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Budget Weddings

Huge guest list, tiny budget...help!

Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
[Deleted User]KnotRiley

Re: Huge guest list, tiny budget...help!

  • That's something you have to discuss with the caterers, it'll vary from place to place. We're having a food truck feed everyone, it's cheaper than a plated meal and it's got a cool aesthetic.

    You could always serve heavy appetizers instead of a meal, serve brunch, or have a cake/punch reception. Those are cheaper alternatives as well.

  • That's something you have to discuss with the caterers, it'll vary from place to place. We're having a food truck feed everyone, it's cheaper than a plated meal and it's got a cool aesthetic.

    You could always serve heavy appetizers instead of a meal, serve brunch, or have a cake/punch reception. Those are cheaper alternatives as well.

    Apps heavy enough to make a meal are usually more expensive. Brunch, however, or lunch, would generally be cheaper. If you do cake and punch or non-meal apps, make sure your wedding does not overlap with a meal time. 2-3pm ceremony time would be ideal for a short cake and punch reception. Everybody goes home by 5, boom, done.
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    MesmrEwe
  • I'll echo some of what the above posters are saying.  Where are you located and what is your budget?  Some options for you, roughly in order of cost:

    (1)  Have your ceremony and reception at a non meal time (2-5 or as mentioned above, or 8-11 if you want a late night vibe).  Serve cake, punch, and light appetizers in the afternoon, or cake and passed desserts in the evening.  Alcohol is optional, but whatever you serve you must pay for (no cash bars).

    (2)  Have a brunch or lunch reception.  These can be up to 50% cheaper than dinner receptions.  Again, alcohol is optional, but whatever you serve you must pay for.

    (3)  If you have your heart set on a dinner reception but need to do it on the cheap, then trays of barbecue or Italian food are likely to be your best bet.  Don't be afraid of chains--they're consistent and can take advantage of economies of scale.  For example, from a quick skim of Romano's catering menu, it appears that you can get 20 trays of salad and 20 trays of meat/pasta (enough to feed 200 people or so) for less than $2000.

    For cost-effective venues, think outside the box--community centers, Elks lodges, public parks, etc.  All are likely to have cost effective rental rates, and some may have catering and/or bar packages you may be able to take advantage of (although again--no cash bars).  If your venue doesn't include people to help with set-up or service, you can always hire college students off of Craig's List (usually people with service experience who are looking to make some extra cash).  Having a lovely wedding at an affordable price is totally doable.  Good luck!
    [Deleted User][Deleted User]kimmiinthemittenparkera92
  • Thanks everyone!! Those are great ideas I hadn't considered yet :) I think I do have to figure out something with food--those country club menus are NOT going to cut it!! Thanks again!! Good luck with your weddings!
  • The key to large events with keeping things affordable and on a budget is first - keep your expectations in check!  The nickels and dime upgrades are what break the bank.

    You don't need a fancy reception site - really!  People are more concerned with having a place to sit comfortably and eat/sip tea (not everyone drinks alcohol) as well as a bathroom without having to hike for miles to get to either one (and handicap accessibility if they're not highly mobile)..  You also don't need to DIY everything to keep it on a budget, as long as you're willing to work with your vendors, that's half the battle.  "Here's what I need, what can I get for the money"...  When it comes to food, most venues have a budget friendly option.  I'm in the midst of planning my parent's 50th Anniversary, if I wanted to be REALLY cheap, I'd choose spaghetti as an option, but given the size it's going to be we chose differently with our comfort level with our budget.  Our venue also charges more if we do plated vs. buffet.  That's $120 difference on our budget for 50 guests to let people choose their portion/choices themselves, it adds up! 

    Above all else, work with your food vendor, but also realize some things just have a cost!

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  • blabla89blabla89 Atlanta member
    Sixth Anniversary 2500 Comments 500 Love Its Name Dropper
    Pricing generally varies by the caterer, so your best bet is just to get quotes from several different places. Ask them what they can offer within your budget. Whatever you choose, just make sure there's enough food and drink for everyone and that it's appropriate for the time of day. So if you're not planning to serve a full dinner, don't have your wedding at dinner time, etc.
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  • I guess it depends on what your actual budget is. If you have $10k for 200 people, you really have to cut down on food options and quite a few other things. I can also suggest that you maybe find a buffet restaurant and work something out with them and reserve for 200 guests. Lots of times that includes background music, service, and tons of food. It really just comes down to what your budget is and what your priorities are.
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  • CMGragainCMGragain member
    10000 Comments 500 Love Its Fourth Anniversary 25 Answers
    edited June 2015
    Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    You are planning your wedding backwards.  You START planning with a budget and a guest list.  OK, your guest list is now set in stone.  What is your budget?
    After looking at both these figures, now you should plan the wedding that you can afford.  Here are the options:

    1.  Afternoon ceremony followed by a cake and punch reception.  Tea sandwiches and veggie platters are a nice touch.  Alcohol, dancing is not necessary or expected.  This is the most traditional kind of wedding.
    2.  Morning ceremony with brunch reception.  This can be very elegant.  A brunch reception is usually half the cost of a dinner reception.  No tuxedos.  Dancing is fine.  We served mimosas and bloody marys at the bar.
    3.  Dinner reception - very expensive!

    Be sure that your venue can accommodate all those guests.  Our daughter's wedding reception was held at a country club.  They charged a basic venue fee, food, per person, and drinks, per consumption.  Bartenders were required (state law), but since we had a buffet, we used servers, not waiters.  The charge was per server.  Then comes the state tax!  Ouch!  The club provided tablecloths, china, silver,  Daughter did a simply DIY centerpiece.
    It came to about $8000 for 135 people.  This was in suburban Maryland, outside of Washington, DC.  A dinner reception would have been double that amount.
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  • kimmiinthemittenkimmiinthemitten Detroit, MI member
    2500 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
    Here in Detroit, Dorsey Schools offers catering.  It's less expensive than a traditional caterer, the students gain real world experience and, ideally, noone is the wiser!

    Good luck!

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  • When comparing venues & caterers make sure to ask what is included

    • Servers
    • Bartender
    • Set up location
    • Clean up of locatoin
    • Cake
    • Cake cutting fees
    • Linens
    • Centerpieces
    • Card box
    • Valet
    • Details of menu
    • Details of bar
    • Table/Chairs
    • Centerpieces
    • Coat Room Person

    The reason that I listed all the different things is that some places will include some of the items automatically in their per person price. Others won't and if there is something you really want & and the place/caterer doesn't offer it & you have to do it yourself, that will add to your overall price. I know with the reception venue I went to, all of the above items except for valet were included in my per person price. Others when I asked, well what about the cake, well we don't include that, you'll have to provide that yourself. So then I had to add that cost to their per person price. It just nice to know exactely what each caterer/venue includes in their price so you can do a true apples to apples comparision on prices

     

    kimmiinthemitten[Deleted User]
  • Also wouldn't hurt checking out wedding expos

     
  • Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.
  • Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.
    OP, your guests should not have to work your wedding. Plus, the horrors of potluck food poisoning!
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    kimmiinthemittensparklepants41MesmrEwe
  • Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.
    Worst. Idea. Ever.
    Plus, who the hell wants to carry in a giant plate of pasta while trying to balance their purse and a gift?  You obviously love your friends if you're asking them to do this.
  • ViczaesarViczaesar Central Coast, CA member
    Ninth Anniversary 5000 Comments 500 Love Its First Answer
    Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.
    NO. 



  • Viczaesar said:
    Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.
    NO. 
    And if you're so short on funds, how is it cheaper to buy all the ingredients and get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner?  Woudn't it just be cheaper to buy the fully-cooked tray of pasta?
    STARMOON44zitiqueen
  • Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.? Thanks guys!
    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.

    This is a big, fat, NO. OP, do NOT do this. This is a terrible idea.
    [Deleted User]zitiqueenCMGragain
  • Thanks everyone!! We looked into a LOT of different options, and in the end, we're going with an all-inclusive caterer. We were just getting too overwhelmed, and FI's parents are offering a lot more money than originally expected...so, we'll have safe food and good times!! :) Thanks again, this was really helpful!
    [Deleted User]
  • Thanks everyone!! We looked into a LOT of different options, and in the end, we're going with an all-inclusive caterer. We were just getting too overwhelmed, and FI's parents are offering a lot more money than originally expected...so, we'll have safe food and good times!! :) Thanks again, this was really helpful!
    Sounds good! 

    But to the bolded - make sure that the money is in your bank account before you sign any contracts. People come here all. the. time. freaking out because promised money never panned out and they can't afford what they booked. 
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    [Deleted User]
  • Good call! I don't want to be left hanging... :D
  • Jen4948Jen4948 Houston member
    10000 Comments Seventh Anniversary 500 Love Its 25 Answers



    Hi everyone! I'm feeling totally swamped. We're inviting 200 guests which is more than we had originally planned, but my fiance's close family includes 80 people, and we've looked at our guest list over and over and can't possibly cut it down any more. We're trying to cut down on catering costs, but are unsure about what goes into price per head. Does it always include servers, bartenders, set up, etc.?

    Thanks guys!

    Why don't some of your guests provide food? If you are expecting that many people, you've GOT to have some people that'd be willing to volunteer! Make big pastas and things that are easy to multiply. You could simply pay for the ingredients and perhaps get the cooks a gift or take them to dinner or some other way to honor them.

    Because a reception is held and paid by the hosts to thank guests for attending the ceremony. You're suggesting that they not only pay for, but transport, cook, and serve their own thank-you??????????

    NO. That's incredibly rude.
    CMGragain[Deleted User]
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