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Wedding day reception inspiration, understated elegance

Hi, I'm Jenna Hewitt and I own Weddings by Jenna Hewitt, I’ve been planning weddings and events for over 20 years and I know the time, energy and investment that goes into creating the perfect event. I also understand the overwhelm of this undertaking as a newly engaged couple without any prior experience of the industry and with the added emotional stakes that can run high. This is part 1 of my two part guide on where to begin, what to prioritise and what to sidestep.


It is impossible to plan a wedding without first understanding how much you have to spend and what this will achieve.

There are 2 big influences on the cost of a wedding: the number of guests (which drive your catering and beverage costs) and the venue choice. As a rough estimate, you can expect your venue and catering costs to be about 45-55% of your wedding budget. Because of this I would begin by getting an estimate of these costs from your top venues. Beware of any costs that are in the small print or those that are charged as supplements/upgrades. Examples of these can be: late license fees; food menu upgrades; staging, dance-floor and/or production hire. If your venue offers catering packages, look at what is included and what you’ll need to account for on top of this, a typical one will be the drinks – if your package offers reception drinks and wine with dinner – find out what drinks are on offer within the costs and what are the upgrade costs? Also how much is included and will this be enough for your wedding guests? Wine is more than often calculated as half a bottle per guest but you may want to account for more in your budget. Typically, venues/caterers allow, in standard pricing, for couples to choose one menu choice for each course and will only accommodate special diets/allergies outside of this. If you wish to offer guests a menu choice, they will likely be a surcharge and you will need to get these guest choices in advance of the wedding date. Also ask how much supplier meals are – most suppliers who will be working/on site for over 4-5 hours will require a hot meal and drinks (the band, photographer and videographer as well as wedding planner, if you have one) and although this won’t be a huge portion of the budget, it should be accounted for.


Getting quotes from other suppliers can be a straightforward process of a simple enquiry. However, where you have a creative element that you’ve yet to define (the floristry for example), costs can be a little bit more ambiguous before you have a full brief ready. In this example, you can still approach them transparently and ask for a guide using images of their previous work to give you an indication – many will also have a minimum spend/fee which will give you some idea.


Building in a budget reserve is essential. I would allow between 5-10% in reserve as money available to spend If you need it. There will be items that you will either have forgotten about, didn’t understand you might need, or, items you want to add as you move forward. If you allocate every penny, you’ll end up likely needing to make cuts if things catch you off guard.

Bridal portrait walking downstairs


There’s a temptation to tick off the to do list and start booking in your suppliers as soon as possible, but, before you do this for any item that involves your wedding style/look, make sure you have a clear vision and brief. How do you know the style of florist, cake maker, stationery designer, that you need before you have your overall design clear (and how will you convey this effectively to them)? This isn’t as simple as collecting a mood board of images you love. You want to invest proper thinking time into what style you want to achieve, starting with the venue and spaces you have to work with. Consider the layout of each key space – your ceremony, drinks reception, dining, and dancing spaces and where you want to place the most emphasis. I advise maximising the spaces where you and your guests will spend the most time – the dining area is a key one. Work with the canvas that is your venue and take inspiration from the spaces and décor/surroundings – are there elements you want to highlight or hide? Capture your colour palette and start getting selective with the images that really sing to you and hold elements of what you want to achieve. You will find it much easier to engage your suppliers and, in turn, they will find it much easier to get on board with the ideas and provide a realistic quote, if you can visualise as much as possible.


Think about choosing your suppliers like you are selecting a dream team. You will want to find suppliers whose work you love and fits with your wedding brief. Look at their work online, check that images are their own work and get a feel for them. I would also look at other suppliers they follow or work with frequently – typically like minds attract and, if suppliers have worked together before, they are likely to be a good fit together. Wedding blogs that feature real weddings as well as styled shoots can

be a good source of inspiration and information alongside Instagram and the standard social media channels. Arrange a call and have your questions prepared, you’ll want to understand how they work; how they communicate; how

they will present their brief/quote and whether you feel that they understand you, do you connect with them?

Venues can also be a source of supplier suggestions. However, beware of venue supplier “lists” – check what qualifies a supplier to be on the list. Ideally they will be there on account of their proven expertise at working at your venue and, sometimes, venues might stipulate suppliers that you can choose from. This can feel limiting but there is often good reason – guarantee of quality being one of them. I understand this where the supplier plays an integral logistical role that involves them using the venue facilities – caterers and production teams for example. I am less understanding of a prescribed list where this isn’t the case – hair and make-up or photography as an example. Unfortunately, there venues that use inclusion on an approved list as a revenue stream. I don’t agree with this and would always check and challenge where this is the case.

wedding place setting plums and reds

map out your wedding day schedule

For every wedding, I have a detailed run sheet of how that day will run – from the supplier arrivals, deliveries and set ups to the breakdown of the décor at the end and everything in between – but the basis of this schedule always starts with the key wedding event timings of:

· Guest Arrival

· Ceremony Time

· Reception Drinks

· Wedding Meal and Speeches

· Cake Cutting

· First Dance and Band

· Late Night Food

· Carriages

You’ll want to work out how much time to allocate each section. Your officiant should be able to advise the length of time for your ceremony. Reception drinks I typically allocate 1.5-2 hours depending on time of day and what is involved. The wedding meal including speeches I allow up to 3 hours and I always try and time late night food service with a band break.

Outside of the key events, you’ll need to work backwards and forwards to the set up and preparations as well as any clear up that might be required of you or your suppliers. This includes your hair and make up plans; photography plans; when you and your wedding party will eat and who provides this. In an ideal world, a planner will put this all together for you and lead the delivery of the entire thing on the day. If this isn’t the case, you’ll still want a plan that you then delegate to your main suppliers.

If you can get to a point, early on, where you are in a place that you've agreed your budget; have your style thought through; know your wedding day timings; researched your suppliers, then you are all set for success! The next piece of the puzzle is to work through your own planning timeline between now and your wedding date. More to come on this in part 2!

Jenna x

image credit to The Curries from our wedding together for Chelsea and Rory 2022


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