Could you loan me a couple bucks?
March 26, 2009 9:17 AM   Subscribe

How much should my wedding cost, and how can I do it cheaper?

So I recently got engaged (previously) and we're now planning the wedding. The thing is, we want to have a decent sized wedding (@ 150 people), but we want to do it on the cheap. Our families will likely not be assisting us financially with doing this. Problem is, I have no idea how much I should be preparing to spend.

Fortunately, we will be able to save some money in a few ways:

-My dad's a judge, so he will be performing the ceremony.
-We will be using the same location for ceremony and reception.
-I am almost positive I can find a PA that I wont have to pay for and I have all necessary mixing/turntable equipment for Djing.
-We're not into flowers or BS place settings with boring personalized gifts for everyone
-Fiance's best friend is a clothing designer and will be making the wedding dress
-We'll probably be able to have a friend make the cake (or cakes) instead of going to a baker.

This leaves, basically, location and catering. We live in NYC, and have found some helpful suggestions for locations, but how much should I reasonably expect to pay for location and caterer? Is there any way to do it cheaper?
posted by orville sash to Society & Culture (67 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Planning a wedding now myself. Good thing you're not into flowers -- those are very expensive and usually a large chunk of the budget. Your biggest expense, it seems, will be location, food, and alcohol. Cut out the last one to save a bundle. Consider doing appetizers only to bring down the cost per head.

This might be better to work in reverse: how much do you want to spend on the reception? If that number is, say $10,000, you'll have an easier time shopping around for potential locations and catering options knowing that you can spend roughly $65 per head with 150 heads.

FWIW, we're spending about $35 per head for the reception, but this is in the Midwest.
posted by nitsuj at 9:27 AM on March 26, 2009

Location, catering and rentals for the site were our biggest expenses and were somewhat unavoidable, but we kept them down as low as we could. Things we did:

1) Used our half dozen friends with DSLR's to take pictures, so we ended up with about 3k pictures all in raw format that friends post processed or I did.

2) Went to Whole foods, picked out one fancy cake for us to cut, and the picked out half a dozen more for the guests so folks had a choice.

3) Used friends or friends parents cars for transportation to and from the wedding site.

I would walk in with a budget in mind, but be prepared to understand the trade offs you'll make with each thing you'll want at the site. Pick 3-4 things that will make the day perfect for you and spend the money on that.

We chose location (married on a flower farm), decorations (flowers from flower farm), and food (our favorite Puerto Rican place). For us, those three things made the day what it was for us outside of our guests and seeing everyone. We focused on those things as they were the things we thought were most important, and let the other stuff go or went with lower costs options because at the end of the day no one remembers the little doodad gift or the place setting.
posted by iamabot at 9:30 AM on March 26, 2009

This might be better to work in reverse: how much do you want to spend

This this this this this. The amount of money you could spend on your wedding is infinite; there is no shortage of people who would help you do that. You need to decide how much you want to spend and tailor your party appropriately.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:31 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

When's your wedding? Now's the time that you could plan to grow your own flowers.
posted by lizbunny at 9:33 AM on March 26, 2009

Response by poster: I guess what I'm looking for is a sane average. It's a great idea to pick a budget and work with that, but I have no realistic idea of around where I should be pegging my budget.

If I had my way, it'd cost $40.00, and everyone would have a blast.
posted by orville sash at 9:34 AM on March 26, 2009

For more photographs buy a few dozen disposable cameras and have them developed someplace cheap like Costco. Hand them out to the guests and collect them all at the end of the evening. Tell others to bring their digital cameras.


posted by snowjoe at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2009

It's a great idea to pick a budget and work with that, but I have no realistic idea of around where I should be pegging my budget.

You should be pegging your budget based on your own personal finances. How much can you afford? How much do you want to spend on the wedding? What are our expectations? (e.g. Fine dining ballroom or pig farm?)

There's no one right answer here. Weddings can cost $100 and then can cost $100,000.
posted by nitsuj at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2009

The word sane does not apply to the general wedding industry in any sense of the word. You have to figure out how much you want to spend.
posted by jerseygirl at 9:38 AM on March 26, 2009

One of the best things I've ever read on wedding planning is right here, on 2000 Dollar Budget Wedding. The author, Sara Cotner, gives a great overview of how she and her husband chose the priorities for their wedding and made it happen on a very, very strict budget. The site is full of amazing ideas. I would recommend starting with that entry and browsing the blog to help you figure out what you want, and what you want to spend.

(I am not engaged, married, or anticipating either, but I love reading crafty blogs).
posted by amelioration at 9:43 AM on March 26, 2009 [10 favorites]

What you could also do is call around and figure out prices for everything and then compare that with what you can afford. Like, create an ideal list and price it out, and then cut out or downgrade stuff until you're at a cost you're okay with. The danger is you'll overextend yourself after falling in love with the location, food, etc.
posted by lockestockbarrel at 9:46 AM on March 26, 2009

Costing this out right now ourselves, by far and away the most expensive things are: food, location, booze, in that order. The other costs are all 1/10th or less of the cost to feed 100 people. I'd start with those. That's where costs can get really out of control.

It's very difficult to feed people for less than $50/plate if you use any commercial catering. The only alternatives that we've been able to find are either a food-less reception (a no-go for us) or a DIY, such as a potluck or a bbq.

On the location front, you'll find 150 is a big number to handle in a private house. I've been to weddings of 50 at private homes and they're very crowded. Thirty-five seems to be a number that works well in an average back-yard+inside. You may find community centres or church basements can accommodate you for a few hundred dollars though, rather than the thousands that a commercial hall will want.

Booze is probably the easiest of the big costs to handle: make your own beer and wine and designate a friend to serve. Or just have a cash bar.
posted by bonehead at 9:46 AM on March 26, 2009

Yours is somewhat larger than mine was but:
1. PAs are cheap. You should be able to rent the cheapest one you can find. Around here that would cost about $40.

2. Don't bother with a DJ unless you've got a friend who wants to do it. Just hook up an iPod.

3. Go potluck for food. We did this and it worked out really well. Our friends wanted to be able to help out in some way, and having them cook for us was a big help and gave them a way to help.

4. Limited bar. Whole Foods has a house-label wine that's not bad, and if you buy it in cases, it's cheap. We had 2 kinds of wine, 1 kind of beer, and champagne.

For us, the location rental was the only really big expense.
posted by adamrice at 9:47 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

JUST as data points: we were married in mid-May 06 in Charleston, SC. We had passed hors d'oeuvres (five types), an open bar all afternoon and evening, VERY nice Italian food served buffet-style, and a separate kid's buffet table with pasta, sauces, meatballs, etc. We averaged it out around $110 per person for @ 100 guests. Cakes were a separate cost - we had a wedding cake and a groom's cake and cupcakes for the kids, and that was about $500.

You could spend much more or much much less, but I get the sense you're just looking for some kind of idea about what this sort of thing might cost, so I thought I would share.

I agree totally with the advice that you should decide on the things that are most important to you both and focus on those. Ours were food and location, and we lucked into a very inexpensive and lovely location, so we went nuts with the catering.
posted by ersatzkat at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2009

it seems everyone I know got Married recently and there were a lot of different Budgets Involved.

I know a few people who hacve done it really cheap. Celebrant small Ceremony. No fancy White Wedding Dress. followed by a Party with some snacks for a reception.

Probebly costs <>

I know others who spent $100 a head for Catered Food+wINE(which wasn't that great).

I was talkign to this guy the other day in London and it sounded like his Weddign was costing about £25,000+

The bride spent £2000 on a dress I think. thats insane.
posted by mary8nne at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2009

Catering will be the big deal. Do you want dinner? I don't think you can do dinner for much less than $40/person. Yo'd could do appetizers though for a lot less. We did our wedding/recepetion for about $8,000 for about 100 people. That included food, booze (bought our own wine for dinner but paid for an open bar), invitations, decorations (minimal), linen rental, cupcakes (no wedding cake), and incidentals. Didn't include flowers (my mom paid for those) or my dress (ditto).
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:51 AM on March 26, 2009

Just wanted to chime in about your plan to get friends to help out with various tasks, especially the wedding dress. While I'm sure many couples have a positive experience in these circumstances, make absolutely sure that your friends are reliable and understand your expectations. I have read on a wedding site of a nightmare scenario regarding a dress, and it really made life hell for the bride in the few days before her wedding. I'm sure your fiance's friend is up to the task, but a wedding dress is a huge project and there are a lot of places it can go wrong.

I also agree with idea that you should set your budget first, and then try to fit everything into that budget. If you really have no idea, try visiting some venues to get an idea of how things are priced. You will be able to see what you can get at different price points.
posted by JenMarie at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2009

Oh one trick---lots of places have a "cake cutting fee", a typical example of wedding catering ripoffery. Yes, the caterer will try to charge you a few hundred bucks to spend 15 minutes slicing up your own cake. So don't have a cake, have wedding cupcakes instead.
posted by bonehead at 9:52 AM on March 26, 2009

Some friends are getting married soon actually and are going the Spit Roast Pig + Salads Option for Food. Having the reception on their property.

Which must be cheap per head. the Beer and Wine is going to be nmore than the food I think.
posted by mary8nne at 9:53 AM on March 26, 2009

In terms of average price data points the average in the UK is about £15K - honeymoon included.

An obvious way of trimming costs is to invite fewer guests - especially if you having the event catered.

I think you have understood the most important rule of wedding budgeting which is that there are all sorts of fripperies which you can avoid without damaging the fun, or integrity of the event. Moving to a pot-luck meal would also be on that list in my book.
posted by rongorongo at 10:01 AM on March 26, 2009

Having an afternoon tea as the reception, or a brunch as the reception, is generally cheaper than lunch or dinner. Dim sum would be awesome if your family and friends like it.

Also, don't tell the caterer it's a wedding until you've agreed on a menu and price. Just say it's a party. Seriously, you will pay at least 10% less if you don't mention the w-word.

We spent $10K on a really lavish lunchtime wedding for 160 people, complete with magicians to entertain the kids, back in 2000.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:04 AM on March 26, 2009

Consider heavy appetizers instead of a sit-down meal for your guests. You get more variety that way, and more bang for your buck, and people spend more time mingling, dancing and having fun than sitting at a table waiting for the food to come.
posted by misha at 10:04 AM on March 26, 2009

One food/booze/location cost-cutting option would be to think outside the box in terms of time-of-day. Through the nineteenth century, wedding breakfasts/brunches were in vogue, and I'd always thought that idea could turn out very charming and classy-- lighter (and presumably cheaper) food, less drinking even with an open bar, a chance to utilize different spaces from the traditional cocktail/evening-party-style wedding. You also wouldn't be competing with the evening wedding crowd, so you might get more selection in terms of venue, and possibly even a discount since vendors could double-book. Never had the guts to do this myself, but it's an idea.
posted by Bardolph at 10:06 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Photography is barely touched on here. Are you planning to have a professional photographer? This is usually a major expense. If you are planning to have a friend do it, beware that you may be disappointed (unless he/she IS actually a professional).
posted by peep at 10:10 AM on March 26, 2009

When we got married we hired an out-of-town caterer who drove the food and equipment in. Since we live in the largest city in the vicinity and had the caterers in from my wife's small home town there were considerable savings even considering paying for gas and driving time. I was surprised by how much money this saved.

We also arranged our own beer and wine and that's all the alcohol we served. We were able to shop for deals on kegs and cases of wine and that saved money as well.

The cheapest combo we came up with for location was to do the wedding in a park (with proper permit, but it was still dead cheap compared to proper halls) and the reception in an oddball ethnic association hall that was functional and fun but not nice enough for the service. Of course you're rolling the dice with an outdoor wedding. Our invitations were inexpensively duped on nice stationary we bought at an ordinary stationary store, we got cheap silly party favors for the tables at this place, we had an accommodating friend do the DJ job for a decent but not professional fee, another friend with a decent camera do the photos (this is a judgment call based on how important photos are to you: a talented amateur with a decent camera is just not the same as a pro with a serious real professional's camera, but honestly, we basically never look at our wedding pictures, have a few of the nicest ones in frames), I wore a nice suit which also served me well in getting my next job and my wife wore a nice white dress that was not a proper wedding dress, we had friends do the flowers and my wife's hair - in general we rigorously avoided the wedding industry, which reliably slaps a "getting married has surely paralyzed your brain" surcharge on very ordinary things, most of which will be tossed and forgotten before the end of the night.

You've got to both be on board with this sort of program, but I was very glad we did it this way at the time and it all seems like great decisions after the fact. We had fun and didn't worry about normal exigencies "ruining" our artificially "perfect day." The most common comment we got after the fact was how much fun our wedding was. I have tons of good, happy memories of my wedding and couldn't care less that it wasn't fancy in the conventional way.
posted by nanojath at 10:10 AM on March 26, 2009

In NYC, your biggest cost will be food & location. I'd check the Indiebride forums, specifically the cost-cutting subforum, for some ideas. There are NYC-specific threads in the Vendors subforum too, so you can look for locations and catering ideas. The consensus there is that if you want dinner, you'd be hard-pressed to do it under $50/head here (but many people have done it a little cheaper - you just have to be willing to compromise on some things). That would put your budget around $7,500 just for catering, not to mention venue rental, etc.

Popular locations on that forum (at least when I was planning my wedding) seemed to be the Foundry in Long Island City, and Bubby's. The Foundry would be more work for you since you have to coordinate all your vendors. Bubby's provides the location for the reception, and they're right by park space where you can have your ceremony.

I know you want to have a magic number from which to start, but you really have to look at it as "what can I afford?" AND "what am I willing to spend?" to get the right budget for yourself. If you can spend $20k without going into major debt, but the thought of spending that much really pisses you off, target a smaller number. A wedding in NYC can be done on the cheap, but it involves a lot of work hunting down bargains and negotiating.
posted by bedhead at 10:13 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Contrary to the advice above, you DO NOT want to skimp on the photographer or rely solely on friends/family to take photos. This should be handled by a professional who is familiar with lighting, posing, post production, web display, album design, and printing.

Your wedding photos will be one of the very few tangible items you will have to remind you of your special day and there are no retakes. Hire a professional.
posted by nineRED at 10:19 AM on March 26, 2009

Couple things:

A - It is your (both of you) wedding. Don't cut corners if you don't have to. Enjoy the day... the bills will be there tomorrow.

B - Food is relatively cheap. Get pasta, chicken, potatoes, a salad, and a cake. Have friends and family pot luck the cookies.

C - Liquor... This is where the cost comes into play. This can cost a lot. Have it be a cash bar? Or if you have a family like mine (that would piss them all off to no end!) buy like 2 kegs (miller or coors should do nicely), 20 bottles of cheap well mixers, and get like ten bottles of red and white? That shouldn't be more than 500$. Also if you are near the Canadian border... do a duty free run with a couple of friends. For my brother's bash we did this and saved a ton.

D - If you do not want a ton of flowers then you will save a ton of cash. They are very very costly and very prone to dieing. Not worth it.

It sounds like you have everything pretty much covered. Also ask the father of the bride to pitch in! His daughter is getting married for heaven sake!
posted by Mastercheddaar at 10:22 AM on March 26, 2009

I'm getting married in October and agree with everyone that catering, location and alcohol will be your major expenses, next being a professional photographer if you have one. I had no idea how much anything would cost when I started planning, so I just called around to get some ideas.

If your date is flexible, things are often cheaper on a Friday or Sunday. We're doing a Friday night, heavy hors d'oeuvres instead of a plated dinner, ipod/laptop for the music, and my family is baking cupcakes. I decided that the food and alcohol were the important things to me, so I'm spending the largest amount on the caterer. I'm doing the invitations and flowers myself, as well as most of the decorations.

We were planning on around 10k, but it's coming out more like $14k. We can afford it without going into debt, so that's okay. And we're in the midwest, so I'm sure your stuff will be more expensive. Also, I really like the budgeting and planning tools on The budgeting tool will also give you some industry averages.

A friend of mine is also creating a menu of 4 "specialty drinks" along with beer and wine to limit the types of alcohol she had to buy. Note that if your location will let you bring your own booze (may require that the caterer serve for liquor license reasons) that will help your cost immensely. That's the first thing my caterer told me when she found out my location allowed it.
posted by thejanna at 10:29 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

We chose a reception location that was essentially free and had an industrial kitchen. The caterer was thrilled to have those resources.

We rented dishes, linen and silverware from a local renta-center. Fairly cheap.

We bought the wine/champagne ahead of time from Trader Joe's by the case and decorated plain paper disposable paint buckets for ice buckets. For non-champagne, we put a cheap cork puller on ever table.

We found several internet startups that were failing and liquidating stock. That enabled us to buy decent enough champagne flutes for $0.50. We had a rubber stamp made with our names and the date and rolled a bakeable enamel of the stamp onto each glass and solved the "takeaway gift" and toast in one go. We also got liquidation priced tea light holders and candles.

We also bought flowers in bulk and family made simple table settings (champagne flutes for vases) and bouquets and buttoniers. This was a very nice thing, I thought, as most of the "women folk" got together at one large table and talked and just were family while they trimmed flowers and made settings.

The most expensive thing by far was the catering. I think it ended up $30/head. The next most expensive thing was a band - my insistence - I believe in live music. The first dance was sung by a friend of mine with the band.

Friends and family decorated the meeting house where we were married and the reception hall.

Nearly everything in a wedding that costs money can be exchanged for time on your part. If you think about it in those terms, it's fairly easy to drop out of pocket expenses. With enough prep, in most states there's a provision for allowing part of your family to be the officiant. I've been to a wedding where the reception was done in a public park. The tables were picnic tables with paper coverings, which went with the barbecue buffet.

I think we had one goal in mind - not to create a fairytale wedding, but instead to set the stage for a warm, happy environment where it would be easy for people to laugh and talk and be the friends and family we like best. We also tried to set things up for a few things that were simple and memorable. My friend singing our first dance was one. I also carefully hid a flugelhorn near the band setup the day before so I could surprise the new Mrs. Plinth at the reception (note: I don't recommend this specific thing unless you know how to actually play, otherwise it might be memorable in a terribly different way).
posted by plinth at 10:31 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

do you have a friend or relative who has a house in the suburbs with a big enough lawn to host an outdoor wedding? even if you want to prepare against rain and rent a tent (and you'll probably want to rent tables and chairs too), it would still probably be cheaper than finding a place to rent in NYC.
posted by jrishel at 10:33 AM on March 26, 2009

Your wedding photos will be one of the very few tangible items you will have to remind you of your special day and there are no retakes. Hire a professional.
posted by nineRED at 10:19 AM on March 26 [+] [!]

I wholeheartedly agree with this, though I also realize that photographs are very, very important to me. Not everyone feels that way, so consider carefully how important they are to you. Imagine seeing all of the amateur photos, and not one includes you and your husband in a flattering way. One of you is always slightly obscured, wiping cake from your mouth, adjusting your dress, or closing your eyes. If you could laugh this off and still enjoy the photos, more power to you.

I hired a professional photographer and consider it one of our best expenditures. The pictures are so lovely, of not just the two of us, but of our families and friends. These I really treasure.
posted by JenMarie at 10:33 AM on March 26, 2009

Also, check out NY Mag's reception guide - if you scroll down, the right sidebar has links to different types of weddings, at different budget levels, with all the costs broken down for specific locations & vendors. That helped a lot with my wedding planning.

We had cupcakes instead of a wedding cake - 14 dozen cupcakes, set up and delivered, were a few hundred bucks and they included a cake for us to cut.

And I agree with a lot of posters about the importance of wedding photography - if you're into that sort of thing. My husband and I are photographers, so photographs were very important to us and we hired a professional photographer. If they're less important to you, go the "friends with cameras" route, or look into photographers who are just starting out.
posted by bedhead at 10:40 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

To be the biggest way you can save funds is find a location that doesn't tie you to a specific caterer. I find at those places they have inflated prices and the quality isn't there. Granted now you have more choices to make but now you have the flexibility to hit the right mix quality, quantity and budget.

Limiting your drink choices will allow you to buy in bulk which will save money.

Lastly if you are getting married at an unpopular time of the year you might be able to get concessions out of your location or other vendors. A friend here in Cincinnati got married right before Christmas and was able to get them to throw in the full bar service for the evening.
posted by mmascolino at 10:45 AM on March 26, 2009

we found a very good photographer who was just starting out - he gave us an incredible deal due to his lack of experience. Our videographer was a journalism student who charged an very low rate and gave us a video that is much better than anything we've seen by 'professional' videographers. If you have time, look for deals like these - check out your local community college.
posted by sid at 10:50 AM on March 26, 2009

I ramrodded a friend's ultra-cheap (I would guess under $1000) wedding, and the best trick I learned was to go to Costco.
Flowers from Costco -- called ahead and had them reserve 10 or 12 dozen white roses; $16/2 dozen meant under a hundred dollars for a shopping cart full of flowers. No bouquets for bridesmaids, just a small bouquet for the bride, and the flowers massed in vases on the tables creating instant centerpieces. I suck at flower arranging, but it still looked gorgeous and weddingy.
Food from Costco -- daytime wedding at a state park, no table service, so party trays of sandwich rollups, etc. Good food and lots left over, which suggests I overbought.
Cake from Walmart -- minimal decoration, just throw a few of the real flowers on top. Costco also does cakes; I don't remember why I went with Walmart.
Venue was state park -- cheap to rent, ceremony outside and reception in a pavilion.
Alcohol wasn't allowed at our state park, but the plan had been to buy at Costco and bring in coolers.
Dress -- bride's dream dress showed up on Ebay and she got it for under $100
Music -- iPod and speakers.

Now, if I were arranging a wedding to my own taste there are a lot of things that I would have done differently, but this wedding came off remarkably well for the lack of preparation on the part of the bride and groom. People enjoyed themselves, it felt like a wedding, and they didn't spend much money at all.
Someone upthread mentioned wedding breakfasts. Even if you don't go that old-school, people do drink less at a daytime wedding (and a light buffet lunch is cheaper than a dinner). Plus it's really nice in terms of timing, because it allows people time to get home in the evening without having to skip out on the fun.
posted by katemonster at 10:52 AM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

I found this comment in a recent wedding-related FPP to be pretty accurate.

Have you ever tried to feed 100+ people, 100+ people with access to free booze? The logistics require a lot of planning. It takes a lot of help and even nice, sober people to clean up afterwords. Plus, you're going to need to provide every cup, napkin, piece of silverware, table cloth, table and folding chair, plus the manpower to set them all up and take them back to the rental house when everything is done. So even if your relatives provide all of the food, you're still looking at $10-20 per person to cover that.

On top of that you're going to be spending at least $10 per person on alcohol (some won't drink, but others will drink a lot), this is if you're lucky enough to find a venue that won't make you pay for a bartender. Now you're at $3000-$4500 for a 150 person potluck wedding. If you aren't equipped to do a potluck wedding throw in another $20 pp to have something inexpensive delivered like barbecue or sandwiches, bringing the total to $6000-$7500, and that doesn't include a venue fee, officiant fee, wedding cake, photographer, wedding clothes, rings, honeymoon, or postage for invitations.

posted by misskaz at 10:56 AM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

We got married at my mother's house, and had 26 guests. It was a lovely, intimate party with just the people we really cared about there. No social pressure to invite this person or that person just because we'd invited someone else. No worries about what co-workers might feel slighted. No rude guests. Just us and people we really loved.

I note you say "about 150 people" -- I would challenge you: how did you arrive at this number. Obviously, the more people you have the more expensive things are going to be. So, have you actually made a list? Sit down and make a list of just the people who pop to mind immediately: your close family (parents, siblings, grandparents), your close friends. How many people is that? Do you really need all those other people at your wedding?

Your wedding photos will be one of the very few tangible items you will have to remind you of your special day and there are no retakes. Hire a professional.

Another viewpoint here: We had no photographer at our wedding. I have one photo, taken by a friend, of my husband and I together, and that's all I need. The "tangible item" that I have to remind me of our special day is my husband.
posted by anastasiav at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Those saying you should pick a number you can afford are absolutely right.

A couple thoughts on photographers:

Friends of mine were looking to save money on their wedding photography, so they put up a craigslist ad that said, essentially: we're looking for a photographer to shoot our wedding, experience with weddings not necessary but you must have a website with samples of your work for us to view, we'll pay you $200 plus the cost of gas and we'll feed you dinner, we want all the digital images at the end of the night and will do our own color-correctin/printing. They got a few angry e-mails saying that $200 was wildly inappropriate and insulting; they also got two guys who agreed to work for that rate. They love their wedding photos. The photographers they ended up hiring were photo assistants to a professional photographer, so they were looking to earn some extra cash, not thinking of it as a full time profession.

My fiance and I were a little less adventurous than that and hired a woman like sid's photographer--she doesn't have a ton of wedding experience, so she's not charging Serious Wedding Prices yet. We talked to an established local professional wedding photographer before we chose the one we hired, and I'm sure we're missing out because his work is fantastic, but we just couldn't justify spending several thousand on a photographer.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It costs a bunch of money to feed a 150 people. Also, renting a hall is expensive. Those are probably your two biggest costs. You should figure out how much you want to spend. I know you say you have no idea, but that's basically bullshit. You must know how much money you and your spouse have to spend. Going into debt for a wedding is stupid.

When I got married, we had the wedding in my parents backyard, which was big, and could accommodate 80 or so people -- I think. We weren't at 150 anyway. We had to rent a big ass tent and tables, but it wasn't particularly pricey. If you are in NYC i'm guessing no one has a giant ass backyard, but I could be wrong.

We had Tamil food, because I'm tamil, and that's what Tamil people eat at weddings. I think it was way cheaper than $40/head, but then, it's all curry and things like this.

I had friends/family take photos, and as others have said above, they are probably going to be pretty so so. I find wedding photographers get in the way, and I didn't want posed photos, so that was fine with me. I think my wife would have preferred we had a real photographer. (I actually took photos at the wedding when it was done, which I enjoyed.) I took photos at my friends wedding, and he was happy with things. I guess it depends on what your expectations are here, and what you want.

Now is a good time to call in favours. My cousin got us a PA system for stupid cheap. My aunt who makes wedding cakes made our cake. My wifes friends mom who does flowers did flowers at cost.
posted by chunking express at 11:01 AM on March 26, 2009

Response by poster: To be clear - our sensibility is not "traditional wedding." We're more interested in just throwing a big party which all of our friends come to, have a band play, do a lot of dancing and drink a lot.

I think the most important things for us are:

-Food is good
-Location is good

everything else is just a formality. I didn't mention wedding pics, but I know some peeps who are professional wedding photogs, so that's not so much a concern to me.
posted by orville sash at 11:02 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Oh I forgot about drinks. We bought them all ourselves. In Ontario you can return unopened wine back to the LCBO. So even if you over estimate you are still in the clear. Everyone I have spoke to has said doing drinks themselves was WAY cheaper than an open bar run by a catering company or a hall.
posted by chunking express at 11:03 AM on March 26, 2009

Best answer: and how can I do it cheaper?

As my partner and I are planning our wedding, I decided on an approach that has proven the single most useful strategy for cutting costs: we're thinking of it as a party where we're getting married, not as A Wedding.

For planning resources and advice, I'm looking at websites and books for party-planning, not wedding-planning. This way, I find practical, useful tips for feeding, entertaining, and seating a large crowd, without the assumptions that come with weddings. No seats swathed in tulle, no favors, no assumption that I'm a pretty pretty princess gearing up for her special day.

So far, it's been a very useful strategy, and it means that rather than following some standard template of wedding-related expenses and rituals, we're building our wedding from the ground up, only including the elements that matter to us and spending money on things that we want. (Splashing out on the food and drink: check! My dress, on the other hand, was under forty bucks.)

Though a couple of family members offered their homes, we found it was less expensive to rent a very plain hall complete with tables and chairs than to have it at a private home and rent the necessary tables and chairs, and portable toilets. In NYC, that may not be the case, but it's worth looking hard at the numbers. Also factor in the possible inconvenience to yourself and to the homeowner: clean-up before and after, parking, plumbing issues.

If you're looking to rent a venue, be sure you ask about restrictions on providers of food and drink. Many sites require a licensed caterer, which means you can't self-cater; some sites further restrict you to a short list of "preferred vendors." Our single biggest cost-cutter was renting a grange with a commercial kitchen and no restrictions on food providers: we can hire any cater we want, bring in take-out or commercially prepared food, or even make all the food ourselves.

That's our current plan: we're self-catering with a combination of simple foods. A few of the items on our buffet, which you could customize for your tastes:
- mezze platter: hummus, pita, olives, cubes of feta, and a spread of crudités. I enlisted my mother to prep the crudités a day before the wedding. I'm making the hummus myself; homemade hummus can be frozen in an airtight container. Just reheat in a microwave (or warm gently on the stove) and whip it together to re-emulsify the oil and liquid. Remember that freezing can intensify seasonings, so be conservative and test when you thaw it. Add some fresh lemon juice and it's perfect.
- cheese plate: buy big wedges and chunks of the nicest cheese you can afford. Plunk 'em on a wooden board or platter with a bunch of grapes, a pile of dried cherries, and a bowl of spiced nuts. Add a basket of french bread and a basket of crackers. Be sure to provide appropriate cheese knives!
- savory pastries: I'm making massive batches of savory pastries and freezing them unbaked. On the wedding day, our hired servers will bake them according to my (printed) instructions and plate them. Any cookbook or culinary website will have examples, but some ideas: spanikopitas, mushroom turnovers, empanadas. If you do this, I strongly recommend making and freezing a test batch.

We're filling it out with other foods, homemade or purchased; this is just a starting point. Crucially, I have planned this so that neither I nor my partner will have to cook anything for the buffet in the two weeks leading up to the wedding. I assume that lots of last-minute tasks will pop up, and I want to be free to wrangle them without worrying about the menu. My mantra: at the end of the day, if A) we're married and B) no one has food poisoning, I'll be happy!

Make no mistake: self-catering is a huge task, and not to be undertaken lightly. I've worked as a caterer and have coordinated and cooked for many large parties of my own; even so, I have a back-up plan in case of freezer failure, time crunch, or emotional melt-down. (Hint: it involves a combination of CostCo and take-out.)

Family members are helping out with the bustle of setting up the hall (setting up tables and chairs, lighting, music). We're going to:
- authorize each person to make executive decisions over their volunteer duties, making it clear that we trust their choices.
- designate one family member as the contact person for our hired servers on the wedding day.
- tell my Best Woman that her single most important job is to buffer me from the question, referring people to the designated decision-makers.
We hope these two measures will reduce the number of tiny little questions the two of us will field on this very hectic day.

These tactics will probably work best for a casual, wedding party. Our approach is perhaps unsuited to a posh satin-and-lilies wedding.
posted by Elsa at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2009 [11 favorites]

Our wedding ended up costing about $4,000. At least $1,500 was flowers.

We rented a community rec center. It ended up being a really nice venue.

We rented the PA system. It cost around $75. I rented the tux, she rented the dress. She loved her dress and has wished several times afterward that she would have purchased it instead, but it was a savings of about $1,400 to not buy it.

The biggest thing we did that saved money was have a potluck. People all brought their favorite dish. We probably had 90 to 115 people at the event, and many people told me during and afterwards it was their favorite wedding they'd been to in years. Everyone seemed to really like the food. I went to a catered wedding the week after ours, and the whole time I was thinking how much better I had liked the potluck food. My biggest regret about the wedding is I didn't get to eat hardly anything because I was busy with my groomly duties!
posted by Happydaz at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2009

I agree with Elsa too. Also, wanted to say that most people I know would be thrilled to be invited to a casual wedding rather than a stiff formal affair, so be sure to communicate the casual nature in the invites.

I think a really important component in the casual wedding is how you handle gift expectations. IF you're going to register, ONLY do it at a discount store like Target. Better yet, specify "no gifts" on the invitation if you can. Or even better yet, ask guests to donate to your or their favorite charity in lieu of gifts. especially charities that benefit the less well-off in these hard times will make you look really classy no matter what you wear going down the aisle or what munchies you serve your guests.
posted by marsha56 at 11:30 AM on March 26, 2009

On the cheap? In New York? For 150 people? No. This will not happen. Sorry, man. You're hosed. You'll probably have to spend over $10,000 just for food and location. That's if you buy your own liquor and wine in bulk. Even in Brooklyn or Queens.

Take this as a reality check. If you want to have 150 people there, be ready to pay and pay and pay.
posted by hardcore taters at 11:31 AM on March 26, 2009

Response by poster: Well, taters, in Queens is ideal because most of our friends live here, but not essential. If we need to, we'd do New Jersey (the future mrs. sash's family is mostly in Jersey). We've also toyed with the idea of doing it in western Massachusetts (where we met.) I'm just trying to figure out a way to do it economically without having to stray too far from home.
posted by orville sash at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2009

One thing to keep in mind when calculating your budget: don't forget about tips. If you have the wedding catered and you have staff circulating with your platters of hors d'oeuvres or a bar tender, you'll need to factor their tips into your budget.
posted by onhazier at 11:36 AM on March 26, 2009

You seem to not really know what the budget is for a traditional wedding. It's fine for everyone to mention their specifics but if you don't know what they're talking about, you don't know what they're talking about. The trick is to get a basic plan layout, see what goes into a wedding, and then start forming your priorities, you wishes, your wants, etc. Saying "a good location and good food" doesn't take into account invitations, transportation, wedding bands, wedding license, honey moon costs, etc etc. Get a chart that covers the basics, and the start fudging.

The basic one is to make an account at the knot, go to your profile and click on the "budget planner" button. Then put in a total cost for fun "$10,000 dollars" say, and see how it pre-populates all the fields. You'll notice ridiculously low budgets for things (600 for a photographer? really? 200 for bands?) but it'll layout the traditional expenses for a wedding and at least give you a framework to base yourself as you start thinking about planning your big day.

Is there a lot of things that you will think are nonsense on the budget list? Yes. But the easiest way to make your wedding costs explode is to not realize all the expenses that go into a wedding (or can go into one) and get caught off guard. Start with the basic and extravagant. You can then CUT DOWN which is must easier than going "oh we need this. and this. and this."
posted by Stynxno at 12:23 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

* Drinks. Narrow the list -- serve just beer, just wine or maybe a signature cocktail of some type -- White Ladies look pretty cool and are easy to make. Trying to outfit a full bar will kill you.

* The Cake. Yes, have your friend make it. 90% of the bakers use cake mix, up to and including Duncan Hines. You're paying for the decorating, not the cake. Another cake option is to have your friend(s) make multiple regular-size cakes (carrot, chocolate, red velvet, whatever they've got a good recipe for) and serve those. Lots easier to transport and everybody gets a choice. Most unfrosted cakes also freeze well, so they can start ahead of time and minimize the stress.
posted by Atom12 at 1:14 PM on March 26, 2009

Start with the basic and extravagant. You can then CUT DOWN which is must easier than going "oh we need this. and this. and this."

No doubt this is invaluable for some people, but it's not the answer for everyone. For us, the planning process smoothed out once we put away the wedding templates and started brainstorming on a blank sheet of paper. That worked out much better for us than taking a list of the usual wedding stuff and crossing off unwanted elements. I suspect this is partly a question of personality, and partly a question of how structured and/or traditional a wedding you want. As is so often true in planning and organizational questions, it's a matter of figuring out which approach works best for you, and then honoring your preferences.

I wholeheartedly agree with Stynxno that it's helpful to take a look at a standard template (budget or planning, whichever) at some point during the planning; I just don't think it's necessarily the the best way to start the planning. In the early stages, wedding templates and spreadsheets made me anxious and overwhelmed my partner. We learned to put them away until the ideas for our own wedding party were firmly seated in our minds. After we figured out what we wanted in our wedding and what we didn't, I pulled out one of those checklists from the wedding-industrial complex and another from a self-catering book. I carefully compared both to our wedding party checklist, to be sure we weren't overlooking something crucial.
posted by Elsa at 1:50 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I haven't read everything upthread so my apologies if I'm redundant.

We did our wedding on the super cheap <>
#1 My mom was 45 minutes late to the ceremony. Not much you can do there.

#2 We had a friend photograph the wedding. She was/is an amature with some experience but I was fairly disapointed in the results. I wish that I had splurged on a professional photographer. They are expensive but it is my only regret.
posted by Abbril at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2009

Ok, half a paragraph disapeared.

Supposed to read: We did our wedding on the super cheap under $3000, including everything. Five years later I only have 2 complaints...
posted by Abbril at 2:48 PM on March 26, 2009

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned this one yet...but Chinese banquet!

We just got hitched last August and also tried to keep it as inexpensive as possible. We did it in the DC area and had the reception at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants (my mother is Chinese so she suggested the idea). Chinese banquets are a bang for the buck: usually about 10 courses (or more if you want), breaks down to about $40 per person for food, and the alcohol is either cheaper or they allow you to bring your own. Usually, popular Chinese restaurants constantly host banquets, so the party is run like a well oiled machine. And there are dance floors as well.

Plus, your guests will get a kick out of it if they aren't familiar with the authentic banquet experience.
posted by knmr76 at 3:46 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

N-thing potluck food. People like to help, the chief problem may be too many leftovers!

We went to a wedding reception held at the old people's day centre the parents volunteered at. Big hall, with kitchen. Not used at the weekend, so setup could be Friday evening and cleanup Sunday. Glad of any extra income.

Handmade cakes are nice, but it is very easy to trim up a supermarket one into something individual.

Lots of your friends can take good photos. Just designate one as the official photographer so that they can get everyone facing the same way at once. Pick out a good background at your venue.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:52 PM on March 26, 2009

I agree with Elsa, plan it like a party. Ignore the wedding-y stuff, although I kind of regret not getting matchbooks with Theora and Beelzabub - A Perfect Match(Perfect MATCH, heh) imprinted. Make it fit who you are. I'm sentimental so I had some family pictures there. I like my family so I asked family members to do readings. I remember loving weddings as a little girl, so my niece was a flower girl. Etc.

We found a location where we could bring our own food and drink. That was the biggest cost saving, and it was a great location. I wanted to do potluck, but my Mom pitched a fit, so I got friends to cook. The food was better than an affordable caterer, and I've finally done enough favors to pay those friends back.

We hired a bartender and had a full bar. Bad plan, waste of money. Get a lot of good beer in longneck bottles, and ice it. Make a lot of sangria, or some other punch with alcohol, and make lemonade or another alcohol-free punch. We used taped music (well before ipods) and everybody danced. Cake and food for 150 is not cheap, even if made by friends, so buy the materials for them. Cupcakes are easy to make, transport and decorate effectively. You could make 200 cupcakes, put a small flower on each one, and put a plate of cupcakes on each table.

Don't lose sight of the fact that the whole point is that you are making a lifetime commitment to honor and cherish your beloved. The ritual has deep roots, and you can make it resonate. You are sharing this ceremony with the most important people in your life. Everything else is the big party that celebrates this.
posted by theora55 at 4:14 PM on March 26, 2009

Since you're in New York - congratulations! You have a wholesale flower market.

Get someone to go to the flower market on the day of the wedding, in the wee wee hours (in LA the flower market opens at 2 am), and buy the flowers. Arrange them yourselves in cheap bowls from the dollar store.

You can buy $5000 worth of flowers for $500 at the wholesale flower market.
posted by musofire at 4:15 PM on March 26, 2009

Oh, and always, always, get family pictures of all your family. Everyone is there, as cleaned up as they're ever going to get, in nice clothes, and if you're quick, you can get photos before they get drunk. Seriously, my ex- took a picture at a wedding of the groom, his brothers and their Dad. The Dad died a year or so later and every one of those guys has that photo, framed, on a wall.
posted by theora55 at 4:16 PM on March 26, 2009

I have a few more thoughts. As I see it, the really salient factors here are:

-New York
-150 people

Both present major problems for a cheap wedding.

You are aware that the average cost of a wedding is north of $25,000, right? Average. I repeat again, average. Yes, this number comes from the publishers of Modern Bride, but still. (Fairchild Publications surveyed 1,000 people and the average was $28k in 2008.) If you want to see expected averages by zip code, see this link for an idea. In my Brooklyn zip code, the expected amount is in the range of $19-33k.

You will very likely pay way, way more than you would like (or than you expect).

Do not underestimate what it costs to have a wedding in New York. To rent a space will probably cost you over $4k (and those are the cheap ones). To cater, it will be $50 a head at the cheap end. That excludes booze. You also have to pay for plates and cups and tables and chairs and such. It is very expensive. The suggestion to have the party in a Chinese banquet hall is a good idea. But that means you have to have the ceremony somewhere else. Unless it's city hall, you are going to pay for that too. Probably over $1000, especially if you are doing it in a church/synagogue/etc. and you aren't a regular congregant.

The suggestions to have a potluck/make your own cakes completely ignore the large guest list size. If you ask a friend of yours to bake for 150, you are out of line. That is a job, not a favor. You also can't really ask out of town guests to bring food to a potluck. Besides, who will bring enough plates and such? And this ignores the fact that finding a space for 150 will likely involve your agreement to use a caterer from a set list.

In my view, you have four options.

1. Don't get married in New York. Find somewhere cheap and do it there.
2. Reduce your guest list size radically.
3. Increase your budget radically.
4. Some combination of these.

I don't want to bring you down from the engagement bliss, but I guess that's what I'm doing. Getting married is a big logistical tangle and, with 150 guests and a New York setting, a major financial commitment.
posted by hardcore taters at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's been nearly nine years, but I think it sounds like you have your priorities clear and in order.

For location, you'll pay a premium to be anywhere that views itself as a wedding location. If you are happy with a rec hall, community center, etc., it will be much cheaper.

We got married in Pittsburgh and found a somewhat dieing 'neighborhood club' that was the right size for over a hundred and cost us only a couple hundred dollars. Throughout the Midwest you'll go to weddings at the Legion hall or fire house. Not sure what like that you'll find in the city.

As to food - to have good food for 150 I'd recommend catering. You can cut costs by having it buffet style and having the caterer stick to the main meal. You can have friends handle appetizers, deserts, etc. We "splurged" a bit and had the caterer provide appetizers, but it was still pretty affordable. Finding a good caterer who is near your venue, affordable and flexible to work with you is a hunting mission. Ask everyone you meet on the street who should cater your wedding. Eventually you'll find the right folks.

If you do go with friends and family photography, I do suggest you nominate someone who you know is 'into' photography to help make sure you cover all the events and to help you gather, etc. for the requisite pictures. On your wedding day you don't want to be micro-managing, and if you just ad hoc it then everyone with a camera will be in each other's way at times, and all missing at others.

Most important: have fun! We did much as you are and planned our own wedding. Our family and friends had the time of their life and stuck to our budget. And we got the wedding and reception we wanted.
posted by meinvt at 4:38 PM on March 26, 2009

If you want to do it SOON: I was calling around pricing things for my wedding, and this place was having a sale for the Sunday, June 7th date: I think it was $60/person for everything because he really wanted to book it. A friend of mine got married there a few years ago and it was really nice. Anyway if you're interested and it's still available:
posted by pipti at 4:43 PM on March 26, 2009

Don't listen to hardcore taters. There are cheap options in NYC, you just have to know where to look. Like Elsa said, once you start thinking beyond "traditional wedding", you can find vendors that will be able to meet your needs at an affordable price. A few months ago, a Mefi meetup in Brooklyn (accidentally!) crashed a wedding reception in a bar. Lots of people, lots of fun.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:30 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

The number of people that are willing to help with your wedding will directly affect the cost. For example, is there someone who would be willing to do the food for you? You can buy the food; they can cook it on the day of your wedding and bring it to the location. This can cut your food costs in half. Anyone with a bit of artistic capability can do your flowers, there are even youtube videos that will teach you how to make hand tied bouquets and boutonnieres, and as previously stated there is a wholesale flower market in NYC, and if you choose flowers that are in season it will cost even less. Also, look for used wedding décor on craigslist, I just found 100 yards of tulle for $15.00 this way, and it is barely used. Making your own favors is easy, and can be a simple as a magnet with an engagement photo and your wedding date on it, or a bag of caramel popcorn with a nice ribbon and a tag (I made these for a wedding for about .42 per favor). The cost of 150 cupcakes and a topper may be cheaper than buying a cake, especially if you get them from a supermarket bakery and add something to each of them to make them look special and I agree that asking someone to do this as a “favor” is kind of rude. I just want to reaffirm what others have said DON’T SCIMP ON A PHOTOGRAPHER. If you cant afford one for the wedding at least do a day after session of some sort.
posted by toni_jean at 5:56 PM on March 26, 2009

From what you've said, you're most of the way there but I have some suggestions regarding food.

Firstly, if you are indeed going to have 150 people, instead of a costly three-course sit-down meal have you considered having cocktail nibbles? I don't mean cheese on crackers but a selection of warm and cold foods - garlic shrimp on skewers, small satay skewers, mini bagels and sliders, bruschetta, oyster shooters and so forth. I've been to two weddings where there were trays of these being circulated around the room and they worked well. Instead of being tied to your table, it was easier to wander around talking to people and mingling and no-one went hungry. If anything it was better because there was less waste, people could pick and choose, and there were plenty of options (gluten free, vegetarian, no-carb etc).

If you decide to go this route, you have two choices - caterers or home cooked. The first will be expensive (but generally cheaper than a three course), delicious, you'll save on the outrageous hire prices for crockery and cutlery, and it's pretty much worry free. Home-cooked will be a LOT cheaper but you'll have more of a logistics problem. You'll need to find serving staff (high-school kids of friends are perfect), you'll need access to at least one large oven and a deep fryer with a basket, you'll need someone to cook and assemble this stuff on plates and you'll need to source all of this yourself (not actually that hard, just fiddly). Go through your yellowpages or Google for bulk food suppliers in your area - many will sell direct to the public and it is possible to get pre-prepared food of good quality for only a little more than your basic frozen pizza.

For the record, I catered my own wedding and I did a buffet dinner. I had 40 people and hired some basic equipment like bain maries and one waiter/washer. I found it cheaper to BUY crockery and glasses than to rent it. I then cleaned and resold it on eBay for nearly the sell price. All the foods were made the day before or the morning of and reheated during the ceremony and I deliberately chose things that would reheat well (slow-cooked lamb-shanks with lemon and rosemary, Thai-style seafood and pumpkin curry, roast whole beef sirloin with jus, sides of steamed vegetables, rich potato mash with chives and butter, jasmine rice, and desserts were apple pie, pavlova and creme caramel).

Regarding booze, you might want to speak to some of the larger chain liquor stores. There are some that will sell you a mixed collection of spirits, beer, softdrink and wine and will throw in free glassware (you pay for breakages). They will suggest quantities based on your budget and guest numbers and will often BUY BACK any unopened bottles, so waste is less of an issue.

Memail me if you'd like more info. My total on the wedding, including dress, cake, food, marquee hire came to slightly over $2000.
posted by ninazer0 at 6:45 PM on March 26, 2009

I think I married ninazer0 because my wedding came to about $2000 too. I had 75 people, it was in my parents backyard, with an open bar, home-cooked food buffet-style and a professional photographer in a handmade dress. It was a lot of fun. I agree renting crockery is very expensive and crappy quality too. Since NYC locations are so expensive I like your idea of an out of town wedding, especially if you make it breakfast or mid-afternoon. If you like looking spiffy morning suits are only appropriate at weddings before 5 pm. Mimosa's are popular (and cheaper) toasts for daytime weddings. Off season is another way to save money, October is nice because pumpkins are cheap and are great for decorating, and autumn in the Northeastern US is so pretty (and safe) for driving if you were going to have it outside NYC.
posted by saucysault at 10:34 PM on March 26, 2009

I realize that you're having a civil ceremony, and not a church wedding, so this suggestion is maybe for future mefites checking this page for ideas.

If some of your friends are musicians, invite them to the wedding. They will most likely "give" you the music for your ceremony as your wedding gift. I've done this for many friends, and it's always an appreciated gesture (I'm a singer). It saves you a couple hundred in costs for the ceremony, too.

Oh, and congratulations!!
posted by LN at 6:17 AM on March 27, 2009

If some of your friends are musicians, invite them to the wedding. They will most likely "give" you the music for your ceremony as your wedding gift. I've done this for many friends, and it's always an appreciated gesture (I'm a singer). It saves you a couple hundred in costs for the ceremony, too.

That being said, don't be that person who invites an acquaintance just because they're a musician or photographer, etc. hoping for free services. We know what you're up to (I've taken to only bringing along the camera when I'm explicitly, sincerely told by the bride and groom that they want me to "leave it at home and just enjoy the party").

On another note, if you don't want to waste money, don't buy a bunch of disposable cameras for the tables and then pay for processing. This is a terrible, terrible money suck-- the pics will be awful and poorly lit, many of your guests will take them home (or photograph exposed body parts after a couple stiff drinks)....and you'll pay about $15 for 2-3 good shots each, in terms of camera cost and processing. Hire an art student, if you want to pay $400-500 on photography.
posted by availablelight at 8:15 AM on March 27, 2009

I recommend you check out the Offbeat Bride forum. You have to join, but it's a good way to connect with and get ideas from people who are planning budget, DIY, but still super-awesome weddings.
posted by apricot at 10:57 PM on March 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

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