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does anyone know if restaurants really charge significantly more for wedding-related events?

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so i'm researching wedding caterers and wedding venues (including rehearsal and brunch venues). i'm finding that the per person price is significantly more than even the finest dinner would be. i've been quoted a per person price of $165, $180, and $135 (plus rentals) for a fairly normal dinner. this does NOT include alcohol, tax or tip! i kind of understand - but I also wonder if people hear wedding and just charge some outrageous amount. i've had the tasting menu at restaurants like spago and only spent around $100 (or $150 after tax/tip/drinks). i guess i just don't know what i'm missing - are places really that put out by an event that they need to charge more? do they lose that much "regular" business? if anyone could shed light on this, i would be interested in the reasons why this i so. . .

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  1. Not sure where you're looking such as a hotel or a restaurant, but I imagine they're charging the prices they charge to make up for lost business if a wedding party occupies the space. A wedding party will occupy a restaurant for at least twice as long as normal diners and they have to make up for lost turnover of those table.

    1. My $0.02

      You're not just paying for food, particularly like monku says, if they close the restaurant for you for your private party then there is an entire night of business gone - unless you're looking at asking to book a Monday night when a lot of places (at least where I live) are closed.

      Caterers (those in the business will have a better idea than I do) have to factor getting themselves, staff, food, serving equipment, dishes, cutlery stemware, possibly cooking equipment etcetc to/from the venue, setup, serve, and takedown...there's alot involved I think that we don't see as customers.

      1. If you're looking for places that don't charge you a so-called wedding premium check out a Chinese restaurant and you pick a set banquet from the banquet menu which are priced by the table (usually 10-12/table) and any extra's might be if you want a dance floor and of course alcohol, you want to supply your own wine you can negotiate a reasonable corkage fee.

        2 Replies
        1. re: monku

          That is simply not true. Chinese restaurants will definitely charge more, sometimes even double, if the banquest is for a wedding.

          1. re: PeterL

            Not at my wedding an not at a friend's wedding at a different restuaurant.
            Matter of fact at my wedding we negotiated a customized menu which was more Americanized.
            This is in Los Angeles, so maybe the market is more competitive.

        2. I have heard before that you should not tell the venue that it is a wedding until you have gotten price quotes. I don't know how true that is, but the conventional wisdom is that there is a price for parties and a price for weddings.

          2 Replies
          1. re: lulubelle

            I wouldn't be surprised if there are different prices. A friend found that was the way with dresses. She was looking for a bridal dress and found a 'bridesmaid' dress that she really liked. When they asked what colour, she said ivory. Oh, is this as a bride's dress? Yes. Then the price suddenly went up.

            1. re: Sooeygun

              My daughter is getting married next May and some services seem higher but others, not. I think for venues, restaurants, etc. it does take more time and more attention to detail, more phone calls, and overall work than non-wedding events do on average.

          2. when I was shopping for venues etc. for my parents' 50th anniversary party I noted several times how much more was asked for a wedding vs. my party. IMO, not all, but some places really are trying to screw you because they think weddings have a big budget.

            7 Replies
            1. re: danna

              I think it's because weddings do cost more....even if the menu is the same as for the anniversary party, the time frame, the phone calls, the details, etc. are much more of a factor. Our daughter's wedding is in May. We reserved the venue in this past May and have already made several trips to the venue to check details and have made a number of phone calls with questions, needing input, etc. And we haven't gotten to the menu yet.

              1. re: danna

                That's not true all the time. I have one friend who had a reasonably priced wedding at a great location. She was up front with the venue about her budget and said she'd do whatever she needed to get the price down and they were willing to work with her. I think the most important change she made was to agree to a shorter reception of 2-2.5 hours instead of the usual 4+. Since she was coming in at 5 and the next group could come in between 7:30-8, they were able to have two weddings in the space instead of one.

                1. re: queencru

                  Of course it is not true all the time. But on average it is. The average wedding reception for 100 people is going to be more work than the boss's retirement party with the same guests. As you pointed out, she agreed to a 2- 2.5 hours reception....which is not the norm.

                  In our case, we will have the venue from Friday night for the rehearsal until Sunday for us and vendors to remove their stuff. That is very different than a non-wedding event.

                  1. re: queencru

                    I wish I were invited to more weddings with two hour receptions. The wedding receptions I've attended felt as though they lasted four weeks. But then I rarely enjoy scripted fun.

                    1. re: mandycat

                      It was a fairly small wedding with 60 people, but the reception didn't seem rushed at all. We all ate a three-course meal and still had time to dance afterward. I think many have the cocktail hour that adds on another hour, but I'm not sure it's totally necessary.

                      1. re: queencru

                        We're having a cocktail hour mainly so the guests won't be standing around with nothing while photos are being taken. We're getting as many pics as practical taken before the ceremony, but some won't be taken until afterwards.

                        1. re: Janet from Richmond

                          Bless you. I find it rude when guests are left twiddling their thumbs while a million pics are taken.

                          Long , long ago I went to a wedding held at 3:00 in the afternoon. My husband was a groomsmen, and we both paid for a plane ticket to attend. I assumed it would be a very long ceremony and an early dinner. Instead...when the ceremony ended about 3:30, the guests were told they could come to reception site at 6:00...in between...pictures of the wedding party. So I'm alone w/ 2 1/2 hours to kill. In a cocktail dress. Nice.

                2. As others have noted, you can't really compare a restaurant meal to an event meal as there are a lot more costs associated with an event than just a simple meal. Generally I think most of these buyout fees are fair. I did have one place quote me this crazy fee -- $500 per person where the cost of an entree maxed out at $23! If it was $500 per person at a NYT four star restaurant, I would understand. But I thought their buyout fee was ridiculous. Sure made me cross that place off in a hurry.

                  Like you, I have also wondered whether they would charge more when they hear "wedding" as opposed to an "office party." When I was researching places for my wedding, I just said I was planning an event. But before they quoted me a figure, they always asked me what this event was. So unless you're planning to lie (which I don't recommend), I don't think there is any way around this.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Miss Needle

                    I think you are right - the issue of extra costs is real. A couple may think they want a simple meal for 100, but the fact is, they almost always want more. Champagne toast? Check - need servers to serve and cleanup. Cake cutting and serving? Need people to cut and the serve the thing in record time after the bride and groom cut it. And while you might be okay if it takes the restaurant 20 minutes to serve the room for your boss's retirement party, most brides and grooms would get very upset if this took place. So restaurants needs more servers on. Same goes for the quality of food served - you might tolerate less than excellent for your Mother's Day party, but people expect the food and its preparation/temperature/appearance to be nothing less than perfect on their wedding day.

                    I had my wedding at a restaurant. It was expensive but not unduly so, and the service was superb. Due to great communication in advance about what we hoped to have, the restaurant pulled off a superb event with out even having to bother us once during the event itself.