No money, mo’ problems: The Receptioning

On our first round of wedding vendor meetings, someone tried to sell us a custom monogrammed spotlight. For f’ing serious? That’s some tacky shit right there. Yeah, I’ll shine that spotlight on my horse-drawn carriage and call it happily ever after. Vendors are going to try to sell you a million dumb, bridezilla-y things. Things you really don’t need. Bridal magazines are going to have you convinced you need to be giving away paid vacations as wedding favors. There’s a lot of pressure to have the most expensive, excessive wedding around. Even the folksy, Etsy-styled weddings set in the middle of a fairyland forest somewhere are way more expensive than you think. Those ironic mustaches on sticks don’t stitch themselves, those oh-so adorable photobooths aren’t cheap.

I know. We tried to rent one.

There are some things that just aren’t worth the money, and some things that are. Having just come off of figuring these things out for myself, I have a brand new perspective on what’s really important that day. On my last post, I showed you a breakdown for a budget of $12,000. Some of these percentages can be moved around, some need to be increased, some decreased, some eliminated altogether. Allow me to elaborate…

Reception — 50%: venue, rentals, catering, beverages, cake and misc.

This is where you’re really going to have to make it count. Amazingly, we came in under budget on this one.

Find an interesting venue, and you’ll cut costs. Try to rent a ballroom, and you’re going to pay for it. We held our ceremony and reception at the same venue, an art gallery. They supplied all the tables and chairs, the liability insurance and the alcohol license for one very, very low cost. Seriously, it was less than $1,400. We only had to rent linens, flatware, plates and glasses. Those rentals are kind of unassuming. You’re like, “Oh! 35 cents a fork? That’s nothing!” But, it adds up. I wasn’t very happy with how much our rentals ended up costing actually, but that was sort of a rub. We didn’t get anywhere close to the most expensive plates, but they weren’t the cheapest. Close, but not quite. I guess you can have paper plates, but do you really want to open yourself up to that sort of criticism? Rentals can be as cheap as you can get them. It’s up to you which plates and forks you pick. But, people aren’t going to care. I picked out a very specific flatware for our wedding, the handles looked like feathers. Nobody noticed. I guess in the grand scheme of things, they all contribute to an overall look, but you don’t need the most expensive design.

Catering is a big one here. You need to really do your research and find a good caterer. Not the cheapest caterer, a good caterer. A good caterer will be able to take your budget and turn you out something really amazing and delicious. I was embarrassed to tell our caterer what our budget was. I covered my eyes when I said it. Really. But she didn’t even flinch. Our dinner was incredible. People were raving about it all night. Be flexible, plan seasonally, and ask your caterer for their advice. You’ll end up with a dinner that’s fresh, unique and delicious. You don’t need a bunch of fancy finger foods for your cocktail hour. Little bites with clean flavors are where you can really stretch your money. Things like fruits, cheeses, crackers or breads, olives and nuts are easy for your guests to eat while socializing, and they won’t overshadow your dinner, which should really be the star of your food show.

Cake and beverages are up to your personal preference. We had a local restaurant make our cake and it was incredible. We opted for two sheet cakes and a display cake to cut and for pictures. Sometimes, this really won’t be the cheaper option, it just depends on where you’re buying your cake. Fondant is EXPENSIVE, and it tastes like ass. Your guests will just peel it off and throw it away, it’s a huge, costly waste. If your pastry chef is even halfway capable, the same smooth effect can be achieved with a buttercream frosting. You’ll be paying for the different levels of decor on your cake too. The gaudier your cake, the more expensive it will be. This doesn’t mean you must have a plain boring cake, it just means you have to get creative.

This was the inspiration for our cake. It didn’t cost us any extra for decor, and it was really different. We used my grandparents’ cake topper and our florist added a dahlia. It was gorgeous! When it comes down to it though, it really depends on what you want. You’ll have to make the decisions as to where you want to spend, and where you want to save.

If you have your unreasonable little heart set on a cake like this:

Be prepared to pay for it.

Beverages can be tricky too. There’s really no shame in a no host bar. In my experience, most people expect to pay for their own cocktails. We bought wine and champagne from BevMo, and a family friend bought a keg. At the end of the night, the keg floated, the champagne was (barely) gone, but we went home with a case of red wine. Our friends are big drinkers, but everyone had a good time, and we had plenty. The caterers included water, tea and coffee, we bought glass bottled Mexican Coke and Dublin Dr. Pepper. It was a definite splurge, but people loved them. I’m a hardcore Dr. Pepper fan, everyone knows it, so it was one of those personal little touches that made our wedding us.

LAWD HAVE MERCY! I wish I had one of those Dr. Peppers right now.

Obviously, the bulk of your money is going here. We considered doing just a cocktail reception, I think they’re killer fab, but our contract with the gallery allowed for so many hours, we had to have dinner. Find a cool space, start your wedding late enough, cut out dinner, and BAM! you have more money for drinks and interesting underwear. Two great tastes that taste great together.

You can have all the things you want for your reception, you just have to be realistic about what you’ll ultimately get. Creativity and patience goes a long way in figuring how to get more cost-effective versions of the things you want. I’ll eventually get into some ideas for individual aspects of a reception. But, for right now, we’re looking at the big picture. You have to start there. Jump right into minutiae, like I did, and you’ll end up very disappointed when your numbers don’t add up to what you can afford. Don’t take the time to get a good idea of where you are financially, you’re only making more work for yourself. And that’s on you, cupcake. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Just…don’t.

Measure twice, cut once, and you’ll stay within your budget while still achieving your desire effect.

Coming Soon! My very favorite part….FASHION! HAIR! MAKEUP! As a beauty professional/addict, this is a subject near and dear to my little heart. Can’t wait!

First Photo: Jeff Keen

Second Photo: Cake Coquette! by Nancy Liu Chin

Third Photo: LovinSullivanCakes

Fourth Photo: Jennifer Williams Photography