Budget Tip: Full Service Hotels As Your Reception Venue

October 17, 2012

We know first hand that planning a wedding can be expensive and that having a budget is really important!  Here are some insider secrets to help you save money without breaking the bank when choosing a full service hotel as your wedding venue.

Time of Day

Many hotels book receptions at two different times of the day, so they can host two weddings.  Commonly they book from  noon to 5:00 p.m. or from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, and they may charge extra to host a reception that overlaps both time segments. To potentially save money, choose one of these times and if you can, choose the earlier time slot. Because evening functions tend to be easily booked, choosing the earlier time may give you negotiating power with the hotel, especially if their list price is the same for both time slots!

Time of Year

The date you choose for your wedding will significantly affect reception cost. Peak months in the greater Jacksonville area are March, April, May, September, October and November. Weekends in December are typically reserved for holiday parties. Most hotels will refuse to negotiate prices during these prime months, and many require a minimum budget be met in order to reserve the space.  During the non-peak months, you might be able to negotiate a lower price! Something else to consider when booking your wedding reception at a hotel in the greater Jacksonville, St. Augustine, and Amelia Island area is the location of the hotel.  During the summer months, the beach hotels are close to 100% occupancy on the weekends, during football season and the winter months, hotels in downtown Jacksonville are busier.

Menu Selection

How do you decided between a dinner buffet, sit down meal, heavy hors d’oeurves or a station reception?  Though many new brides assume that a hors d’oeuvres cocktail party will be the least expensive option, often the exact opposite is true. To host a hors d’oeuvres party at mealtime, you should provide 14 to 16 hors d’oeuvres per guest. When all of the items are tallied, the total per guest cost can be equal to or higher than a plated or buffet meal.


The largest contributing factor to your overall reception budget is the type of bar you host! If  you are considering hosting a bar for your guests for the full reception (typically four to five hours), the price can equal or even exceed the meal cost. Many times a hotel will offer an “open bar” package price. These prices are based on a fixed per person cost per hour regardless of the amount consumed. The advantage of the open bar is having a fixed cost to factor into your budget. Fixed costs mean that there are no surprises!

Do not assume that you will save money by serving only beer, wine and soda. Many people will drink more beer and wine than mixed drinks. Here is a great tip:to save money on your open bar, close the bar during dinner, and reopen after the meal. This way you will have bar coverage when it’s needed most!