Top 10 Ways to Save Money on Your wedding Reception
Please note before you read this: Don’t take this as a step-by-step procedure, but merely a list of a few options to consider. Many things suggested might not be things you are willing to cut from your budget. For each item you must consider: What is your definition of a successful event; and do the items listed play any crucial part in achieving the goal of ultimate success?
With all of those points in mind, here are our top 10 suggestions:
1. Biggest money saver: Venue/Menu
Select a venue with menu choices that will get the job done but doesn't “eat” up all of your budget. We know that when you first start planning a wedding, you want it to the be best in order to make a statement to our friends and family. If you have to have the nicest car, and live in the biggest house on the street, you are probably not going to take the time to read this, but if you are, you will see our point.
Remember, most restaurants in the area have private rooms for bigger events, which are often free of charge with a minimum number of meals/guests. Many of the local churches and ethnic halls have great facilities and local or in-house caterers that offer nice buffets or family-style dinners.
Being in the Northeast Ohio market, there are many beautiful resorts and country clubs that have square, neutrally decorated rooms to hold your event. However, you are paying more just to be in that great club! Typically, most of these places run menus from $50 to $90 a plate that covers the food, room rental, linens, and limited decorating. If you have 150 guests at $60 a plate, you’d be spending $9,000. Instead, consider a nice restaurant with a nice room that offer $17 per person buffet-style meal and the room rental is free. You’ll only be spending $2,550 and thus saving $6,550!
Also, remember most of the resorts and country clubs have fairly pricey minimums to use the facility. We know a dozen venues that require minimums over $7000 per event. We know a dozen more venues that have $6000 rental rates just for the facility, and your reception is on a concrete slab in a tent. When you go outside of the tent for a cigarette or to make a call, that’s when you’ll see the beautiful mansion, garden, golf course, etc.
So you’ve examined venues and selected a place that makes you comfortable. Do you think that is the end of possible savings? NOT even close! Switch from Filet Mignon at $80 a plate to the Chicken Marsala with pasta at $60 a plate. For 150 guests, you just saved $3,000 and it's still a great meal. Or, you can choose the restaurant choice, such as Filet Mignon or Prime Rib at $22 per person versus Chicken Marsala at $17. If the difference is $5 per person, you save $750.
During your cocktail hour, you’ll be providing drinks for your guests while you are getting formal pictures taken. Your venue will offer you appetizers. Think about whether or not you need ALL of the options. If you do want some sort of appetizer, choose wisely. Assume they offer a vegetable platter choice at $9 per person or a deli meats and cheese platter choice at $12. Shrimp Cocktails might be $15 per person. But what if they have a chips and salsa bar that is $3 per person? Reducing the appetizers from $9 to $3 per person saves you $900 during cocktail hour for your 150 person wedding. Or if you chose to eliminate the appetizers all together, you save $1,350. Again, consider what is a complete necessity for you to have at your cocktail hour. We’ve seen weddings where white and red pizzas were served for around $1 per person! Make the right and logical choice. Ask other vendors what they’ve seen done, not just your caterer.
3.Friday/Sunday or Off-Season
Yes, that’s right! Friday, Sunday and off-season wedding dates will get you a variety of discounts. Most facilities will offer significant discounts for booking on a Friday or Sunday. Some places will offer almost 25% off, or will lower minimums in certain rooms. They might even "throw in" special incentives to book those dates.
For example: you can have a reception for 150 guests at a country club on a Saturday for $17,900 (with all vendors and everything included.) If you have that same wedding the night before, you will save an estimated 20% off of that total. That’s over $3,500 in savings -- enough for one memorable honeymoon if you ask us! Many of your other vendors will also discount their rates on Fridays or Sundays. This is very popular here in Northeast Ohio.
The average cost of chair covers in this area is $4 per chair. If you also add the colored bows for $3 per chair, you’re up to an average of $7. For your 150 guests, that $1,050. While we have to admit, it does make a room look cleaner and more impressive, will your guests really remember them? Will it really affect the good time they are going to have?
Some venues offer the liquor and beer bar service that you are required to use while others allow you to bring in your own. The cost of the bar service is typically usually calculated in one of two ways, either per person charge or “cap” (based on how much they drink). Venues also will give you different levels of liquor to choose from. You might automatically be leaning towards the top shelf liquor, but consider the middle to lower shelf. You can save over $1,000 just by switching which level of liquor you choose. Truth be told, the most liquor on average served at a wedding is 40% lower than it was 25 years ago. Also, be sure to watch your "wash" charges. Some venues will charge you over $3 per person for the wash (juices, other mixes and sodas.) Almost 40% of our weddings (as of 2010) have just beer and wine for the reception. Beer and Wine–only weddings can save you thousands of dollars. But be SURE to stay away from cash bars. Your guests will remember it, and it’s not considered tasteful. Are you considering an afternoon reception? Serve wine and beer and mimosas! Or, a new trend is to rent a margarita machine for the evening with the mixes to serve in addition to beer.
Not everyone wants or likes champagne, and it is expensive. Consider letting you guests enjoy the toasts with whatever drink they have in hand, in lieu of champagne. Buy one bottle and served to the head table only for pictures purposes. Facilities tend to charge anywhere between $3 and $8 per person for a toast. Skipping the champagne can save you $450 to $1,200 for 150 guests. Most, if not all weddings we work, no longer use champagne for all. It’s truly a waste. We have been to many venues that say they’ll charge per person and will ask who wants champagne. However, even if they didn't want it, you might get charged anyways!
7.Trim Your Wedding Guest List
Sometimes people don't want to hear this, but it is the easiest and most effective way to trim the budget. If you cut your guest list from 150 to 100, you’ll have a more intimate affair. It also opens up more options of venues and menus. It allows a DJ to bring a smaller set up (which will save you money). Less guests means less photos so you could save on photographer, too.
But consider your meal budget again: For the $17 per person venue, having 50 fewer guests will save you $850. The resort wedding at $60 per guest, 50 fewer guests will save you $3,000! It's common sense, but you’ll have to choose. Would you rather the small intimate kickin' party or the larger party with less frills or just less money left afterwards. Consider that your closest family or friends may have even more fun at the intimate affair when they know more of the crowd around them. It’s when you start inviting all your co-workers and extra family you only see once every five years that guests may be less inclined to dance.
Skip the engraved invitation. Regular printed invitations work just as well. Check prices though a mail order or online catalog, instead of going to a stationery store. The prices in these catalogs are extremely competitive, and there are many to choose from. For a more informal wedding, consider printing your own invites on your computer. Stationery stores sell special paper meant to use in home printers for inexpensive wedding invitations. Skip the inner envelope and blotter paper; these are leftover relics from the time when ink needed time to dry, and mail was delivered on horseback. Rather than having a reply card, ask guests to reply online or by the telephone. Provide a “tinyURL” for a Google map on the bottom of the invitation, instead of on a separate card. With all these small changes, you not only save on the postage for sending, you also save on return postage!
Planners are becoming ever so popular now. NOTE: we aren’t saying DON’T get a planner. Instead, consider how you can limit the time you hire them in order to save money. Day of coordinators, full service wedding planners, and planners who only recommend vendors can range from $500 to $10,000. Consider this, though: Most experienced vendors have a professional organization. DJ's – ADJA; Photographers – PPA; Videographers - WEVA. Utilize these organizations to help you select your vendors. Once you've selected a professional, don't be afraid to ask them for help. I personally have worked over 1,400 weddings and I know dozens of wonderful vendors to recommend and am happy to help you in anyway I can.
If you should choose a very experienced and professional DJ, they will likely do almost 80% of what a wedding planner would do for your reception if you ask or allow them. They can help you immensely! Ask them what online planning tools are offered and/or what resources they have to help aid you in your planning. Also talk to your photographer who is likely to go the extra mile to help out. While they may not offer the same services as a DJ, they can offer great insight as well.
Favors are one of the best places to save money. Even if you do small candy boxes at $2 per person, that’s $300 for your wedding. Most online favor stores offer small trinket favors from $3 to $5 per person. Now you’re up to $450 to $750 for your 150 person wedding! Honestly, guests will forget them on the table. Or, those chocolates will be eaten with the cake, so the favors are still not taken them home. Skip them all together and reallocate that money to your venue, menu or other vendors that are more important to you.