Budget Weddings

Budget allocation questions - catering vs other costs, etc

hello!

We're planning a September, 2018 wedding on a skinny budget, and I'm looking for some guidance on how to allocate what we have to spend over the cost components to cover.  We have a blank-canvas venue and all rentals situated, but everything else to go with $10-12K to spend.

So....  what percentage of that should we plan to spend on catering vs a dj, photog, flowers, etc?

How can we accurately / reasonably budget for catering?  For some reason, this is the component I'm struggling to wrap my head around.  We are planning an informal cocktail hour and food station or buffet dinner for about 100-120 people, and I know that we'll need to account for serving staff, etc.  Our venue allows us to bring in alcohol without buying it through the caterer, and we'll likely do beer, wine and a simple signature cocktail separately, and outside of our $12K total, but we'll need to account for a bartender.  What % of a catering quote typically accounts for staff and fixed / incidental / non-food costs?  What should catering generally ballpark to?  What have you paid, if you don't mind sharing, for something comparable?  How much, if at all, were  you able to negotiate?

A photographer is my next head-scratcher, and something that I want to really do right.  I'd rather have fewer flowers on the day of and gorgeous pictures forever.  What should we expect to spend here?  How have you saved budget and still ended up with beautiful pictures?

help!   :)

Re: Budget allocation questions - catering vs other costs, etc

  • I think in a way it matters less what you should spend on a caterer and more on what actual caterers available to you charge. A typical rule of thumb is half your budget. It's definitely the next thing you need to select. 
    CMGragain
  • CMGragainCMGragain
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 25 Answers
    member
    edited August 26
    This would be my personal order of importance:

    Food and catering cost, including tips and taxes  (Taxes can easily be 20%!)
    Drink - including bartender cost including tips and taxes
    Music (DJ is not necessary)
    Photos
    Decor
    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
  • Receptions are less expensive if you have a brunch or cake/punch. 
    CMGragainsouthernbelle0915
  • When you start emailing caterers you can go one of two ways:
    a. how much would you charge for 120 adults to have 3 passed apps 2 buffet entree choices and 3 sides (and what choices are available at that cost)?
    b. What can you do with $6,000 for 120 adults?

    Either way be direct. Even "rich" people don't want to waste their money so don't waste your time or any vendors by referring to you budget as shoestring, skinny etc. 


    ernursejshort+sassy
  • For your budget, I would probably look into having a non-meal time wedding. Having the event at a non-meal time relieves you of the responsibility to serve a meal. Remember you'll need to save room in your figures for taxes, tips, and contingency, so your budget is probably more like $8-9K.

    Examples:
    Brunch wedding: ceremony at 9am, reception from 9:30-12
    Afternoon cake & punch wedding: ceremony at 2pm, reception from 2:30-5
    Evening appetizers wedding: ceremony at 8pm, reception from 8:30-midnight

    You can also save money by either not serving alcohol at all (just make sure you have other drinks like water/lemonade/tea) or serving limited alcohol (e.g. 2 types of wine and 2 types of beer). But whatever you do, don't do a cash bar - it's super tacky to charge for things at your wedding, whether booze, food or anything else.

    To answer your question, you can get beautiful pictures by scouting some local spots (right now, since you have almost exactly a year) at public parks, botanical gardens, public bridges or downtowns, college campuses often have great landscaping, etc. 
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    image
    InLoveInQueensshort+sassy
  • I think it depends on were you are having your wedding. Our total wedding budget is $12,000 and we are able to have everything you have mentioned. For our caterer we went with a more expensive one in our area but we love their food. We balanced it out with getting a local printer to print invites we found on etsy, doing beer and wine only. We found a local organic farm that also does flowers for wedding and worked with her to do in season flowers for a price we were comfortable with but only for table centerpieces and bridal bouquets. For music we found a fun wedding band and a friend of a friend to play for our ceremony ( a little more expensive then DJs in our area but my FI wants a band and we were able to find room in the budget for it). I found a lot of our decorations through Facebook resale to cut cost. To cut down on the price for the photographer we decided to do only 6hrs of shooting time instead of 10hrs. We went with someone who we liked their photos and would give us rights to the photos. I didn't really care if there were extras like photo books and such. I found that they added a lot more to the price of the photographer for something I could create myself for a lot less money. I contacted a lot of photographers to get an idea of price and options before choosing the one we did. 

    I agree with @linixon8 we told the caterer we wanted to spend $20 a person on the food and what could they do for us. For other costs I made spreadsheets with all the different vendors and what they offered and cost. My best advice would be to shop around and compare different companies to find the best deal for what they are offering.
    short+sassy
  • Much appreciated!  We are getting married in the Hudson Valley, NY, in September, so we're in a fairly expensive market.  It isn't quite as tough as NYC or northern NJ, but there is a bustling 'destinationish' wedding market here that inflates prices a bit.

    We don't have flexibility on timing - it will definitely be in the evening and over dinner hours.  I know that catering will be the next largest chunk of our budget and we are just making our initial inquiries of recommended vendors.  I'm trying to thumbnail what portion of a total catering bill will be actual food costs vs staffing and incremental / fixed costs, and prior to receiving any quotes, I don't have a grip on that yet.

    I know that we can save some money on flowers by doing some simple DIY centerpieces with mason jars, etc, and the venue is SO pretty that it doesn't require a huge abundance to look picturesque and perfect.

    Photographers - how much have you negotiated starting package rates?  I'm seeing most ballpark around $3K for the day, and that's steep for our available dollars.
  • STARMOON44STARMOON44
    Knottie Warrior 2500 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    edited August 29
    I'm confused- have you booked a venue before figuring out if you can afford catering? Even 12k, your entire budget leftover, is low for an evening wedding for 100-120 in the Hudson valley. 
    ernursejcharlotte989875InLoveInQueensCMGragain
  • @ Starmoon, the venue was booked as a gift outside of our budget.  
  • Much appreciated!  We are getting married in the Hudson Valley, NY, in September, so we're in a fairly expensive market.  It isn't quite as tough as NYC or northern NJ, but there is a bustling 'destinationish' wedding market here that inflates prices a bit.

    We don't have flexibility on timing - it will definitely be in the evening and over dinner hours.  I know that catering will be the next largest chunk of our budget and we are just making our initial inquiries of recommended vendors.  I'm trying to thumbnail what portion of a total catering bill will be actual food costs vs staffing and incremental / fixed costs, and prior to receiving any quotes, I don't have a grip on that yet.

    I know that we can save some money on flowers by doing some simple DIY centerpieces with mason jars, etc, and the venue is SO pretty that it doesn't require a huge abundance to look picturesque and perfect.

    Photographers - how much have you negotiated starting package rates?  I'm seeing most ballpark around $3K for the day, and that's steep for our available dollars.
    It sounds like you've already put a deposit down with a venue. At most reception venues, you're paying for certain number of hours ending at a certain time (e.g. 4 hours - the latest you can be there is midnight). 

    *below, when I say "start your event" I mean the whole thing - ceremony and then reception. No gaps.* 

    If you start your event before 8, you need to serve dinner. It's super cheap and tacky to start your event at 6 or 7 (prime dinner time) and tell people "appetizers only". Think of the best weddings you've been to - you were probably fed and the party was fun. Weddings that skimp on food leave people hangry and they either don't have a good time or they leave early (or both).  

    Here's a timeline that will save you a lot of money by only requiring appetizers and still treat your guests well:
    3-5 getting ready 
    5-5:30 first look pictures
    5:30-6:30 wedding party and immediate family pictures
    6:30-7:30 dinner for wedding party and immediate family (could be as simple as sub sandwich trays with fruit)
    7:30 head to venue
    8:00 ceremony
    8:30-11:30/12 reception
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    image
    InLoveInQueensernursejshort+sassy
  • @ Starmoon, the venue was booked as a gift outside the budget





    have you called any caterers? 
  • LondonLisaLondonLisa London, UK
    Fifth Anniversary 1000 Comments 500 Love Its 5 Answers
    member
    Unfortunately, this is a 'how long is a length of rope' question.

    You need to start contacting a range of caterers. Start from mid-range traditional wedding caterers, down to BBQ or restaurant catering options. This will give you a better idea of scale. But also, take into account if it comes with servers, people cleaning up, dishes etc. 

    InLoveInQueens
  • CMGragainCMGragain
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 25 Answers
    member
    edited August 30
    I am really confused!  Someone GAVE you a gift of the venue space which means that you must use this venue, regardless of other costs?  This makes no sense to me at all.
    I remember looking at a venue for daughter's wedding that was very, very cheap, but had restrictions that made it very expensive by the time everything was added up.  This was no bargain!

    First - make up budget.
    Second - make up guest list.
    Third - look for venues that fit # 1 & 2.

    It sounds like you started with picking the venue and now you are trying to fit everything else into this.  Not good planning.

    Start interviewing caterers and see if any of them can do the job for you.  Make sure that everything is included, including taxes and tips.
    People care about comfort, food and drink.  Anything else is just extra frills.
    httpiimgurcomTCCjW0wjpg
    InLoveInQueens
  • Assuming 10k to spend, for 100 guests, I'd start some sort of list and start making phone calls. Things add up quick. For example:

    Caterer (including all the dishes, all the food, cleanup, etc.): $50/person = 5k
    Bar (including the bartender, tips, etc.): $20/person = 2k
    Attire = dress, alterations, accessories, shoes, underwear, tux = 1k
    Flowers and Decor =500
    Photographer = 1k
    DJ = 300
    Invites/thanks yous/all paper printables = 200


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