Starting about 45 seconds after you get engaged, people want to know when the wedding will be. And, at first, you’re like… well, we just kinda decided to do this, so give us a minute.
We were engaged in late November and were planning to start picking a date over Christmas. So, over the holiday break, we started discussing guest lists. Because here’s the real breakdown to picking a date:
Picking a Date = Picking a Venue = Knowing the Guest Count
The Guest Count
So we needed guests. Who gets invited and who doesn’t make the cut? Do we want a small wedding or are we ok with a bigger one? If “bigger,” then how big?
We decided that this wasn’t actually a matter of which people were invited, but rather which groups of people. Because every person inevitably belongs to a group of people whereby if you invite one person from the group, you kinda have to invite all the people in that group. I can’t invite my aunt without inviting my two uncles. I can’t invite my one friend from college without the other four that used to hang out with us too.
So we divided our people into “pods.” We ended up with nine pods, the first pod being the two of us. We then had four family pods (his immediate family, my immediate family, his extended family, my extended family) and four friend pods (his college/current friends, my current friends, his high school friends, our mutual work friends). This list consisted of 70 people. We found this to be acceptable.
So, now we were looking for a place for 70 people to gather. What kind of place did we want to gather in? One of the things that I had prioritized in my head (after reading a wedding book that suggested I do so) was that I wanted a venue that had all the things already there (chairs, tables, food, drinks) and a place that had something to do (an activity). I’m not big on dancing, and I really wanted something for everyone to do besides eat and drink (although those are always fun too).
So, we were looking for a place that was ready to host 70 people on its own and had a thing for everyone to do.
But, as with most weddings, cost was a pretty big factor. We wanted all these things for under about $10k. Which meant my first choice, renting out Mission Bowl, a posh, six-lane urban bowling alley with restaurant and bar in San Francisco, was out with a price tag of $17.5k (or $22.5k including tax and gratuity). Harumph. So, where next?
Other places that we considered that had a thing to do (or a fun theme) were: Coinop (a video game bar in SF), the Tonga Room (a tiki-themed bar in SF), the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the California Academy of Sciences, the Exploratorium, and Urban Putt (an indoor urban mini-golf course in SF). We also contacted a number of other places that either looked cool/fun or were very inexpensive just to feel out our options.
All told, we inquired at 19 places starting on January 7, finally putting down a deposit at Urban Putt on January 24. They quoted us about $11.5k for a full buyout for 70 people on Sunday, May 28 from 6-10pm, including mini-golf, photo booth, buffet dinner (including appetizers and dessert), and a $1,260 bar minimum (which we would end up doubling on the night-of).
This ended up meeting pretty much all of our criteria (all the vendors in one place, a “thing” to do (mini-golf), and a non-traditional atmosphere) at just a little bit over our budgeted cost of $10k, yay!
But, as we all know, weddings aren’t just one night on a dance floor anymore (or mini-golf course, as it were), they’re the night before and the morning after and dresses and suits and makeup and things. For us, the only thing that ended up making this all work out on the budget front was a fortuitous gift from my fiancé’s parents in December.
In-laws to the rescue… but with what strings attached?