation. One way is to sit down together and pare your list to those people who truly mean the most to you both without factoring in workplace or social obligations. This should significantly reduce your guest list numbers. Another way is to narrow guests according to those people you stay in touch with on at least an every-other-month basis. A third way to deal with the issue is to look at the type of reception you are presently planning and start assigning priorities to what elements you must have, and which you are willing to forgo in order to maintain a larger guest list. This is an important factor because the number of people you choose to invite will have the greatest impact on the overall expenses, affecting everything from invitations and catering, to the rental of tables, chairs and linens. So be sensible. WINTER, SPRING, SUMMER OR FALL? The months of May, June, August, September and October are considered peak wedding months, when most ceremony and reception sites, as well as service providers, are easily booked at premium rates. The festive month of December, filled with holiday parties, is also considered a peak month. The more prudent choices are the off-season winter months of November, January, February and March or the summer month of July, when business is slower and rates are more reasonable. WHICH DAY WILL BE YOUR DAY? Saturdays have long been the most popular day for weddings. Thus, couples with an eye on overall costs would be wise to seriously consider Friday evening or Sunday nuptials. Most wedding related services as well as reception sites are willing to negotiate better rates for weddings held on these off days. APPETITE FOR LOVE Sit-down meals are usually the most economical, where the menu is limited to two or three main courses with set portions that are pre-plated and served to guests. Buffets offer a variety of dishes for your guests to choose from but can be more costly due to the lack of portion control and the need to make more food available to keep serving trays looking fresh. Serving substantial hors d'oeuvres at mealtime may seem to be an economical choice, but these tasty, labor-intensive treats can easily equal or exceed the per-person cost of a buffet or a sit-down meal. A TOAST TO THE FRUGAL COUPLE The preferred choice for beverages is an open bar, which is also the most expensive because charges are assessed at a fixed hourly rate per-person, regardless of consumption. Closing the bar at mealtime, then reopening it after dinner is one way to trim costs. Limiting guests to beer, wine and soda reduces your costs by roughly $2.00 per person. Another option is to supply the alcohol and soft drinks yourself, pre-arranging the return of any unopened bottles to your local liquor store for a full refund. Before electing to go this route, confirm what the corkage fees are. PLAYING YOUR SONG Hiring a disc jockey instead of a live band is an easy way to pare down your reception budget. A comparable cost alternative to a DJ is a single performing artist. A harpist, flautist or classical guitarist would be ideal for a reception brunch or more intimate evening affair. LOVE BLOOMS Finding a floral designer who either works from their home or is located in an area away from commercial shopping areas where rents and overhead are lower will reflect in reduced costs. When making floral selections, keep in mind that flowers in season at the time of your wedding are more cost-effective than those out-of-season. Have a discussion with your floral designer for ways to relocate ceremony arrangements for use at the reception. Letting your ceremony flowers do double duty will definitely stretch your dollars. PERFECT TIMING Shorten the length of the reception. Your guests will hardly notice that your reception went for five hours instead of six. Eliminating an extra hour on the facility rental, entertainment and the bar can yield quiet a substantial savings. THE COST OF IT ALL Lastly, remember to get all arrangements in writing. Do not accept any oral contracts or promises and be sure to get the details of the services you will be paying for spelled out. Adhering to a strict budget requires avoiding multiple add-ons due to oversights and lack of clarification or agreement on what is and is not included in the contracted price. If it's not in writing, it's not guaranteed. In the end, as mentioned above, the largest contributor to the overall expense is the number of guests you choose to invite. Determine now which is more important having everyone you're acquainted with at your wedding and forgoing some of the refinements you'd envisioned, or paring down the list to those closest to you and having the wedding of your dreams.