By: Revanche

Weddings: the cost of convenience

August 27, 2013

In our almost-whirlwind search for a reception venue, we found that doing this thing in Southern California, and from afar, most definitely has its costs.

The Bay Area is suffocatingly expensive in some respects but one of the family truisms is that it’s twice as expensive and half as good as Southern California as far as Asian cuisine goes. For the most part, I have found that that is true.

We pieced together the costs of doing a separate ceremony and reception, having realized that we do need to do a small/quick ceremony lest we utterly confuse the close (but not close enough) relatives who don’t know about the courthouse deal, and found that renting any kind of venue for about 200 guests in the general area that we’re considering is a pricey matter.

We were finding that before food, venues wanted thousands of dollars just to reserve the damn place. Then we’d have to pay for food, and drinks, and whatever foo-for-rah we decided that we wanted. I never thought of ourselves as having champagne taste on a beer budget, I figured that we really had tap water and pretzels taste on an equivalent budget, especially considering the cost of Fancy Craft Beer.

That didn’t really help us much. 🙂

So far, we’ve been getting prices between $75-120 per guest and that’s a bit appalling considering the alternative.  (The culturally traditional alternative would cost more along the lines of $40/guest. And mercenary as this is going to sound, I’m not going to be inviting many of the relatives who are obligated to give a fair amount of money to “repay” the gifts my parents gave, so we’re going to take a loss on the wedding. That’s just how the cultural version works, the couple is not expected to have to go into their marriage in debt from the wedding because the community gifts them with a solid start.)

Given my usual frugal (ahem even cheapskatey) ways, I would have preferred to paying that much lower cost but I think we’re going with a higher price tag for a greater degree of convenience: an “almost all-inclusive” that rolls in all the costs of your decor (which I don’t care much about), food, alcohol, a coffee station, cake, venue, set up and teardown, parking and transportation for the guests, and a ceremony place. It doesn’t include music or photography but those weren’t huge priority items in our minds.

I did cost out a few restaurants where we could do the ceremony and reception together, and the total cost after food, drink, venue, sales tax and service fees? Was about a $1000-2000 difference. And we’d have had to do between a little to a lot more legwork. At this point (and I can’t believe I’m saying this when I go back for refunds on an incorrect receipt for as little as $1) that’s just not worth the work and coordination efforts.

As an example, I checked for other possible venues just now, and Middle Ranch seemed appealing. For 200 guests, we’d be paying: $5000 venue fee, $11000 for food and moderate alcohol, and tack on sales tax and service fees for a total of: $20,800.  Still to be added: whatever cake, decor if any, photographer, DJ if they require one rather than letting you set up an iPod. Cons: this is a long drive away from most people we know so it’s not convenient.

Every time I revisit the cost, I wonder if I’m making the right choice, but I suppose it’s not a lie to say that I’d rather pinch those pennies where I like doing so, building up that cash reserve against these times that we need to spend it on convenience. That still feels specious and at least a little bit like a waste of money.

At this point, I’m still looking at back-up options because our first choice vendor/venue’s hasn’t responded in a few days and I get fidgety. We’ll see if I come up with something better!


State of mind: Mostly calm, mildly anxious, wanting to get it over with, but wanting to have a party that’s fun if we’re going to do this because I did kind of hate our first wedding. Because I didn’t get to feel anything but fear and anxiety over my mom, and then guilt because she wanted to come to lunch but I couldn’t let her. It would have pushed my dad over the edge with taking care of her, and I couldn’t risk their safety and health. Because there were half a dozen weird things that were just Not Nice. Because it was followed up by Mom’s death and a horrible year. I have no good feelings about the wedding even though there were really nice spots in it like my best friend flying to be there at the last minute, another really close friend making a Literal Drop Everything Dash to make it. This is my do-over.


It’d be nice to have an outdoorsy thing that is bright and cheerful and fun like this, but with more of my idea of fun.

11 Responses to “Weddings: the cost of convenience”

  1. Rita P says:

    We had a simple court marriage followed by a reception with our close relatives and friends. We did not want to spend much on our wedding as we had our own debt list as it would increase our debt again. You can find out some alternatives where you can have a decent ceremony which would be fun filled and enjoyable.

  2. Michelle says:

    Weddings are so expensive! Luckily W’s family has an family estate of a couple hundred acres that are beautiful for weddings. We get to have it for free!

    • Revanche says:

      *nudge* Do you want me to test out the estate to figure out the best set-up? *nudge nudge* haha. Kidding. But that’s awesome, we are very backyard wedding people, but we don’t HAVE a backyard right now 🙂

  3. amy says:

    we used wedgewood banquet center (they have different sites in CA, both NorCal and SoCal)
    we got married in the Burlingame (NorCal) one and loved it.
    just so you know, we also opted for convenience (all in one stop shopping) with the banquet center but there were still loads of add on’s that the total budget ended up being almost double the venue sticker price (that was similar to the list you had above). so even though you have a 20K sticker price, it still doesn’t include things (like you mentioned) although if you’re lucky the venue may have discounted rates set up with some vendors (like we had our photographer through them and we got a discounted rate)
    good luck!

    • Revanche says:

      Oh that’s interesting, I ran across their site recently and wondered if they were really as simple as they said they are, given the base prices and then the ability to customize.
      Do you mind my asking how much yours ended up being with how many guests?

      • Amy says:

        It was about 36k for 120 guests. We got the millennial pkg with open bar and had outside catering which added some cost. If you stick to their food it would have been about 30k.
        The photography, video, and personal flowers all add up.
        I must say I’m a big fan of one stop shopping.

  4. Please tell me it’s still a geeky themed wedding. *looks hopeful*

    • Revanche says:

      Inherently it rather has to be, doesn’t it? After all, I’m doing most of the planning and I’m geek through and through.

  5. Yes, do tell us if it is still a geek-themed wedding.. Also, that’s ridiculously expensive per person, although I kind of knew that..

    • Revanche says:

      Yeah, we managed to find a venue we could negotiate down much closer to what we were more comfortable with, including some of the silly frills we each want.

  6. Tazz says:

    I was so lucky my parents paid for our wedding reception and since we had it at my parents house in Malaysia, the cost was a lot less than if we have one here in the US! I’ve been thinking about having a backyard party for our anniversary, my in laws have a HUGE backyard which would be perfect in the summer and they live right next to a community park so if we do actually have one, all we have to do is figure out the costs for food etc. I am thinking more of a sorta bbq grill cookout thing, not so much very wedding-y but still fun enough people would want to come and have fun with us! The best dat would be 4th of July since it’s a public holiday and our anniversary is at the end of June…but we’ll see! We couldn’t do it this year since I was overseas, but maybe next year (enough time to save up hehe)

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