by Debi Brim, Wedding Consultant
For 10 years, I operated my own business as a wedding consultant / caterer. When I started the business, my "mission" was to see that a bride had the best wedding she had ever imagined at the lowest possible cost. As a business person, I never really "lost" money on this concept because what the brides didn't spend in waste, they spent on other things that they really wanted. Some of the money saving tips I shared with brides were:
Don't send RSVP cards. They just don't work. Most people don't use them and respond to the bride. The bride spends extra money to buy the cards, to buy the postage to have the card returned, and the extra postage required when mailing the invitation with all of this extra weight. And when all is said and done, she ends up guessing anyway!
To determine your reception headcount (since you're not using RSVP cards) use what I developed and call "The 60% Rule". With only 2 exceptions in 10 years, the attendance at receptions was always about 60% of the bride's original guestlist. If a bride has a guestlist of 200 people, this means that only about 120 people will show up. At a conservative cost of $6 a person for food, this will save $480 in foodcosts by ordering food for 120 instead of 200. I used this formula for years and we always had more than enough food at the reception.
When ordering invitations, watch those hidden costs! Most places charge extra for colored ink and for a "footer" line of "Reception Following". In our area, most people assume there is a reception after the wedding so to advertise it on the invitation is redundant.
If you are planning 125 guests, do not order 125 printed napkins. Order the minimum and then buy packages of colored napkins at Wal-Mart. Mix the printed with the plain. Very few people actually take a printed napkin as a keepsake and you don't want people using expensive printed napkins to clean up little Suzy's spilled punch.
Having cousins serve your food? Please don't buy them those little white frilly aprons. Most people hate wearing them and everyone I talk to thinks they look stupid, anyway. You can get your servers a small corsage for less money than what those wear-once-and-throw-away aprons cost.
I found that renting linen tablecloths were cheaper (and looked much nicer!) than buying paper. I could rent a linen cloth for about $2.00 when colored, paper tablecloths were costing about $2.99 or more.
Use 8 or 10 ounce glasses at the reception instead of 12 or 16 ounce ones.
If you are having food or alcohol at the reception, you will not need as much cake. People will fill up on the food, and sweet cake does not mix well with alcohol.
I hope you find these hints worthwhile. When I first started telling brides some of these things, I was amazed to see the relief on their faces and could almost see the burden lifted from their shoulders. Most people only plan one big wedding in their lifetime and have no idea what they can do (or what they don't HAVE to do!).
Debi Brim wrote the "How-To-Plan-a-Wedding" column for her local paper and has been quoted in Bride's Magazine. She just celebrated her tenth anniversary and is the proud mom of three children.
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