Crafting a Wedding that Doesn't Look or Feel "Budget"
I forget where, but I once saw a blog post about a budget wedding where the bride highlighted what cost savings were unique to the couple and their location and what savings tips could be leveraged by other brides regardless of location or circumstance.
I loved her post (and really thought I'd starred it for future reference) because it gave me a real picture of what I could hope to do. (Becca's post the other day reminded me of that post.) Here's why. Many budget weddings occur in the backyard of a family member or at their family parish/synagogue. There aren't a lot of homes with big backyards in San Francisco or its suburbs. All the synagogue's we checked with still had rental fees. (In more rural towns - say Fairfield or Suisun City - this isn't true, but the cost of transportation to get guests to those towns far outweighs any savings.)
Only 80 guests. We struggled to pare our guest list to 140 (end goal of 125 guests based on the industry standard 80% acceptance rate). 125 guests means the suggested value venue is too small for us.
Skip photography? What are you crazy? We couldn't imagine leaving the photography to fate.
No meal? With so many out-of-town guests we couldn't stomach this idea. (We did toy with the idea of a potluck where we'd provide the entrees. Unfortunately with our venue's caterer if you go with them you go with them for everything - the cake is the exception.) We did consider heavy appetizers if we'd gone with one of the other venues we'd investigated as with guaranteed bar/food minimums and venue fees, we couldn't afford to feed our guests an actual meal.
Okay to the blogsphere for ideas. Friendors and DIY projects. For a 100+ person wedding with a hard goal of $10,000 that's asking a lot from friends. Now don't get me wrong... we, like every other couple who's trying to keep costs down, will have tons of hands working for us before we walk down the aisle. (We also read too many rants from friendors and from guests to feel comfortable taking our friends - our guests - up on their ceremony/reception offers of help. We have accepted DIY project and set up help.) One of my top three must haves for the wedding is to be surrounded by our friends. So we really wanted to avoid have our friends working the entire celebration. (Yeah we have friends who are DJs. Yes we still hired a DJ to be the Master of Ceremonies so that our friends could enjoy the ceremony and have fun when they're spinning.)
Another downside of DIY projects that no one - except Been There Done That Brides (Wedology 101) and Hindsight Brides - seems to mention is the bride will be one super stressed girl UNLESS she enlists a professional wedding coordinator. (The real brides telling their stories on Wedology 101 and the Hindsight Bride aren't in the events industry, they don't stand to gain anything by recommending that brides budget for a Month of Wedding Coordinator.)
Many real brides out here on the west coast have talked about certain realities they faced (or are facing) and how they dealt with those realities for their weddings. A $10,000 budget wedding is a stretch in San Francisco; check out My Splendid $10,000 Wedding for tips to make this happen for you. It's almost unachievable in Los Angeles but can be done; see Liz Coopersmith's guest post on A Los Angeles Love. A $20,000 wedding in San Francisco still feels "budget" as you're faced with many tradeoffs. $20,000 is still a stretch in Los Angeles. But in reality $30,000 is a more doable "budget" wedding there.
We briefly toyed with the idea of a $10,000 budget - by briefly maybe less than a couple of minutes. We considered $12,000 for a little longer as our friends had accomplished that last June. There were a couple of things that I felt strongly about - providing hair and makeup for the girls and turning over details to a professional coordinator - that made $12,000 a little too tight. So we set our budget for a 100- to 125-person wedding - without rings, clothes, honeymoon, or Burning Man - at $20,000. It's a number we could be comfortable with.
We'll do a wrap up post-wedding, but as you can probably guess the largest portion of our budget is catering - cost of food (including wedding cake) and beverages (both alcohol and non-alcoholic including water), linens, appropriate rentals, and labor. Where we were able we sourced items ourselves - linens (we're planning on reselling after the wedding) and alcohol (for Bay Area brides and grooms - BevMo's 5 Cent Sale).
There were a couple of add-on costs. One, our caterers only provide water during dinner and the venue doesn't have a water fountain. We're having dancing - people are going to get thirsty for water. Yeah who thinks they have to buy water? Two, something we should have been aware of, but weren't, was that because the caterers are only responsible for food, the provided settings include silverware, dinner plate, cake plate, a tea/coffee cup, and water glass but no wine or pint glasses. Again we hadn't planned on renting or purchasing glasses. Three, another obvious item we forgot to budget for was cocktail napkins. The venue doesn't provide linens; you have to rent or provide them. We got napkins for dinner but overlooked the need for guests to wipe their fingers after indulging in passed appetizers.
Tallying up "catering" costs (including taxes, CRV, and mandatory 20% gratuity (which is taxed!?!?)) for 125 guests we're at $10,732.85 (which doesn't include cocktail napkins or the cost of insurance/permit needed for serving alcohol). So we're spending $85.86 per person/child (food, labor, and gratuity alone is $62.39 per person).
Adding the venue expenses of $4,295 (security, coat check, chair rental, site fee, etc.), before we even decorate we're at $15,027.85 or $120.22 per person/child.
And here's where DIY comes in - how we hope to have a wedding that doesn't look or feel "budget." $120.22 per person certainly isn't a "budget" meal. So we're using luxury fabrics we had on hand for table runners (duponis and sheers with beading) and a friend is sewing them for us. My parents gifted us antique silver platters. Friends have been and are helping us make our escort cards, programs, and wedding favors.
If we had to choose a label for our wedding (and I've posted on how much I hate labels), it wouldn't be budget, DIY, offbeat, or indie. The label that best describes our wedding is Community. Our community is helping us make our day a reality. A day where we're surrounded by our friends and family. A day where we can all sit back and enjoy ourselves once the ceremony starts.
Hopefully our guests will understand certain tradeoffs we made. We tried very hard to craft a day for everyone - and with all the allergies and dietary observances that's certainly not easy!