When my fiance and I set out to make our restaurant wedding dream come true, we did not expect to be overwhelmed time and again by the prices involved to make that happen.
Our ideal wedding looked something like this: A western-style sit down dinner with four to six courses, alcohol (30 bottles of wine and 2 barrels of beer), and for up to 160 guests at a restaurant or alternative venue.
We also decided on a budget set at $160 or less per guest. (This was before we received the quotations from the venues.)
Granted, we knew what we were looking for would not be cheap, but at the very least, we were given the impression that prices per table would be in the region of a 4-star hotel banquet, i.e: an average of $150 per guest after taxes, max.
After all, this was what the internet told us.
The common consensus, and often, the affordable alternative to the much critiqued hotel banquet is to have a lunch or dinner reception at a restaurant.
According to this MoneySmart article, the average range quoted for a restaurant wedding ranged between $501 to $1,099. And in this article, the 6-star hotel banquet was derided upon, while stating that having your celebration at the restaurant is “usually wise…and far more relatable to the average proletariat.”
Of course, what my fiance and I failed to realise was that this “average proletariat” cost only applied to a certain category of restaurants – namely more traditional and reliable mid-range Chinese restaurants that are your usual go-tos for meals with extended family gatherings as such.
On the other hand, what we were looking for turned out to be quite an entirely different restaurant wedding category.
When we started emailing our shortlisted venues, the price range for our idea wedding – a four to six-course western-style dinner with alcohol – ended up being in the region of $170 to $200 per guest after taxes – similar to the price range for a 5-star hotel banquet.
This usually does not include the perks that you get with a hotel banquet package.
While some restaurants do provide perks like sound systems, solemnisation set-ups and basic table floral arrangements, other items like bridal suite stays, printed invites, the wedding cake and the champagne tower etc. are not included, and whatever else you’d like to have at your wedding would have to be arranged and paid for separately.
Our thoughts? “No one told us just how much restaurant weddings cost!”
Or to be exact, how much a more upscale, western restaurant wedding costs.
Us seeing the final figures *with some dramatisation*:
We realised that the rising costs of weddings in Singapore appears to be a more general trend, and having your wedding at an alternative venue may also not come cheap.
Admittedly, we started out in hopes that we could find a venue with a price tag that could be covered by our guests of up to 70%. At that point, we had not yet come to terms of making a substantial loss for our wedding per se.
Yes, we were one of those couples who'd hoped that our guests could help save on our costs.
Terrible and entitled? Yes. Entirely human and Singaporean? Also yes.
Now, more than half a year into our wedding planning, we have arrived at the mindset that, if we are to go ahead with a wedding at a restaurant, we also need to be ready to make a loss.
We agree that beyond a basic ang bao amount, we should not place too huge an expectation on our guests. Irresponsible financial choices and debt are not what we want stepping into our marriage.
This meant that we had to strike out many of our shortlisted venues and adjust our expectations. I believe many couples have arrived at the same conclusion and made their choices from here.
I guess what I really want to say is, for couples who are considering to have a wedding at an alternative or restaurant venue, don’t expect for all of them to be more affordable than a 4 or 5-star hotel banquet.
If you are not ready to be unable to recoup your losses, my advice is to pick a hotel banquet within your spending power.
Ultimately, it is about a balance between a venue that give you and your guests a special and meaningful experience, and a budget you can comfortably afford.
See also: 6 GREAT COST-FREE WEDDING IDEAS WE LOVE