We asked experts about what is and isn’t essential for a conscientious fete.

The winning recipe for planning a wedding is a mix of organizational skills and a year-long juggling act of priorities. To help you with the latter, we asked Janice Rosenthal, owner of Party Productions; Amanda Schlagenhauf, owner of The Bride Consultant; and Terry Powers, event planner at Golden Chic Events and Consulting, for their thoughts on determining what is and isn’t necessary hospitality.

Valet Parking

The Verdict
At the very least, parking should be free.

Rosenthal: “[Valet parking is] an essential bonus, but first check with the venue to see if it can be included in the rental cost.”
Schlagenhauf: “If a reception is in a remote location, having transportation is a great amenity. For receptions where guests would have to pay to park, it’s nice for the couple to rent out the parking. As long as there’s transportation or free parking there’s no need for a valet.”

Hotel Gift Bags

The Verdict
Split decision

Rosenthal: “Not totally necessary.”
Powers: “We believe in well-curated room bags. They’re a coveted treat for friends and family.”

Wedding Favors

The Verdict
Often not worth the effort

Schlagenhauf: “Not necessarily essential for couples to budget for these days. Some couples spend hours and a large portion of their budget trying to determine the right favor, yet many times the favor is overlooked by guests.”
Rosenthal: “Wedding favors are not necessary. If your budget allows, they are a thoughtful way to thank guests for sharing your wedding day. One of my favorite inexpensive wedding favors is custom water [bottles] placed on a table for guests to take as they leave.”

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Open Bar

The Verdict
As essential as your vows

Rosenthal: “A hosted bar is essential. If it doesn’t fit into your budget, maybe serve a signature cocktail or think about having a sunrise wedding ceremony with a champagne brunch.”
Schlagenhauf: “It is essential to subsidize beer and wine. To save money, do an open bar only during cocktail hour, then have free beer and wine after. It would be considered a bonus to provide a full-service open bar throughout the evening.”

Late-Night Snacks

The Verdict
How hungry are your friends?

Powers: “If this is one of your personal ‘must-haves’ – go for it. You won’t feel right about your wedding otherwise. But know that likely you’ll have to forfeit something else to make your budget work.”
Rosenthal: “After serving a three- or four-course dinner, plus having wedding cake and a dessert table, it isn’t really necessary to serve another meal at the end of the evening.”

Morning-After Meal

The Verdict
This is what room service is for

Powers: “This is rooted in traditional weddings that usually lasted a few days. Now, it’s a bonus for guests from out of town to have a small reception to mingle and munch before heading out.”
Schlagenhauf: “Couples are spending large amounts of money on their reception and may not have any leftover budget for a brunch. If a couple does decide to do something, I have seen it on a small level and only include close family and friends.”

Photos by Getty Images.

‘Key Ingredients’ appears in Milwaukee Weddings.

Find Milwaukee Weddings on newsstands beginning Jan. 2.

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