Planning and Atlanta wedding. Well...trying to
April 23, 2014 1:51 PM   Subscribe

Another wedding question... So, newly engaged, which is awesome, but now that we've started trying to plan it, I feel so incredibly overwhelmed...and not in a good way. The first thing we need to do is figure out where. We have a budget of $5000 max, and every place I have researched or contacted has been at minimum $2000-$3000, and 90% of these would force us to use their own caterers and vendors. We are ready to try something nonstandard, but I have never even been to a wedding before, so...we am having problems coming up with ideas for a small wedding and reception of like 50 people max.

It would need to be in Atlanta. I thought about a wedding and reception at a cabin near Helen, GA, but my fiance pointed out that it'd be a pretty serious drive for our friends, with limited parking. We considered a park, which would basically be free, but it could rain, so it seems like terrible idea. Also, there's nowhere to have a reception really. I'd like to throw a fun party, and for some reason I think having an open bar in a park would be a bit frowned upon.

I have reached out to a number of places, after reading old askmefi and /r/atlanta questions, and the cheapest thing we have found is Dockside in Piedmont Park, at nearly $2000. Of course, they require you to use their approved caterers and things like that, so it would quickly balloon past our budget once we factor in decorations and dress and photos and all the other things I'm not thinking of. I would like to DIY as much as possible to save money, and I'd go so far as to make all the food myself if I have to, or cater from a local restaurant (I assume that'd be cheaper than professional event caterers). The ceremony and reception would ideally be in the same place.

I am pretty non-traditional, and so is my fiance, so we are ok with getting quite a bit away from the standard wedding narrative as long as we can have a meaningful ceremony and a fun reception for our guests, preferably in some place that is pretty/cool/interesting and not at all like something you'd see in a bridal magazine. However, I've never been to a wedding. I don't feel like I can be creative in coming up with ideas, because it just stresses me out, and I have no friends to help me. It will be just my fiance and me planning and executing the entire thing, and in a rather short time frame (I want to do this before winter).

I need ideas please, no matter how out-there, and specific recommendations if possible. And a little hope that this can be done for $5000.
posted by polywomp to Grab Bag (36 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about the Clubhouse of a nice apartment complex. I'll MeMail you with the info on ours, but it's gorgeous, and you can rent if for $400 plus cleaning. There's a lovely outdoor area, a catering kitchen, you can bring your own food. Sofas, tables, a huge TV, a pool table etc.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:53 PM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

first of all, when you're calling around, are you asking about weddings or parties? in all of your planning, get prices for throwing a party. some people balloon the cost just because of the word wedding.

secondly, consider halls - the shriners, the vfw, things like that. it's not as princess-y beautiful, but a far sight cheaper usually. make sure to specifically ask about booze when talking to them.
posted by nadawi at 1:55 PM on April 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

I would start with Offbeat Bride. I got loads of great DIY and cost-savings advice in their forums while planning my wedding and they have tons of other resources like vendor lists and stuff there. You will get a lot of good information and hopefully find other Atlanta-area people who have done a wedding on a similar budget.
posted by bedhead at 2:02 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Think about holding your ceremony & reception at a restaurant, if you can. Any place that isn't a traditional wedding venue will have a lot more flexibility and probably be a lot cheaper.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:05 PM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

If either of you are graduates, students or employees of a local university, many schools offer inexpensive rentals for weddings and receptions.
posted by jeather at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

The moment you say the word 'wedding,' prices go up. nadawi just said this, but I came in here just to say it, so I'm repeating it.
posted by wryly at 2:06 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

We had our wedding at a campground lodge--$1000 for the night, and it was beautiful. I think the cabin idea sounds awesome--is that free? In that case, could you pay for transport for your friends and family by renting a bus or something similar?

Many museums also rent out for events--also try historical societies and the like.
posted by chaiminda at 2:10 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you have any friends with big back yards? (Although I know back yards are pretty scarce in Atlanta.) My best friend and his wife got married and threw their reception in his parents' yard. It was a pretty good reception, and cheap.
posted by dortmunder at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I got married in my parents' backyard for way less than $5000, even with renting a huge tent, tables, and chairs. We did picnic style food and had a keg in lieu of a full bar. It was casual and fun and perfect for us. So: see if somebody you know has a good back yard.
posted by something something at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you have friends or family with a house that's good for entertaining? My sister had her wedding celebration at my parent's house (which, you know, is very old-fashioned, actually) and the only costs were food, booze and clothing. We had it catered and even hired wait staff. Bonus points if the house has a nice yard. I went to a wedding as a date once that was held in the bride's parents' backyard.

My sister's wedding was very simple: no flowers, no attendants, no decorations, no party favors, and a simple civil ceremony. But the other one was more traditional, with bridesmaids, flowers, and dancing.

(On preview--I second this suggestion)
posted by crush-onastick at 2:18 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

We used a B&B who for a similar price for a similar number of people included lunch, beer, and wine. We brought cake, and a JP married us outside in the park like grounds. It worked out great!
posted by jrobin276 at 2:20 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

As mentioned above, talk about a party, not a wedding. And when looking at wedding listings/directories, look for places that advertise themselves as good for a rehearsal dinner; we found our venue for a small wedding that way, though not in Atlanta.

Also, though the concept of a picnic in the park type arrangement seems like it would be simpler, it is actually likely to be more difficult and expensive, because it would require a lot of work to set up seating/tents/cooking facilities, etc. Unless you want really light food, you want a restaurant/event type setting where everything is already set up and available.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:22 PM on April 23, 2014

We also had a 50-person (actually smaller) wedding. Small is great. At one point, we considered just having our reception at a restaurant, renting their banquet/party room and just ordering pre-set dinners or buffet for everybody. Look into some local restaurants that would have room for 50 and see if you can have a group dinner, instead of "catering".

Other things that help with budget a TON:

- Have a Friday or Sunday wedding. Saturday night can be 2x the cost of other times.

- Have a lunch / brunch / cocktail reception rather than dinner.

We got married at a city park that had an indoor lodge building. Venues owned by the city/state tend to be cheaper.
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:22 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

My wedding was at an old Victorian house owned by some old-money society that is often rented out for such purposes. But there were no catering rules, so we did it pot luck. Which was great: all our friends wanted to help, and this way they had a specific way they could help. Happily, we know a lot of pretty good cooks. A friend officiated.

We paid for wine and beer, and enough champagne for a toast. The venue provided seating, we rented tableware. Budget was well under $5K IIRC.
posted by adamrice at 2:23 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

There are state parks that are nearer to Atlanta that have picnic shelters and conference centers in case of rain. One example, but explore the state parks website because there are other options.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Also: I think the wedding/party distinction isn't super helpful, partly because it's extra stress to act sneaky and keep up the facade that it's a "party", partly because then you can't use the same venue for ceremony/reception or have them help you with both, and partly because on principle, why give your money to the kind of people who will swindle you just because they hear the word wedding?
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:25 PM on April 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Liu Fu in Johns Creek can accommodate your group. Amazing Chinese Food, full bar, gorgeous, modern restaurant.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:26 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Check this thread
posted by nakedmolerats at 2:28 PM on April 23, 2014

Also: I think the wedding/party distinction isn't super helpful...

...especially if you're contacting locations that are super-popular wedding locations. It doesn't matter if you ask for a "party" or "wedding" because the room's price for Saturday night will be the highest they charge. They know someone will book a wedding in that spot if you choose not to.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:30 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, I also would avoid pretending it's not a wedding, BUT. We had trouble booking a photographer for our very non-traditional wedding UNTIL we said "look, we just need an event photographer" and hired someone based on his advertising as a corporate events photographer.

The problem was: wedding photographers sell packages that include 10-12 hours of pre-wedding "getting ready" shots, staged shots of the wedding party (sometimes at landmarks around town), in addition to working around ceremony restrictions, et cetera. We had a three-hour cocktail party: no ceremony, no attendants, no staged shots. Our "getting ready" events included feeding the cats and hailing a cab.

So, be honest--it is your wedding, but be firm in your needs. Our was: we are not going to pay 5K for 10 hours of "wedding" photography, when a corporate photographer at $150/hour for three hours will be perfect.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:35 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

We did a picnic shelter at a state park. It was great! Booze was allowed. You do need a permit in most places, but they tend to be closer to $100 than $2k. Do think about where you'll change, though. Also, check into tent rental if the place you like would be perfect but has no shelter from the rain.
posted by stoneweaver at 2:38 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Where do you and your fiance like to hang out, and why not get married there?

I have friends who got married in a mom-and-pop country-cookin' restaurant, in an art house movie theater, in a comic book store, in the grassy median of their quiet street (I think without a permit! But the ceremony was quick, and the reception was at the neighborhood bar)...
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 2:44 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did a Bed and Breakfast wedding. Great for guests coming far away, spaces to change and we didn't have to go anywhere on the day of the wedding but downstairs. They had an indoor and outdoor space. The reception was probably the most expensive part. The venue cost as much as renting the five rooms (their capacity) for about 500 dollars total.
posted by AlexiaSky at 2:51 PM on April 23, 2014

for what it's worth, i'm not suggesting to carry on some sort of party charade. but more like crush-onastick mentions - ask for event/party things because if you're going non-traditional, you don't need all the wedding trappings and expectations. this goes for flowers, cake, etc, not just the location of the wedding. a wedding cake is way more expensive than a 3 layer party cake - if you want a super fancy wedding cake, ask for it, but if a nice 3 layer cake will do you just fine, don't mention wedding when asking for prices. once prices are agreed upon and you get into the details you can just say it's for your wedding.
posted by nadawi at 2:54 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

One of the best tips we got in the planning process to save money across the board was to have a morning wedding with a brunch reception. Brunch foods can be CHEAP (eggs, toast, breakfast meats), getting it down to just champagne can cut the booze costs by 80%, and it allows for the dress and decor to be more casual which can be cheaper. If you live in a hot climate, you can still have a summer wedding outside in the morning if it's early enough.

But a word of advice: Don't start sacrificing your time (DIY) to save money too much. You will burn out, and all the joy will be sapped from your wedding before it ever happens. Ask me how I know.
posted by juniperesque at 3:09 PM on April 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

We got married in a small family-only ceremony at a local Japanese garden, then held a reception for about 75 people at a local brewery, which ended up being about $15/head, with unlimited beer so we saved on the bar bill. We booked a food truck for dinner, which supplied the food and non-alcoholic drinks for, I think, $8.75/head, and insteadof a cake go our favorite restaurant to supply several trays of mini-desserts. The one thing we splashed out on was the photographer, which accounted for nearly half of our total, which was around $7000. We could have even held the ceremony at the brewery if we wanted to, and if there had been rain that was our backup plan.

Part of the reason the brewery was inexpensive was that they only booked in 3-hour chunks, and we were fine with that, as neither of us wanted to stay up and party until dawn.
posted by telophase at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2014

In pricing things out, it might be worth figuring out how much it would cost to bus your non-driving friends to a slightly out-of-town location - if everything else is much less expensive outside the city, the cost might make sense.

Along the lines of the non-sneaky 'event not wedding' approach, we had great luck with the kinds of places, food, etc. that usually did family reunions and small business/church retreat type events. Our food, for instance, came from a little Italian restaurant (think meatball subs, not fancy tablecloths) that wasn't called 'so and so catering' but which was used to putting out big buffets of pasta and eggplant parm - they actually balked when they found out it was a wedding because they were worried we'd expect a higher level of service, but were happy to work with us once they knew that our friends/family were happy to do things like light the sterno cans twenty minutes before they showed up.

And for everything (especially a really nice representation of a *range* of DIY rather than just the folks who go all-out), take a look at A Practical Wedding (there's a book too.) And they have spreadsheets!
posted by heyforfour at 4:54 PM on April 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I married in Georgia (but not Atlanta) it was much much cheaper to get married on Saturday morning and have lunch foods catered. Or, think about earlier Saturday afternoon with a picnic or heavy appetizers / sandwiches afterwards. You will save a lot of money not getting married in the evening or having to serve dinner. We were able to use the church we attended for a very small fee, and use the church reception hall--we also did not serve alcohol, which was their policy and saved us loads of money.

We were able to rent a rustic cabin for the rehersal dinner; it was from a family we knew from work, we brought in our own bbq and beer and had a great time. Think about your connections at work, from college (if one or you or your parents went to school in Atlanta), and your friends. Someone may be able to find a B&B with a nice yard, a college chapel/gazebo/garden, a little utilized historic site, etc...
posted by bessiemae at 6:48 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, you may want to Google "house museums" and Atlanta or the other cities around Atlanta. Again, friends of mine worked for museums and some were on the beaten path more than others. Some smaller house museums may have cool facilities and cheaper rates. Example: Joel Chandler Harris house The Wren's Nest. $7 per guest under 50 guests and bring your own caterer or tent.
posted by bessiemae at 7:13 PM on April 23, 2014

I got married in Houston for your budget in the private room of a very nice Italian restaurant. The room was free - they made their money on food and drinks. We had about 40 people. I think restaurant private rooms are a great place for a small wedding.
posted by jeoc at 7:21 PM on April 23, 2014

Try the historic Trolley Barn In Atlanta. You can bring your own food and alcohol or use your own vendors, and you can check the rental price right on the site under "2014 fees." Rental price varies by time and day of the week, so you can save by taking that into consideration. Parking is free for up to 15 cars...looks reasonable.

Also, consider a small B&B that you could conceivably fill up with your guests. If they know they are going to rent out all the rooms, they may be more than willing to allow you the run of the place. You could use their public area(s) for your wedding and reception, since it is relatively small.
posted by misha at 8:54 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and since you are open to ideas out of left field, consider The Melting Pot Fondue restaurant for your reception! We're having a family reunion and are considering one of their party packages because the rates are so reasonable (and they were so willing to work with us to accommodate special needs, too!).
posted by misha at 9:04 PM on April 23, 2014

Some friends got married at the Roswell River Landing. I think they paid less than a thousand dollars, and it was a really lovely place, especially in the springtime.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 9:07 PM on April 23, 2014

A friend of mine got married at the Ritz Carlton in Buckhead. They used one of the smaller rooms and it wasn't very pricey at all and it was beautiful.
posted by dawkins_7 at 9:19 PM on April 23, 2014

What!? Awesome, congrats, yay to you and him both! Seriously, tell him I said 'grats.

I get that this is a venue type question and I have little/no Atlanta wedding experience but what about the Sweetwater Brewery? They may be out of your reach budget-wise, I have no idea, but still it fits some of your other criteria.

Beyond that we loved our beach wedding in Alabama. Five grand might buy you enough beachhouse to have a ceremony on the beach and the reception there afterward, not to mention everyone that can cram in gets to have a free vacation for the duration of the rental. But that's what we did and not what you're asking so I'll stop.

Did I say congrats? Congrats!
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:06 AM on April 24, 2014

Do you have a guest list count yet? That will determine a lot of what follows as well... Also a maximum radius from ATL metro area that you're willing to accept as an option... Or is that even too far? I think your cabin idea, distance aside, has the best outlook that I can think of.
posted by RolandOfEld at 9:35 AM on April 24, 2014

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