It’s quite possible that our caterer is our favorite vendor thus far. Of course, it’s quite a close call, but they really upped the ante at last week’s site walkthrough.
I had only met our catering manager, Loren, in passing and exchanged a handful of emails with her, so I was really looking forward to meeting up with her at the venue to hear her ideas for setting up the space. We also hadn’t been there since we booked in January, so I was looking forward to a refresher.
This visit settled a lot of burning setup questions in my mind and we made some final decisions on the location and timing of the first dance, etc. It also resulted in some money unexpectedly saved – but a lot more money spent. Let’s recap – but first, some venue porn.
OK, now back to business.
I had completely forgotten about the two palm trees on our ceremony lawn, which create a natural focal point against which to get married. This totally and completely eliminates the worry about what to do about a ceremony arch. While I am a little regretful that we won’t have the flower garland, fabric-draped chuppahs, or other fantastic arch-like objects, I’m not at all upset that we won’t have to spend money and/or time on something I’ve only recently decided is of UTMOST IMPORTANCE.
Next, our caterer has an extensive prop room full of stuff that we can use without paying for a bit of it. I knew about the birdcage we were borrowing to use as a card “box” and the wedding sign that would greet guests upon driving into the gates. I did not, however, know that they have all manner of baskets (bathroom basket expense, solved), votive candles and holders (that lingering question of should we have candles, answered), and several cute mismatched lanterns (hello, high-top décor for cocktail hour).
Another amazing revelation: The caterer designs, prints, and sets up menu cards at each place setting. This is not a detail I was worrying over or planning to do on my own, but it’s such a pleasant surprise that they do this for us, and will be such a nice touch. They plan on working something up that mirrors our invites. Super!
I don’t know if this is really BAD, but there are some potential setup issues. Our reception room itself literally holds 80 guests. We have 80 guests on our list. There’s no room for anything in our room EXCEPT for guest tables. Well, and guests. So our escort card table, gift and card table, DJ, and bar will be on the back deck, while the buffet will be on the front deck. Thankfully, the back deck area holds 150 people, so there’s plenty of space to spread out.
There aren’t really better options, but the escort card table and high tops being on the back deck during cocktail hour means that, during cocktail hour, the staff will have to move the table to clear space for our first dance. This worries me – will it look tacky? They assure me it won’t, so I’m letting it go for now.
OK, now, this is partially our fault. We didn’t have anything saved upon getting engaged, so instead of planning a wedding two years away and saving a ton of money for a year before planning ANYTHING, we chose to marry a year from the engagement and save along the way. We figured out how much we could save in that amount of time, and made our purchases and commitments accordingly. The only problem is, we didn’t build in a ton of cushion.
At the site visit, we added several tables and accompanying linens. Along with some other items that had been inexplicably left off the original rental estimate (oh, like, salt and pepper shakers), the grand total came to $500 more than what we had budgeted. That reduced our cushion to $300 – not one I’m comfortable with three months out. This is just an estimate, and in the back of my mind I’m hoping and praying it’ll end up being less, but we can’t count on that. So, we had to trim. I moved my dress alteration allowance from the joint budget to my own budget. We eliminated favors – for now.
Still, let this be a lesson (assuming there are people out there as clueless as we were): Always build a COMFORTABLE cushion. I’ve heard it said that weddings most typically grow 20% above their original budget, so that might be a nice number to start with.
Another great reason for doing this is that often, things come up. Case in point: This past weekend, a sudden toothache resulted in an emergency root canal and crown. The good: I have great dental insurance. The bad: It’ll still cost $800. This significantly impacts the amount of money I can put into the wedding savings this month, and while I’m confident I’ll be able to make up that amount over the next couple of months, who knows what else might come up? Life doesn’t stop just because we’re planning and saving for a wedding.
So as we grow closer and closer to The Day, I find our peace of mind is sometimes supplanted by additional worries. As we solve the floor plan issue, we create additional potential issues. As we make some payments, we discover other budgetary concerns. In the end, the best thing to do is to focus on the moment we’re both married, and let the rest slip away. Thankfully, I’m currently on detail overload, so many things are escaping my obsessive spotlight. I just hope I can keep my wits about me in the handful of weeks to come.
Did you have pleasant surprises – and/or worries about room setup or other logisitcal details? Did you have any surprise expenses closer to the day-of? Did you build a cushion in your budget – or did you not, and what happened as a result?
*All personal photos