At least there are some couples out there who to whom money is no object. Just this week, I browsed through a delightful slide show on msn.com. The title says it all: “The 15 Most Ridiculous Celebrity Weddings.”
Holding your wedding at an English, Scottish, Irish, Italian or Indian castle or palace is, you know, normal if you’re a celebrity. If Elton John and Oprah Winfrey and Donald Trump are going to watch your vow swap. If your budget tops out at a measley couple million dollars.
For the rest of us, money is an object the size of Texas.
But as I’ve been doing research for the book, and working my way ever closer to my own wedding, I’ve picked up a few tips from the pros about where to save money. (And, I like to think, sleuthed my way to a few solutions myself.)
So, without further ado: ten tips on how to avoid a budget buster at your reception.
1. The earlier in the day you plan your wedding, the more money you’re likely to save on reception costs. Some sites have lower minimums for a daytime (or weekday) wedding, guests will expect less and food — and less formal food — and will consume less alcohol.
2. Serving a beer and wine bar instead of a full open bar will usually save you a few dollars per drink — and keep all but the most determined guests from getting tipsy.
3. Find out if your reception venue allows you to serve your own alcohol. The site might charge a corking fee, but the price difference between your bottle of wine + corking fee and their bottle of wine might still come out in your favor.
4. Discuss your reception venue’s drink-clearing policy in detail. Some locations instruct staffers to remove any unattended drink includingglasses that are completely full, which means that when your guest realizes her drink has gone missing, she’ll return to the bar — and you’ll get charged another $8 for her second appletini.
5. Paying a little extra for butlered hors d’oeuvres may well pay for itself: with guests only able to eat one piece of food at a time, you won’t have to deal with guests who decide the cocktail hour should be their first full meal of the night.
6. Ask about a kids’ entree for the little ones. If your venue doesn’t serve kids’ meals often, ask if they can work with you to create something that’s financially proportional to the amount the kiddos will eat — and that’s palatable to the chicken-fingers/macaroni/hot dog-loving age range.
7. If your reception venue has a wood, tile, stone, or cement floor, skip the rented dance floor and artfully arrange the edges of your dance floor with plants, ribbons, or flowers dangling from the ceiling.
8. Before you begin buying vases or decorations for your centerpieces, check with your venue to find out if they offer centerpiece basics for free. If not, check with your florist, rental company, or local fabric specialty store to get price quotes for renting, rather than buying, the items you need.
9. Have your decor pull double duty: send it home with guests as favors. Set out cheery wildflowers in aluminum watering cans or mason jars for a spring wedding; decorate with elegant conch shells and sand dollars for a summer bash; add a splash of autumn color with gold, copper and bronze votive holders in the fall; hang a miniature wreath over the back of each chair for a Christmastime celebration.
10. When it comes to your cake, most of the cost is directly tied in to the time and talent necessary to create it. A simply decorated, butter cream-frosted cake will be cheaper than an elaborate fondant one; a few-tiered cake will be cheaper than a multi-tiered one. Cheaper still: order a tiered cake that’s too small to feed your guests, and order an identical sheet cake to make up the quantity difference. If you want a fancy cake without a fancy price tag, consider having your baker decorate a styrofoam cake, and just serving sheet cake.
Just remember: it’s your party, and probably the biggest party of your life. You want to make sure it’s everything you dream of, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still cut corners, cash-wise. Your wedding day is the beginning of your new life — and you probably want to start that new life with as little debt as possible!