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.