You have the ring and the date—now it’s time to bring your wedding vision to life! The planning process can be a lot of fun and today’s couples have a wealth of resources available to make their dream day come true. However, it’s very easy for a reception budget to skyrocket in price without even realizing it. Whether you have a generous budget or a more modest one, wedding costs can add up quickly. Here are some reception budget crushers to avoid.
1. The Guest List
A high numbered guest list is the fastest way to drive up the cost of your reception. Many couples find it difficult to limit their guest list for fear of leaving someone out, but don’t realize that each person has a number on their head. Think about it this way: each guest who attends requires food, drink, and a seat, and each of those items have individual costs. The first thing to look at when the budget starts getting out of control is the guest list and who you can leave off. Prioritize invitations for those close family and friends who you know you want there to celebrate with you. Any other guests who don’t fall into the must invite category can be sorted into two sub-categories: would like to invite and wouldn’t be heartbroken if they didn’t attend. This process should help cut down the list and save you money right off the bat.
The typical reception begins in the late afternoon or evening. This means that guests are arriving to your reception right about dinner time and are expecting some type of refreshment.
A couple hidden fees that come with catering are taxes and gratuity. Many catering companies will give a price per person and will add on the tax and gratuity in the end, inadvertently sticker shocking couples. Because quotes are just quotes until caterers get the final head count the week or two weeks before the wedding, couples sometimes have a much different number in their heads than what they are slapped with. At that point, it’s too late. The guests have RSVP’d and there’s not enough time to change the menu.
It’s always a good idea to ask the caterers up front what the taxes and gratuity charges are. Typical gratuity for weddings is between 15-18% for the total guest count. Sales tax is based on individual state requirements. Some caterers add additional charges for the type of service such as a plated meal, buffet, or carving station. It’s also smart to keep in mind that market pricing of food items, typically meat and seafood, can change all the way up until your final payment is due. The best way to overcome this hidden budget crusher is to update your caterer with the guest count throughout the planning process and ask for updated quotes. This way you can keep track of the taxes, gratuities, and price adjustments as they are happening.
You have the food—now let’s pop the champagne! Having a bar option at your reception can add a lot of fun to the party, but it doesn’t mean you have to pay for unlimited drinks for your guests all night long. Open bars are a major budget crusher because they are unpredictable. An open bar means that guests are allowed to drink whatever is available at the bar, all night long, at your cost. The worst part? You don’t know how much it’s going to cost until the night is over and have essentially crushed your reception budget. Never fear! There are many options for bar service. You can set limits, choose to serve only certain kinds of alcohol, or choose to have guests pay for their own drinks. The same taxes and gratuity that caterers charge is added to bar packages as well. It’s important to communicate your budget with your bar service. Give them a distinct number that you would like to not exceed after all is said and done. They will be able to guide you in the process to make sure you stay in budget.
The most deceiving budget crushers tend to be the extras—the things that are always a part of a wedding that no one thinks about like the linens, tables, chairs, and décor items. The best way to get a handle on these surprise costs is to start with the venue. Many venues offer tables and chairs up to a certain amount of people at no additional cost, and some even include linens in a basic color variety. These details may seem small, but when you need to source all these items from a rental company, it gets spendy quick! Be sure to ask your venue when booking what they include and how many guests their supplies accommodate.
If you’re having your ceremony and reception at the same location, ask if the chairs for the ceremony will be needed for the reception. Moving chairs from one location to the other can eat up time and add a bit of chaos. If you need to rent extra chairs, it’s best to know that up front. Linens are another surprising cost. If the venue doesn’t supply them, they can cost between $9 and $20 per tablecloth to rent. Don’t forget about delivery charges and cleaning fees that may come along with linen rentals.
Keep in mind that many décor items can be rented as well as purchased. Purchasing items brand new can be very expensive! Renting items that you’ll only use for one day can save you some money and will be less of a hassle when you don’t have to try to resale them once your big day is over.
Receptions are where are the party’s at! Whether you decide to have live music or a DJ to entertain your guests, these services can range from a modest $500 to upwards of $10,000. Live music is a reception statement maker, but can be costly.
Another thing to keep in mind about live music is that it’s often LOUD. If your venue is in a residential neighborhood or within certain city districts, there could be noise ordinances. If the band is playing too loud at your wedding, guess who gets slapped with a fine? That’s right: you! It’s good to have a plan before going down that road.
DJs are another fantastic option to entertain your guests. But there are additional costs for things like lighting, ceremony music, dance floors, and mics for toasts. These little things add up quickly, just like the rest. When getting quotes from DJs, be sure to ask what each of their packages include and get their advice on what they think your party may require. They are the experts in the field of entertainment and can quickly tell you what would fit your reception vision best.
Creating a budget and having great communication with your vendors are the best ways to avoid spending more than you want. Do your research, get detailed quotes, and hire trusted vendors and you are on your way to a perfect day without breaking the bank!