Have Your Wedding Cake and Cut Costs, Too
When Michelle Fortin, a twenty-something from Ossington, N.Y., is asked about the high cost of getting married, she chuckles and recalls when her friend spent $700 on stamps just to mail invitations. Ms. Fortin, who is getting married in November, says, "If I knew then what I know now, I would have eloped and just had a huge party in the backyard afterward."Skip to next paragraph
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Shelley Peterson, owner of Atlanta's Beyond Cuisine catering company, says the price of the average wedding is equal to the price of the average American car. Indeed, Modern Bride magazine puts the price of the average wedding at $17,470. Of that, up to 80 percent can be food and service. So the question for the happy couple, many more of whom are footing all or part of the bill, becomes how to pay for a Yugo and still wind up with a Mercedes.
There are plenty of ways to trim the fat off reception costs without cutting into the meat of the party. The important thing, says Liza White, vice president of Boston-based a mano catering, is to prioritize.
"Go over all your ideas from the beginning. Write them down, lay them out, and see how many you have. Then see what you're willing to compromise on.... Be realistic from the very beginning, instead of trying to squeeze a size 8 foot into a size 6 shoe."
Ms. Peterson agrees, saying, "Many times expectations and budgets don't mesh." For example, "The last time I went to McDonald's, it cost $5 and I ate out of a box. How can I do your wedding for three times that amount?" If you have a limited budget but want a formal seated dinner, one option is to shorten the guest list. "Either trim back the guests or trim back the concept," Peterson says. "Smaller weddings are really very, very nice," Ms. White says.
Flexibility can pay big dividends, especially in Manhattan, where Ellen Eskenazi of Event of the Year says it can cost $40,000 to $100,000 to get married on a Saturday night in the fall. (October has overtaken June as the most popular month to get married.) But many hotels and halls offer discounts during their off-season in midwinter and early spring. They also offer special daytime or Friday-night rates. And a lighter brunch can be a less-expensive alternative to caviar and prime rib.
But Ms. Eskenazi stresses that slicing your bottom line doesn't mean resigning yourself to serving rubber chicken and pigs in blankets. In fact, more than ever, couples are planning the menu as a reflection of their tastes. Pat O'Connell, owner of Patrice's Catering in San Francisco, says she is frequently asked to include a special family recipe in the menu. To accommodate her many vegetarian guests and also to cut costs, Fortin bypassed the surf-and-turf option in favor of a vegetarian and chicken entree.