Budget conversations can be stressful, no matter the context. But when it comes to planning your wedding, take these two things to heart: 1) Just because you’re keeping costs in check, doesn’t necessarily mean you need to compromise on the look or feel of your event, and 2) Getting serious about staying within budget is no bad thing. We have lots of great budget saving ideas. Here are my top three:
- Lower Your Guest Count
Most people incorrectly think that more guests only drives up your food and beverage costs. While that’s the majority of the per person fee, don't forget that more guests also equal more money spent on invitations, table linens, flower arrangements, favors, and on and on down the line. On average, each guest you cut can save you $100 to $200 depending on how elaborate a wedding you’re planning.
Now, we get that this is much more than a simple cost per head calculation. I’d never want to boil down such a special and amazing event to some sort of budget saving algorithm. We all know the guests truly make the event special! But when there’s a pre-determined budget, no matter how large or how small, it’s important to strike a balance between inviting everyone under the Sun or just your closest family and friends. In my experience, the most successful brides have this conversation early on in the process.
- Choose Your Location Carefully
Your reception food and beverage typically accounts for 50 percent of your overall wedding budget. If money was no object, perhaps more brides would choose to get married at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago Estate! However, since most of us do have to be mindful of expenses, we’ll choose a reception site that’s hundreds of thousands less. A dramatic example, certainly, but the point is that the site you choose is important, but not irreplaceable. If the lowest price entree adds up to more than your total budget, it's time to consider another option.
In my experience, guests have the same needs whether they are at a beachfront venue, under a tent at a private site, or in a big or small hotel ballroom. Guests want to be dry, they want to be warm in the fall and winter, cool in the spring and summer, they want good food to eat and enough to drink. And of course, guest logistics are important, too: your wedding guests shouldn’t need a Sherpa to help them find the way to your reception.
So when it comes to food and beverage, small cost differences can add up to big savings in your final bill.
To help illustrate the point, let’s put some numbers to this: At a regional Four Seasons, where I’ve done multiple weddings, the average price per plate is $165 a person. At the Marriott directly across the street, where I’ve also done events, the average price is around $135 per guest. That’s a savings of $30 per guest. Multiply that by 150 guests and you’re looking at a total savings of $4500! And all of the guest needs that I listed above would be met at either site.
I’m not advocating just selecting any old place to host your wedding—it needs to be somewhere you and your family feel comfortable. And if you feel like splurging on a site, go for it! Just be realistic about what it will do to your budget. Overall, keep an open mind and understand that the location is only just a small part of your event.
- Choose a Non-Saturday Evening Date
Most reception sites, bands, photographers, and other wedding vendors will offer you a better rate if you’re getting married on a Friday or Sunday. There is simply less demand for those dates.
It’s also worth considering a Saturday afternoon instead of an evening. In my experience, that has worked very well for guests and clients. If you’re concerned that a Friday date will mean too many of your guests will have to take time off work to attend, or could mean certain guests pass on attending, a Saturday afternoon option can alleviate that worry, while still potentially saving you on cost.
At each reception site you’re considering, make sure to ask the question and get full visibility on what they will be willing to offer.