June 04, 2005

Chef JoAnna's PSA on wedding budgets

It's that time of year..."What should I spend on a wedding caterer?" Here's a general guideline that you can use to plan a budget for a wedding:

Choose the kind of restaurant you'd take your guests to. Let's imagine that you could fit them all in there and they would let you close them down for a Saturday night, and you can choose the exact menu to suit your specific tastes. Figure out the average cost per person for an appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert. After all, that's probably what you're serving at your wedding, so to compare fairly, let's use that to help us calculate. Let's determine that the level of service would be related too....
Would you take your guests to:
Taco Bell? KFC? McDonalds? Under $10/pp, no service to speak of.
Sizzler? Denny's? Then $25+/pp, poor service
Outback Steakhouse? $40+/pp, good service
Michaels? Josie? $70+/pp, excellent service
Spago? Ortolan? $100+/pp, impeccable service
(If you're thinking of doing a shower, tea, brunch, or rehearsal dinner, this might also come in handy. I included the more expensive restaurants' price points because this also applies to estimating costs for any at-home catered dinner. People who plan on doing at-home weddings might also consider doing a Moms & Dads dinner, for an intimate get-together.)
Are you starting to get the idea?
Good. Now add tax, and a tip.
Call this the "total food budget".

Next, let's find out how much the wedding cake is going to cost: Most quality bakers in Los Angeles charge $2.00 to $2.50 per slice, so that's how we'll base our estimate. Take the number of guests, multiply by 2.25, and that's a good guide for the "cake budget". (beware the caterer who also wants to do your cake -- that's another post entirely!)

Subtract the cake number from total food budget. That's what you should spend on your caterer. Now divide that number by the number of guests you have, and that's your per-person price. Please notice, I didn't include drinks in this number! Alcohol is the biggest place to save money. Don't think that by serving "wine and beer only" you'll be saving any money... I'll explain that in a future post, too!

Now that you've determined what you'd pay for that, you'll understand that if you can get a caterer to come to your place, carry everything in, set it up, cook it, and serve it, and clean it up, for anything close to that number then you'll realize that you are, in fact, getting a bargain. Can I get an AMEN, Emilie?

If you know anyone getting married, please, for the love of all that is good on Earth, send them to my blog (here's the link: http://chefjoanna.blogspot.com/2005/06/chef-joannas-psa-on-wedding-budgets.html) and together we can end this madness!

Last thing I ate or drank: latte... hungry, though, so I'll grab a luna bar as I run out the door to the Farmer's Market for today's party.

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