Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holy 19%, Batman!

If I could tell any newly-engaged girl a tidbit to help her, I now know what it would be.


Looking at venues, we would do math in our heads, looking at either per person cost, or the minimum, etc. We knew that most places have an 18-20% service charge, but didn't really think about it. I guess in my head I maybe thought it wasn't that much? Well it totally blew our venue budget. Remember when we went over what we wanted at Palomino, and she said she'd type it up and send it to us, and then we could add/change/delete? I got that email. And it blew me away. I made it into a spreadsheet, which I am going to share with you in a minute.

Before you read on, I want you to note that it wasn't an easy decision to share this with you all. A lot of money to one person is nothing to another, and vice versa. Some of you have posted your budgets, or I've seen some on wedding sites, and a lot of the time I'm sort of judge-y. You know, like, "They think that's a budget wedding?" So I'm asking you to put yourselves in my shoes- remember the cost where we live, remember that we're paying for the wedding ourselves, and remember that we are very, very poor and this is a lot of money to us!

Okay, off soapbox. Onwards!

Here's the beginning of the excel document I made. I did this so I could add columns where I could then omit items and see where we stood. The total cost is for everything listed on the proposal.

Above are the food items. This could change depending on what people order, and most importantly, how many people come! We selected the fruit and strawberries thinking it would be nice, as not everyone loves cakes. They will be getting a dinner salad and rolls, meal with sides, garlic bread, drinks, and cupcakes- $840.00 more? For that they can stop at Arby's on the way home if they are honestly still hungry after the schmorgasboard. SORRY! Geez Louise that's more than we're paying for cake!

Below are the non-food details... not so bad! I LIKE OUR SUBTOTAL! That's just above where we were hoping to be.

Wait a second... there's more.

Yep you can't forget that SERVICE CHARGE! It was nearly 2k for us, and for more pricey areas/higher budgets, this could get expensive and quick. But that wasn't all...

About 3k above where we would feel comfortable. I calmed myself down and thought through the details. I was really upset that to have a cheaper bar, we'd need to pay $2 per person for soda. They get free water, coffee, lemonade, and iced tea, so chopping this was an option. (Soda comes with any open bar package, but we chose just domestic beer and house wine.) The fruits are definitely out, as well as the projector and screen. We thought it would be nice to show a slideshow during dinner, but for that cost, the $25 bar TV's showing our slideshow will be enough. Something to do while waiting for drinks!

I took these considerations and made a few choices.

Choice 1- All options except the fruit desserts and projector. This would run us $10,116.01.
Choice 2- Same as above, but also no soft drinks. This would run us $9,608.01
Choice 3- "Bare Minimum." Same as #2 but also no champagne toast, uplighting or ceiling swags. This would run us $9,036.51.
Choice 4- "Desperation." Same as #3 but also cut our decorative mirror monogram, candle-lit window, and our sweetheart table chargers. This would run us $8,849.82.

I emailed with two of my blog gals, Laura from With This Ring, I Thee Blog, and Stephanie from I Do at the Zoo. Stephanie was kind enough to send over her bar and food spreadsheets to compare! And Laura added columns detailing what she though would be necessary versus what could be cut. Here's the spreadsheet with her additions on the right:

Luckily, Laura is also crazy about excel. I'm sure you can't read this, just trust me, it's a magnificent document.

I feel confident that Mr Pug and I can make this work. We'll be cutting things for sure! What smaller things on my list would you cut? For example- would you be ok with lemonade, water, coffee, and tea? Would you prefer to see the tulle swags with twinkle lights go, or the green uplighting? Do you think the champagne toast is more important than soft drinks? Should it be all sparkling grape juice to save money? Would you be baffled if there wasn't a champagne toast?

Thanks for not judging, guys! And thanks Laura and Steph for listening! We're going over this tonight, will probably sleep on it for a while, and then have to give the final go-ahead from our proposal in early January. I'll letcha know!


  1. Ouch, things add up fast! I think you can axe the champagne toast--so many people don't even like or drink champagne, and then it becomes wasted money. The fruit and the projector are relatively simple cuts, too. I can see how further cuts would be painful, though. :( Good luck!

  2. OMG I would also freak out over that service charge. Good luck!

  3. I agree about the champagne. I happen to really like champagne but not everyone does. I wouldn't mind just using whatever was in my glass for the toast. I also agree about the fruit and projector.

    Do you also have to pay gratuity? That was something we had to factor into our venue costs (I don't have the % in front of me, but it totally adds up!) Hopefully your service charge includes that.

  4. It was no problem helping you today! Its nice to get opinions from the "wedding guest" perspective (although I'm not a guest lol) but you can hear what we don't really pay attention to! I know you and B will be able to figure it all out and save some change! I also was thinking and I can remember SO MANY full flutes of champagne that sit on the table that people don't drink. Cut that.

  5. I agree about the champagne - A lot of people don't like it, and would actually probably prefer to just use their drink of choice for the toasts. For $2/person I think it's totally reasonable to cut the soft drinks! And the cuts you've made already are good ones - No one will even know they're missing out on fruit, and they'll be fine with watching the slideshow on the bar TVs.

    I'd definitely say cut out the tulle swags before the uplighting - Uplights make a huge difference! Would you have the option of doing the tulle swags and twinkle lights yourself? Tulle is super inexpensive and you could buy twinkle lights for really cheap either on Black Friday or after Christmas!

    Good luck figuring it all out!

  6. You'll be able to make it work girl. You know how to contact me if you need any advice. Also, please come over to the budget board if you want. The girls over there are great!

    If you're allowed to bring in your own stuff, you could buy tealights for a lot cheaper. I went to Ikea over the weekend and bought 12 tealight holders for $1.99. You can also buy a bag of 100 tealights there for $3.99. You could get the actual tealights at Walgreen or CVS cheaper though.

  7. Thank you actually for your little soap box moment in the beginning of your post. I've posted before about our budget and I didn't even think about X dollars being a lot of a little in other people's minds. My only thinking was that we're paying for it (like you) and since it's our own money, we're going to be very careful with how we spend it.

    Luckily, when we initially received our quote from our reception venue the gratuities, taxes, etc were all included in our quote. My opinion, cut out the tulle swag and twinkle lights (can you DIY for less??) if it means you can have a champagne toast. Just my opinion. However, with that said, I don't think people would mind toasting with what's in front of them either. :)

  8. I agree about the champagne. I love it, it doesn't like me so much so I can't drink it. And I hear you about the service charges - for some of the venues we went to - it nearly doubled the price per person so we couldn't afford it.

  9. The service charges, gratuities, and taxes really shocked us at first as well. Fortunately we figured it out pretty early and budgeted for them before booking.

    To add my two cents to your budgeting efforts, as a guest, I think I would prefer better food/drink to better decor. I think the fruit is definitely optional, but other than that, maybe soft drinks would be nice, especially since your bar is limited. Good luck figuring it out!

    PS We were going to cut our champagne toast, but my parents freaked out...apparently it was very important to them. So maybe just check with parents before taking them out :)

  10. Thanks for the support guys! Our venue is pretty picky with their restrictions about what you can bring in/use (only their candles, only their tulle and tealights, in-house catering only for the meal, etc) That's why I'm kind of wondering what to cut, not what I can get cheaper. I should have clarified in my post!

    So glad others have noticed this and can understand!!!!

  11. I've been to 1 wedding with a champagne toast and they had a full bottle on every table...over 75% of those bottles were full and un-opened at the end of the night. I would cut the soda since they have other options, and the fruit is a simple thing to cut to. They never tell you about the not-fun part of wedding planning, do they? Good luck friend, I live in the Midwest too, so if you need any help at all don't hesitate to ring me up!

  12. Definitely cut the champagne toast. People can toast with their wine! I'd keep the uplighting because I think it really does make things look so much nicer. But ultimately if it needs to go, it needs to go. I'd also cut the ceiling swags. Good luck!

  13. I agree with the champagne and soft drinks. I think you can cut those out and the guest will be fine with it. Maybe just have some for the 2 of you to toast with if you want. And the projector can go too. Would it be ok with the venue to just keep one of the fruit desserts if you guys chose to? That way you can still cut back but still have something sweet. Just a thought

  14. Oh I know we had some crazy service charges as well...adds up fast. I think food is super important to people but most of the time people are expecting to pay for their own drinks anyway!

  15. Ugh...its such a sneaky little thing...that service charge...I hate the thought! I am not even sure if my venue does one (if I remember correctly, I think that the grat was included in our price...or is that just wishful thinking?) I really need to go back and check! Wow...I'm dumb...

  16. We JUST went through this with the caterer. My fiance who has been the one pushing for a big fun wedding broke down and asked if I was serious about eloping. :)
    We've been snipping at the fat all week... hopefully we can get it down to a decent cost!