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9 ways to an affordable wedding reception

One of the highest costs for a wedding is the reception. Even with careful planning a reception can go from 35% to 80% of your overall budget if not executed properly. In 2009, the average couple spent about 35%-40% of their budget on the reception. In 2023, many couples are going over budget due to inflation, location and so many other factors. Here are 9 ways to have an affordable reception.

1) Reduce the guests list- There is no doubt you want all your friends, family and loved ones to attend one of the biggest events of your life. It can be painful deciding who to invite, but cutting down your guests list and only inviting intimate family and friends could save you thousands of dollars.

2) Host a 2-part reception- After the wedding host a small reception for your nearest and dearest friends and family (about 30 people). After the honeymoon host a casual cocktail party or gathering with all your co-workers, family and friends. This allows you to have the reception but still celebrate with all the other important people in your life without breaking the bank.

3) Negotiate- Speak to more than one of each type of vendor. It is always best to have a back up plan in case you can get a better deal. I say the minimum of each vendor should be 3. You should view at least 3 venues, speaks to 3 planners, 3 photographers, 3 caterers, etc. Ask them what their best deal is and what it includes. Don't always go for the lowest price, but the one you feel comfortable with, who offers what you're looking for and most importantly who is within your budget. The goal is to get the most service for your buck. If one photographer charges $1500 to do photography of the wedding and will send you all the photos on a hard drive and another charges $2600 to do photography of the wedding, reception, does 2 large developed photos, a photo book, and will send all the photos on a hard drive you have to determine what is most important to you.

4) Marry off season- With about 70% of couples getting married between May and October choose a slower month and get discounts. Many vendors have a "slow season" and will offer discounts to clients during those times. Depending on what part of the country you're on you can get better deals during certain months. You may even get better service from your photographer, planner, etc. because they are not over booked with other weddings/events. Stay away from December as it is holiday time and even if weddings aren't in season the holidays are a busy time for vendors and discounts may not apply. January, February and March are typically months with great discounts.

5) Choose a smaller city- Large cities have higher prices. Instead of choosing a large city choose a smaller city nearby that may offer better prices. For example, if you host a wedding at the Hilton in Scottsdale, Arizona you're going to spend 60% more than hosting it in Buckeye, Arizona. Cost could go from $150 per person to $75 per person for the same experience, different city.

6) Destination Wedding- It may seem like a destination wedding would costs more, however; may people can't, won't or don't have time and money to travel out the country. Your guests list gets smaller and if you do it during a "slow day", Sunday through Thursday you will pay even less. You can tie your wedding and honeymoon into one trip and save thousands.

7) Make it Brunch- Getting married earlier in the day makes a big difference. The meal changes and so does the budget. You can feed more people with brunch food than dinner food. The venue prices are lower and you can spend the rest of your day doing something exciting or leaving early for your honeymoon.

8) Don't marry on a Saturday night- Saturday night is the highest price for a reason, so many people need that day to celebrate their events. It is hard to do a week day because people are working, but many people look forward to gathering on a Friday night and you could save so much money. Prices could be lower by 40%. Sunday weddings are even lower. A couple I worked with got married on a Thursday night and saved 50% of her budget that they put towards their new home.

9) Skip the reception- Many wedding ceremonies are affordable and cheap. It is the reception that costs so much money. Have a longer and more extravagant ceremony then meet up for lunch at a reserved room in a restaurant. The food will be similar and you will save the marked-up price on the food. Instead of paying $125 per person you could be paying $45-50 per person.

You should have exactly what you're dreaming of for your wedding. These tips can help you do that and not wake up the next day swarming in debt. Making small changes can create big savings, but still feel like you didn't cheat yourself.

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Reporter for this article is Stacy Ayiers-Latimore. Reach the reporter of this article

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