First off, being a guest can be hard work. In our case, we'll have a good chunk of out-of-town guests who have to coordinate getting time off work, paying for a flight and hotel, and navigating around a new city. Though some may scoff at this notion ("oh, it's no trouble," "we love you and we'll be there no matter what"), there is a tendency to "make it worth their while" with the couple still having a fun (and not budget-breaking!) time. For many couples, a holiday weekend wedding seems awesome because the time off is already built in, but for guests who may already have plans, it could be more like:
P.S. We don't plan on doing this.
Secondly, most of the time it boils down to balancing practicality with pretty. Sure, you can have the finest silk for your tablecloths and napkins, but most guests won't care; I agree with Greg on this. But I have different reasoning: Yes, colored linens add to the pretty factor and can dress up a table, but guests' interaction with linens is minimal. They're supposed to get dirty; it's not like you're taking one home as a souvenir.
That could also be said for a chair, but think about all that a guest has to sit through: dinner, toasts, cake, breaks from dancing. And if you're anything like me, when you want to sit, you want to be comfortable. And there's no denying that sometimes a plastic chair just doesn't feel right:
And as for the pretty factor, fancier chairs could save money by adding a stylish touch. Below, the top pic features ho-hum folding chairs dressed up with chair covers and sashes. The other photo is of the coveted chivari chairs. Sure, each chair costs more, but unless the venue includes the extra linens for the first ones, those could take a chunk of your budget, too.
So enough about chairs: My point is that guests matter a lot, and you want things to be functional and pretty for them — and therefore yourself because you'll be at the party, too! :) When looking at my budget, I'll put the group (venue, food, drinks, music, decor - to some extent, etc.) before things that only affect me (dress, primping, etc.).
Have any tips for negotiating being practical and pretty for a wedding? Where would you cut back?