It’s difficult to plan a wedding without experiencing sticker shock.
The average cost of a 2018 wedding was $23,680 in the state of Wisconsin and $28,798 in the Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis metropolitan area , according to surveys conducted by the wedding market research firm, The Wedding Report.
So how can you keep costs down while hosting a wedding with all your family and friends present? We asked Milwaukee kosher caterers and venue staff about their best planning advice and pulled out tidbits that can help you save without cutting corners.
- Set a budget
Before you start visiting venues and tasting entrees, talk with your future spouse — and anyone else who’s contributing to the wedding — about how much you’re willing to spend. Otherwise, you could fall in love with ideas that are beyond the budget.
“[Don’t] start making plans until you have a number in mind,” says Jacob Shully, general manager of Shully’s Cuisine & Events in Thiensville. “It can get a little hairy sometimes if you just aren’t on the same page of what your expectations are.”
Nina Shully-Darling, an event coordinator at Shully’s, also suggests that couples name elements of the celebration they most want to prioritize, from florals to food.
“Be very upfront and honest in communicating about where dollars are being allocated,” Shully-Darling says. “Then we can fill in the gaps and offer educated suggestions as to how to save.”
- Swap ingredients to save
To help keep the menu within budget, ask your caterer about simple substitutions you might make to keep costs down. For example, choosing a different cut of steak or swapping pine nuts for pepitas can save you.
“We can come up with alternatives to things that are still within their vision,” Shully says. “We can get creative.”
This can apply to the bar, too, Shully adds. “Not everything has to be Grey Goose (vodka).”
- Plan to pay more for kosher
If you’re hosting an all-kosher wedding, it can be harder to cut costs in the food department. In general, kosher catering costs more than non-kosher catering.
“It’s the meat that’s the big thing for the price difference,” says Amy Ferrante-Gollwitzer , owner of Ferrante’s Restaurant & Signature Catering based in Mequon. “And then the added staff, because you need kosher supervision.”
For weddings where not all guests keep kosher, couples can save money by having non-kosher catering and providing kosher meals only to guests who need one, Ferrante-Gollwitzer says.
- Accommodate other unique dietary restrictions
With catering, likely your wedding’s biggest budget category, you’ll want to ensure your guests enjoy it. That means being considerate of dietary needs even beyond kosher.
If you’re offering multiple entree selections, you’re probably already planning to ask guests for their preference on the RSVP card (chicken or beef, for example). But to go a step further, consider including a line for guests to write in specific food restrictions and posting a full menu description on your wedding website, Shully-Darling suggests.
- Communicate with prospective vendors
It’s common to tour multiple venues and have tastings with several caterers — shopping around is the best way to compare the value and cost of different options. But when you make a final decision, let the other vendors know.
“No one is going to take it personally,” says Corinne Kangas , the social catering manager at the Hilton Garden Inn Milwaukee Northwest Conference Center . “Just be kind enough to respond back. You’re dealing with another human being — treat them with respect.”
- Not an artsy type? Ditch the DIY
Making your own wedding decor can save money, but it can also potentially backfire. Kangas, who is tasked with setting up for wedding receptions at the Hilton Garden Inn, says it can be hard to translate couples’ Pinterest visions into reality.
“Not everyone has the knack for doing DIY,” she says, recalling a fall wedding where the couple had her arrange pumpkins and leaves on the tables — only to realize the pumpkins were molding and the leaves were “shedding.”
If DIY isn’t your thing, Kangas suggests hiring professionals to do the centerpieces and cutting costs elsewhere — like with food choices or the bar package.
- Remember why you’re celebrating
When you’re in the thick of planning — choosing napkin colors, brainstorming your wedding hashtag, balking at the cost of flowers — it can be easy to sweat the small stuff. But Shully-Darling encourages couples to maintain perspective.
“You’re in love and you’re getting married,” she says. “I think sometimes [that] can get easily lost in the minutiae of planning the big day. So just remember reason number one why the day is happening.”