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Wedding Woes

Posted by miss m on Friday, March 30, 2012 @ 4:50pm in Finances, General Blather, Photography and Pics, Wedding |

Since Love surprised me with an engagement ring this past Christmas I’ve been getting into the excitement of planning the wedding.

I’m really crafty and creative and I don’t want some overdone event nor the price tag that goes with it. I want to do a lot of the personal touches myself and am excited for the design of it.

Now, we don’t want a formal sit down dinner because wedding food is (a) stupidly expensive and (b) crap anyway. And, looking at a preliminary list, we’re only looking at about 40-45 people; basically our immediate families plus a few friends. So I don’t need a massive hall or anything either.

Here’s where the woes begin. I can’t do anything until we get a venue and thus a date. But, finding a venue is proving insanely difficult. They’re all obscenely expensive – even options that I would have thought were going to be more reasonable! In fact, I expected things to be expensive but I didn’t realize it was that expensive just for a place to have a party! (And let’s not even get into the fact most places won’t let you bring in your own food. They require food minimums and/or that you use their “preferred vendors.”)

An example…

Bayanihan Arts Center – Classic wedding location. HUGE space. Fancy draping, lights, cocktail hour lobby with grand piano, the works. Waaaaay too big for 40 people. About $2,800 which includes ceremony, cocktail hour and reception. 5 hours + ceremony time + 4 hours prep. (Which is very generous I’m finding.)


What about a simple hotel banquet room? Not a fancy hotel or anything (i.e. not ritzy) but rather a Hilton Garden Inn location. The rooms range of course by season but seem to be about $100/night and up. Hardly worth the price quote I got:

We have our own inhouse catering department and all food and beverage must come from that department. The wedding packages range between $49.95 and $79.95 which includes the rental of the hall, tables , chairs, standard linen, china and silverware.


MINIMUM $50/person?? Not including taxes, mandatory gratuity and other fees? So 40 people would be at minimum two grand but in reality MUCH move given the fact they tack on extra fees for everything?



Then there’s places that are so over the top, it’s barely worth mentioning. Like The Event Factory. Which, judging by the horribly tacky website and sample photos, looks like the Renn Fair got together with Medieval Times and decided to “gaudy it up a bit.” You MUST use every one of their services from food, to photographer to DJ. Everything is inclusive and packages start at about $6,000 and go from there.




Then I thought I found it. Island Bamboo Gardens. Small venue, designed for 30-75 people. Neat, outdoor setting. Seemed like something quirky and different. Great reviews online. Turns out they want $2,100 just to rent the location. No food, no decoration, just chairs and a few tables. Really??


Am I the only person who doesn’t think $10,000 is a “budget” wedding? My idea of a realistic amount to spend on the wedding is maybe $2,500? Three tops. We’re talking about a party of about 40 or so for crying out loud! Not 400!! I just need a nice location that will let me rent the space and set it up how I want it set up with whatever decorations I want to use and with whatever food I want to make or bring at my own discretion!

I don’t want to be forced into using a caterer if I don’t want. I don’t want to have to use your DJ or your photographer. Why does it suddenly turn into some massively restrictive event the minute you call it a “wedding reception??” I just want a nice, simple, crafty party for my family and friends. But I can’t do anything until I can get a location and thus a date set. And I’m just spinning my wheels trying to find a venue. I’ve been looking for two months now and what I consider a reasonable budget is clearly not in line with what people seem to think is acceptable.

A home wedding isn’t possible because I live in an apartment. My Mom’s home is a tiny one-bedroom so that’s out too. I don’t know anyone who has a house large enough to hold 40-50 people so it has to be somewhere else. (And living in Florida 98% of the year it’s impossibly hot and humid and you can’t do a formal event outdoors anyway.) I’m starting to think that place just doesn’t exist. Which is frustrating.

I want to get married. I want to have a nice day. And I can make it a nice day if only I can find a location that gives me the free reign I need. 🙁

14 Comments

  • Roma says:

    My boyfriend and I have been talking low cost wedding plans because between us we have a butt load of student loans. My best friend had her wedding and reception at a backwoods town hall that wasn’t too cheap, but she didn’t break the bank. A couple of friends of his held their wedding and reception in a local park. It was hella cheap, the only downside was they were at the mercy of the weather gods (they held it in the fall to ensure cooler, less muggy temperatures, but it was still a roulette). They lucked out and it was beautiful. It wasn’t a formal (they told the guests to dress “respectfully. We encourage comfort, but we’re getting married. Don’t show up dressed like a bum.”), but the casual clothing made applying bug repellent less irksome.
    One option we discussed was a town hall wedding; we didn’t get around to seeing how many people are allowed to watch (or if there would be strangers there). For a reception we discussed reserving tables at a local eatery and letting everyone pay for their own meals (my mother says that’s tacky, but I say it’s cheap and if someone doesn’t like it they can bite me). If people other than us couldn’t watch, we’d all meet up, eat, show off the paper work, and socialize in honor of the occasion.
    We’ve also discussed doing something rather simple and silly like a Serenade. Tradition dictates that the groom rallies the wedding party and brings them to the brides house. He sings to her, then everyone goes off to party. Since we share an apartment we discussed him doing this at my parents house and hitting the bars from there (a fine Italian tradition, lol).
    Another idea we discussed was asking our friends and family to chip in and make the wedding/reception their wedding present (forgoing any other gift). It would still be done on the cheap, but if people wanted to pay for food/chapel/what ever, we’d use what they gave us.
    I just thought I’d throw these ideas out there. Keep your chin up.

  • Roma says:

    Oh, and for photography, we would encourage everyone to bring their digital cameras/smartphones/whatever (under the stipulation that they will be severely browbeaten if they actually take/make calls), take as many pictures they want and either email them to us, upload them to facebook or something similar.
    For catering, pot luck.

  • […] was frustrated by the priciness of weddings and receptions, so I left these comments on her blog post.  I thought I’d share it on a larger scale in the […]

  • miss m says:

    I totally have a bunch of ideas for how to do it cheap…once I get a space. I want to do finger foods and desserts instead of a full, plated, meal (which I know I can do for a few hundred bucks because we did this awesome spread for Love’s gallery opening a few years ago which impressed the hell out of everyone and we only spent like $300? So even if I double that, I know I can put together some awesome food.) I also want to make some stands for said foods with a purposefully mismatched hodgepodge of plates and such (like this idea but even more of a variety). I also picked up DIY invitations already (got 80 of them for less than $40 and I just need to print out the details!) Plus, I already have my dress (a new-with-tags designer $3,000 I bought on ebay for $199) And hand embossed napkins (they’re like $2 at IKEA for colored napkins and I can run them through my Cuttlebug to make them special) etc. etc. etc. I just need the location!

    I am so excited about all the cool, creative ways I can do this on the cheap. If only I can find a place that lets me just…you know, do it!

  • Roma says:

    I hear that. Don’t give up hope miss!

  • Nikki-ann says:

    My friend did her wedding on a budget of £1,000 – £2,000 tops. She had the ceremony at the local registry office with after-drinks & nibbles at the village pub, then an evening do at the village hall (with a buffet provided by the people at the pub). Invitations were hand-made (though I could have got them designed & printed at work fairly cheaply if she’d asked) and she managed to find a cheap but stylish dress.

  • miss m says:

    Yeah, I know I can totally pull everything off for cheap – IF I can get a darn location that doesn’t break the bank! *grr*

  • Bridget says:

    My brother found that you can get a price reduction by not mentioning that you’re doing a wedding. If you just ask about event space, and give an event other than a wedding, you can usually cut out some of the up charge fees.

    Could you rent gallery space for the reception? Sounds like that could be a cheap option, unless you are looking for dancing etc.

  • Madame S says:

    Are there any Elks lodges in your area (or similar organizations)? Perhaps a fire hall? Sometimes they have public space that they rent out for cheap. You have to use your own catering etc, and they don’t charge an arm and a leg. Might be perfect for what you’re looking for.

  • Madame S says:

    Also, not sure if my other comment went through, but if you aren’t tied to a champagne toast, sometimes if you call the event anything other than a wedding, you will eliminate the wedding premium. (Heck, it could even be an anniversary party) My brother was searching for venues in Philadelphia and Los Angeles and found a significant price difference just by saying it was a dinner event with dancing versus a wedding.

  • miss m says:

    Showing up in a bridal gown is kind of a tip-off. Plus, most places charge a cutting fee for the cake and such too. It’s such a racket. This is why I just want to find a basically empty square (or rectangle! I’m not picky LOL) that I can rent and do with what I want. Just proving SO HARD to find.

  • miss m says:

    Not sure. I’m having a hard time tracking down rooms in general. I contacted one Lodge-y type place and they charge $750 for their space and you can bring in whatever you want food wise, but…they only rent 8am-noon. That’s way too damned early. The wedding would have to be at 7am to start the reception at 8am. :/

    Seems like no matter how many times I’ve searched, no one in the entire damned region has any suggestions that aren’t specifically halls/special event locations so I’m not having any luck tracking down suitable venues to inquire about.

    Oh and gallery…no idea. Love’s gallery show I mentioned was in the community room at the local public library branch. Definitely can’t hold a private reception there.

  • miss m says:

    I know that if I can find the space, I can totally make a beautiful, shabby-chic inexpensive party. But I am wracking my brain trying to find a blank room I can use. (That doesn’t cost $2k and up just for the space.) I already picked out print-yourself invitations, have my dress (a brand-new-with-tags $3k dress I got on ebay for $199!!) so I’m well on my way to pulling this together. I just can NOT find a location. I don’t know why this is so hard but I swear, I’ve been searching for two months so far and not getting anywhere. It’s driving me crazy honestly!

  • Inanna Arthen says:

    Have you considered a Unitarian-Universalist church? Their rates are usually very reasonable and you can have everything up to a Pagan handfasting in them. (Disclaimer: I’m on the Parish Committee of a UU church up here–and I’m a Pagan). Try Googling some of your local UU churches and ask what they’d charge and what the protocols are. I know that we’ll rent our hall out to non-members; and if they can’t help you, they can probably suggest some referrals. Couldn’t hurt to ask.

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