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Gift Ideas for Your Wedding Party

We know that planning something as monumental as a wedding can be extremely stressful and unfortunately, as close as we come, event planners can’t do it all! Luckily, you can enlist the help of your wedding party to organize your bachelor and bachelorette parties and the bridal shower. However, it’s custom to give a thank you gift to your party for their help ensuring all of your festivities go smoothly. We have a few great gift ideas for your bridesmaids and groomsmen to make this process as quick and easy as possible for you.

Breathe by Jessi

Breathe by Jessi

Accessories for Everyone

Jewelry is a classic gift for bridesmaids but it can be useful the groomsman too! When it comes to your girls, something that they can wear for your wedding, like a necklace, is always a smart idea. Take it a step further by getting something monogrammed so it’s more personal for them, this way, they will want to wear it long after your special day is over. We love a simple necklace that can be engraved with initials, a name or a date that is special to them. Another option is getting jewelry that doesn’t need to be worn for your wedding. While it may take more shopping around time, you can get a bit more personal by simply gifting a piece you know your girls will love.

For the guys, also think of items that can be used on your wedding day. Something like a watch, tie, tie bar or cufflinks are perfect for the occasion and, like the bridesmaids’ jewelry, will be used after the wedding for other special events.

Christy Ofria Photography

Christy Ofria Photography

Pro tip: Jewelry is the perfect present when your bridesmaids and groomsmen aren’t in matching outfits. This way their looks are all tied together with a simple accessory.

Sunglasses for the Whole Party

If you are having a destination wedding or one that is sure to be on a sunny day, gift your whole wedding party stylish and high quality sunglasses. Now we’re not talking about those cheap plastic ones that you could give to every wedding guest just to be trashed during the reception. Take the time to pick out a pair that will complement each person’s style. That way you know that you are offering them a gift that will be used for years to come. Plus, bulk ordering on e-commerce sites like Warby Parker makes it easy for you to buy for the women and the men in one purchase and it can also save you money and time. You can order gender neutral frames that will tie together your whole party and you do this all in the comfort of your own home. It’s that simple!

Jensen Larson Photography

Jensen Larson Photography

Bridesmaids Clutches

I think we all know how excited women got when their dresses happen to have pockets in them! However, it isn’t always easy to find bridesmaids’ dresses with such a luxury. Instead, gift the girls matching clutches that they can hold during your ceremony to keep all of the essentials like their cell phone, any emergency items for the bride and some tissues. Sticking with something simple is best here so you know that no matter the style of each person in your wedding that they will be sure to use it again.

Kristiina Taylor

Kristiina Taylor

Personalized Growlers

If you have a group of groomsmen that’s filled with beer aficionados and then give them one-of-a-kind glasses or growlers. These can be personalized with their name, your wedding date, and even their favorite color. However, you don’t have to focus it on your wedding you can choose to personalize it with just their name to make it an exciting piece to add to their collection!



Hopefully you have an awesome group of loved ones supporting you and your fiancé through every step of wedding planning! If so, consider one of these unique gifts to say thank you to your bridesmaids and groomsmen.

-The Just Save The Date Girls

Saying Yes to Wedding Insurance Again {Ask a Wedding Planner}

Today, we are pulling another one from the archives! Normally, we are not ones to recycle information that we have already put out there, but because it is something that we answer on daily basis, especially since Hurricane Irma blew thru last year at the beginning of Wedding Season, we figured it was time to revisit the super important topic of Wedding Insurance this month…just in time for 2018 Hurricane Season!  One of our most important jobs as Wedding Planners is to inform and educate the client and after speaking with a current client the other day who was thoroughly misinformed, we figured this topic could stand to be repeated and refreshed.  

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Shopping for the Dress: 7 Things You Need to Know {Ask a Wedding Planner}

Most little girls spend their whole life dreaming about their wedding day–the dress she’ll wear, the man she’ll marry, the venue where she’ll recite her vows. Shopping for a wedding dress should be one of the most fun, exciting, memorable moments of wedding preparation, but we all know it can also be one of the most stressful. Brides seeking out their perfect wedding gown need to come prepared with the right kinds of questions. What style and cut best suits your body type? Do you want a full train? What kind of gowns are trending this season? We know, it’s complicated and overwhelming, but that’s why we put together this list of helpful tips to make your wedding dress shopping adventures as painless as possible!

1. TALK TO YOUR CONSULTANT ABOUT THE STYLE, FIT AND YOUR BODY~What style is best for my body type? This is one of the most important questions you can ask at your fitting. An experienced consultant can give you unbiased and objective advice about what kind of dress will make you look your best on your wedding day. Don’t be afraid to try on a variety of different styles, even if they’re not what you had in mind when you walked in the door. You might be surprised about what you end up loving, even if it wasn’t your original idea of the perfect dress.


As for styles, there are a lot of them. They range from a slinky evening-style number to a strapless ball-gown with a full skirt. I find that as gorgeous and romantic you want your dress to be, keep in mind the practicality of it as well. It will be very difficult to dance in a mermaid gown as opposed to a wedding dress that has more room at the knees. If you’re looking to make a statement on top, varying up the necklines of your dresses can be useful. Additionally, researching the length of your dress’ skirt and what sort of shoes you want to wear will help you figure out which wedding dress you want to buy.

It is also important to discuss what trends are in style for the season, since fads tend to come and go. The consultant can then steer you in a certain direction depending on whether you want a dress that trendy or classic.  Just remember that photos and videos last a lifetime, so make sure you don't go too trendy unless it completely fits your style.

Follow the golden rule for wedding dress shopping: Never judge a dress based off of what it looks like on the hanger, or in the magazines. And, as always, choose the dress that makes you feel the most beautiful and confident. Choose the dress that best flatters you. Love it, and own it, and don’t let the dress wear you.


2. SET A BUDGET AND DISCUSS ADDITIONAL FEES~In this world, nothing comes free, and the wedding industry is no exception. You will likely end up paying more than the price tag on the wedding dress for fittings and alterations, so ask about the salon’s various fees. Some set a flat rate, others charge different prices depending on the severity of alterations. Many often charge for bustling, storage and pressing. It’s hard to set a fixed rate on how much a wedding dress should cost, but do your homework and set a budget before going shopping.  Let your consultant know the amount you are comfortable spending and DON'T try on any dresses over that price point.

3. DON'T BRING TOO MANY PEOPLE TO YOUR APPOINTMENT~ Shopping for a wedding dress can be fun, but it can also be overwhelming.  While it might seem like a perfect opportunity to gather all of girls, your mom, grandmother, aunts and future in-laws for a day of shopping; however, we feel quite the opposite.  More people means more input and more opinions and most of all, more constructive criticism (and possibly more tears-good and bad).  

If you aren't quite ready for the massive amount of feedback you are bound to receive, then start small and go to your first appointment with 1 or 2 of your best friends.  Once you have narrowed down the style and fit that works best for your body, then possibly schedule another appointment and bring the rest of the entourage.  You may want to check with the Bridal Salon to see if they limit the number of people per appointment.

4. ASK ABOUT THE BUSTLE~Contrary to popular belief, bustles are not one size fits all. Bustles fill out the train, making it easier for the bride to walk and dance, and come in a variety of shapes and styles. A consultant should be able to tell you which bustles are appropriate for each style of gown, so don’t be afraid to ask! The bustle might seem like an afterthought, but you will be wearing it for the majority of the reception, so be sure to find that one that is comfortable and accentuates rather than detracts from your dress. Jot down notes or take a photo of the particular bustle you like so you can show your fitter at a later date and make sure it looks good with your dress.  

Also, make sure the bustle is reinforced (they frequently fall out or break).  Additionally, make sure your consultant and/or seamstress shows you and at least one member of your wedding party how to do the bustle.  It should be labeled appropriately for timely bustling.

5. DISCUSS ACCESSORIES~It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and finding the perfect dress, but don’t leave the appointment without discussing and/or trying on veils and accessories. Find something that will complement and enhance your overall look. Belts, headpieces and jewelry are just some examples of accessories you can add to your trousseau.

6. WHEN AND WHERE YOU HAVE YOIR WEDDING PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE~When you talk to your consultant, make sure you let them know how many guests there will be, where you’ll be having your wedding, what time you’ll be having your wedding and your general theme. All should play a role in the style of dress you end up choosing. Typically, a dress for a Saturday night black-tie wedding and a Sunday morning backyard wedding are very different. Your consultant can help you differentiate between options and help you choose what is most appropriate for your specific vision.

7. ASK ABOUT DELIVERY TIMES~The amount of time it takes between ordering and receiving your dress depends on each designer. Give your consultant a timeline so they can help plan accordingly. Ask about delivery times–that way you will have an estimated arrival date.

We hope these tips come in handy when you visit the Bridal Salon and that your shopping experience is everything that it should be~ fun and successful!

Happy Shopping!

~The Just Save The Date Girls 

Planning Tips for the Groom {Advice}

As the groom, you may be thinking that your job is now over. After all, you planned and saved for a surprise proposal that brought your fiancé to tears, and left her with a story she can tell for the rest of her life. Your job is done right?! No... your bride will likely want to take on the bulk of the planning herself and has likely been dreaming and "planning" for this event for years (or at least since the invention of Pinterest!) However, she will appreciate your help and input on things and may not articulate that to you.  That's why we're here to help you look like the catch you are by stepping up to the plate without being asked!

Photo Credit:  Ken Pak Photography

Photo Credit: Ken Pak Photography

Handle your Men

Once you have decided who will stand up with you on the big day, don't leave all the corralling of them to your fiancé. Help her out by picking a few options of clothing and discuss that with her. Arrange a time when you and the men can meet up for a fitting and get those suits reserved (sounds like a great excuse for a bro day). Make sure that your men aren't late with any of their responsibilities, as this will just add worry and stress for her. If, for some reason, you have that one rogue friend, make it your mission (or let your best man step in to help) to stay on top of him urging him to get it together.

Be the Family Buffer

Often times, the biggest fights and stresses during planning come from trying to accommodate the family's wants and "needs." Is your family constantly calling adding things to the list of what they expect at the wedding? Is her family constantly calling adding guests you haven't planned for? You can help by being a united front. Decide together what things are important to you as a couple and stay firm on discouraging any well meaning family members from derailing those priorities. Help out when the difficult situations arise. Not allowing kids but your brother RSVP'ed with his four?! Make the call and let him know that no children will be attending, and do it as soon as possible. This will take the stress off your fiancé's plate and make you look like a hero!

Have an Opinion

Possibly the worst thing you could do would be to not have an opinion. Which photographer do you like? "Whichever is fine" Do you like these invitations? "If you do..." These are NOT helpful answers. Be invested in the process and weigh in when asked, with a distinct answer. If you genuinely don't care which table cloths she picks you can at least hear out the ones she is choosing between and pick between the options given.

Give her a Break

Sometimes all the planning becomes too much. Take time to insist that she put down the planning notes and take her to dinner or better yet, pour a glass of wine and let her hang out in the kitchen while you make her dinner. This could be something you do monthly even and as you get closer and the stress levels get higher, she will appreciate your efforts more than you know! Sounds like a great way to kick off a marriage huh?!

~ The Just Save the Date Girls

Choosing a Venue {Advice}

Last year, we brought you a series of blog posts on some of our favorite venues and vendors in a series that we were calling "Friendor Friday." This year, we want to to do  a little spin on our "Friendor Friday" posts by bringing you a monthly Wedding Venue to consider. To kick start this series, we want to give you a practical guide to picking the perfect venue.

We are often asked what should be the first thing you decide on after the engagement.  While some people may say it's to decide on a date, we say the number one priority should be the venue. Choosing the right venue will likely determine your overall look and style; down to what type of dress and shoes you may wear. It is much more practical to have a date range and to start your venue hunt with an open mind as to what the venue's calendar looks like.  If it is important to you to have your wedding at a certain venue, then you can be flexible on the date, based on their availability.

Here are some things to consider when venue shopping~

Guest Count

The number of people you will have at your wedding is very important when looking at possible venues. When a property tells you a that they can only accommodate 50 people, they mean it! If you are inviting 100, this is not the place for you, as you will likely have to scramble after you get RSVPs and suddenly EVERYONE wants to attend.  Find a place that can accommodate your total number of invitees, not just the number you hope to have attend.  Again, if the venue is the most important piece of the wedding puzzle, then let it dictate the guest count.

Photo Credit:  MEC Images

Photo Credit: MEC Images

Home or Away

Choosing to have your wedding at a place near home may seem like a practical choice...you don't have to get a hotel, you know the area, you may have connections that could help you with cost cutting, etc. However, when you are close to home you often have a higher guest count, which drives up your overall costs significantly. If you choose to have a destination wedding and take the "show on the road" as they say, you will want to consider the overall cost for each guest, including travel and accommodations, if you are providing this for your guests. This will typically keep your guest count down and can be a big money saver for you in the long run. 

Photo Credit:  MEC Images

Photo Credit: MEC Images

How Much is Included

Venues like hotels and resorts tend to include tons of perks or incentives with their contracts. You will have a minimum spending amount and a site fee, but you will likely not have to subcontract things like tents or tables and chairs. Whereas an estate, beach, or garden will have less of these amenities built in and you will have to piece-meal the entire event together yourself (#WHYyouNEEDaweddingplanner). Be sure to look carefully at your contracts and proposals from the different sites you visit and are interested in, in order to help you know if you are biting off more than you can chew.  Also, be sure to look for any hidden costs that weren't discussed while you were busy falling in love with the view.   

Whatever factors that drive your venue decision, be sure that you are 100% aware of the terms of the contract BEFORE signing anything.  It goes without saying to always insist on everything being in writing so that you don't get trapped in a string of empty promises. Make the best choice that you can while keeping yourself and your vision (and your budget) in mind, as well as your guests and how the venue will accommodate them.

~Kelly & Leslie


The Vendor Struggle {Advice}

When we sat down to write last week's blog "Brides Tell All", it became glaringly clear that many former brides, friends and Facebook acquaintances all have had the same issue... it's what we are going to call the vendor struggle, and yes, the struggle is all too real!  So this post may feel strangely similar to last week, but we just wanted to give it the attention it deserves. Although this may strike a cord with some of our vendors, we think it is an important issue that so many couples face. These issues and complaints vary from vendor responsiveness to buyer's remorse.

The Issue: "I keep inquiring with these vendors and I can't get anyone to reply." or "I have booked someone and they are so slow to reply when I ask questions."

Our Advice: Be persistent! Some vendors are super busy (not that this is an excuse) and may need more than one chance to reply to you, especially if you are emailing and calling at peak wedding times; others genuinely do not reply in a timely manor. We always like to remind you that most of your vendors and potential vendors are creative types and for that reason, may not be great at time management and communication. However, if this is a problem for you when trying to book, it will likely not get better after you are a client. So, make sure you decide if this is something you can put up with or if you are 100% sold on this vendor before you settle on someone who doesn't respond in a timely manner.

The Issue: "I hired this vendor and it has been a disaster ever since." Even worse, on the day of the Wedding- "I wish I had known how terrible they were going to be!"

Our Advice: DO YOUR RESEARCH! Sites like Wedding Wire  and Yelp have reviews from couples like you!  A vendor can not change or remove these reviews unless proven to be a lie or false in some way.  In fact, Wedding Wire has an extensive process with which they verify any discrepancies. All of that is to say that you can genuinely trust what other brides and grooms have to say. Look for as many of these types of reviews as you can find... read the good, the bad AND the ugly and if you see any red flags, and are still interested in the vendor, don't be afraid to ASK about any issues! Remember, you are interviewing these people to do a job FOR YOU on one of the biggest days of your life. They should want to impress you and should understand that you can take your business elsewhere. 

Bottom Line: Trust your gut! These vendors are working for you and if they make you feel uneasy, don't hire them! Ask around and make sure you do your homework before getting into a contract that you may regret.  Rely on your trusted vendors (planner and venue coordinators are great examples) and ask them who they recommend. Having an excellent, cohesive vendor team helps make their jobs easier and in turn, will make your wedding a dream come true!

~Kelly & Leslie

What I Wish I Knew... Brides Tell All {Advice}

Day-Of Coordinator

The Issue: "My mom [aunt, sister] spent the whole morning setting up my tables then had to rush to get ready, then spent the end of the night cleaning and missed my exit."

Our Advice: OBVIOUSLY we are going to tell you that, at the very least, having a day of planner/coordinator is in your best interest because we believe in what we do!  In all seriousness though, after polling some recent brides, the overwhelming consensus was that having a Day-Of Coordinator is a must. Some choose to forego the expense and regret that their loved ones, or even themselves, had to work on their wedding day. Others that were required by their venue to book someone, ended up being so thankful for their planner/coordinator's expertise. Couples who choose a Wedding Planner from the very beginning often reflect that their presence was more valuable than they could have ever anticipated. 

Vendor Research

The Issue: "I wasn't happy with my choice of vendors and wished I had solicited more information before hiring them." "The caterer didn't deliver what they sold us on and didn't have enough food for all of my guests."

Our Advice: Research, research, research and confirm, confirm, confirm!  You wouldn't buy a house or car without doing research on the type you want, reading reviews, the average price, safety features, etc., so why would you hire your wedding vendors without researching them ahead of time. Utilizing websites like WeddingWire, Google+ and Yelp can be a great way to learn about the vendors you are trying to hire because these reviews are written by past clients.  Talk to your Venue Coordinator/Sales Manager and see if they can provide you insight on their experiences with certain vendors.  Many of them have a list of reputable vendors they prefer to work with.  Additionally, hiring a planner is usually a fail-safe way to have a good vendor team.  They can give input on the vendor, as well as coordinate with the vendors in advance to make sure everyone is on the same page.  It is in the planner and venue's best interest that you have a solid vendor team, as it helps to make their job easier in the long run.  Just remember, it is ok to ask questions of your potential vendors, as you are interviewing them for a very big, important job.  If something doesn't seem right or you don't have a good connection, then our best advice is to look elsewhere.


The Issue: "The tent was too small...it was so crowded!" "The dance floor was too big, causing my photos to look like no one was there." 

Our Advice: Be sure to know your crowd. Will there be a bunch of dancers or will your guests be more likely to sit and chat as the music plays in the background? Although your number of guests may dictate a certain size, it doesn't mean that this is right for you. Make the choice based on who you have coming. Maybe a smaller dance floor and some lounge areas would be more appropriate for you.

Photo Credit:  Once Like A Spark

Photo Credit: Once Like A Spark

Bridesmaids Dresses

The Issue: "My maids felt uncomfortable in their dresses, and even though they didn't say anything about it, I could tell in the photos."

Our Advice: It's ok here to "not sweat the small stuff." Many brides are choosing to let their bridesmaids pick their own dresses these days and are just asking for it to be in a certain pattern or color palette. Others choose a dress that has several styles and let the girls pick between those five or six as to which fits their body best. Whichever way you choose to dress your girls, be sure that they are comfortable in what they are wearing, as it will be evident in photos (and video) if they are not for years to come.

Dress Alteration Budget

The Issue: "I chose a dress that was right in my budget, but the alterations put me over!"

Our Advice: Wedding dress alterations can carry quite the sticker shock. Be sure that you are asking about this as you are trying on dresses and making your decision. Some salons charge a percentage where others will charge based on the services they are preforming. You will want to be able to keep this in your budget, especially if you are trying to keep the dress to a certain range.  Each nip, tuck, change and trim costs money, so be sure you ask. 

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

The Issue: "I spent so much time on Pinterest, and had so many DIYs that I was worrying myself silly trying to get it all done."

Our Advice: Pinterest can be a black-hole as we have previously discussed. We advise that you not take on too many projects and to have realistic expectations of what your DIY (Do-It-Yourself) will turn out to look like vs what you see from some photographer's styled session.  Remember, DIY is not for everyone and can be time consuming and budget busting if overdone.

Photo Credit:  Megan Ellis Photography

Include Your Fiancé

The Issue: "We fought more than ever during wedding planning, I had no idea he would have such an opinion!"

Our Advice: Many couples experience a lot of their biggest fights during the wedding planning process. You can avoid some of this by not just assuming that your groom doesn't have an opinion, or that wedding planning is "just a girl thing." Remember, this is just as big of a life changing event for him as for you and because of that, he is bound to have an opinion on some things.  Keeping this in mind, be sure that you are running things past him. He may not care or may leave it up to you but you may be surprised at the things that he is really passionate about. Have a conversation about the things are most important to him and allow him to take the lead on those items, or at the very least, have a considerable amount of input. Use planning as a learning opportunity and realize that maybe he really cares about the quality of food or the type of suit he wears. Let him have input...t's his day too!

~Kelly & Leslie

Jason Mize Photography {Friendor Friday}

Welcome back to FRIENDOR FRIDAY! Today we are highlighting one of our favorite photographers... Jason Mize

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Located in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area of Florida but is willing to travel to you at your dream location, Jason is an absolute pleasure to work with. He sees each wedding at it's core, for the most intimate moments that mean the most to you and captures those moments for you to relive your day for years to come.

Look him up for your next photography needs... and tell him the Just Save the date Girls sent you his way :)

~Kelly & Leslie

10 Ways to NOT be a Stressed-Out Bride

We hear from brides ALL the time that during that the final month of planning, they have a laundry list of items they "have no time to get done." Allow us to put your mind at ease, and perhaps be the only ones who will actually give you permission to NOT do some of these items.

1. DIY Projects

  • While it would be SO adorable to have hand embroidered napkins at each place setting, or homemade jam as guest favors, DO NOT stress out over getting these things done. Put these types of projects at the bottom of your "must do" list and if you have time GREAT, if you don't... none the wiser. You don't need to pull an all-nighter for a whole week to get it done!

2. Running Late

  • Bottom Line: The wedding CANNOT start with out you! Your guests are there for you and to share in your joy... they will wait the extra ten minutes it takes to get your hair just right or your pesky eyelash in place.

3. Not Enough Food

  • After you give your final numbers to your catering team, REST ASSURED that no one will go home hungry. Remember, this is an elegant event, not an all-you-can-eat 24 hour buffet. Guests know this as well and should know better than to come having not eaten all day.
Photo Credit:  Munoz Photography

Photo Credit: Munoz Photography

4. Guest Behavior

  • Your aunt is crazy, his brother is a showboater... IGNORE IT! While you do want to have these close family members there to celebrate with you, by no means, do you need to pay attention to their nonsense. All you need to worry about is taking in the details of your day and having a great time with your new spouse!

5. Dancing

  • Concerned no one will dance...have a "do not play list" longer than the Gettysburg Address? As the song says "LET IT GO!!!!!" Hire a professional DJ or Band who has a performance style you enjoy (definitely do your research) and let them do their thing. You will worry yourself silly trying to pay attention to every song wracking your brain as to whether it was "allowed" or not. If you start to cut a rug, so will your guests.

6. Even Wedding Party

  • You have 3 sisters, he has no brothers and only one life long best friend. IT'S OK! You can always come up with a way to let everyone walk in/out that doesn't look awkward. There is no "right way"...do what works for you!
Photo Credit: Ozzy Garcia

Photo Credit: Ozzy Garcia

7. Weather

  • We can't say this enough... YOU CAN'T CONTROL THE WEATHER!!! Did you catch that? You can not control the weather. It will serve you no purpose to worry yourself to an ulcer about it. Have a good back up plan and or wedding insurance and trust that your wedding professionals will take care of what needs to be done should plan A quickly turn to plan B.

8. Breakouts

  • You didn't get to the salon before your wedding day and your eyebrows aren't perfectly quaffed or you wake up on the morning of the wedding with a pimple... it's ok.  Hopefully, you have hired a wedding day beauty team who will be able to take care of any of your perceived imperfections on your big day! Also remember that all the extra worry doesn't do your skin any good! So sit back, relax, have some bubbles and get pampered!

9. Matching

  • OMG the napkins and the bridesmaids dresses aren't the EXACT shade of pink as your roses!  There is something to be said about everything "going" together but not "matching" each other. And to be 100% honest... you will probably be the only one who notices.

10. Wedding Website

  • You sent a save the date and just haven't had time to get to making your wedding website. That's ok! Your invitations should have the information they need and if someone is a little extra needy... that's what texting and Facebook are for :) You can also delegate this task to your mom or maid of honor...they want to help so let them field these questions.

~Kelly & Leslie

What is Plus Plus? {Ask A Wedding Planner}

So what does “plus-plus” mean? Plus-plus refers to service charges and/or gratuity and taxes. These fees are added on top of the base price for, say, the per person cost of the food that you are planning to serve to your guests. Menus for catering typically list the base price with the plus-plus added on. It usually looks like this: $85++. 

Now that wedding season is upon us, we want discuss an important topic that we feel many of our couples are unaware of, but it is something that can definitely inflate your budget.  Today, we are talking about the infamous “plus-plus” charges. We know this can be confusing to someone that is not versed in the ways of catering and party-planning and if you forget about them as you are planning your event’s food budget, they can quickly break the budget.

Many couples are amazed at how complicated that little “++” could be. It seems so easy to just plug that $85/person into your budget and know how much your banquet would cost – but you would end up with the wrong number. This is one place where couples (and those who do not usually handle catering) often get into trouble.

Service charges vary by specific company, though the different hotels, restaurants and catering companies within a city or geographical area typically have similar rates. (22% is a common rate in Key West.) Remember that service charges are taxable. Taxes are set by cities and states and are one of the few items that hotels really cannot negotiate away – after all, they still have to pay those taxes to the city or state whether they collect them from you or not (unless you are lucky enough to be tax exempt).

Photo Credit:  Meghan Rowe Photography

So, let’s look at our example banquet at $85 per person (base price) . If you are feeding 100 people and have a budget of $9,000, it looks like you are OK. However, remember that the rate is actually $85++, so you have to take service charges and tax into account to know if you are really under budget. If we assume a 22% service charge and 7.5% in state and local taxes, then the total for your dinner is not $8,500 but would be, instead, $11,447.50 – a difference of almost $3,000! That represents a huge amount to a couple on a tight budget and even large weddings with much larger food budgets can get into trouble if the couple forgets to include tax and service charges in their budgeting.

Remember, if you are unsure of a specific charge when looking at a Banquet Event Order, or BEO as they are commonly referred, be sure to ask your Wedding Planner or Sales Manager at your venue or catering company.  They can help you read through the Order and answer any questions you may have about charges, fees, etc.  It's better to ask questions and be informed than to be surprised with additional charges you weren't planning for.

Keeping an eye on your food budget can be tricky with any wedding but, if you remember to budget for the plus-plus, then at least you won’t find yourself tripped up by these charges and you will be able to relax and enjoy your big day!

~Kelly & Leslie