Planning your wedding reception in a charming Pinterest-inspired barn instead of the typical banquet hall? If you're not careful, it could skyrocket your wedding bill.
Social media has heightened the appeal of unique locations instead of traditional places with all the bells and whistles built in.
For example, the number of couples booking farm, barn and ranch reception venues has jumped from 2 percent in 2009 to 15 percent in 2017, according to data from The Knot, and historic home bookings now account for another 14 percent of weddings. Meanwhile, banquet hall bookings fell to 17 percent in 2017 from 27 percent in 2009, and country clubs to 10 percent from 13 percent over the same period.
Alternative venues — like industrial warehouses, public parks, summer camps, museums and lofts — may not cost much up front. But experts say the do-it-yourself aspect of filling in the service gaps a traditional venue provides, from silverware to portable toilets and kitchen appliances, can blow up a wedding bill.
"This is how brides are misled," said wedding planner Angela Christoforo, owner of Elite Wedding & Event Planning in Hudson Valley, New York. "The venue gets the bride in the door, booked, based on a low site fee. Then after she books — bam — she finds out how costly her wedding really is going to be."
The costs can be $20,000 to $30,000 more than a couple anticipated spending, Christoforo said. (Not ideal, considering that a recent Student Loan Hero report found three-quarters of engaged couples already expect to take on debt to cover their wedding bills.)
Banquet halls and hotels charge more up front, with starting prices of more than $100 per head plus other fees. But in the end these one-stop shops can be the cheaper bill, wedding planners say, because they use the same equipment and staff for various events.
"Once you start bringing in all these different vendors, each of them have to make their own profit," said Janice Carnevale, owner of Bellwether Events in Washington, D.C.
Here's how couples can control costs while hosting their fantasy Pinterest-inspired wedding: