Wedding Reception on a budget
Our wedding ceremony will be free, but due to religious differences, his family won’t be able to attend. I wanted to spend more money on the wedding reception, but my parents left me a budget of only $5,500.00. I want it to be a “relaxed formal”. My guest list is around 450 invitations, and that can’t be lessened. How can I have a nice wedding reception that his family will enjoy, and that my family can afford?
Wedding Reception Step 1 : Find The Location
The first thing you need to do is to find a site that will hold 450 people. Even with a large number of guests such as you have, there will be a few options in the way of space rental. Some places that come to mind are: a park or garden setting (outdoors), a large church, a museum, a banquet room, a ballroom in a large hotel, etc. After you’ve found a few sites to consider…it’s time to compare the prices (and services offered) between them. I’ve found that “shopping around” is one of the best money-savers. Carefully compare the sites and figure out whether you feel it’s worth it to spend extra for certain features such as beautiful view or an elegant setting. If you find a lower price on a comparable setting to the site you “really” want–you basically have two choices. The first is that you can accept the higher fee or decide to use your second choice for the reason of saving money. The second choice involves calling your first choice with the price quote from your second choice. Sometimes they’ll offer a discount or match the price.
But That’s Just The Start to planning your Wedding Reception.
After you’ve found your site, you will have many other factors to consider as well as many other opportunities to save money on your wedding reception. Alcohol is often one of the largest costs involved in holding a wedding reception. If you choose to have a full/stocked bar at your wedding, you’ll find that the costs are often high. In order to save money on alcohol in this situation you can do one of two things. You can either ask for a discount of some type or you can find out if you can supply the alcohol (rather than the site). Supplying the alcohol yourself will cut down somewhat on costs as sites often charge more…whether per glass or per bottle for alcohol. Other options concerning saving money on alcohol costs are included in the question I answered concerning objections to a lack of liquor. Finally, find out from your site whether alcohol is permitted at all. Some sites don’t allow it and this is becoming a more common practice as issues of liability are becoming prominent.
The second area in which you should concentrate saving money on is food. Food is another area which can take up a large amount of the money allotted for wedding reception costs. A seated meal (usually served by waiters, etc) is one of the most expensive options. The advice is the same I gave for the site and applies to most (if not all) areas of wedding planning; shop around. Catering prices vary by vendor and you can find both expensive options as well as less expensive it’s mostly dependant upon what type of meal you decide to serve, but price can vary by vendor’s reputation, location of vendor/wedding as well as numerous other reasons. A buffet type meal is a popular option and, once again, can be either expensive or inexpensive. If you decide to serve lobster and Beef Wellington it’s probably going to be more expensive than fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Your choices of what to serve can be a definite factor in the price of food at your wedding reception. I have two basic “rules” that I follow in order to cut food costs they *usually* work:
If you can’t pronounce it…don’t buy it
“Plain” food is usually less expensive than “exotic” food or specialty dishes
I say that they usually work for one basic reason – if you use only these two tips and disregard the advice on shopping around you may find that you’re paying a higher price than you might elsewhere. Once again you may be paying for the vendor’s reputation, locality/area, etc. For more information on different types of food to serve as well as other money-saving techniques concerning food the questions I answered on guests paying for their own meal as well as cake and punch receptions should give you more ideas.
Wedding Reception Decoration
Decorating, though it usually takes less of a bite, can also be a factor that can make or break your budget. Decorating is largely based on the tastes of you and your fiance. You may choose to employ a florist for flowers or even a consultant/coordinator to help you with this area. Once again, check for the best price. One suggestion concerning florists: I’ve found the best deals were with either florists who are just starting their business or those who work from inside their home. While the larger shops also do a good job their prices are usually “set” for the most part, and negotiating a lower price takes more time and ingenuity. It is possible though so don’t give up if you find that a larger shop has the quality that you want. Other costs involved in decorating the site might include rental of equipment (such as a garden arch, etc.), servers (for various tasks, including but not limited to; serving food decorating the site and cleaning up), etc. Of course, you also have the option of doing much of the decorating yourself, which is most often the least expensive option. Whether you’d like an elegant (which can be achieved with colors such as white and gold/silver, burgandy and hunter, etc.) or fun (lots of colors or a theme) wedding reception, only you can decide whether or not you’re willing to do all of the work involved. You can also delegate those tasks you feel uncomfortable with to friends/family if it is an option for you. Since it would take another paragraph to list all of the decorating questions and answers, I’ll refer you to the Wedding Dollars and Sense” index. You’ll find the most useful information contained in both the decoration and planning sections of the column.
Finally, there are the “little” things that you might need to consider. These things include items such as your guest book, cake-topper, centerpieces, favors and any other additional items you might want. I’ll include a few ideas on each of those items I’ve listed above.
Wedding Reception Guest Book
With all of these ideas, ask your guests to include their name. There are numerous money-saving options here:
Loose-leaf typing paper : on which guests can write messages, draw pictures, etc. These sheets of paper are later gathered and put into a three-ring binder or album.
A canvas : on which guests write messages, draw pics, etc. Is later framed to hang in the home as a work of art. Poster-board will also work for this purpose.
Quilting squares on which guests write messages, wishes, etc with permanent ink/pen. Is later turned into a “memory” quilt.
A story-book : each guest is asked to complete a line and write down what they’ve added to the story. Usually starts out something like: “Once upon a time there was a girl named….and a boy named…” Each guest then adds to the story. Later this is bound (either by hand or professionally) into a small book.
Index cards : each guest is given an index card to write messages on. These are later put into a photo album or “memory” book.
Share-a-memory : each guest is asked to share and write down a favorite memory of the couple. These memories are then gathered and put into a memory book, photo album or bound into a book
Favorite characters : whether Ken and Barbie, Porky and Petunia, Buster and Babs bunny, etc.
Flowers : you can make a stunning cake topper with flowers
Objects that represent the couple : this can range from a tee and golf ball (the couple interested in golfing) to a ceramic house (for Realtors) or anything that represents the couples tastes and interests.
A lace fan : can be used as a background for a figurine/flowers or alone.
Photo of the couple : either a seperate photo of each person or one of the couple.
A bouquet or nosegay : a nosegay is a version of a bouquet. If made on your own this can be less expensive.
A basket of flowers : the flowers can be silk or real. Less costly if made.
A lace shoe and a bow tie : yes I’ve seen this and it looks great. You could replace the shoe with a miniature veil if you’d like.
Wedding Reception Centerpieces
A vase/basket filled with flowers : they can be real/silk or wildflowers. Vases and baskets can be bought at the thrift shop/discount store and baskets can be painted.
Terra-cotta pots : rather inexpensive, these can be painted or decorated and can contain items such as favors, flowers, etc.
Jack-o-lantern : first to give proper credit when it’s due-this is not my idea, but that of a friend by the name of Sharon Cox. Great idea for a fall wedding. Take meat out of a pumpkin, carve hearts or other appropriate symbols into pumpkin. Add candle. You now have a wedding-appropriate jack-o-lantern.
Photos of couple at various stages of their life : this idea can also apply to photos of friends/family on their own wedding day.
Potted plants or flowers : depending on the type and size you get these can be rather inexpensive.
Glass bowls : try discount stores or thrift shops. You can fill these with anything you’d like: a flower floating in water, floating votive candle, candies, favors, etc.
Wedding Reception Favors
If you make them yourself they will be less expensive. You can change the sizes of these to suit your tastes. I won’t list all of the ideas I’ve heard, but here are some of the simplest to make and execute:
Potpourri balls/satchets : take two round (or square if you prefer the look) pieces of tulle/netting. Throw in a small handful of potpourri. Tie satin ribbon into a knot…then tie into a bow. Can also be filled with birdseed or rice (which does NOT expand in a bird’s stomach, but does make a mess.)
Lace umbrellas : most often given in Victorian themed weddings. Take a dowel/stick, a round piece of fabric and a round piece of lace. Place lace over fabric. Gather over dowel/stick and tie onto dowel/stick with a satin ribbon tied into a bow. Can have a small paper or ribbon attached that includes couples names as well as date of wedding
Hugs and Kisses : wrap “Hugs and Kisses” candies into tulle. Tie with satin ribbon bow.
Promises : same as Hugs and Kisses idea, but use “Promises” candy instead.
Miniature terra-cotta pots : these can be filled with: candies, a packet of seeds, potpourri then wrapped in tulle/netting, etc.
I hope that these ideas have given you a solid start towards saving money on your wedding reception.