Every wedding and special event has a spending plan. Whether you have $2,000 or $2million, at some point, one has to make choices. One of the ways many couples decide to save money on their wedding reception food and beverage (the largest “slice” of the wedding budget) is by nixing a formal meal plan altogether. This is fine in theory, but if not done properly, guests end up paying the price and all that will be remembered was a miserable wedding.
What is happening: in an attempt to maximize their wedding budget, some couples will plan appetizer or dessert-only receptions during the hours of 11am-2pm or 5-8pm.
The problem: These are considered prime “meal” times . Guests coming to a wedding reception between these hours are expecting a meal – lunch- (11am-2pm) or dinner (5-8pm). It is unacceptable to have guests arrive for a wedding reception during these hours and feed them a light snack only. It is in poor form and leaves a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (pun intended).
1. Beef Up Your Budget to Do It Right . If your reception must take place during a window of 11am-2pm or 5-8pm on, you are required etiquette-wise to provide some sort of meal. Let me be clear on what that “meal” can look like : it does not have to be a sit-down plated or buffet meal. It can be appetizers, but if you are doing appetizers only during a prime meal-time window, the appetizers must be so plentiful , it is like serving a meal to your guests. This includes stationary , displayed appetizers, tray-passed appetizers, perhaps some carving or interactive food stations. And contrary to what most think, having an all-appetizer reception -when you are serving quantities that equal that of a meal – does not save more money than a regular meal may cost. If you are going to do this, do it right. It is recommended on average, for an appetizer-style reception that is taking place during a “meal” time, that it average about 15-20 pieces per person, as guests like to graze over a period of time and you are, in essence, having to provide them with a full meal in stages.
2. Change The Time of Your Wedding Reception. If your goal is strictly to save money, stop right there and change the time of your event to an off-prime meal time, such as 2-4pm or 7-10pm for savory appetizers or dessert only receptions . This will allow you to scale way back on food and beverage and just offer guests a light snack. Further, I always recommend on invitations when there is no meal being served, that a light mention of it occur: “join us for light appetizers and drinks following the ceremony” or “join us for a dessert and champagne reception following the ceremony” so that all are aware what will be provided.
Being aware of etiquette is not about elitist snobbery. It is about love and consideration for your guests. This is why manners and etiquette exist: it is about the act of embracing others. If you cannot afford to do it properly, it is far better to provide your guests with a quality experience that you can do properly. No one wants to leave a celebration on a down note, wondering what happened and hungry. All the love in the world you “felt” during your vows will not be remembered when the last memory a guest takes with them is that of skimpy food during a prime-designated meal time.
Being aware of good form as well as honoring your budget restraints in advance will ensure that your wedding – and guests- will be taken care of and remembered for a long time to come.