Wedding Planning Basics: À la Carte vs. Package Deals

Budget, Planning Tips

Wedding planning involves a lot of little details, which is why many couples choose to go with a plug-and-play venue: You choose from a set number of lovely options and let them worry about the rest. However, some couples want to take a more built-it-yourself approach — whether they have their hearts set on a certain location or just truly like dealing with the details.

To break down the pros and cons of each, we consulted two experts: Robin Naluai, San Diego-based wedding expert and Social Catering Manager at Hilton Carlsbad Oceanfront Resort & Spa and Colin Cowie, celebrity event and wedding planner.

À la Carte Weddings

Pros:
They're more personalized.
According to Naluai, à la carte weddings allow couples to build to their own desires and pay attention to customizing the details to match their personalities. Cowie agrees: "Every detail can be chosen to make a statement of style as the new couple presents themselves to the world for the first time as who they are as they begin their life together."

You get to have your wedding in your dream location
Sometimes, you just want to get married in a castle or a historic home or a museum or on the stretch of beach where you first met. Packaged weddings aren't usually available at such places.

Cons:
They're expensive.
"Handpicked wedding items can get push your budget to its limit, but the end result may make it worth every penny!" says Naluai.

You have to keep it all together.
You really do have to think of and source everything — from linens to chairs to glass — and silverware to flowers to even the tiniest things like toilet paper! Besides the caterers, you may also need to hire people to clean, as well.

It takes time — a lot of it.
For as many vendors and sources as you'll end up using, you'll need to arrange with each one individually — and screen that many more before you decide on the ones you want to hire. And then there's the matter, often, of restoring the venue to its original condition that night and returning everything you rented for the ceremony the next day. You'll also need to start your planning a lot earlier to accommodate for the extra time it takes. "A wedding that I design requires more decisions to be made and items for the dècor are often out-sourced and would have to be ordered," Cowie notes. You need to make sure the schedule accommodates for this.

Package Weddings
Pros:

You get a lot for your money.
According to Naluai, "Typically packages consist of meal service, amenities, complimentary rooms, etc. A package can give you a lot of inclusions at an amazing price!"

It's relatively low stress.
Apart from choosing among their offerings and being available to answer questions, the venue will take care of everything for you: setting up, cleaning, catering, and, as Cowie points out, even entertainment can be included in the package.

It's time-efficient.
"For the procrastinating bride," says Naluai, "Go package for sure!" Packaged weddings can be planned relatively quickly since most of the vendors and materials are readily available.

Cons:
There's very little flexibility.
Oftentimes packages are non-negotiable and do not allow you the flexibility to add/delete items to suit your desires, says Naluai. No custom orders here.

They're not particularly unique.
Packaged weddings are easy simply because they aren't custom or individualized in any way, so your wedding will be similar to other couples' celebrations.

No matter what, your wedding will be great reminds Naluai: "It is about you and your groom sharing a beautiful memory and bright future together!"

There's more!

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