There are many variables in hosting a wedding reception. This checklist can guide you to make critical decisions the affect the price of your big day.

Planning a wedding sometime soon? The excitement of that should be part of the joy. But if you want to keep control of the costs, and make it a day you will treasure, try this list of questions with your wedding caterers as a way to go about it rationally:

Date? - There are several reasons why the date factors into early planning and overall costs. One of course is simple availability. A Los Angeles wedding catering company may have the capacity to handle one event only per day or per weekend. Others might have the bandwidth for more. Inquire if a Thursday or Sunday affair would come with a price break - for venues, that is often possible.

Time of day and hours of service? - This is a question that pertains to the nature of the event itself. Some couples opt for a luncheon following a morning wedding. That would likely be a shorter event, lighter menu, perhaps without a bar or perhaps with a signature drink (Bloody Marys in pitchers, for example), all factors that can affect costs. An evening event with an open bar might be more elaborate and consequently more expensive, keeping in mind that labor for preparation and service all factor into the overall price.

Venue? - Some venues work with a list of caterers in Los Angeles who have been through an approval process, while others have a more open policy. If there is an on-site kitchen the food preparation and service might be simplified, but if a mobile kitchen has to be set up the costs increase.

Size of guest list? - Of course most caterers set prices according to the number of guests, some allowing for lower prices for lite eaters who will not be using the bar. But seating and service are required regardless of age.

Food expectations? - There is a range of cost for any size wedding that can be tied to the menu itself. Clearly, a lobster or filet mignon dinner will cost more than chicken. Family-style platters of sliced meat and pasta will likely cost less. Your caterer should present a range of options.

Beverage expectations? - Welcome and toast champagnes, an open bar, quality spirits, dinner table wines and craft beers are awesome. But it’s possible to pare each of those things back. For families whose religions discourage or prohibit alcohol, there clearly is a savings involved.

Special needs? - We live in a world filled with food restrictions: gluten, nut allergies, vegetarianism and vegans, etc. Identify if one or more guests cannot eat a full menu, then prepare your caterer to offer an alternative. It’s going to be easier (and cheaper) to accommodate them with advance warning.

How green? - Disposable dinnerware is going to be less expensive, but the environmentally oriented couple and guests might find that philosophically unacceptable. Washable china and glassware is always more expensive, particularly if it’s not venue provided. There are biodegradable disposable plates and serviceware that might be palatable to all.

How fancy? - Many brides and grooms will accept nothing less than china, silver and glassware. Prioritizing that comes with cost - but it does seem appropriate for all the formality associated with weddings.

In other words, the cost of a wedding reception boils down to choices. With a list of questions it’s possible to be methodical - and to identify what matters most to you.

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