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Where the Money Goes: Part 1

There’s this myth out there that wedding vendors are only charging so much because they are wedding vendors. The reality is that products and services are expensive. While prices vary widely in each category, the range is a factor of the quality, experience, and location of the vendors. You’re also paying for more time than may readily be apparent. A professional vendor will have completed a lot of prep work before the event, and in many cases will have even more work after the wedding.

Each category is different, but since the bulk of the costs for your wedding will go in to the venue/food, we’ll begin there.

I want you to imagine a great date night, just you and your fiance. Everyone will have a different vision of what that entails, but let’s assume that it includes at a minimum food (appetizers, drinks, and dessert) and some form of entertainment. How much did that evening just cost for just the two of you? If you’re like most people in the New York area, it’s unlikely that the evening cost anything less than $100 per person, but it probably cost you way more than that depending on the activity you chose for entertainment and the type of meal you had. Whatever that number looks like for your particular case, I want you to multiply that number by the number of guests that you plan on having at your wedding. You can consider this your food/beverage budget. If your reaction to this is “WHAT??? THAT’S CRAZY!” than it’s likely that you have set up some unrealistic expectations for what is reasonable for your wedding.

Just think about it: if your vision for your wedding was a cocktail hour, a seated dinner with delicious food, includes a premium top shelf open bar, to be enjoyed by 250 of your closest friends, how much did you think it should cost on a per person basis? If you couldn’t get a similar experience in the same location for less with just the two of you, don’t expect to pay less when you multiply your guest list. In a typical restaurant scenario, you sit down for one hour, have one (or maybe a few drinks), perhaps share an appetizer, and you probably skip the desert. When you’re done eating, the table is granted to another patron who will be doing something similar. For your wedding, your wait staff is typically there for you all evening, there is no other patron that will be served, and the menu has been customized for your event. No matter how many ways you try to slice it, it’s going to cost a pretty penny to get that type of an experience.

The difference between the experience you had on date night and the experience you will have for your wedding are vast, but here are a few key pieces to keep in mind:

  • Your wedding is typically customized for your needs; a restaurant dining experience is not.

  • You will typically be sitting at a restaurant for an hour, maybe up to two. After you leave, your table can be used for the next set of diners. For your wedding, there are no new customers coming in an hour, and you will be using the space for way more than an hour.

  • Weddings are typically private events; restaurants can have many groups dining at the same time.

That’s not to say that everyone has the same vision for their wedding. Please understand, this isn’t an effort to define what your wedding should be like. Your wedding is about the two of you, and I believe you should have what you want. My goal here is to help you be realistic about what you’re going to get for the amount you wish to pay. Perhaps your vision doesn’t include so many people, or perhaps you’re okay with not having a seated meal. No matter what you’re envisioning, the important part is to understand that if it wouldn’t cost you less to go out and have a similar experience with just you and your fiancé, it’s not going to cost you less when you add more people to the guest list.

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