10 Money-Saving Tricks for Your Venue and Menu
You don't have to test your credit limit to have a reception at your dream venue with delicious food. Here's how to make the most of a sensational space and put together an awesome menu, no matter your budget.
1. Marry on a Friday or Sunday
Whether you choose an off-peak day—basically any day but Saturday—or a less popular time of year (generally late fall through winter—sometimes referred to as shoulder season) you'll probably be able to score your ideal venue for a steal.
2. Trim Your Guest List
This isn't always the easiest task to accomplish, but once you notice the savings start to accrue exponentially, it will all be worth it. You'll save big on catering by feeding fewer people and on invitations and postage. Having a smaller space also means less décor and fewer rentals. Think about it: If you cut 10 people from your guest list, and your estimate is at about $100 per person, you immediately save $1,000.
3. Choose an All-Inclusive Venue
If you're a big Father of the Bride fan, you may have your heart set on a wedding at home. But a backyard wedding at the house you grew up in can actually be really expensive. Between rentals on everything from tents to portable toilets, creating an event where they usually aren't hosted (whether it's a home or a bare-bones space) costs a lot more than a traditional venue.
4. Get Married and Party in One Place
If you're saying "I do" in a house of worship, your hands are kind of tied, unless there's a reception space across the street. But if you can exchange vows anywhere, opt for a site that can do double-duty for your ceremony and reception. Not only will you save on venue fees, you'll also cut costs on transportation and possibly flowers. (For instance, you can have your coordinator transfer your ceremony arrangements to your gift and cake tables while your guests enjoy the cocktail hour.)
5. Consider a Plated Dinner
The concept of the sit-down dinner often seems more formal and expensive, but having stations or a help-yourself buffet means guests can take as much as they want, so your caterer will need to cook more food just in case. That said, a buffet will save you on labor costs. Family style is another idea that works especially well if you're hoping to create a more intimate dinner party vibe. Talk to your caterer or venue coordinator about which is the cheapest option for your particular party.
6. Limit Your Bar
Offer your guests beer, wine and a fun signature cocktail. Since your venue or caterer won't have to uncork tons of different bottles (usually with an "if it's opened, you bought it" mentality), you'll save money without having thirsty guests.
7. Serve Comfort Foods
Pretty displays (or plates) of comfort food (think: mac and cheese, pulled pork sliders and grilled cheese with tomato soup shooters) are guaranteed crowd-pleasers. Fun food makes for a fun party—and it's totally on trend right now and will cost way less than caviar and lobster (which are lovely, but not for everyone).
8. Swap Out Champagne
If you're not glued to the idea of a champagne toast, don't force it. People can toast with anything they're drinking. If you want bubbly, go with champagne's lower-priced but still perfectly chic and tasty cousin prosecco.
9. Think Seasonal
Strawberries and other fruits and veggies out of season cost more (and aren't as tasty). So if you're getting married in July, by all means, give strawberry shortcake the spotlight on your dessert table. But if your nuptials are in the fall, serve something like mini pecan pies and apple tarts as a nod to the season's biggest holiday and familiar flavors.
10. Throw a Brunch (or Other Non-Dinner) Reception
Having a midday brunch reception is not only guaranteed to be a hit with your guests (who doesn't love breakfast food?), it will also help you make the most of your budget by cutting your alcohol costs way down. Your guests will love upscale versions of brunch favorites, like lobster eggs Benedict, roasted breakfast potatoes sprinkled with truffle salt and a Belgian waffle bar (with seasonal fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream). For your signature cocktails, put a twist on the classics with a make-your-own Bellini, Bloody Mary or mimosa bar. Other money-saving catering options include a cocktail reception with passed appetizers, but no full sit-down dinner, an afternoon tea or simply a cake and champagne celebration, which can take place anytime, anywhere. Just remember that these choices don't always accommate a late night of partying and dancing, so make sure your reception matches the vibe you're looking for.
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