heather vickery

How to Narrow Down the Wedding Guest List (Part 2)

This week, our QC Event School tutor, Heather Vickery, provides us with tips on narrowing down the guest list and saving money. Heather is the Owner and Event Director of Greatest Expectations Special Events and Weddings, one of Chicago’s most celebrated event planning and design firms. In part two of her blog series, Heather shares more tips on narrowing down the wedding guest list and saving money.

  • Having candles only and no live flowers. I do not suggest ever using silk flowers. This is just not classy! Instead, use elements of nature or skip floral altogether.
  • Skip some of the stationary elements that are costly and wasteful for the environment. For example, skip the ceremony programs and dinner menus, and opt for a seating chart instead of escort cards. You can even scrap save-the-date cards and send out a save-the-date email.
  • If you have guests who love to drink, consider an open bar with only wine and beer, plus one delicious signature cocktail.

qc school of event and wedding planning

  • Consider putting a time limit on the hosted portion of the beverage service. Close the bar 30 to 45 minutes before the end of the event and serve only soft drinks and coffee.
  • If you are hosting a full bar, consider limiting the grade of liquor. Hosting a mid-grade liquor selection rather than a combination of mid and premium grade can trim 10% to 15% off your bar bill.
  • Have your ceremony and reception in the same venue. Many places will not charge a ceremony fee (like a house of worship would) and you can save on the cost of limos and floral decor.
  • Skip wedding favors. Really, no one wants a glass with your clients’ name on it.

Some areas that I would never, ever short change (and let’s face it, this is as important as the areas you can cut back on) are photography (no, your friend cannot take the same quality photos!) and videography. I also urge couples to hire a professional DJ or band. Having someone to emcee the event is priceless and an iPod playlist will not cut it!

event organizing

As you can see, there are many ways to creatively approach cost savings. When you present these concepts to your clients, they will be impressed with your knowledge and experience. It shows that you have thoughtfully considered all of their options and are truly working to keep them on budget. That said, it is your responsibility as the planner to educate your clients on what things really cost and ensure they set a realistic budget. Each wedding is different and pricing can vary from city to city but in downtown Chicago, where my business is based, you simply cannot have a sit-down dinner for 150 with dancing on a Saturday night for much less than $50,000 total — and many clients spend a significant amount more than that.

wedding coordinator

Be sure to ask your clients realistic questions so you can help them properly budget. When I am faced with a difficult budget situation, I always as my clients what their three “must have” items are and I promise they can have those things as long as they are flexible on everything else. I also ask what is really not that important to them. There is no reason to spend a lot of time, money and energy items that the client truly does not care about.

So remember, ask questions, give suggestions and be creative. Your clients will thank you for it.

Did you miss part one of this blog series? Catch up on more of Heather’s money-saving tips here!

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