This is Part 3 of a multi-part series about having a budget wedding in the DC area.  There will be additional posts over the next few weeks.

Part 1: An Overview of Budget Weddings in DC

Part 2: Finding Budget Wedding Venues in DC

A lot of traffic to SuperNoVABride arrives here by visitors searching for  ”inexpensive wedding venue DC.”

On a budget in DC and looking for an inexpensive venue?  You’re asking the wrong question and looking for the wrong thing.

There are plenty of (relatively) inexpensive venues in DC.   However, have you ever looked at the breakdown of wedding costs?  More than half gets eaten up (no pun intended) by catering and bar service.

If you’re on a budget, you’ll need  to focus on inexpensive catering long before you look for an inexpensive venue.  Finding a real caterer in the DC area on a budget is very difficult.  We’re self-catering and getting some accompaniments delivered from a BBQ restaurant because budget caterers were so hard to find, even for our Friday, off-peak season wedding.

You may find a really inexpensive venue, but then find later that they have a very limited preferred caterers list, each of which starts at, for example, $80 per person.  So much for that inexpensive venue in DC, right?

If you are on a tight budget in DC, focus your searches on venues that have no catering restrictions.  That way, you have a lot more options to find food options that actually are within your budget.  Then, when you find that venue, your wedding catering options include:

1) Getting food delivered from a local restaurant that provides catering services. Restaurant catering will be leaps and bounds cheaper than a traditional catering service.  Some ideas are to check local Italian, Mexican, BBQ, etc. restaurants.  Many times they’ll offer catering services that are very reasonable and typically include things like setup.  Many restaurants that also offer catering offer two types: Full Service or Delivery.  With full-service, they’ll stay there and have service staff available to serve the food and help clean up.  With delivery services, they typically just drop it off with some paper plates and utensils, and all of the serving dishes are disposable.

2) If you have a small enough guest list, have your reception at a small banquet room at a restaurant.

3) If you do feel the need to go with a more traditional type caterer for your wedding, the phrase “picnic style catering” or “corporate catering” menu is your friend. These options are typically less gourmet-like type meals that caterers offer for regular parties and for company events.  While not for the foodies, asking for picnic or corporate style catering for your wedding can drastically reduce your catering costs for your wedding in DC.  With that said, I when we were researching picnic and corporate catering early in our engagement, I was disappointed.  While the prices were considerably less expensive than the traditional catering, you really didn’t get a whole lot for your money.  Chicken with a simple sauce (one entree) and maybe one or two sides was in the $65 per person range.  Yes, it was cheaper than $110 per person, but is $65 per person really worth it for “chicken with a simple sauce?”

4) Research carefully all the extras, especially alcohol packages. Alcohol package prices ranged SO much.  I think the highest we saw for an open bar was $39.00 per person (using non-premium liquors), and the cheapest was around $14.95 per person.  Beer and wine only packages weren’t that much cheaper.  Soda packages can also be incredible expensive (and in addition to the alcohol packages).  One caterer quoted us $8.95 per person for soda.  So, if you find that a caterer has reasonable food prices, make sure that you take the alcohol beverage prices into account, if you plan on serving alcohol at your wedding.

5) Decreasing your guest list to save money on catering does not always work. Most caterers we interviewed had a food and beverage minimum, typically somewhere in the range of $8000-$10,000.  Let’s say that you’re planning on having 100 guests at your wedding, and that your caterer is charging $80 per person ($8000 total).  Well, perhaps you’re willing to lower your guest list to 75 people to save money on catering (lowers it to $6000).  Well, if that caterer has an $8000 food and beverage minimum, you’re not going to save any money between 100 or 75 guests.  Of course, if you want to invite 200 people to your wedding, decreasing your guest list could make sense, but make sure you determine if the caterer has a food and beverage minimum first!


I would love to hear how other couples in the DC area kept their catering costs low.

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Best of the Web: Self Catering your Wedding

by Melissa on May 24, 2011

We’re planning on self-catering our wedding with the help of some family and friends.  However, information on self-catering a wedding is hard to come by!  Tips for self-catering your wedding are typically general and useless.  Um, really, thanks.  I didn’t know that I “should ensure that I don’t leave food out for too long.” or that I “should enlist the help of friends,” or that I need to figure out how to transport the food.  Like this

No.  Someone tell me how many salt and pepper shakers I should have.  Where can I rent industrial coffee pots?  How much coffee do I need to buy?  How many trash cans do I need?  Who will EMPTY the trash?  I don’t even know what I don’t know so I don’t know what questions I need answered (hmmm, that sounds like a Donald Rumsfeld quote).

So, I went on a big search for information on self-catering a wedding.  This is the best of what I’ve found.  I hope it helps other brides who want to self-cater their wedding.


Eliminating Wedding Vendors – What to DIY?

by Melissa on March 9, 2011

Once we decided to self-cater our wedding, I realized that there were probably so many other things that we could do on our own.  (Despite my previous post decrying a lot of DIY efforts, I am not anti-DIY.  I guess just anti-crafty DIY.)  Tops on my list of DIY consideration recently has been makeup.  Unlike doing my hair, which I am completely inept at doing, I tend to be pretty good with makeup.  Several years ago, I went to some classes and workshops at MAC store, and I’ve been hooked on makeup ever since.  But is it worth it to do my makeup on my own?  Here are some things I’ve been considering DIY-ing (or at least asking friends/family to do) for the wedding, and some pros and cons of each:


Pros: I am pretty good at doing my own makeup and already own high-quality makeup and tools.  I wouldn’t have to pay another vendor and could do countless of my own makeup “trials” without paying for each.

Cons: Although I’m good with makeup, I’m good with “every-day” type of makeup that may not necessarily look amazing in photographs, may not stay put for a really long period of time, or hold up to the tears of joy that may stream down my face.  I’ve tried researching what types of foundation a lot of wedding makeup artists use, but haven’t found much information.  Do you remember what your wedding makeup artist used?


Pros: I’ve been doing my own nails for a long time now.  I have a big collection of nail polishes and I can paint my nails neatly.  I follow Scrangie and All Lacquered Up religiously.  However, I do go for a pro pedicure about once every six weeks, and when I do that, I usually get a professional manicure as well, typically because they’re better at cleaning up my cuticles than I am.  So, I was thinking that a few days before the wedding, I can get a pro manicure and pedicure, and then just paint my own nails the night before the wedding.  If I do go for a pro manicure the night before the wedding, I will definitely bring my own nail polish so that in case I chip the nail, I can fix it easily.

Cons: My hands will be photographed several times that day for, among other things, wedding ring shots.  Shouldn’t I leave my nails to the professionals?  Plus, what if my nails are uneven on the day of the wedding thanks to a broken nail?  Should I just plan on getting acrylic tips?  Tips are something I would typically never consider because of how they just destroy nails, but maybe I should get tips?

DJ/iPod wedding

Pros: The biggest pro is that it would save us a lot of money.

Cons: Although we would save money on the DJ costs by doing an iPod wedding, our venue is not wired with a built-in sound system, and so we’d have to invest in or rent some heavy-duty speakers, which would be costly itself, and we’d have to set it up on our own.  I really like the idea of having someone emcee the wedding and introduce us at the reception, announce the dances, etc.


We had initially budgeted for a wedding videographer, but are now considering cutting it because we wonder if it’s really necessary.

Pros: My fiance already owns a high-definition camcorder, which he could ask a steady-handed friend or relative to use.  I have this stereotype of wedding videographers as being obtrusive and tacky.  Do I really want that on our wedding day?  Or is it an outdated stereotype?  It’s one less expense to an already very expensive day.

Cons:  I worry that I’ll regret not having high-quality audio and professional, steady footage of our wedding day.  What if something happens that I really wish had been captured on video?


Although we’re not having any flowers as decor, I am starting to consider having a traditional bouquet instead of a brooch bouquet like I had been dreaming of for so long.  First, I have no idea how a florist would handle an order for a single bouquet.  Would they deliver it?  I don’t want to have to have anyone drive anywhere to pick it up.  And I know that any flowers that I would assemble myself would look like total crap.

Has anyone ever used an online service for their flowers?

Hmmm, the more I think about this, the more I may be going back to my original decision of having an alternative bouquet like a brooch bouquet.


Although we’re planning to self-cater most of our food, I planned on having my fiancé’s aunt bake some of her awesome cupcakes for the wedding.  I am starting to second guess this decision, primarily because making 125+ cupcakes is a huge undertaking for someone.  So, my options for consideration here are 1) Original decision for his aunt to make cupcakes, 2) Order cupcakes or cake from a professional bakery, or 3) Order a sheet cake from a store like Costco or supermarket.


So what major wedding DIY did you do that you regret or would recommend?  Any tips for the above DIY ideas?

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Self-Catering a Wedding

by Melissa on January 17, 2011

One of the many wedding-budget saving tips I have read is to self-cater your wedding.  Catering is by far the biggest expense of a typical wedding, so self-catering can be a major money-saver.


Why I don’t think self-catering is a good idea

Although I’m a penny pincher, I never really thought self-catering would be a good idea, for a couple of reasons:

  1. The last thing I want to be doing the days before my wedding is stressing about cooking and baking.
  2. Most venues, even those without preferred caterers, require that food-providers be licensed and insured
  3. Logistics are difficult.  Transporting and storing that amount of food, in addition to figuring out how much food one needs for 100+ people, sounds daunting.

Why my view on self-catering has changed

We found a awesome venue at a nearby National Park site that we’re hoping to use as our wedding venue (rental applications can’t be submitted for another few months).  There are no restrictions on food.  Catered or self-catered, you can do whatever you want.  The only requirement is a Virginia liquor license and some liability insurance if you’re serving alcohol.

Realizing just how much of our budget catering will eat up (no pun intended), I had an epiphany that self-catering really isn’t that bad of an idea, especially if other relatives are willing to help.

Menu Ideas

  1. One table of specialty foods from my fiance’s side of the family.  This would include things like German Potato Salad and other amazing German dishes
  2. One table of specialty foods from my side of the family.  This would include foods such as pierogies, kielbasa, pizelle cookies, homemade pickles, and spicy shrimp.
  3. Catered accompaniments by a local restaurant, like an Italian restaurant
  4. Cupcakes made by my fiance’s aunt, and possibly a more traditional cake from a bakery. Plus some other dessert options, including a candy or sweets table.  And of course, s’mores for the fireplace
  5. Bartender services through a local company.

We still have to crunch the numbers to get clearer budget figures, but I still think this will be considerably cheaper than the least expensive catering option we have found in the DC area, which is approximately $36 per person, not including alcohol.

Action Plan

  1. Ask venue for contact information for other couples that have had their wedding at the park and ask what they did for their catering
  2. Research nearby restaurants for accompaniment catering options
  3. Search wedding forums and contact other couples that have self-catered their weddings for their lessons learned
  4. Firm up potential menu offerings.


In the meantime, I’d love to hear from other brides that have self-catered their weddings


I Hate the Wedding Industry

by Melissa on December 16, 2010

With a passion.

The wedding industry has made me not want to have a wedding.


Call me a cheapskate, a pessimist, difficult, or unromantic or whatever, but screw the entire wedding industry.  (except the photographers, they’re the only vendors to call me back).

Our wedding venue of choice has a handful of approved caterers, only two of which are reasonably priced.  After the one would not return my calls or e-mails, my fiancé and I decided to explore other caterers because our two-week hold on the date at our venue was running out.  The caterer, which is a local BBQ restaurant, had a catering menu that ranged from $15-20 per person.  Perfect.

Well, after calling them three times and e-mailing them once, they finally got back to me with a very brief and vague e-mail.

$70 per person.  For BBQ?  Really?  Not to mention the fact that he didn’t respond to any of my other questions (like providing photos of their catering, if they can provide bartenders if we bring our own beer and wine, etc.).  When I finally reached him by phone, he was so flippant and wouldn’t give me straight answers to any of my questions.

Me: “So you said you require a minimum of $30 per person for food, plus an additional $40 per person for service and equipment.  How exactly does that $40 per person break down and how many hours does it include?”
Caterer: “Oh, we don’t really know the specific breakdown of service and equipment costs.  We just know that it’ll be at least $70 per person total.”
Me: “Well, what about the prices listed on your website that say $15-$20 per person?”
Caterer: “OH!  Well those are for corporate events, not weddings.”
Me: “Well, the reason I want the cost breakdown is because we might be able to get rentals cheaper through other companies.”
Caterer: “No, we don’t do that.  We have to provide all rentals.”
Me: Well, that’s why I want the cost breakdown, to make sure I’m not getting ripped off.”
Caterer: We don’t know what the cost breakdown will be, we just not that it’ll be $70 per person, at least, and that’s a below-market price.
Me: “No thanks, I’m not giving you my business.”

And why won’t the other reasonable caterer call me back?  And don’t give me that “we’re busy with Christmas parties” shit.  This has been going on since October.

So, after a lot of discussion today, my fiancé and I are going to ditch our preferred venue and go with one of our original picks.  It’s not quite as unique, but it won’t break the bank either, and we’ll have much more flexibility.  More on that later!

Why is the wedding industry so infuriating for those of us that don’t want to spend a ton of money?