In light of the fact that the "Etiquette Deal Breakers" got taken over and turned into "I can't give up my perfect day and that's just too bad for my guests. They should be happy I invited them," I thought it might be helpful for us to share - for the new people - the choices that we made to host our guests properly, as at least a few people did on the original thread. It seems some people don't realize that you can have a nice wedding and reception and still host guests properly.
-FI and I had an original guest list of over 350 people we wanted to invite. We knew that would be way over our budget. We broke that down into 3 lists: MUST be there (family, close friends), really want there, and it would be nice if we could invite.... Our goal was an invite list of about 150. We started with our "must" list and added some, but not all of the "really want there list" and didn't even touch the "it would be nice list." At the end, we had a list of about 140 and we sent them Save the Dates. Since that time, we added a few people that we spend more time with as the wedding approached, but we still only invited 150. (All of whom we decided to invite before we sent out invitations.)
-We spent a lot of time looking for a venue that was in our budget that offered good food. We found one that was in our budget and that we loved. The trade off: we really wanted to get married downtown in the city that we live in. That just wasn't feasible for what we could afford. So we chose a lovely venue a little bit out of town.
-We decided on a plated meal (less expensive than buffet at our venue) and instead of offering three or four meal choices (extra fees per plate per extra meal choice), decided to offer a chicken and a vegetarian option, since every one of our guests can eat at least one of these options. We picked the option for each of these that everyone at our tasting liked the best, figuring that offering a limited number of excellent food choices was better than offering a larger number of mediocre ones.
-We were originally planning on hosting a beer and wine open bar only. Thanks to a monetary gift from my parents, we are now able to host some liquor as well. However, we will not have "premium" liquor served, just "call" (mid level) and "well" will be available. All non-alcoholic beverages will be hosted. We are skipping the champagne toast. No one will open their wallet for a drink.
-We are skipping favors, menus, programs, and chair covers, etc. These things are nice, but not the best use of our money. By cutting them all out, we had another $1000 or so to spend on food and drinks.
-We chose a venue that offers a basic centerpiece as a part of it's package. Rather than spend hundreds on floral centerpieces that could otherwise be used to host our guests, we are simply getting loose flower petals to be scattered around the already existing candle centerpieces. It will still be pretty, but will cost about $75.
-The venue we chose will also be for our ceremony, reception, and has rooms for guests to stay in if they choose. Parking is free. So no transportation costs for us.
-Found a local, recent culinary school grad to make our cake, rather than a fancy wedding bakery. (We actually liked her cake better too). We ordered a small, simple tiered cake to cut: butter cream icing, frosting flowers and will have a kitchen sheet cake for extra servings. Not only does her cake cost less, but since she is local there are no delivery fees. Our venue also offers a dessert as part of any meal package, so our guests will have two dessert options (and enough for each to have both) for significantly less than it would have cost to get one cake elsewhere.
-We are changing our reception start time slightly so that there will be no gap. This means our reception will end slightly earlier, but that is ok. All group photos will be done during a hosted cocktail hour or before the ceremony so guests will not have to wait around for us. We hope we can make the tail end of cocktail hour. But if we can't, no big deal. We will be doing a receiving line after the ceremony but before the photos, so that we have the opportunity to thank all of our guests personally for coming.
EDT: added paragraph breaks between items to make it more readable.