This post is written by guest blogger, Bridezilla.
What’s typical in a hotel’s wedding banquet package? What nitty gritty details should you look out for that hotels don’t mention until you ask? What are some of the easy negotiations and what are the tough ones? WHY ARE THERE 1001 LITTLE THINGS TO STRESS OVER?
Hotel banquet packages are for the people who want a comprehensive package that is relatively fuss-free, as most of the items are already priced in. They might be cheaper in many cases than non-hotel venues simply because of the perks that you get as part of a hotel guest.
Things to look out for in your hotel wedding banquet package
Different hotels have different packages, and more importantly, different banquet coordinators who may or may not be flexible in negotiations. Here’s a general sample of what they usually consist of.
- Per table / Per pax cost
This is the MAIN cost. The rest of the package is structured around this cost, which is also what guests will usually use as a gauge to prepare your ang pow. While it’s the hardest to negotiate, use the per table/ per pax cost as benchmark from which you negotiate the rest of the package.
Usually it’s a per table cost. The question is: how many pax do they allocate for each table? Some hotels quote their per table costs based on 12 pax, so it could work out to be cheaper per pax. If it’s a 10-pax table, ask how many additional pax can they fit in one table and how much will each additional pax cost. Usually it’s a proportionate figure, i.e. if a table costs $2000 for 10 pax then an additional pax you add in would cost $200 extra etc.
Table costs are usually fixed, and they only increase over the years. The way to get the best deal is to do your research!
Wedding shows are the best platforms to negotiate for a sweeter package. They may give a small discount, or even waive GST (imagine 7% on a $2000 table, multiplied by 30 tables?!). There’s no harm asking even if the chances of getting a discount are small. It’s also somewhat psychological. If you start by asking for a direct discount that the hotel coordinator cannot give you, they might have a higher tendency to be more lax or give in to your requests for other elements of the package.
Some hotels offer choices, and some don’t. But even for those that don’t, they usually still provide a certain amount of flexibility in the dishes, which can be requested during the food tasting. Given that the food tasting normally occurs very near the actual wedding date (say a month or two before), you might want to ask to what extent are dish changes flexible before committing to the package way beforehand.
If you have non-Chinese guests, here is where the per pax cost matters! Hotels have several ways of managing different menus for selected guests. For Muslims, most hotels require that the whole table be served the Muslim menu. This means the table cost is the same. For vegetarians, most hotels will charge an additional pax per vegetarian at the table. Meaning that if you have 9 Chinese + 1 vegetarian, they might still charge you for a table of 10 + 1 extra pax.
For e.g, if the cost of an entire table for 10 pax is $2000, you will be charged $2200 as a vegetarian sitting at the table would be counted as an extra $200, even though the total number of people sitting at your table is still 10. To optimise costs, you will need to fill a table with 10 people and add the vegetarian in as the 11th pax. If this is the standard policy, it is normally hard to negotiate away, as hotels have to account for the extra preparations during your wedding.
- Food tasting
Take note of the availability of food tasting. So far most hotels I’ve checked out only allow food tasting to be conducted on a weekday. I still struggle to understand why. Mine was available on a weekend, and we were told that it is precisely during the weekend when an actual wedding is happening, that the food tasting being conducted will be of the same quality as that of the actual wedding day.
Try asking for food tasting on a weekend since it is probably more convenient and especially so if your actual day is going to be on a weekend. Also try to ask for more people to join in the food tasting. For hotels that try to charge for food tasting, forget about it! If you have to fork out tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding where the reception makes up the bulk of your costs, then you should be entitled to sample the menu.
A good way to get a taste of the banquet menu is again, wedding shows! Check out the hotels that offer food at their wedding shows. Sometimes it’s complimentary with registration, sometimes each couple has to fork out a relatively small entrance fee to enter the wedding show because of the BUFFET spread they get to enjoy during the show. My advice? Exercise more during the wedding show season and enjoy each show! Some of the hotels I sampled were MBS, Regent, Fairmont, Westin…
Drinks are probably one of the most common items to negotiate. It is surprising though, that a lot of hotels still try to charge corkage on alcohol that you bring from outside. Ask for waiver of the corkage fee, if it’s not already waived. Ask for beer to be free flow. Ask for more bottles of complimentary wine per table. It is very common for hotels to provide one per table, and if they don’t, all the more corkage should be waived! Always buy your own wine. Hotels don’t usually serve their good wines complimentary, and even if they charge you $30++ per extra bottle they might not let you taste it before your actual wedding.
- Cocktail Reception
This part of the banquet is normally overlooked, I feel. Snacks and drinks at the reception are like fillers for the early guests so they don’t sit awkwardly at the table by themselves before the event starts, and nobody really remembers the cocktail receptions, so certain negotiations here could even work to make the rest of your package more valuable.
For example, some hotels entice couples by offering some dessert fountain or some other aesthetically-pleasing gimmick during cocktail receptions. Don’t fall for it! For one, food before a wedding reception is an absolute appetite killer. Many people show up late anyway, and slightly-hungry guests might even enjoy the food more during the reception.
Other hotels offer specialties like a wishing tree, in-house creative mocktails etc. If you don’t mind these, feel free to add them into your package. But if you absolutely don’t see a point, ask to swop it out for something else. (More drinks perhaps?). A good substitute is for complimentary alcohol (if you have free flow beer for example) to be served already during the cocktail reception. Numerous hotels only choose to serve alcohol after the first course.
- Parking coupons
This is quite straightforward. The only hotel I’ve encountered that doesn’t offer free parking coupons is The Westin, because the carpark is managed by another facility or something. That is a real bummer, since most guests kind of take this for granted. Hotels typically offer complimentary coupons for about 20% or so of the number of guests, and I think it’s quite easy to just ask for more.
Usually complimentary for about 70% of guests. They’re usually enough, but there’s no harm just asking for more. If you plan to print your own, ask for this to be eliminated in exchange for something else (more drinks are always good).
While hotels generally provide the card templates and envelopes, what they don’t include is the printing of the inserts, i.e. your actual invitation cards! This could easily cost a few hundred bucks depending on the number you need to print and the intricacy of your designs. They usually have a recommended printer, but if you really want a bargain then don’t use their printers! Instead look to forums, search engines and friends to source for a less well-known printer but one that can give you better value for money.
- Wedding favours
Wedding favours or the gifts or souvenirs your guest get on your wedding day can also be sourced on your own. Again if you plan to source your own, ask for this to be swopped out for…more drinks?!
- Complimentary rooms and room service
Some hotels offer 1 night, some 2. Some offer an extra day-room for your bridesmaids and groomsmen; some offer extra rooms at promotional prices. This depends on the wedding package you have selected. For e.g, if your banquet is held in the grand ballroom, you will get more complimentary rooms than if you were to hold your banquet in a smaller room. Whatever rooms you are offered, don’t be shy to ask for a room with a better view! Room service vouchers usually are also included. Ask for extensions to utilize the vouchers, since chances are they would only be valid on the wedding day itself.
- Use of other rooms for solemnization / tea ceremony
Most hotels are able to provide and arrange for solemnization and/or tea ceremony to take place in a designated area. The only catch is, it may come with an additional price tag for renting that room! Ask for it to be waived if possible.
All in all, it really depends on your chemistry with the wedding coordinator and how flexible he/she is in terms of the standard packages. The more experienced / knowledgeable you are about what other hotels offer, the better position you are in to negotiate down to the little details that would make your wedding experience just a tad bit more special and unique, and more value for your money.
All photo credits: Glen Sin Photography
What is your experience planning for a wedding banquet? Share in the comments below!
or read another of Bridezilla’s articles : How to Choose a Bridal Package in Sg