A Wedding Under $5K?? Impossible!

April 27th, 2015
A DIY sweet table can keep your costs down.

A DIY sweet table can keep your costs down.

I was part of a conversation among wedding professionals recently discussing the proposition, “Can you have a wedding for 100 guests for under $5,000?”  The overwhelming majority of professionals weighing in on the subject were adamant that it wasn’t possible.  I beg to differ.

I think differently because I ask the question, “What do you mean by ‘a wedding’?”  I agree with my colleagues that if you want to throw a lavish Saturday night party with dinner and dancing for 100 guests, it’s unlikely you can do it on such a limited budget.  But if you want to get married with 100 people present and give them some refreshment afterwards while you greet them, it’s certainly possible.

As I like to remind my clients, in order to get married (at least in the state of Illinois), all you need is a marriage license and someone to sign it.  That can be obtained for under $100.  A Cook County marriage license costs $60 and you can have a friend become ordained for free through an online source such as the Universal Life Church.  Put all the pieces together, and you’re married.

That’s the bare-bones version without any more guests than you can fit in your living room.  If you want to invite 100 people and give them a meal, it will cost a wee bit more, but I believe it can be done for $5,000.  At a restaurant, you could have a breakfast reception at $20 per person.  (We’re up to $2,060, for those who are keeping track.)

If you use only the equipment that comes with the restaurant (linens, dishes, etc.), your only decor costs could be centerpieces for the tables.  Figure 10 centerpieces at $75 each (if you hire a good florist), and we’re at $2,810.

Figure $1,000 for clothing if both spouses are buying all new clothing off the rack, and the total is $3,810.  That leaves close to $2,000 for invitations, postage, cake, favors, etc.

Professional photography is going to be too expensive, as are many other things that are considered necessary for a wedding these days.  Or, you could re-arrange your priorities and put the money toward photographs by spending less on food and centerpieces.  There are many ways to have a wedding on a small budget if you’re creative and keep an open mind.

Restaurant Wedding Receptions

December 1st, 2014
There are restaurants that are suitable for wedding receptions.  Photo by Johnny Knight.

There are restaurants that are suitable for wedding receptions. Photo by Johnny Knight.

Of all the places you could have your wedding reception, do you want to choose to have it at a restaurant?  There are definitely pros and cons.

Of course, first, whether or not this is a good idea depends on what restaurant you choose.  There are some that are very good at this caliber of event.  There are some that don’t have the first idea what is required.

It also depends on your expectations.  If you are having a quiet luncheon for 15 close family members, many restaurants are capable.  If you want a full-blown wedding reception for 150 with a DJ and a dance floor, there are many fewer places that can handle that level of service.

One of the advantages of having your wedding reception at a restaurant is the possibility of saving money.  Restaurants are often a less expensive way to cater a large party.   They rarely have a room charge, or, if they do, it is nominal.  They also provide tables, chairs, linens, dishes, glassware, and silver as part of their package.  Because they own all the furniture and serving pieces, you don’t pay a separate rental rate for them.

What you often give up for the price is the high level of service that most wedding caterers provide.  In my experience, wedding caterers are more responsive than restaurants.  They can also be more flexible.  They are accustomed to working with very demanding clients.  A restaurant may or may not have those qualities.  If you are thinking of having your reception at a restaurant, this would be a good thing to find out before you decide.

I worked on a wedding reception once where the bride didn’t receive any kind of contract or receipt from the restaurant after she made her payment.  It was worrisome because she had specific contracts with all the rest of her vendors.  The restaurant was completely above board and the reception went off without a hitch.  They were just treating her wedding reception the same way they treated all of their reservations.  They didn’t see the need for any more paperwork.  That is not what you’ll find with a full-service caterer.

So, is it a good idea to have your reception at a restaurant?  That’s up to you.  I’ve worked at some wonderful restaurant receptions.  I’ve also seen some of the drawbacks.  Just be sure you know what you’re getting into before you make a commitment.

Announcing 2015 Price Increase

October 6th, 2014

Photo by Peter Coombs.

I try very hard to keep my prices reasonable, but I will be increasing my prices to keep up with inflation and increased costs starting January 1, 2015.  If you want to book me for next year at this year’s prices, be sure to get in touch with me before the end of this year.  If you hire me by the end of December, I’ll be happy to offer you current prices for any wedding or party in 2015.  Email me now!

Re-run: DIY Weddings–Planning and Coordination

September 29th, 2014
If you hire a good planner, this is all you should have to think about on your wedding day.

If you hire a good planner, this is all you should have to think about on your wedding day. Photo by MWD Photography.

I’ve written a lot about do-it-yourself weddings lately, and here are my final thoughts (probably) on the subject.  Should you plan and manage your wedding yourself?  Yes–and no.

Most people can do much of the planning themselves.  Hiring vendors is not difficult.  You will probably also want to plan the decor yourself so that it reflects your taste.  Of course, if you’d rather not handle all the details yourself, by all means, hire a full-service wedding planner!

The place where a lot of people get stuck in the planning process is scheduling the wedding day and the logistics of making everything happen.  It turns out that these are special skills.  And so you will likely want to have a professional planner on hand.  One of my favorite parts of this job is taking a tangled mass of good ideas and turning it into a usable plan.  Actually, I really like seeing the smile of relief on my clients’ faces when I do that.

Even if you are able to do the scheduling and logistics yourself, actually managing what happens on your wedding day is another matter.  I like to use a theatre metaphor to describe it:  You are the star of the show; you can also be the director and the producer.  But you need a good stage manager to make sure that you shine.  Also, on the day of your wedding, you should be able to focus on getting married, not on whether the flowers are delivered on time.

This might be predictable coming from me, but I have seen enough problems and near-disasters to know that it really does make a difference:  Make sure you have someone with practical, hands-on experience managing your wedding day.  Don’t try to do it yourself.