Reader Question: I can't figure out how you paid for the venue, was it paid for by the guests/not part of the $200? ie they paid for their own rooms and therefore you got to use the common spaces? Did you pay for the whole place at the time of the reservation, and then the guests paid you for their rooms? Thanks for your candor.
Great question! Our venue situation was at the heart of how we were able to pull off a $2,000 wedding, so I would love to talk about it more.
Basically, in the early stages of planning, I figured that if we rented out an entire place, we might be able to use their facilities (e.g., gathering rooms, kitchen, etc.) for free. This was true at some places and not others.
We decided to go with a Bed & Breakfast that would let us do this.
When Matt and I sent out a Save-the-Date e-mail, we included a link to an online survey that asked guests the likelihood that they would be able to attend, as well as their preferences for sleeping accommodations. We learned that Matt's family wanted to stay at a fancier place, my family was fine staying anywhere, and most of our friends wanted to stay with us on site.
The cost to rent the entire B&B was $750/night (keep in mind it's a family-run place with simple accommodations--nothing fancy). The place holds 40 people total. We decided to charge $35 for a bed in one of the cabins and $25 for a bunk bed in one of the group rooms.
We decided on those numbers because they seemed very inexpensive for a night of lodging. But at the same time, it gave us extra money in case a) we didn't fill up all 40 slots and b) someone didn't pay.
We paid the deposit and then the full cost for the two nights. We asked one of my good friends, Amy, to be the Paymaster. We gave her a binder with a complete list of who owed what. Then, on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, she collected money from everyone. She said she loved the job because it gave her an excuse to meet everyone.
Because we did end up filling every bed, we used the extra money to pay the innkeepers to help out at the reception. We made the food in advance, but we hired them to heat it up, set it out, refill it, and clean up. We also used the extra money to pay for people's rooms if they had really arduous jobs (like picking up and returning the kegs).
In the end, every single person paid (even though two people mailed checks after the wedding), and we had $160 left that went into our general wedding budget.
The system took a lot of work on the front end (e.g., assigning groups of friends to share cabins, communicating with people about where they were staying, etc.), but it was very smooth in the execution.
Definitely let me know if you have more questions!