This creative way of organising the timeline of your wedding can save you a massive £5860, based on having 100 guests you want to invite.
I’ve shot a couple of weddings in the Netherlands. At first, I was shocked at how they do things. I came home and told all my photographer friends what an unusual format they have, and they couldn’t believe weddings were done in such a way.
But then recently my school friend got engaged and told me that friends were on the evening-only list, because they couldn’t afford to feed everyone. However, the wedding was several hours away from me, which didn’t seem worth it just for an evening party. I thought to myself, if I could go to the ceremony and then buzz off and go get dinner then come back for the party then that would make it worth the journey and not cost my friend anything more.
And then it hit me: that’s what the Dutch do! And it suddenly made sense. It wasn’t crazy, it was smart.
What do they do? Invite everyone to attend the ceremony, then ask them to go home for lunch and dinner and return in the evening for the party. Genius!
The two weddings I shot in the Netherlands followed that format – in fact, the guest list was even more chopped up than that.
Guest invites were divided into three or four groups:
- Group 1 (the inner circle aka immediate family): Lunch, ceremony, reception, dinner, party
- Group 2 (Group 1 + close friends): Ceremony, reception, dinner, party
- Group 3 (Group 1 + close friends + extended family): Ceremony, reception, party
- Group 4 (everyone) Ceremony and party
The timeline goes like this:
A “first look” where the couple sees each other and gets a photo of the moment.
Close family for a light lunch, with some group photos and couples portraits taking place now. About 10-20 people.
The ceremony with ALL guests.
A drinks and canape reception with fewer guests than the ceremony, but more than the lunch – close family PLUS select friends. This is when speeches take place.
The dinner – the same people from the drinks and canape reception OR just very close family.
The party – everyone comes back!
How much money can you save?
The biggest chunk of a wedding budget goes on food – it can cost on average £4800 to feed and water 100 guests for the main dinner, so if you cut that down to 20 guests for dinner, you’re saving £3040 on food and £800 on drinks.
If you have 20 guests for the reception instead of 100, you could save £420 on canapes and £1600 on drinks.
In total, by having 20 guests at your reception and dinner, you can save £5860.
If you just cut down dinner to 20 guests, you’ll save £3840.
How do you sell it to your friends that they’re not invited to dinner or the reception?
If you explain to your friends that you have a large family and that you can only invite friends to the evening do, but you don’t want them to miss out on the ceremony or have to travel a long way just for a party, explain to them that while they’re an evening guest, they can still come along to the ceremony to watch, but they’ll have to shoot off either after the reception or after the ceremony.
But most venues have a minimum guest count for dinner
Yes a lot of traditional venues have a minimum of 40 or 50 guests, which ends up quite expensive, so if you’d like to have fewer guests for dinner, ask the venues you’re interested in if they’ll work with your chopped up guest list, or look outside of traditional venues, such as pubs, DIY barns, warehouses, restaurants, music venues, boutique hotels, farms, art spaces, or anywhere that allows outside catering (ie not in-house caterers) such as food trucks or BBQ companies.