Labor Costs: Budget Tips for Food and Decor

When first getting to know a client and formulating budget tips for their event, we’ll peruse digital images, such as their Pinterest. Often, they’ll point out a photo of an idea that looks gorgeous, but doesn’t quite fit in with their budget. For example, a set of twinkle lights hanging down from tall trees may seem like a budget-friendly idea from the get-go – after all, how much do twinkle lights cost, right? But let’s think about it for a minute: The lights need power, so if the tree is far from an outlet, a long power cord is needed, plus a power strip. Also, the tree is tall, so someone needs to get on a ladder and carefully hang the strings with another person’s guidance to ensure the strings are placed properly. And, at the end of the night, who is going to breakdown? And that’s how labor, the hidden cost of food and decor, comes into the picture.

how to save on labor and decor for your wedding

Labor costs don’t have to be exorbitant, though. Here are a few budget-friendly tips:


Try to string lighting from existing rigging points, like a roof line or trees close together, and near a power source. Ask your venue manager where it would be easiest to hang lights in that regard. Or, perhaps battery-operated round lanterns hanging from wood beams or shorter trees would work, and a skilled friend or family member could hang them if the venue has a ladder onsite. No cords or power needed. (And you can find more great tips here too!)


Even the smallest floral order requires a team of people to pick up the flowers, cut and process each stem, and assemble. Containers need to be ordered and purchased, foam needs to be soaked, and often a cooler is needed for storage of the pieces. Ask your florist for their most cost-effective recommendations.  For example, a florist may suggest bud vases with a few blooms, versus more complicated compote pieces. These also make fun giveaways for guests too, and you can now cross ‘favors’ off your list as well.

Budget tips, Wedding Budget

Bud vases and old books line a table at a recent wedding. Photo by Collective Perception Photography.


Food trucks have taken the wedding world by storm, for good reason – they provide gourmet offerings for a fraction of the cost of full-service catering, so it’s one of our top budget tips to consider them for food service. But, they do not provide the additional staffing for setting up tables, serving food, tending bar, bussing trash, and breaking down at the end of the night. This is why labor is a large part of the cost of full-service catering, but it’s needed. Whether you hire a full-service caterer or a food truck, be sure to factor in this line item so you have enough staff to ensure a smooth event.

Kogi Food Truck photographed by Hannah Arista Photography

Kogi Food Truck photographed by Hannah Arista Photography

Hope this helps you in your budgeting and planning!

Editor’s note: Due to the pandemic, some of the general wedding planning advice we share may not be applicable or possible due to restrictions on events. Please adhere to all current regulations and stay safe and healthy! Get more pandemic wedding resources here

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