Monday, May 11, 2009

Planning a wedding reception

A reception over a month after the wedding?

As you’ve read in the ‘About Me’ section you know that my husband and I were married not long ago at a destination wedding. We decided together to go about getting married this way simply because we wanted to be married in a romantic and unforgettable way but couldn’t imagine starting our life together with a gigantic mound of debt. The only drawback is that our decision on the destination wedding was done so quickly, that our families didn't have enough time to make arrangements to attend.

And so, we've decided to have a little reception party for our family and friends to show them the wedding video and have a little scaled down celebration that won't break the bank. At the present time I am in the midst of planning this event and thought that it would be great to track the process for those of you who are intimidated by event planning.

It's really just a question of being organized!

First thing is to get yourself a spiral bound notebook. Preferably pick a size that fits in your purse so you can always have it on hand if you find yourself in a store and need to jot down prices, or if you get a great idea.

Next write down the most important elements of what you want to have or happen at your reception. This is the time to really go into fantasy mode, not time for common sense (yet, that comes later). You'll appreciate this later on when you have your penny pincher glasses on reviewing the non-necessities, you'll have to find creative and inexpensive ways to keep the things that are important to you in the plan.

The all important list

Next is a pretty basic list of elements we needed to have covered. Keep in mind we already had our big hurrah with the wedding and our budget for this even was pretty conservative.

-Liquor License (mandatory in Quebec)
-Rentals (table cloths, stemware, industrial sized coffee maker, etc)

Pick a theme, any theme!

Before you can begin shopping for any decorations, designing your invitations or even dreaming of that wedding cake you need to decide on either a theme or a colour palette. I say either or, because usually a theme will dictate your colours, yet if you choose a colour palette you can pretty much include any element as long as it's the right colour. In our example I struggled to decide between a beach theme or a yellow palette. The two don't really work together, so I had to finally commit and I decided to go with the yellows. It was far more flexible both decoratively and budget wise.

Where, When, and Whom?

The hall that we found that fit our budget had a fire code of 50 people max. So that pretty much set the limit for us with regards to invitations. Luckily neither of us are from very large families, however we had to do some serious negotiating when we had to decide who's friends to invite. But even before you can invite anyone you need to set a date for this shindig.

You'll need to find out first of all what dates are available for the two biggest costs of this event: the location (hall) and the dj. Don't think you need to have your reception in a pricey formal hall. With a little imagination you can decorate any venue into the perfect reception party area. See if your city has any community centers that can be rented for an evening, you're bound to save some serious cash. But be sure to ask if you book a hall or community center if the liquor license is required and included in the price. We had to go the embarrassing route of changing the date because we learned after sending the invitations that the liquor license had to be filed for 15 days prior to the event. So do your homework!

Sending the invitations

As mentioned above we had to move the date because the first date wasn't that far off. If time isn't on your side with regards to mailing your invitations you can always go the modern route and email them. If you're even a little bit handy with Photoshop, you can design some personalized and unique invitations. Otherwise, sites like Evite are great for sending invitations and keeping track of RSVP's. If you do decide to go the email route, I recommend using a web-based email account so that no matter where you are, you can keep track of who's coming and questions guests might have.

What shall we eat?

The next element that will strain your budget is the food and drinks. This is where you really have to make decisions on the grandeur of the occasion. We went for a low budget and casual cold buffet option. Great homemade food mind you, but no fancy white gloved servers needed - saves big bucks. If you're going DIY on the meal, take a minute to think about whether the event takes place indoors or outdoors and the average temperature of the venue. This will help you decide on how finicky the dishes you serve can be. Do you have sufficient fridge space at home until you bring your dishes to the event, and once you're there do they have refrigerated storage room?

Regarding the cake we went the route of having one made. It's my small indulgence in the budget, and I think it's a nice decor touch to the room as well. I thought of making it myself but with already so much going on, I couldn't see myself fumbling with fondant at midnight the night before the big event.

As for drinks we decided on serving wine and beer, and found a great 'bottle your own wine' place that helps keep the price reasonable and the beer we're buying in bulk cases of bottles at Costco. However should you go the route of buying alcohol in bulk, try to avoid getting large lose quantities of wine or drink. If ever (and yes it happens) that you have leftover wine or beer, if they are in boxes or kegs your leftovers will go to waste. If you buy everything in individual bottles they keep around a lot longer afterwards.

Do I really need wedding favors?

Truthfully, I don't still have a single wedding favor from a single wedding I've ever been to, and this is the case for most people. They either end up in a junk drawer somewhere or thrown away. So please don't spend a fortune on wedding favors. They are simply a little thank you to your guests for attending your party. It's the thought that counts, and people will be impressed with originality rather than price as far as favors go. If you've chosen a theme this is a great way to continue on the theme through the favors.

The same can be true for a colour palette which is what I did. I used miniature glass mason jars filled with scotch mints tied with a yellow satin ribbon and then printed out personalized labels. Don't under estimate the amazing DIY projects you can create for wedding favors, allowing of course that you have the time to put them together. But hey, that's what fiancés or husbands are for, right?

Last but not least, money!

Ah yes, one of the most important parts of any good event planning. Be sure that before you get too carried away in ordering cakes, and planning menus that you and your fiancé or husband have sat down and established not only how much you can afford, but how much you're willing to spend on a wedding reception. Revise where you're at about half way through your planning process to see where you stand with regards to the original budget. Will you need to scale down some of the dreams your originally had for this event? Better to be safe than broke!

Don't make the mistake that many women seem to make in thinking this has to be the end all be all of parties. You'll have a multitude of parties, dinner parties, birthdays and celebrations to plan and throw in your future together. A huge lavish reception does not a good marriage make. However, DO enjoy this process and try to not get too stressed out throught this process. Moms, sisters, cousins, MIL's all love wedding stuff (usually) and would probably love to help you in any way they can. So don't hesitate to ask for some help if you're feeling overwhelmed.

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