As one of the more popular wedding venues in the Santa Ynez Valley, we love helping brides and grooms bring their vision of a vineyard wedding to life. One of the top questions we get asked is "How much does it cost to have a vineyard wedding?"
One of our favorite local wedding planners who works with us frequently, Leanne Elliott of Soliel Events, has tackled this question head-on as a featured guest blogger on our website.
WINERY WEDDING & BUDGETS
By Leanne Elliott of Soleil Events
A winery wedding conjures up all of the loveliest images that we treasure most about the Santa Ynez Valley. Images of rolling and verdant hills dotted with grazing cattle, glasses brimming with a favorite varietal of wine, and newlyweds kissing among the vines while the sunset washes over them in a golden blanket of light.
To all of that I say…YES, PLEASE!
And why not? It doesn’t get better than the most romantic day of your life, nestled in a setting that is just exactly the stuff of dreams. So, it’s decided…a Winery Wedding! Or maybe not so fast, because nothing can take the rapture out of being recently engaged, like the sticker shock of what it costs to throw the party of a lifetime in wine country.
But don’t despair! Whether the budget is virtually open-ended or dollar-stretching at best, both can result in an amazing and unforgettable experience for the couple and their guests. The question of cost is an important one, but it might come as a surprise that the answer doesn’t always start with a spreadsheet.
Here I pose the top three questions I answer most often when talking with a potential client, and in answering them, I hope it provides a better idea of overall cost.
And so…where do we begin?
Begin by taking a deep breath. There is suddenly a lot to do with a wedding date looming in the future, and the very best first step is to take a beat.
Close Pinterest! Put down the phone!
First get out a pen and paper and write down what makes an ideal party. A party you’ve thrown, one you’ve been to, one you wish you could have. Write down how being there makes you feel. What does it sound like? What does it look like? Who is there?
Once you have gathered all of those feelings and images, boil them down into four or five words that ring the truest. Those words and feelings are where you begin. They are the battle cry going into the planning process. They are the new family crest, and when it gets murky and overwhelming, which it will, they are always the place you go back to for direction.
What should we spend?
Ask any financial advisor this question, and they will tell you: It Depends. It sounds simple enough to estimate a budget and then commit yourself to stick to it come-what-may during the planning, but if the number you start with isn’t realistic, then achieving it will never be that simple.
The first step is to find out what is required at the venues you are considering, above and beyond the caterer, florist and photographer. For some it is a restroom trailer, for others it is lighting or shuttles, and at many, all of the above are required.
Making a full list of all potential wedding professionals required or needed, will help bring into focus a more realistic budget. It’s no longer enough just to estimate a per-head cost on the guest count. Some venues require things that are a fixed cost whether your guest count is 50 or 300.
A solid list should start with an apples-to-apples comparison, so be sure your list includes:
- Wedding Planner
- Venue Rental Fee
- Ceremony Officiant
- Bar Beverages
- DJ or Band
Then add to that:
- Rentals (tables, linens, china, silverware, glassware, service items, kitchen items, tenting, etc.)
- Transportation (valet, shuttle, getaway car)
- Hair and Makeup
- Photo booth or any must-have guest experience
Without sending you on a wild goose chase to gather all of these numbers, I will tell you that an average winery wedding for 150 guests will land in the 60K range without trying too hard.
Is it possible for it to be less? Absolutely. Reducing the guest count, keeping the rentals pretty-but-basic and offering a simple menu will directly result in a lower cost.
Can it cost more? Absolutely. Upgraded linens, tenting, specialty lighting like chandeliers, a higher guest count, a 3-course dinner , all of these will definitely push the numbers up.
So then…how do we spend wisely?
Good question! The best possible investment in keeping to a budget and the ultimate success of your wedding day is an experienced wedding planner. Your best ally, your trusted planning partner, your confidante when things go south with Mom or your Maid of Honor – a good wedding planner is a big slice of sanity in this crazy-joyful-exciting-roller coaster season leading up to the wedding.
Before securing a planner, the most important conversation should be about the budget. Get her/his recommendations on average cost for your guest count at your venue(s) of choice. Compare your expectations of cost with their real-world experience of cost. Find out how they will help stretch your dollar to include some splurges, and how other times they will help make the tough choice of what must be cut.
This is where a good personality match comes into play. If you feel comfortable, and like they “get” you and your vision, then that planner will also ultimately steer you in the direction of wedding professionals that will be a good match for both your personality and the budget.
Planning can and should be fun. If you take the time at the beginning to identify those key words, then back that up with real-world numbers and a great planning partner, you will enter the planning season with clarity and greater confidence. Greater confidence will naturally result in a more enjoyable planning experience, easier decision making, and a wedding day that will be uniquely yours.
This way, it doesn’t matter if you are on a shoestring budget or your numbers are the stuff of royalty, guests will walk through the door and know, without a doubt, that they are at YOUR wedding. And that will be the foundation from which all those priceless memories will be built.
And to that, I say...YES, PLEASE!
Leanne Elliott is the owner and principle planner of Soleil Events. She has planned hundreds of weddings spanning nearly two decades. She got her start over twenty years ago as the founding General Manager of one the most popular and cutting-edge catering companies in Santa Barbara. She created Soleil Events out of a deep commitment to help her clients have their wedding day be as easy and joyful as possible. You can find out more about her work and contact her at:
Photos: Michel & Anna Costa Photography and Mi Belle Photography