How to get a lower budget hotel wedding

Updated Oct 12 2015
arielmstallings
Save the Date Postcard
Photo by stacey.hess

Jezebel recently did a post addressing how wedding costs can add up (In The Long Run, Your Wedding Could Cost You Big Time), and while the post itself is somewhat interesting, I was completely taken by a comment posted by a user named geekgirlliz, who caters weddings.

Here were geekgirlliz's excellent tips on how to save money if you're going the catered-hotel-wedding route:

  • Invite only the people you really care about.
  • Do a buffet rather than a plated dinner.
  • Have one signature cocktail, or just get one or two bottles of wine per table. Your wallet and your guests (and your caterers) will thank you.
  • Don't buy personalized favors that people won't care about. (cookie or candy bags are cheaper and everyone loves 'em).
  • Don't pay for a band. They mostly stink anyhow. Do get a decent DJ and discuss the playlist.
  • Get a small decorative cake, then as much sheet cake as you need to feed your guests. It also helps if you do not mention wedding when buying a cake. Wedding cakes are overpriced.
  • Get married on a Sunday.
  • Get married during the afternoon or even morning.

Anyone else have tips for saving money on a hotel wedding?

  1. The article is a little off-putting. Yeah, if I put $7K in savings instead of spending it on my wedding, it would be worth more money "later on", but that conversation gets dangerous. You can say that about ANYTHING "extra" that you spend money on. "Well, this awesome trip to Europe that I've always wanted to take, is going to cost $5,000, and even though I have the money I'm not going to go because if I save it, it will be worth more!" Great, wonderful, but what are you saving it for, if to not go to Europe?

    [cont …]

    • As for the points listed above, we're doing most of these, except, we're getting married on a Friday instead of a Sunday because our venue ONLY does evening events. There's no discount for Friday, but there's no mandatory minimum, either. PLUS, we're expecting the fact that we're having it in a town we don't live in and neither of us is from (driving distance for the majority of our guests, but still requires travel and hotel) and that we're having it on a Friday will deter some guests that are "less" important … because, as you all know, "people you really care about" don't always line up with "people you're expected to invite." Actually, it's similar to the "courthouse" argument – yeah, I'd rather go to the courthouse and then take a cool trip instead, but I also recognize that yes, the wedding is about me and FH, but it is also about those who love us most … and they want a wedding. So be it.

  2. We're actually doing most of these things, but not exactly for the money saving, rather because they make sense for US. I don't know if doing our wedding on a sunday is actually saving us money or the buffet. BUT the buffet ensures everyone eats together, and what they want AND that the food is actually hot! We are having wine on the tables, but no other alcohol because my FH and I aren't big drinkers. We are doing it in the afternoon because we have eldery and very young guests that will enjoy an afternoon more than an evening. And I'm making the cake because yeah, $700 for a freaking cake I won't want to eat (bleck, fondant!) is just stupidity when I can bake like a dream and make cakes everyone will enjoy!

    I also whole-heartedly agree with irisira – what's the point of saving your money if you never USE it? I mean, going $30,000 in debt to pay off a wedding just doesn't make sense to me, but if we've saved $7k, and the wedding is something that's really important to us, why the hell shouldn't we spend the money?? Being responsible with your money, and making smart decisions so as not to needlessly sepnd money is great, but never spending any money to save it, for.. for what? What are you saving it for if not to have it and USE it when something really special and important comes along??

    • I've been to weddings (and other banquet-style parties) with buffets, with"heavy appetizers" (which is usually quite similar to a buffet), and with fancy plated dinners. Overwhelmingly, the weddings with buffets/heavy apps had better food.

    • I agree with one of the commenters who had the same sentiment as you – "it's like they just figured out how compound interest works, while writing an article about weddings."

  3. The comments are full of fun wedding stories, but Agog's comment really stood out.

    "My sister's wedding was really quite expensive, but it was really beautiful. They found that if they catered the reception – without a cash bar – they could buy twice as much food as they needed for just a little bit more money – roughly $1,000. They ordered food for 300 people, including an extra cake, and had it delivered by the bridal party – myself included – to a battered women's shelter that accepted children and to a rehab facility that specialized in juvenile drug offenders…$1,000 is a lot of money, but factored into their reception costs over all, it wasn't much more. The caterers loved the idea and added even more – like chocolate dipped strawberries and these mini-sandwich things."

    So sweet.

  4. We did a lot of this too, and it seems like people actually enjoyed the cost cutting measures more. A few people that had been to fancier black tie weddings in the months prior said that the measures made it more comfortable and fun:

    A buffet meant that people could eat as much of whatever they wanted.

    We used an ipod (we were luckily to have access to a PA) so we got to pick our music that had people dancing all night long – including the staff at the end of the night AND we are still listening to the mix a year and a half later!

    We had a smallish 3 tier cake and two side cakes which brought the price down dramatically and fit right in with the look and tone we were going for.

    We also had it at a small family winery – not a super fancy one by any means – so we bought the wine and champagne ahead of time as part of their "wine club" and only served it and beer. And they are right. People love an open bar, even if doesn't include mixed drinks.

    • We're also having it at a winery, and doing something similar. They have a "hosted bar" option, where we pay per pitcher for beer and per bottle for wine (cheaper all around than per glass, no?). I took their estimate of what it normally works out to per person, tacked on extra, and will set that as my "bar limit."

  5. I would extend this to any formal function. I remember being on my prom planning committee in high school, learning that that prom was going to cost $20,000 and being absolutely horrified. Think of how much good that money could do! In my value system travel, charity, or any educational experience is worth loads more than a wedding. The end goal of a wedding is being married, that can happen in jeans, in a church or court house, with 15 people there. I think people get way too caught up in their "special day" and lose sight of the purpose.

  6. GeekGirlLiz here.
    I should definitely amend the DJ tip to specify that it doesn't have to be a professional DJ! A relative or friend with an ipod and a good playlist is all you really need.

    (Though, with a DJ you might just discover that grandma LOVES dancing to 'Baby Got Back' with a few glasses of wine in her, true story)

  7. I suspect that they wouldn't think that my no served alcohol wedding would be less tacky than the cash bar that they are so appalled by. Funny thing, that.

    Eh. Jezebel has very rarely posted anything in favor of weddings in general, it's not so surprising that they take this track. I figure if you understand what you are doing and making a conscious choice to throw the party you want, large or small, more power to you.

    • First of all, the cost-savings tips that this post focused on were great and definitely add some weight behind my and the FH's ideas. Thanks for the post! I've never before heard of Jezebel, but there are millions of blogs with a million differing opinions too. Not necessarily my cup o' tea, but it is what it is.

      Ailea…I'm not planning to serve alcohol at my wedding either. My fiance and I are both non-drinkers because there is alcoholism in our families. I was thrown off myself by one of the commenters on the Jezebel post who mentioned the 20 or so weddings she had been to and that she remembered little about them except for the white dress, food and booze. She did mention:
      "Oh yeah — there was ONE without booze, which was memorable for being sucky because it didn't have booze. And it was in a church basement."

      There will ALWAYS be opinions. Just have to take them in stride!

      • Sounds like you and I have about the same circumstances for about the same reasons, Kris. I keep hearing how little fun some people had when there is no alcohol involved and repeating over and over that they are there to see us, not to get drunk… hard thing to remember in some cultures, eh?

        But yeah, many good ideas on cost cutting. And Jezebel has a lot of good ideas, but it seems to have a few that I don't agree with, too. Such is life and the internet.

  8. We did alot of these apprent cost-saving things, but not because it was cheaper to do it all that way, but getting married on a Sunday was the best option for the venue we wanted – ie they were booked for the Saturday. And planning a wedding in less then 9mths was a challenge. No, not preggers, just have a husband in the military.

    We had a lovely 2 course plated meal (alternate choice) and whilst we had a small, tastefully decorated cake, we had about 100 cupcakes to be served to guests as dessert. My friend made the cupcakes (one flavour was my choice and the other flavour my husband chose and we served them on cake stands on the bridal table and invited guests to help themselves)

    An ipod playlist was perfect for our needs, esp as we had access to a PA system.

    We didn't do guest favours, but we did spend $50 buying colouring in booka and activity packs for all the children in attendance. We were thankful they weren't running riot and the parents thought it was a godsend for bored kids.

  9. I just wanted to add something about how to get a cheaper hotel wedding: it's advice you hear a lot, but booking "off-season" really can save you a lot of money. I just got married in January and even planning only 4 months in advance was able to negotiate incredible deals with a really nice boutique hotel. We got Friday-Sunday food prices on a Saturday night, discounted appetizers, a free room that night (normally something like $400), no ceremony room rental fee and incredible service. This was also true of our other vendors. It really made stretching our budget way easier.

  10. One comment on the cake idea:

    No getting around it, tier cakes (even if they're not for a wedding) are absurdly expensive. (I asked a baker friend about this. She said 50% of the price inflation was because tier cakes are genuinely hard to make, but the other 50% is because the bakeries know they can get away with it.) The sheet cake was a third of the price per serving. But I just couldn't bring myself to have "wedding cake" for us and "cheap cake" (a.k.a. "prole cake") for the guests.

    The solution we had was to make the sheet cakes different flavors. Suddenly we weren't just compromising on price, we were giving people OPTIONS. And as someone who'd gotten sick of vanilla wedding cakes, it was great to lay out three different flavors that guests could choose from.

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