The Budget Savvy Bride Part 2: Venues, Food & Alcohol


Last week I shared some tips on Overall Wedding Savings, to help when getting started in planning your big event.  Once you have a clear idea of your budget and savings plans, the biggest piece of advice I gave is to have a prioritized, itemized list of expenses.  

Most likely, the items at the top of your list are a venue, food and drink.  This will also wind up being the majority of the cash you spend.  Try to keep all three to around 65% of your budget and you'll have a good amount of wiggle room for everything else.  

Location, Location, Location... 

Whether you're dreaming of a formal princess-worthy affair, a chic city-girl soiree or a laid back beachy celebration, the venue will help you define your theme.  

A garden ceremony means very little needs to be done for decor!

Think Outside the Wedding Hall Box
Country clubs, fancy restaurants, museums or vineyards are great but can be pricey.  Consider locations that are a little off the beaten path: a bed and breakfast in a small nearby town, a beautiful campus hall, a friend or relative's yard, or a public park or beach (you still need permits).  Another one of my favorite ideas is to rent a big house and use it for the venue, after party, prep space, bridal party accommodations and/or honeymoon locale.  However...

Sometimes "Cheaper"... well ... Isn't.
When you start looking at spaces, remember that you're not just looking for a roof and walls.  YES, a garden or a theater or a funky old warehouse may SEEM like a bargain, but does it include everything you actually need?  If you wind up needing to rent chairs, tables, linens, running water, a generator for power, lighting, bathroom facilities (definitely important) (etc.), that cheap venue will turn in a giant price tag.  Look for a venue that includes at least SOME of what you need.  Places that host events on a regular basis will be prepared with at least the basics.  

Consolidate Sites
Consider venues that allow you to have your ceremony and reception in the same place.  Not only does it prevent two rental fees, but it's easier for guests AND allows you to move your ceremony decor into the reception easily.  

Pretty Pretty, Please
Many wedding sites are blank slates.  This allows you to bring in any sort of theme or design details that your little heart desires.  On the other hand, a more charactered locale might cut back on some of your overall decor costs. 

My husband and I got married in a fantastic historic Parisian inspired mansion.  The site fee was slightly more than what we might have paid at other locations, but because the mansion was so ornate and the grounds so lovely, we didn't have to worry about adding decorations or flowers to every square inch.  Frankly, we could've walked in there with nothing and it still would have looked fantastic.  


Feed Me, Seymore


Beyond Dinner
Though a dinner is traditional, it's not the only way to go.   Dessert and champagne weddings are super chic.  (Think late night, cocktail dresses and suits, rooftop venue, live music...)  A daytime wedding with a brunch reception would be so elegant and also cut costs on venue.  Quiche, fruit, salmon, salads and mimosas exude class and can be cheaper.  A mid afternoon wedding with passed hors d'oeuvres and wine is another posh-without-the-price-tag option.  Plus, you have more time in the evening to go with a few special someones (parents, bridal party) or just your honey for a lovely dinner.  

Laid Back Vibe
If you have a venue without caterer restrictions, your options are endless.  In addition to being able to shop around for the best prices from caterers, you can also take things into your own hands.  Potlucks are informal but also intimate.  Make it special by asking family members to cook a specialty and include a little card in front of each dish about who made it.  Or have a local restaurant make the main dish and then just provide the sides. (Just remember that if you're providing the food in any way, you have to take into consideration ways to keep it warm or chilled)

The Play at the Plate
If you have your heart set on having a catered dinner, keep in mind that plated is often cheaper than buffet.  Chefs have to prepare a larger quantity of each dish to allot for seconds and larger portions when creating a buffet.  The trade off  is that buffets MAY save money due to fewer wait staff needed.  It's good to check both and keep an open mind.  

Honesty is the Best Policy
Be honest with your vendors about your tight budget.  This worked for me, but I realize it may not be for everyone.  My venue had a list of preferred caterers.  I wrote a very honest email stating that my fiance and I were funding the wedding ourselves, we didn't have a lot of money and we were wondering if any of them could work with us.  I then sent it to each person on he vendor list.  Most of them sent a general reply back ("We work hard to keep our prices low! Blah blah blah...") but one of them did respond personally.  He said he appreciated my candor and they would see what they could do.  They worked with me on budget and food options and even threw in some extras for free because they liked me (Chivari chairs, linens).  

Let Them Eat (Sheet) Cake 
Wedding cakes are stupidly expensive.  Instead of paying big bucks for a tiered treat that's more pretty than practical, have a small cake made for you and your spouse to cut and keep a sheet cake in the kitchen to be cut and served to guests (cakes from the grocery store or Costco can be excellent).  No one will be any the wiser.  If you still want the grandeur of a traditional wedding cake, ask your bakery to create a cake with two fake icing covered layers at the bottom and a real top layer for cutting.  

Just Desserts 
Cake one of your low priorities?  (It was for me.) Use other desserts to pacify the collective sweet tooth.  A table filled with family baked cookies and shots of milk; a sundae bar; a plethora of pies, mini or otherwise; a guilty pleasures theme with rice crispy treats, donuts, brownies... there are so many amazing ideas out there that are not only cheaper but far more memorable and unique than cake.  

wedding cake alternative, pie, tart, dessert, ceremony
Who says there has to be cake?  A pretty dessert can also double as a centerpiece and encourage mingling as guests start sampling.

Bottoms Up 

Set Some Limits 
Most people would prefer to have an open bar.  Most people would also prefer to be marrying Ryan Reynolds, but this world ain't perfect.  An open bar gets expensive quickly.  It's not just the bottles of alcohol, but all of the mixers, glassware, garnishes...  And, by the end, when some bottles only have had a drink or two made with them, it winds up being a bit of a waste.  Instead try...

Wine, Beer & a Signature Drink 
Tap a keg, buy several cases of red and white wine and find a signature drink that you can name something cute.  Limit your alcohol to these and the necessary ingredients will garner serious savings and still seem chic.  

Presentation is Everything 
I am completely unashamed to say that, among other things, I served some Charles Shaw wine at my wedding (purchased for $2 a bottle at Trader Joes.  Also known as 2 Buck Chuck or 2 Dolla Holla).  Wine snobs may turn up their noses at the idea, but the California based company has won multiple prestigious awards, and I like their wine (their Merlot, in particular).  As we didn't really want to advertise the ridiculously low price tag, we asked our caterer to serve the wine in decanters.  The decanters looked elegant, and didn't cost us any extra.  And, believe it or not, we got so many compliments on our wines, even from some of our...ahem...pickier friends and family.  

 Return the Unused Portion
Part of having any kind of party is having more than enough food and drink.  It's annoying, but a necessity.  With alcohol, you can return unopened bottles of wine and recoup some of that cost (and opened bottles can just get added to your home bar).  

Also, make sure that your waiters know you want them to finish pouring empty bottles before opening a new one.  Some wait staff are trained to open new bottles when the open ones reach about 1/4 full (to keep the wine looking fresh). 

Champagne Doppelgangers
If you'd like to have something bubbly to toast with, there are a few alternatives that are much easier on the wallet than champagne.  California sparkling wine, Spanish Cava and Italian Prosecco are the closest relatives of the French region's fancy-pants libation.  If you're okay with something a little sweeter, Asti and Moscato d' Asti are the way to go.  And speaking of the toast... 

Toast with What Ya' Got 
Not everyone drinks champagne.  Not everyone drinks.  Have champagne (or whatever sparkling wine you choose) available for those that want it, but don't feel the need to pass out glasses of the stuff pre-toast.  People can toast with their wine, cocktail, Diet Coke (looking at you, mom and dad) or juice box, and you won't waste glasses on people who would only take a sip anyway. 

Some Helpful Links: 

Unique Wedding Venue Ideas
What to Ask About Potential Wedding Venues
What to Ask Potential Caterers
150 Best $15 and Under Wines
7 Creative Signature Cocktails 
Cheap Cocktails 
10 Money Saving Appetizers

Whew. That about does it for this week.  
Check in next week for more money saving tips in the Budget Savvy Bride Part 3:  Decor & Paper Goods! 

You may also like

1 comment:

  1. Awesome tips. I think I still have an open bottle of Simple Syrup from your wedding that I don't know what to do with! :-)


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

Powered by Blogger.