Arizona Wedding Budget: Part 3--3 Things You Need to Know About Your Food and Beverage Budget / by Laurie Cohen

1.  Service Charge

2.  Tax

3. Gratuity

That's it.  If you can get a handle on these items in advance, you will be glad you did! Imagine you take your mom out for dinner, and she has appetizers, salad, a delicious entree and a heavenly dessert.  The bill comes and her meal was $100.  The tax was added before they gave you the check, and you add in your own gratuity.  
As wedding planners, it is our job to set realistic expectations about budget and help translate the cost of food and beverage at various venues.  

Just like that dinner you bought for your mom, the price on the menu was a little different than the "out the door" price.  But that little difference can add up when we are multiplying it times 150 guests if you are not aware.  With caterers/banquet departments, the final charges will be a combination of:

1. the cost of the food, let's say $100 for the sake of easy math...

2. The service charge 22-25% and 

3. Sales Tax of 7.95%+

4. Gratuity. Often included in the service charge, although it is important to check in advance. This can vary.  

Your $100 delicious meal is actually $130+ which for 150 guests is the difference between $15,000 and $19,500 for dinner.  That's a big difference if you aren't prepared for it!

$100/meal is not uncommon at many 4+ star venues, but remember...this is often very inclusive!  At a resort or country club, you will likely not have to rent tables, crystal, china and silverware...all of those items as well as ample veteran staff are usually included in your contract.  

The good news about this size of wedding is this:  If your guest list reaches 150 (or more), a significant portion of your budget will likely be going to food and beverage. Food and beverage is a variable cost, it fluctuates based on the size of the event. Other vendors, like DJ, Wedding Planner, Photographer, Cinematographer...these are fixed costs and don't change if you reduce your guest count.  Reducing the numbers of a wedding this size will help you trim your food and beverage expenses considerably.  Limiting the cost of each meal or the bar budget will also significantly reduce expenses.  

I know, I know. If you are like me, you want it all! And I can do a REALLY good job of convincing myself I *need* it all too.  If in doubt, consider a temporary decision to reduce the guest count. Or select a less expensive meal choice.  If the decision doesn't sit well, you can change it back. Just be sure you communicate with your Planner or Caterer if you want to make any adjustments to your Banquet Order.   Usually, changes can be made until the month before your wedding. (Check with your caterer so there are no surprises.)

You can see how your large guest count and catering can interact to impact your budget. That said, it makes sense you can save money by reducing your numbers. But there are PLENTY of other pieces of your Wedding Budget to talk about.

Find out next post.....Arizona Wedding Planning: Part 4 -- Red Hot Tips for your Wedding Budget--What's in YOUR Budget?