You may have read the recent New York Times article The Wedding Fix is In. There are some who might echo those opinions. There likely are event vendors who do gouge their customers because of the word “wedding.” Thankfully, in the Washington DC area, these vendors are outnumbered by the honest vendors who price their services with integrity and will be more than happy to itemize the differences in those costs between their specialty and basic packages. Here are just a few examples of how certain events do actually cost more than certain others.
The typical family, class or military reunion banquet consists of low budget buffet meals including chicken, top round of beef, pasta and salad, Desserts are often simple cakes or cookies with a self serve coffee station. The bar is often a cash consumption bar. Staff will bus the tables after the meal and move on to another event or some will be sent home. Often, the total event runs about 3 – 4 hours depending on whether dancing is involved.
Compare with the typical wedding which usually begins with additional time for hors d' oeuvres, often butler passed increasing both food and labor. An open bar adds cost as does the champagne toast which also requires the staff to pop corks and serve to guests at precisely the right time so it does not lose it's fizz. The meal is often plated, requiring the addition of staffing to serve multiple courses. Then, there is slicing and serving the wedding cake which usually occurs much later when in another type of event, staff might have been sent home. The menu features better cuts of meat, more elaborate side dishes and additional courses such as an intermezzo.
Bar/bat mitzvahs also run a higher price tag than the average family party. As with the wedding, there is often an extra hour of food and service time for the cocktail reception. The banquet food is often high quality. Then there is a twist because there are often two different menus being served simultaneously – one for the adults and one for the children. While the children's food cost is often lower than for adults, setting up a second buffet line adds to the food waste and the labor expense. Then the fancy mocktails station, which requires separate labor to create elaborate concoctions for children is. Finally comes the sundae bar with it's array of flavors, sauces and toppings and the labor to keep it all fresh and frozen.
Remove the catering additions that turn a family party into a wedding or mitzvah and you will save on the price.