When it comes to weddings, Jung Lee, the owner of New York City event-production firm Fête, has organized rock-climbing rehearsal dinners and reception tables the length of city blocks. So when she speaks on all things bridal, we’re bound to listen. Here, she spills her wedding-bargaining tips and why you may want to skip the last cocktail (and it has nothing to do with that grinding groomsman on the dance floor).
InStyle.com: What’s the first thing you need to know about wedding planning?
Jung Lee: Every single thing is negotiable, so never take the first price you’re quoted.
Is there an effective way to haggle with a vendor?
Tell the person how much you love his or her work and suggest a compromise. I’ve seen restaurants agree to provide only a portion of the food if the bride wants to cut costs and bring in some of her own.
What’s the key to throwing a killer at-home reception?
Focus on serving very good wine instead of going overboard with the food. Wine never goes bad, so you can save unopened bottles for your next party.
Is there a chic way to set up the bar essentials?
Mix and match your tumblers, highballs, and champagne flutes atop a beautiful tray near your bar station to make it look like you have a well-curated collection of glassware. Add some peony blooms to the display: It’s the most economical flower, meaning it’s large enough that you’ll need only a few to make an impact.
What often goes unnoticed at weddings?
At most events the caterer will serve the best-quality booze during cocktail hour, then move to the less expensive bottles. Four hours into a party, you’re not going to realize what you’re drinking.
Where can you save a few bucks without your guests knowing?
Do the fake-cake trick. Get a small topper and place it on a pedestal for pictures and the cutting ceremony. Have an inexpensive sheet cake from a bulk retailer in the venue’s kitchen to actually serve to guests.
Bonus! Lee shares her favorite party-hosting accessories and under-$20 wine pick:
1. Glassware, from left: Marta Coolers ($3 each), Marta Double Old-Fashioned Glasses ($2 each), True Stemless Wine Glasses ($3 each), Cylinder Flutes ($2 each), Simplicity Flutes ($4 each), CB2; cb2.com.
2. Wood and lacquer tray, Pacific Connections, $205; pacificconnectionsusa.net.
3. North Coast chardonnay, Clos du Bois, $15; closdubois.com.
“Serve this chardonnay alone, or combine with equal parts orange, lemon and lime juices to make punch,” Lee says.
Ready to throw a party? Click through our gallery for 5 summer cocktails perfect for entertaining!