22 things to trim from your wedding to streamline your budget

Stripes has seen her fair share of weddings, and the number one thing she will always comment on is the obscene amount that people are willing to spend on one single day. And although Laughing Chefs tries to see every budget as a guideline and not a target, some of the budgets that we have come into contact with have been sky high.

Why? She always wants to know. Why would people spend so much on one day, just so that they can start their lives together in debt? Or with parents who have to struggle because they spent everything on the wedding. Even if you have enough money, not even endless piles can justify spending money on those things that most people are not even aware of. Never mind the mindless forking out of cash, you are also contributing to a consumption-driven culture, waste, and unachievable expectations of every budget bride out there.

Every girl (and boys – they are not excluded) dreams of her big day. She wants everything to be perfect, from the dress right down to the serviette rings. And that costs money. If you do not have a lot to go around to start with, Stripes has compiled a list of 22 things that you can leave out, without your guests even noticing. Not only will this save you money, but also countless hours of research, sourcing, making, and worrying. Although there are a lot of things she can add, she decided it was too early in the year to write a lengthy article so she decided to stick to these 22 points.

Stripes says, the rule of thumb is to decide what you want to remember from your wedding day, together with what is the most important to you. Then allocate more budget to these things, taking away budget from things that are not that important to you. But, she says, remember that food is usually the measuring stick used by guests to label a wedding as having been good or bad, and in the end, you only have your photos to remember the day by. So spend more on your food and photographer, and less on those details that most guests never pay attention to, such as;

22 Things you can trim from your wedding, without your guests noticing:

  1. Go paperless

Lately, there has been a shift towards digital in every plane of life, so why not extend it to your invitations? Send out your save the dates, or pre-wedding invitations, via email or a chat service such as Whatsapp or WeChat. If you really want to go the printed route, stick to simple yet elegant designs, normal paper or cardstock, and no embellishments, foil work or other details that cost an arm and leg and usually end up in the trash afterwards. You can also invite everyone digitally, and then print a few elaborate and beautiful invitations for your grandparents, and one that you can keep as a memento.

  1. Skip the open bar

Instead of having an open bar, with a set limit or without, rather opt for a wine bar or pre-order a select amount of drinks that are then served throughout the night. If these drinks run out, or guests would like something else, they can buy for themselves from the cash bar. A wine bar is a wonderful option – a number of bottles are placed on a table, together with glasses. Guests then help themselves. What makes this option, even more, cost-effective is because guests are pouring from one central point you don’t end up with a bunch of open, half-drunk bottles of wine that you can do nothing with.

  1. Use what you already have

Incorporate items that you already own into your décor. Doing this saves money, but also ensures that your stamp of individuality is on your wedding. Items that you might already own: glass jars for flowers, beautiful shawls or pashminas for tablecloths, old books, etc. Also, get a list of décor items that are included in your venue hire, or if not included get the prices. It can work out cheaper hiring in from them since you avoid transport costs.

  1. Get married off-season, or on a weekday

For brilliant cost savings, consider getting married in the winter months, or if you want a summer wedding, on a Friday or even a Sunday. You can also look at a mid-week wedding. Some venues offer as much as 20% off for weekday or Sunday weddings, and usually 10% off for Friday weddings. Stripes know that Laughing Chefs has nice specials for the winter months.

  1. Learn how to wedding plan

If you really want to be hands-on, the best cost-saving advice that Stripes can give you would be to take a course in wedding planning. There are numerous workshops and courses out there, and although usually directed at individuals who would like to make wedding planning their career, you can learn a thing or two applicable to your own wedding. Stripes says she has heard rumours of exciting things to come at Laughing Chefs but will keep you updated.

  1. Bulk out your bouquet with cheaper options

With flowers, the biggest expense is not the physical blooms but rather the labour involved in buying, transporting, and arranging the blooms. Pick your flowers carefully, then add elements that are cheaper but that will add flair and drama, or make the bouquet softer/dreamy/etc. For example, berries, feathers, foliage, bulbs, etc.

  1. Serve a signature drink

Serve a custom-designed cocktail or signature drink instead of a full bar.

  1. Candles instead of flowers

Using large pillar candles as your centrepiece not only increases the elegance and flair, it also decreases the costs. You can hire refillable candles at a fraction of the cost of flowers, and candlelight creates the most beautiful ambience.

  1. Change the serving style of the food

French service or plated is your most expensive options, followed closely by waiter service of finger foods or canapes. The most cost-effective serving style is family-style, where the waiters’ place bowls of food on the tables and guests help themselves. The misconception is that buffet is cheap, but if you do a nice buffet and you do it well, it can work out more than plated food! Be honest and upfront with your caterer to ensure you stay within budget.

  1. Limit your guest list

Invite only people who play a part in your life. Skip the plus-ones, and forget the guilt-invites. Decide on the number of guests that your budget will comfortably cover and stick to that number. If you have a lot of friends or even family that didn’t make the cut but with whom you still want to celebrate consider throwing an after-the-fact party and invite them all.

  1. Champagne is for toasts only

Get only enough bottles to allow for one glass per person. Ask the venue or caterer to pour the champagne at the bar or in the kitchen then serve to the guests. This way you ensure everyone gets, with little wastage.

  1. Consider a Wedding Breakfast or Brunch

Breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon teas are usually more affordable than evening receptions: They’re shorter, the fare is lighter, and guests tend to consume less alcohol early in the day.

  1. Go all-inclusive

Find a venue that includes a list of things in their packages. Some listed items might seem pointless to you, such as specifying that they have toilets for men and women, but once there you will be grateful. If the venue includes décor, see where you can tweak your theme to incorporate those items, even if it might mean having to change your colour palette slightly.

  1. Change the style of the wedding

The less formal the party, the more affordable it will be. Instead of a full, sit-down dinner, opt for a brunch reception or more laid-back cocktail-style meal. Choose a venue with a low-key vibe, like a barn or farm, which lends itself perfectly to a simpler, more relaxed celebration with fewer bells and whistles.

  1. Bouton-ette your bridesmaids

Instead of costly and elaborate bouquets for your bridesmaids, rather opt for a single bloom pinned to their dresses boutonniere style. Not only will you save money, but you will also allow your wedding party to make a statement.

  1. Elaborate decor and expensive place settings

Don’t feel guilty about skipping things like place cards, fancy aisle runners, chair covers, or little handwritten menus or signs. Guests will either not notice that you went with the plain or basic instead of the more expensive option, or they will notice but not care. Instead, choose a venue that is beautiful as it is, and lends itself well to the chosen look.

  1. Make cake the dessert course

Stripes has seen scary things, such as almost an entire wedding cake being thrown away because guests just never got round to eating it. They were too busy nibbling on the dessert buffet. To stop this from happening, or at least minimise your risk, serve your wedding cake either as the sole dessert course, or paired with one other dessert. This kind of forces guests to have cake, and eat it too. Just make sure your wedding cake is actually nice and edible!

  1. Wedding coordinator

Hire a wedding coordinator to save you time and money. Most brides think that hiring a wedding coordinator will break their budget, but it’s a little-known fact that wedding coordinators can actually save you money after you get all the discounts and perks they have arranged with partner vendors. But use caution when selecting a planner: Anyone can call herself a “wedding planner.” Look for someone who is certified or have a proven track record. Phone past clients if you want 100% peace of mind.

  1. Order two cakes instead of one

Cake one – the beautiful one decorated according to your theme and colour palette. Cake two – a simple sheet cake in the same flavour as the main cake, which is cut up and served from the kitchens. Guests will never know, and you save pockets of money! If you want to be adventurous or have a large guest list, you can even do a few flavours of sheet cake.

  1. Decrease the hours that you need a photographer for

Speed up the traditional or symbolic acts that you want to be filmed. Move the cake cutting, first dance, and bouquet toss to early in the night. Guests won’t necessarily work out why, but you will – by getting these things out of the way the photographer can leave early, thus cutting down on the per-hour costs.

  1. Change expensive bubbly for less expensive options

What is in a name? A few 00 after the R, that is what. The sad reality is that most wedding guests cannot tell a sparkling wine from an MCC, let alone a glass of champagne. And I can assure you, most of the time up to 80% of all guests do not drink dry bubbly. To stop them from wasting your expensive stuff, rather opt for less expensive sparkling wine, and choose the sweeter varieties instead of the dry.

  1. Wedding favours

While precious mason jars filled with homemade pastries and jams are now in vogue, they’re unnecessary expenses that your guests probably won’t even remember in the first place. If you want to send something home with them, get a few paper boxes and place them at the wedding cake. Guests can then take a slice home to enjoy later.

These are the 22 things that Stripes wishes she could say to almost every bride that comes through the door. Remember it is about your marriage, not your wedding. Oh, and money doesn’t grow on trees, spend it wisely.

Anything that you can add?

Easy Ways to Manage to Manage your Health During Wedding Planning

It’s no secret that wedding planning can be one of the most stressful times in a bride’s life. Between finding a venue, a caterer, and trying to decide on details as simple as what chairs to have at the reception, it can get very overwhelming. Being that there is no “maternity-leave” for wedding planning, lots of brides-to-be have plenty of other things to do and places to be in the months leading up to the wedding. It can be so difficult to manage all the things left to settle while living your life at the same time. Days seem to fly by and as you get closer to the wedding, and all the chaos can put a huge amount of stress on your health. With all the stuff that needs to be taken care of, it can be easy to forget to take care of yourself. The last thing you need when you’re trying to be the most healthy and productive you can be is to get sick or exhausted. These tips are simple little reminders to support your physical and mental health during the stress of wedding planning.

Make a List

The wedding planning process usually starts as early as possible because there is such a long list of things to decide on and ultimately arrange. One of the worst things you can do is to wait too long and end up bombarding yourself with an overwhelming amount of errands in the months before the wedding. This can add a crazy amount of unnecessary stress on top of the existing anxiety you’ve already built up. All this stress and anxiety can cause a lack of sleep, decreasing your energy levels and make you sick. One of the best ways to sustain your health and effectively manage your time and energy is to make a list. If you know nothing about wedding planning, do some research and create your list of things that need to get done before the big day. Find out what needs to be done now and what can be done later on. If you don’t know, talk to someone who knows, whether that be a friend who’s recently gotten married or a wedding planner. Look online and find out what’s going to work best for you. Even when you feel defeated, take a deep breath and remember that it will all get done eventually.

Budget

High on the list of stress-causers is money. Weddings are very expensive and there are clearly a lot of different things that need to be paid for. Preparing yourself for the amount of money you’re going to spend can decrease the amount of stress you feel when it comes time to pay the bill. Again, do your research and decide what you’re willing and able to spend, based on what things can potentially cost. Deciding what you can and will spend before you spend it can give you more comfort in knowing that running out of money is avoidable. Another good tip is to put a little money away in a jar or container every day so that you accumulate a bit of a safety net. Even if you don’t end up using the backup fund, you can easily use that money to get something a little more expensive than you weren’t able to afford before!

Sleep!

Though this might be a lot of people’s favourite thing to do, it seems to get pushed to the back burner when there are so many things going on. Don’t let sleep get bumped to the bottom of your list. When you don’t get enough sleep, you lose focus and concentration which will no doubt make running wedding errands even more difficult than it was before. It can also have a lot of physical effects on the bride-to-be like illness, dry skin, and cold sores. While lotion and cold sore medication are good solutions, avoid getting these by planning your activities throughout the day so you’re done with them at a decent hour and you can get a good night’s sleep. Set a goal every day for a time that you should settle down and sleep so that you’re fully energized the next morning.

Moderate Exercise

Working out can be an important part of a bride-to-be’s routine in the months leading up to her wedding. Every bride wants to look and feel their best for the big day. Finding time to meet wedding planners and explore venues along with going to the gym can get extremely difficult. Making a daily schedule in a planner along with the list of things you need to be done for the wedding will help you organize your thoughts and keep you from scrambling at the last second. Keep in mind also that it’s perfectly fine to exercise a bit less if you’re feeling burned out. Perform some low-intensity workouts so that when you get home from the gym you still have enough energy left to do some planning. Take a walk, do some yoga or any other of your favourite activities that won’t keep you from being productive the rest of the day. That way when you’re done, you can take on more of that to-do list.

Take a Break

This may be tough to swallow being that you already feel like you have so much to do with so little time. You might be feeling like you should be using any last dark hour of the night to be arranging any last detail that you can, but one of the best things you can do when all the tasks life throws at us happen at the same time is to take a break. Take a deep breath, sit for a minute, and do nothing but give your mind and body a rest. Take a day off from work, enjoy some personal time in which you have nowhere to be and nothing to do. You most likely need a recharge to give yourself a burst of energy that will make the next day productive.  

Most importantly, don’t forget to enjoy this time. Despite all the stress, planning a wedding should be a time to be creative, have fun, and spend time with your loved ones. Don’t hesitate to ask for help because there’s always someone around who’s been through it. And if you start to feel burned out, take a break and take care of yourself before you take care of anything else.

Stripes’ special wishes for you for 2019

2018 might have treated you well. It might have thrown you around a bit. Or you might have emerged (thankfully intact) on the other side battered and bruised. No matter how 2018 was, 2019 can always be better. Of course, that would be a good wish, but Stripes knows you expect more of her. And so her wishes for you for 2019 must be a bit more elaborate.

1. A year of celebrations
May 2019 be filled with victories, accomplishments and love that needs to be celebrated. Of course, reaching the weekend, or surviving a Monday, or not crying after a very difficult day are also successes, and we need to celebrate our successes. So open that bottle, pop the cork, prepare that special dish, or even better yet get someone else in to do it for you. Celebrate in style, and in comfort, in 2019. Stripes says “remember that Laughing Chefs does the best private cheffing around! Get them to do the work so you can enjoy the celebration”.


2. The knowledge that happiness comes from within
May 2019 be the year that you accomplish inner peace. Stripes wish that you will realise that only you can make yourself happy and that you do not need a lot to be happy. It is a feeling, not a thing. And if you find it difficult to reach inner peace and the happiness that comes from really knowing yourself and being in balance, she says you are welcome to come and spend some quiet time on De Oude Deck, overlooking the bushveld, or staring up at the mountain. Outer peace might just help you with your inner peace. Bring the family with, Laughing Chefs will cook for them and according to them, no dishes is as close to happiness as can be!


3. Rosy cheeks, and tables decorated in living coral
May 2019 exceed your expectations. Stripes predict that this year will be the year for growth and for strengthening. She says there is a reason that the colour of the year is Living Coral – this is the year for living! And if you are alive, you need to move to stay alive. If you don’t know where to go with your rosy cheeks and all, book a picnic with Laughing Chefs, sit under the trees and when you are really quiet, you might even hear them grow. And if pinkish-orange is your colour, remember to incorporate the colour of the year into your décor! Of course, when in doubt get the experts to do it for you. Again, Laughing Chefs.


4. Loving friends and family
May 2019 be the year where you add to your friends and family. May your house be filled with joy and laughter, with sorrow and despair never crossing the threshold. Stripes says to watch out for Laughing Chef’s wedding packages at Oudehout Mountain Lodge – adding to a family can mean so many things. They also do baby showers, kitchen teas, christenings and engagement parties, making it easier than ever before to welcome and enlarge. She also wants to remind us of all the loyal customers who have become friends. There is something about celebrating life’s accomplishments that just brings you together, forging new bonds and giving new meaning to our lives. Stripes love seeing people enter as strangers and leave as friends.


5. More chocolate cake, less guilt
May 2019 allow you to realise that health and wealth cannot be measured by a bathroom scale, and you are worth much more than the numbers on that scale. Being a bit on the heavy side herself, Stripes knows that sometimes a big personality needs a bit more room to breathe. This year, do you. If you are happy then great! If you are not, do something about it. Stripes hope that Laughing Chefs, in collaboration with Oudehout Mountain Lodge and a few selected other people, will start their retreats so that she can also book in, relax, and breathe out. Maybe detox or stretch a bit too.


6. Less daydreaming, more hustling to make them come true
May 2019 be the year that you work smarter, not harder, to reach your dreams. If you can think it, you can do it. Stripes love daydreaming, but also realise that if she doesn’t do something about it she will never wake up in a better world. She loves seeing how Laughing Chefs grows and prospers, and wishes that 2019 will also be the year in which their wildest dreams come true. And Stripes’ biggest wish? A partner in crime, someone to share her day with, and hopefully her nights. She loves seeing the weddings that Laughing Chefs do, but it also makes her a bit sad. Hopefully, this will be the year that she gets to meet her Prince charming!

And those are the things that Stripes wishes for you for the year ahead. She also says that if you ever need reminding of how awesome you are, you know where to find her!

May 2019 be the most blessed year yet!

SOUTH AFRICAN APPROVED SIMPLE CHRISTMAS LUNCH MENU IDEAS

Since I was a little girl I always dreamt of a white Christmas. Not because I like the snow – it’s not bad, it’s just that I hate getting cold. I wanted a white Christmas because that is what you saw in the movies. Families huddled together around a tree, with the fireplace crackling in the background, drinking hot chocolate with little marshmallows in. Wearing those “ugly Christmas sweaters”. You see, I live in sunny and warm South Africa. Even in winter our temperatures seldom drop below 0C. And December in SA is HOT! From about mid-November, we are lucky to have a day where the maximum doesn’t hit the mid to high 30C, and most of the time we turn just below 40C. So our Christmases’ are sweltering hot. What upsets me the most about the whole temperature and lack of snow situation is that most South Africans want to serve the “traditional” Christmas lunch. I say “traditional” because it has never been a tradition here, it is something that people got from the movies. We do not serve stuffed turkey and glazed ham, with mashed potatoes etc. for Christmas lunch. And if you do, you shouldn’t. It’s hot! People want to have something that is lighter, more refreshing, and more South African. Seasonal, local, and fitting the climate. That is what a Christmas lunch should be. Add to that easy, effortless and quick and you have the beginnings of a winning menu. I am not saying that you shouldn’t eat turkey or ham, just that you shouldn’t blindly follow other countries or cultures’ traditions, make your own.

We like to keep it simple, with one starter (or a bread table), 2 meats, 2 salads and 1 side, and then followed with 1 dessert. What does your Christmas meal look like?

How to host a stress-free party (without breaking the bank or going insane)

We are at that time of the year when we flitter from one party to the next. Life is busy and hurried, and inevitably your turn comes around to hosting. But hosting does not come naturally to all, and even if it does, being tired and busy can take its toll. So when you have to host your family or friends or colleagues or whoever, use this quick guide to ensure you take the stress out of impress, and enjoy the party as much as the guests.

1. Simplify

The main purpose of this website – simplify your life. When hosting, make everything simple. Invite only as many people as you can comfortably host. The more people you have over, the harder it becomes to keep everyone happy. Work out the menu with dishes that you can prepare in advance, or that need minimal fuss before service. Use shortcuts if there are any – buy pastry instead of making, order in a cake if you don’t have time (or skills) to bake, etc. Even better, get caterers in to do it for you…

2. Have a budget

Have a budget and stick to it. Decide how you want to divide the budget – how much are you spending on food, on drinks, on flowers, etc.

3. Pick a suitable date and invite your guests well in advance

Pick a date that that will give you enough time to plan. If you normally only get off from work very late on a Friday, then rather opt for a Saturday. If Saturdays are just crazy, then go for a Sunday lunch. Long weekends, weekends with major sporting events, school exam times; all of these events can limit the number of guests who would be able to attend. Avoid conflicting dates and times.

4. Do as much as you can before the guests arrive (even the day before)

Clean the house, set the table, make the punch, chill the wine, prep the veggies. Do anything that will not spoil or go bad overnight. Try and get as much of the running around work done as possible.

5. Enlist help

We are not all great at everything. If you cannot cook to save your life, order in. If your taste in music makes people want to sleep instead of boogie, ask a friend. Delegating a few tasks to friends or family who offered is key – ask them to pick up the ice, for instance.

6. Decide on the bar menu

Decide what you will be offering, and what you want guests to bring themselves. If you are giving wine, make sure that it is chilled. Have a signature cocktail in mind? Plan it out and ensure all the ingredients are available and ready. Bonus tip: pick a cocktail that can be made in bulk, and served in a jug, e.g. margarita, mojitos, pina coladas, etc. Steer clear of drinks that must be made and served immediately such as martinis, sex on the beach and so forth. You do not have to offer a full bar, usually, juice, water, and wine are sufficient. Set up the bar area the day before. On the day, bring out the ice and cold drinks and voila! Done. Bonus bonus tip: don’t have enough fridge space to chill the drinks or enough freezer space for all the ice? Use your washing machine! Fill your washing machine with ice and chill the drinks in there. As the ice melts the machine will drain the water leaving you with no mess and no water to empty the next day.

7. Create a playlist

Music is essential to set the tone and mood of a party and is also a key way of getting your guests to relax and interact. If you do not own enough music to make a sufficient playlist, make use of a streaming service such as Spotify or Apple Music – often these services give you a period of use at no charge.

8. If kids are going to be attending, set up a dedicated area for them to play in

If you can keep the kids happy, you can keep the parents happy, and then you are another step closer to a no-stress event. The adults will be able to enjoy the party a lot more if they know their kids are occupied, fed, and taken care of. Have a plan B for when the kids become restless and bored, for example, have a movie ready to be played or some other activity.

9. Let the guests serve themselves

Have a bar area set up with all of the things your guests might need to help themselves. This way you do not have to play bartender all night. Same with the food – set up buffet-style so that guests can informally help themselves.

Planning a party can seem like a daunting task, but having a clear idea of what you need to do and when you have to do it by will keep you organized. If you are organized, you are calm and stress-free. And if you are stress-free then you can enjoy your party. When working out your own timeline, double the time that you think something will take, and add extra time in for those unexpected surprises. And remember to schedule enough time to get ready yourself. Some of the items that you need to keep track of:

• Planning and inviting

• Following up on RSVPs

• Shopping

• Prepping and cleaning

• Decorating

Event planning 101: How to plan a successful year-end function

Your company year-end function is usually the highlight for most of the employees, and for management, it should be as well. It should be approached and handled with much care, and spending as much resources on the event is not necessary, it is imperative. The company has this one chance, this one opportunity, to not only thank the employees for a great year that is passed, but to also ensure they tackle the following year with gusto, enthusiasm and eagerness. It is one of the fastest and cheapest (over the long term) ways of building staff loyalty. As with customers, keeping a loyal staff member costs almost 5 times less than looking for and training a new staff member. So even if budgets are tight, spare a few rands to make your employees feel appreciated.

Because it is such a big deal, the event must be properly planned. By properly planning you are improving your chances of meeting the expectations of your number one asset – your employees. With any function, the keywords are “fresh” and “exciting”. With a year-end function, you can also add “appreciated” and “spoilt”.

So how do you properly plan? Firstly, a successful function is usually conceptualized at least 3 months before the intended date. In most organisations there are a lot of red tape, so you need to have enough time to get the needed approval, budget allocation, RSVPs and more. Most popular venues are also quickly fully booked, and if you have your heart set on one of those you need to secure the date as early in the year as possible. If you alone are responsible for the decisions, then your job is a bit easier compared to organisations where a whole team is responsible. If you have a team, then get together as soon as possible. Make a list of everything that needs to be done, sourced or planned together with a timeframe, and divide the responsibilities. Identify a broad theme to work in and then allow each team member or division to get ideas for whatever falls under their banners. If you have a deadline, everyone can present their suggestions and a decision can be made. From there the venue and suppliers can be confirmed and finalized. Remember to clearly state the budget, as well as how the money will be allocated to the various elements. Make sure your team understand they need to stick to the budget.

What are the elements you need to take into consideration?:

  1. Budget: this is a tricky one, especially in our current economic situation. A company cannot spend lots of money on a function if they plead poverty when it comes to bonuses or increases. Neither can they not do anything – it is bad for morale. Strike a balance between spending money that you do not have, and giving the staff an event that is special and well thought out. If you can only afford a braai, make it the best braai ever. Make sure your team is aware of the budget, as well as the suppliers that you source. Demand contracts before signing off on anything, and read the fine print.
  2. Venue: as part of the quotation process, make sure to get the answers on paper to important questions such as after-hours penalties, noise levels, cut off times for music, last rounds, do they accept cash, how long before the event must you give your final guest count, what are their deposit policy, when is final payment due, do you have exclusive use of the space, what is included, etc. Also remember to discuss possible issues such as maximum and minimum guest counts, dietary requirements, accessibility if you have disabled employees, safety and security, and if there will be management present on the day of the function.
  3. Date: Since most year-end functions are hosted in silly season – the time of year that is usually ridiculously busy for the hospitality industry, it can sometimes be tough to get a suitable date that is also available at your venue of choice. How to overcome this? 1 – book as early in the year as possible, and 2 – be as flexible with your date as possible. Even consider hosting having the event in October, thus avoiding the Nov/Dec rush.
  4. Theme and décor: Having a theme is one of the sure-fire ways of ensuring the event is fun. But, keep in mind that it should not be expensive or difficult for guests to adhere to the theme. For example, dressing up according to Titanic can be difficult. Then rather go for a beach or fun-in-the-sun theme. Also, a successful theme does not have to extend to the guests. It should be simple, fun, and consistent as it is merely used to set the tone for the event.
  5. Entertainment: Largely deterimined by the budget and the theme, entertainment can be a major contributor to how successful an event is. Live music is a great way to set the mood. Having a karaoke bar brings in a fun activity. Playing games is wonderful for getting the guests to interact. Be creative and come up with something that has not been done before.
  6. Timeline: This includes the planning timeline – when must what be done, as well as the timeline on the day of the event. When will décor be done, when will guests start to arrive, what is the sequence of events for the day, what time will they eat, etc. Ensure the venue has a backup plan if the unforeseen happen such as the guests are delayed, or the program finishes a lot earlier than planned.
  7. Food: The food offering should be selected and tailored to suit the group as well as the tone and mood of the event that you are planning. If you want a relaxed, more informal event with lots of socializing, having a cocktail or pairing can work great. For bigger, more diverse groups a buffet will most probably be better suited. For smaller, more structured and formal events a plated meal will be better received. Ensure the venue can meet your expectations, and if you cannot find a reliable review to confirm that the food is up to standard, ask if it might be possible to have a tasting.
  8. Drinks: If the budget is not extensive, opt for a welcome drink and something on the tables for the guests to enjoy while listening to speeches or having their starters. Juice or flavoured water works, and offers an incentive to stay hydrated. For bigger budgets, keep in mind that a bar tab is rarely seen as a limit, but rather as a challenge. Never in our years of doing events have we had an event with an unfinished bar tab. Instead, it is usually lifted at least twice during the course of the event. Be specific about what is allowed on the tab and what not, and double check how other drinks will be handled – must guests order from the bar, will they have individual tabs, is it a “pay-as-you-drink” system etc. as well as payment methods and be sure to give this info to your guests.
  9. Transport: arranging transport for the employees is another way of ensuring the function is a success. You also increase the number of attendees and prolong the function with a few hours giving staff ample time and opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves.

The weight that we think each element should carry in terms of the budget:

Food: 40% – if the food is unsatisfactory, the whole event will be a disaster. You can make a less-than-beautiful venue look great with a few cheap décor tricks, you can negotiate on drink prices, and even entertainment you can wangle. But if the food is bad there is no way that you can fix it.

Venue: 20% – when choosing a venue, don’t stare yourself blind against the venue fee. Rather consider what value the venue will provide in terms of ease to work with, willingness to help, what is included in the fee, how adaptable is the venue, times and availability etc.

Entertainment: 10% – you do not have to spend your entire budget on entertainment. Depending on your theme and goal, the entertainment can be anything from lawn games for an outdoor event to a DJ for a late-afternoon event. You can consider hiring a band or singer, or something more interactive like a drumming session, cooking lesson, wine pairing or even something more adventurous and active like a treasure hunt or Amazing race. Sometimes you can DIY the entertainment, or get a cheaper alternative.

Transport: 10% – getting your guests there and back safely should be of concern to you and your team. Renting a bus or taxi for the day is usually very affordable, especially when weighed against the brownie points your company is bound to receive from the employees.

Drinks: 15% – ensuring your guests are well hydrated is one of the best ways to make sure they have a good time. Just remember to have a good variety of nonalcoholic drinks as well! If you decide on a bar tab, be very specific on what is allowed and what not e.g. only local beers, softdrinks and wine, and be firm on the cut-off amount.

Décor: 5% – this should not be a major budget item. Many of the items can be DIY’ed, such as table numbers, invitations, name cards, and even center pieces. Again, the costs involved with décor refers back to choosing your theme strategically.

My biggest tip to planning a successful function? Get a professional event planner to help. Most venues have in-house event planners and coordinators, make use of their expertise. More often than not they can assist with packages that include most of your needed items, they can negotiate better prices from their own suppliers, or even help you with items they already have thus costing you a fraction of what it would otherwise. People tend to think that it is too expensive to hire a planner, but the value that they can add makes it out and out worth it.

Money saving tips for weddings and other special functions

Money saving tips for weddings, www.laughingchefs.co.za

Money saving tips for weddings, www.laughingchefs.co.za

  1. Have a weekday wedding, or at least a Friday instead of a Saturday
  2. Get married in the winter months instead of the summer
  3. Go digital with your save the dates
  4. Go digital with your invitations, doing printed invites only for your parents, grandparents and yourself as a keepsake
  5. Use a printable invite
  6. For your printed invitations, stay with one colour design
  7. Go for a buffet meal to cut down on the cost of waiting staff
  8. Cut down on your guest list
  9. Favours are unnecessary. Want to give something? Give something edible
  10. Opt for more candles instead of more flowers
  11. Go for fairy lights to help create mood and effect
  12. Choosing rectangular tables means you can have smaller centrepieces
  13. Don’t skimp on your food or the photographer
  14. Have a wine table instead of wine on each table
  15. Don’t have an open bar – rather buy a number of drinks that guests can help themselves to
  16. Rent a house in an exotic location, use it as the venue and double it as accommodation as well as your honeymoon!
  17. Use a venue that does not force you to make use of their suppliers or vendors
  18. Have your reception in a restaurant
  19. Do your own flowers
  20. Use paper or cloth flower alternatives
  21. Instead of posies have bridesmaids carry something different e.g. a lantern or small handbag
  22. Have the maid of honour carry a small handbag instead of a flower posie; she can then carry all the items needed in your emergency kit
  23. Buy your decor instead of hiring, then sell it afterwards
  24. Go for wooden tables so that no tablecloths are needed
  25. If you have to cover your tables, only use a tablecloth and skip a runner or overlay
  26. Don’t do printed programs
  27. Skip the wedding car
  28. Don’t spend too much on your chapel flowers and decor
  29. Food served family style means you cut down on centrepieces and table decor
  30. Weigh up hiring a wedding planner versus doing it yourself
  31. Have a budget and stick to it!
  32. Choose a venue that already includes some things e.g. the tables
  33. Do a menu board instead of individually printed menus
  34. Have more guests per table, meaning fewer tables in total
  35. Go for a morning or brunch wedding
  36. Use what the venue already have
  37. Make it personal so you can use things you already have
  38. Reduce the “plus ones”
  39. DIY as much as you can, from the table numbers to the signs
  40. Use seasonal flowers
  41. Go green! Foilage instead of flowers
  42. Borrow your jewellery
  43. Let bridesmaids pick (and pay) for their own dresses
  44. Maybe skip the champagne for a toast – guests will already have a drink to toast with
  45. Don’t pay for something that most guests won’t even notice
  46. Skip the 2nd bouquet for the tossing, rather use the bridesmaid’s posy or a single flower
  47. Skip the carpet down the aisle, rather go for flower petals
  48. Combine the post-ceremony snacks and starters, or choose one and make it great
  49. Don’t do destination or out of town
  50. Outside ceremony can mean more money – keep it inside
  51. Don’t invite kids
  52. Make sure kids are charged differently
  53. Don’t go over time – most venues charge per hour after 00h
  54. Make your own cake or order a dummy cake and make the rest yourself
  55. Skip dessert and just serve cake
  56. Skip cake and do a dessert bar
  57. Make your own photobooth
  58. Skip the crazy lights and smoke machine
  59. Skip signature cocktails
  60. Don’t do pairings
  61. Go with 1 white and 1 red wine, that is enough choice

Themed weddings: Star-studded

Theme: Star-studded

Inspiration: Celestial
Trend: Shimmer and shine, crystals, dark rich colours
Colour: Shades of blue
Venue: Planetarium, or somewhere outside under the night sky
Dress: Corset-style with a ballerina skirt. Coloured shoes!
Groom: Dark suit
Flowers: berries, lilies, hydrangeas, baby’s breath, gip
Decor: lights – fairy lights, bulb lights, copper wire lights, oh and candles
Cake: naked cake with berries, fresh fruit, meringue and other toppings
Favours: Matches, or sparkles
Entertainment: star-watching, sparkles, a firework display
Take inspiration from the night skies with a wedding any star would be comfortable at. Lots of lights, candles, and heavy textures. Long dark tablecloths or wooden tables with velvet runners, floral arrangements that dwarf the table, or that hang from the ceiling. Candles on the floor and surrounding the dance floor. Food bars and interactive stations, with a dessert buffet that includes s’mores and a chocolate fountain. Opulence and over-the-top is key!

Themed weddings: Wonderland weddings

Theme: Wonderland

Inspiration: Alice in Wonderland
Trend: Pop of colour, balloons, relaxed and fun
Colour: mint green, rose pink, burnt orange
Venue: anywhere!
Dress: romantic and flirty
Groom: informal suit
Flowers: “veld” flowers, roses, baby’s breath, lisianthus, ranunculus, anemones
Decor: paper flowers, assorted glass vases with single stem flowers
Cake: romantic yet fun, go for an inventive flavour like naartjie with passion fruit buttercream, pecan praline with mocha ganache, etc.
Favours: macarons, small bags filled with biscuits, adorable sugar cookies. A mini pie or tart!
Entertainment: magician, caricaturist, or a sketch artist
Nail this ever popular theme by incorporating fun and unique elements. From paper flowers and home-made confetti to different runners on each table, use your imagination and start dreaming! For the food, think interactive starters bar with an assortment of canapes and salads, and for dessert a pie station with different kinds of pies stacked on top of each other. Designing a personalised cocktail specially for the night is another fun idea to make sure your guests see you and your partner in every detail. play croquet and lawn games during the couple shoot and remember this is the perfect theme to use should you wish to make your four-legged friend part of your special day.

Themed weddings: Polaroid weddings

Theme: Polaroid wedding

Inspiration: Vintage style photos
Trend: cosy, deep rich colours, velvet
Colour: eggplant, olive green, dark
Venue:
Dress: elegant and timeless
Groom: dark suit
Flowers: succulents, penny gum, blue gum, romantic blooms
Decor; lots and lots of photos! Use polaroids for your guestbook, your escort cards (seating chart), cake topper, etc.
Cake: plain white with polaroids of the couple as the topper
Favours: you guessed it – a photo booth that prints as polaroids
Entertainment: photo booth – try a GIF booth! Sparklers and fireworks
A polaroid inspired wedding takes less inspiration from the look, and more from the feel – think nostalgic, comforting and cosy. Play around with different styles, colours and textures until you have created the perfect picture. Incorporate photos as much or as little as you would like, but some nice ideas include using old snaps as your escort cards, using photos of numbers as the table numbers, a photo of the 2 of you as the cake topper, asking guests to take snaps of themselves and paste that into the guestbook, and more. You can make the mood romantic and moody by using darker colours, or more light and airy by using lighter colours. Incorporate fairy lights, candles, and lanterns, and end the evening with a firework display (remember to get the necessary permission!)