Throwing a successful event all comes down to budget. Whether it’s entertainment, decor or choosing a catering company, every aspect is equally as important but it all adds up. So how do you choose where to spend and where to save? Rather than sweating the small stuff, here are my top tips to help you stay on budget for your wedding or next corporate or personal event. —Donna Wadsworth
SPEND: A/V & ENTERTAINMENT
We’ve all been to an event where poor audio ruins the experience. Good A/V and entertainment is something everyone appreciates and can have a big impact on the atmosphere, especially if you have guests with auditory issues. If you’re on a tight budget, consider finding a venue known for good acoustics or look to shave budget elsewhere to ensure your guests have a great time.
SAVE: VENUE (NOT HOW YOU THINK!)
Next to food, nothing impresses guests more than a venue that leaves a lasting impression – but finding the perfect place to hold your event can become costly. A venue can directly impact overall guest experience, so it’s important to find somewhere that matches both your budget and the tone of the event. To cut back on costs, try scheduling your event during the venue’s off-season, or off-peak time of day. Get creative when brainstorming your event space – for corporate events, is there somewhere on your business premises that can be repurposed for the day? We’ve found that even the most unexpected venues can be dressed up with decor, leaving the biggest impact on guests – we’ve even catered wedding receptions in underground parking lots! Choosing somewhere unique can also help ensure your guests enjoy an incredible and memorable event experience.
Event photography isn’t just about capturing memories. You’ll be able to use your photos to create all sorts of meaningful moments for your guests and loved ones for years to come, for everything from a printed portrait of each guest for them to take home as a party favour, or a framed photo to give as a holiday gift to your parents, and more. If you don’t know where to start, your caterer, planner or other vendors will have a number of preferred photographers they love working with and would be happy to make recommendations.
SAVE: KEYNOTE SPEAKER
This one’s strictly for corporate or business events, but it’s a big one! Speaker fees can eat up a large portion of the budget you’ve been given, but there are a few ways you can still have a fantastic keynote without breaking the bank. Make sure you either book a speaker well in advance, or keep track of when your wishlist speakers will be in your area for another engagement to cut back on hotel and flight costs. You could also look for someone up and coming who is still charging an affordable rate, or perhaps even someone local with an inspirational message to share. Another option is to hire a virtual speaker, allowing you to dedicate a bit more budget on high quality A/V & entertainment!
With the right decor, even the blandest of venues can transform into a unique setting. Decor should always be memorable and help set the mood. Choose a colour scheme and table decor that stand out and play well with your menus (don’t plan to have large garlands running down the tables if you’re planning on having a family-style meal, for instance). If you’re down to the last dollar, consider investing in statement lighting or one to two larger photo-worthy installations, while keeping everything else minimal. Simple decor like string lights are an affordable and adaptable way to zhuzh up a space, and florals can be moved around the venue throughout the event to draw guests’ focus where it needs to be. And remember – food can often be just as eye-catching! I love creating large grazing platters, seafood or charcuterie boards, or designing bespoke event menus that showcase seasonal ingredients and fit our clients’ budgets, all while delivering on visual impact.
The last thing you want is to be running around helping out at your event if you’re short staffed. Instead, save yourself both the time and last-minute stress by letting someone else handle the logistics. Whether you choose to hire external staff and an event planner, or select a venue which includes on-site support, you can be rest assured that your event will run smoothly. Some caterers, like ourselves, provide bartenders, servers, chefs and more, and have experienced staff who can travel almost anywhere you are. Be sure to ask your caterer for their plan for staffing, so you can rest easy knowing you’ll be spending your time enjoying your event along with your guests.
SAVE OR SPEND: FOOD & BEVERAGE
This one might surprise you, but bear with us as there are many ways you can adapt an event menu to suit your budget. Sit-down meals are often pricier than a buffet, so if you’re looking to save rather than splurge, it’s important to consider your options. A seasoned caterer will be able to offer a multitude of dining experiences, including plated, buffet, family-style, serving stations and BBQ, or even reception-style events that are entirely canapés-based, which will offer you a variety of price points to choose from Your caterer should also be able to clearly walk you through a variety of bar packages to ensure you have the best fit for your event.
Savoury City Catering owner Donna Wadsworth has seen it all in her decades of experience running catering companies and working as a chef across Canada and internationally. To create perfectly orchestrated events, Donna lives by the motto “fail to prepare then prepare to fail,” paired with a meticulous attention to detail and the ability to perfectly envision the flow of an event from beginning to end.