Making financially sound decisions as you plan your wedding

On December 16, 2017, on the corner of Clark and Washington (in Chicago), my best friend got down on one knee and asked if I would let him spend the rest of his life making me happy. After my initial “what’s in it for you?” reaction, I grinned from ear to ear and said “AWWWW!!!”

We agreed not to get too bogged down with wedding planning until after the New Year, which gave us two weeks to enjoy our new engagement glow! Those two weeks flew by and we are now in full wedding planning mode!

One of the very first wedding-related discussions my fiancé, Tommy, and I had was about the BUDGET. With goals of buying a house and starting a family in the next few years, we are very budget-conscious. Below are a couple of strategies that we have used during our wedding planning to ensure that we stay within our budget.

1. Negotiate. I know that negotiating can be hard and awkward, but it is usually worth it. All you have to do is ask. Over half of our budget was allocated to food and beverage and we found that vendors are often willing to negotiate food and beverage minimums or substitute and/or eliminate certain packaged items to reduce the per person cost. Just remember that the worst response you can get is “no,” which is usually accompanied by a “sorry.”

2. Ask about your options. Every wedding is different. You will never know about which option best meets your needs until you ask about all of the options available to you! For example, the beverage cost can be, and often is, higher than the cost of food so ask about bar options. You may be able to have a dry wedding (no alcohol), a cash bar (your guests pay for their own drinks), drink tickets, an open bar but limit the amount of time that alcohol is served (i.e. cocktail hour and from 6-10 p.m.) or types of alcohol that is served (premium versus rail), etc.Tommy and I want to offer some high-end liquor options without going broke so we may pay by consumption if the per-beverage-cost is reasonable. This allows us to pay for our guests’ drinks but cap the bar tab, at which time the bar will turn into a cash bar, and guests will have to purchase their own drinks.Compare the following liquor options offered by a venue that we looked at for our wedding reception:

Liquor Package Prices (5 hours of bar):

– Beer, House Wine and Soda – $22.00 / person X 200 guests = $4,400.00

– Premium Cocktails, Beer, House Wine and Soda – $26.00 / person X 200 guests = $5,200.00

– Top Shelf Cocktails, Beer, House Wine and Soda – $30.00/ person X 200 guests = $6,000.00

Per Consumption Prices:

– Open bar for selected hours until your guests consume $(whatever your drink budget is) worth of drinks, at which point the bar turns into a cash bar.
Per drink charges are as follows:

$4.00 or $5.00 /beer (depending on the type of beer)
$6.00 or $7.00/cocktail (depending on the type of cocktail)

EVERY guest (on average) would have to drink 1) more than one of each type of beverage, 2) more than 3 premium cocktails, OR 3) more than 4 bottles of beer before I would be saving by paying the cheapest liquor package. Tommy and I don’t think every guest (on average) will have more than two or three drinks, making the per consumption option a cost saver!

However, if you have guests that will drink well over the package price worth of liquor (on average), then it would be worth paying the package price. Alternatively, you may want to consider getting a venue that lets you bring your own alcohol because buying your own is almost always cheaper than getting it through a third party.

*Please don’t forget to consider the 19-22% service charge with regard to you drink budget.

3. Check out the competition. Different vendors may have different competitive advantages that you may or may not find appealing, depending on your needs. You should definitely research to figure out who can give you the most bang for your buck! For example, I looked at several venues that had in-house catering and several venues that require outside caterers. I learned that many of the venues that require outside caterers charge the caterers a fee to cater at their venue, separate from what the venue charges you to rent the venue. This means that additional costs are passed on to you through the caterer. If you can find a venue that does not impose additional fees on your caterer, you may be able to reduce your catering costs!

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to wedding planning/budgeting, but if you can relate to any of the budgeting issues that I am having, you may find my savings strategies helpful!



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