How much money should you spend on your wedding, and how should you spend it? Probably two of the biggest and most stressful questions a bride has to answer when it comes to planning her wedding. I often educate my clients about how much things cost today, so I thought it would be a good idea to share my advice with everyone.
Everyone will spend their money differently because each bride has different priorities. Some will splurge on their photographer and cut back on their paper products. There’s no right or wrong in this department, you just need to be aware of the costs involved and to always be prepared for extra expenses which always come up.
So on to the first to topic: Venue/Caterer Budget
The most expensive aspect of your wedding will be your venue/catering fee. Typically, you should expect to spend 45-55% of your entire wedding budget on your venue/caterer. This total can include a few elements:
Facility Fee- Most venues don’t include this in the total food and beverage. Occasionally a venue will include it, so make sure you ask about it.
Food and Beverage minimum- Passed appetizers, stationary hors d’oeuvres, dinner, dessert- possible cake cutting fee.
Staffing- Chefs and servers
Rooms and Meals Tax
Bar Set-up Fee- this will include your fixings- limes, lemons, olives, sodas, juices, mixers, ice, etc.
Some of the above items will pertain to your budget if you are hiring a private caterer, otherwise you will typically see a facility fee, total F & B, and tax and gratuity.
This will vary from location to location, ranging anywhere from $0-$10,000.00. Typically this fee includes the use of space, chairs and tables, any in-house linens. Some will also include a tent rental in their facility fee. Most venues will not include this as part of your food and beverage minimum so be prepared to add this to your running total.
Plated Dinner- For a traditional wedding menu, plan on anywhere from 3-7 passed appetizers per guest. This will depend on your budget and how you use the 3-7 pieces per guest. If you have any stationary hors d’oeuvres those will go toward your total per piece appetizer count. If you are planning on serving many courses for dinner you might want to consider 3-5 passed appetizers. If you want a more traditional 3-course dinner, then the 4-7 passed appetizers will work well for your guests. Dinner usually consists of:
First course- salad
Second course- your main entree
Third Course- dessert- cake or a special dessert if you request one.
You can always add a plated appetizer as your first course- a soup or chef specialty works well here.
First Course- Plated appetizer
Second Course- Salad or Soup
Third Course- Sorbet
Fourth Course- Entree
Fifth Course- Dessert
Sixth Course- Cheese
If you wanted to serve a fourth course that might be a sorbet before your dinner to cleanse the palate after the salad was served. Very formal dinners will include a final cheese course after a plated dessert. As you can see, there are lots of food options which is why your total budget can vary so much.
Buffet: A buffet is a great option if you have a large guest list- anything over 150- or if the venue doesn’t have an on-site kitchen to prepare a plated dinner. This also allows you to select more than one entree, side accompaniments, and salads. Oftentimes a buffet will be less expensive in terms of your food costs, so consider this if you’re trying to cut back your catering budget.
Cocktail Reception: Another way to save some money, although depending on your choice of appetizers this can get very expensive, would be a cocktail reception. Some people like all passed appetizers, others like to include a few stations where guests can get a bit more substance without needing a full sized dinner plate.
Open Bar: The most expensive option, open bar can be charged a few ways: per consumption or a flat fee per guest for a specified type of liquors and amount of hours of service. Per consumption means the bartenders keep track of each drink throughout the night and you pay the total cost of drinks consumed. A flat fee per guest is paid regardless if your guests drink 1 or 7 drinks throughout the evening. Think about your guest list when deciding what the best option is for you.
Limited Open Bar: To help reduce this bill, some couples offer a limited selection of alcohols at the bar, plus beer and wine. Some couples create a few signature drinks instead to make their wedding a bit more personal.
Beer and Wine Service: Offering beer and wine only is a great option when looking to cut costs. Some venues will allow your guests to purchase the drink of their choice in addition, although you can request that no other alcohol is served for the evening if you prefer to pay for all beverages.
Wine Service During Dinner: Most venues and caterers bill this separately from either your per consumption or flat fee. They will estimate the number of bottles needed for 1-3 pours per guest during dinner. This same goes for the champagne toast, although they will most likely assume just one glass per guest.
Cash Bar: The most inexpensive way to serve beverages is simply to charge your guests for them. Most venues and caterers will not charge you for non-alcoholic beverages such as juices and sodas.
Rooms and Meals Tax:
Here is the list of New England States and New York to give you the specific rooms and meals tax:
Rhode Island: 8%
New Hampshire: 8%
New York: 8.375%
Each venue and caterer will select their personal gratuity percentage, but you can expect a range of 10%-20%. If you feel your venue or caterer has gone above and beyond their service and would like to give an additional gratuity, a good reference would be the following:
$25-50 per server
$100-300 per bartender
$200-400 per chef
I hope this helps in your understanding of what you should budget for when selecting your caterer or venue. There are many fees involved besides your food and alcohol, so be aware and always ask questions up front before signing any contracts or giving any deposits.
More to come on photography next!