Congratulations, you’re getting married! This is your day, a day to celebrate, but not to go broke doing it. Now is the time to starting making a budget and being realistic about what you want your day to represent. Forget what your girlfriends did for their wedding and examine what you want this day to say about you. Keep in mind what your day is all about, you and your guests coming together to celebrate your union. In the end, small details will make your wedding and reception special.
A good part of your budget will be spent on the venue, décor, food, bar and cake. I have decided to deconstruct the reception and explore the many options available to you here on Whidbey Island .
Location, location, location
When sourcing a venue for your reception there are two things to consider. What they have to offer and what exactly are you paying for. Some venues require that you use their in-house catering and/or purchase your alcohol from them. While others have a kitchen and allow you bring in your own caterer and bar, such as Jenne Farm and Greenbank Farm. Better yet, some have tables and chairs and/or dishware available eliminating the need for one more thing to be rented; such as The Crocket Barn, Freeland Hall, Bayview Cash Store, Whidbey Institute, and the Oak Harbor Yacht Club to name a few. You need to know all the details that pertain to each venue such as, curfew for music, turnover of the venue, room capacity and seating capacity, parking limitations, decoration rules, as well as, cancellation policy. Ask all your questions before you sign on the dotted line.
Another option is to rent a private home for your wedding and reception. I am finding this option very appealing to certain brides who want a more intimate setting for their day. I now represent select properties for just this usage. I have homes that will accommodate 50 to 300 guests very comfortably. You can rent these homes for the day or the entire weekend.
There are three main rental companies off Island. Delivery for rentals and gas surcharges alone can add as much as an additional $200 to the bottom line. There is a not-for-profit organization, Plates for Dates on the Island that rents dishes and stem ware. Here is your opportunity to make a difference by supporting a great organization. An alternative to renting dishes is to purchase disposable style plates. They are both green and table friendly. And lastly, I offer limited rentals to my clients and can assist you with rounding out your rental needs.
Do you need a tent? You can now rent a 40×60, 40×80 or 40×100 tent with cathedral side curtains for about one-third less than those off-Island. Talk about being green, not only do you save on your carbon footprint, but now you can afford to invite those extra guests.
Make your tables personal, tell a story. You do not need to go out and buy a lot of items for your tables. Mix and match, use what you have. Likewise, shop dollar stores or rent some of the basics like vases, votives, lights, etc. Did you under budget the cost of the flowers? Centerpieces need not consist of flowers alone. Consider using foliage or fruit for your centerpieces or have them consist of items that are telling of your and your fiancé’s life.
When it comes to choosing a wedding favor, what I have done in the past is try and tie in this element with the reception or have it be reflective of the bride and groom. I have done cigars and mini cognac in pouches for a cigar bar, another time we have done vanity wine bottles, his and her themed gifts. Then there is the standard boxed sweets, chocolates, candies, etc.
However, my personal favorite indulgence is supporting those causes near and dear to me which leads me to my latest cool and forward thinking wedding favor, charitable giving. What I am doing with a couple of brides this season is placing on the guests table an elegantly framed card stating that a donation to “x” charity has been made in lieu of wedding favor. A small statement about the organization follows to educate the guests as to why the bride and groom chose that organization.
I know this option will not appeal to all brides. If this is not for you, but you are on a budget, start now and take advantage of great sales out there at some of the better department stores and home furnishing boutiques and lock in those wonderful wedding favors at really super great prices.
Wedding Planner versus Caterer
Decisions, decisions. A wedding planner can help with so many more aspects of your wedding and reception than a caterer typically will. One benefit to hiring a wedding planner is the relationships they have vendors they frequently work with. Some of the time, they can offer you preferred rates that can save you money. Ask if the wedding planner and/or caterer get a fee from the vendors they refer. This, in my opinion, is a conflict of interest and should be avoided. You want to assemble a team of people who work well together and who are great at what they do. Either way, one thing to consider before meeting with anyone is how you would like the reception to flow, which leads me to the food.
Bad food is unacceptable, good food is mediocre, so why settle for less. The majority of your reception budget will be spent on catering. There are a handful of great caterers on the Island who can prepare a meal that will both compliment your reception and leave your guests impressed with the quality of food.
When meeting with a caterer, consider asking some of these questions. Will they actually be at your event? How many of the dishes served are made by them? Where is your food prepared – commercial kitchen or on-site? Do they have their own dishes for rent? Believe it or not, some do! Is there a cake cutting fee? What is the cost for the wait staff? Is the price quoted the final price or are tax and gratuity in addition?
Are your costs still out of control? Consider some of these money savings tips. Buffets are less labor intensive with a sit down dinner being the opposite. Remember, additional services / labor will eat into your budget very quickly. You may want to consider having your caterer serve family style or pre-set your first course. Offering fewer courses will save some money. Another option is to forego passed hors d’oeuvres and offer an appetizer station or just completely eliminate this course. Have a cocktail reception only and eliminate a labor intensive reception, rentals, etc. Or, simply invite fewer guests by having a smaller more meaningful reception. Then, later on after the honeymoon, have a great open house / bbq party and invite all those you could not invite before and keep it a casual celebration. I know this last suggestion is easier said than done, but in these trying economic times, it is far better to have a meaningful event than go for broke and stress out to keep up.
There are many choices here, no wrong one, just what works best for two of you and your lifestyle. Depending on your budget you can control this cost with the help of your local wine merchant. And no one knows her grapes better than Beth at bayleaf. A great wine merchant can make recommendations to suit your budget and menu. They also can also turn you on to smaller wine producers with great product.
Some other options to stretch your budget would be to pre-set each table with wine and water, limit your bar to beer and wine, have a self-serve bar and/or skip the cocktail hour entirely. Expect your guests to consume one to two drinks during cocktails hour, one to two drinks with the meal and one drink per hour thereafter.
Wow and amazing are two words that come to mind when I recall some of JW Desserts amazing cakes! When consulting with a bakery, these are a few questions to ask. What exactly are you paying for, the entire cake or per slice? Will they do a custom cake? How far in advance is the cake prepared? Does the price include delivery and set-up of the cake? Not going the traditional route with a cake, try individual desserts or an assortment platter for each table.
There are so many ways to be creative when planning the overall budget for the wedding and reception. Search the web for how-to tips, consult with local event planners, and ask past brides for references. These are just a few tips to get you started. Most of us who are event planners do not charge for our initial consultation. It’s free advice, so take us up on it!