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Planning a Wedding That Doesn’t Kill Your Budget or Your Relationship
If you’re planning a wedding and worried about your wedding budget, there are several ways to save. The key to successfully planning a budget-conscious wedding is the ability to be creative, flexible and opportunistic.
Consider this scenario: you wake up in the middle of the night with a craving for ice cream. All the grocery stores are closed, so you go over the options in your head. You can go to a convenience store or coffee shop and pay a high price for that craving, or settle for a granola bar in the back of your pantry. Then there’s the thought that you could plan ahead while grocery shopping earlier this week and get an ice cream at a fair price. The same shopping options exist for every part of your wedding. Are you paying premium prices? Planning ahead? Or simply without? There are no wrong answers, but planning ahead can almost always offer the most bang for your buck.
The key trick to saving money for your wedding is flexibility. Consider your wedding date. It’s probably a mild Saturday night in late spring or early fall. I’m no Nostradamus, the fact is that the vast majority of couples choose the same wedding dates. You can significantly reduce your total wedding costs by changing your wedding date to Saturday nights in May, June, September or October. Go crazy and avoid Saturdays altogether and have a wild Friday night wedding or a relaxing Sunday afternoon wedding. You might think that these date/time adjustments don’t matter, but it’s much less likely that salespeople’s schedules will be full on a Sunday afternoon in August or a Friday evening in March. This availability can translate into amazing deals if you shop around. I have seen $10,000-$15,000 (total vendor costs) weddings reduced to $2,000-$3,000 with every component of the wedding remaining exactly the same, including the venue. The difference? An 11am ceremony on a Saturday in June compared to a 5pm wedding on the EXACT SAME DAY. The unexpected benefit of avoiding Saturday nights is for your guests, who can now plan the weekend after Friday night or before the Sunday wedding. That Saturday night wedding cuts everyone’s weekend in half. Schedule flexibility is huge for all vendors, but there are also special savings to be found for every part of your big day.
Wedding venues: The venue is usually the most expensive of the wedding investments, but that just means it’s also the biggest money-saving opportunity. If you want elegance, maybe avoid country clubs and golf courses and find a shady park or beach and spend some of your budget on elegant tables, string lighting and candle-lit centerpieces. If you’re quirky and fun, bypass the usual venue and rent an old theater or local art gallery. Think outside the box. Depending on the size of your guest list, you can find venues that are not considered traditional but will more than suit your needs. Private residences and local restaurants could suit your needs perfectly. With any non-traditional venue, make sure you get all the details. Some places may require additional insurance or have restrictions on attendance, food/beverage, etc., so be reasonable when interviewing. If you’re looking for a traditional venue, it’s often ideal to find a location that can host both the wedding and the reception. For convenience and cost, this option is almost always better than separate locations. If you decide to have a church wedding, keep in mind that some churches offer low-cost or even no-cost weddings. Call around and you might find a great deal
Host: An ideal way to keep food/beverage costs down is to place your wedding around traditional meal times. An 11am or 2pm wedding allows you to avoid providing full meals and instead serve small appetizers, sandwiches, desserts, etc. If you choose to cut costs this way, be sure to let your guests know when the food/refreshments line will be available. served. Most people will eat something before or after the wedding if they know in advance that only snacks will be available at the wedding. If you have to serve food, shop. Some venues require you to use their preferred caterers, so check ahead of time. Sample each caterer’s menus and ask them how to save. A limited menu with several appetizer options often works well. If you choose to serve a meal, a buffet is usually cheaper than plated meals. And keep this question in mind: What was the food like at the last wedding you attended? Most people don’t remember. Find a balance between quality, service and price.
A cake: There are reality TV shows dedicated to cakes. Beautiful, beautiful cakes are everywhere. Now for the life-changing reality: It’s still just dessert. I know, that sounds harsh and unemotional. But sugar, eggs and flour, and you’re in a market where you can charge thousands of dollars for, yes, dessert. Think about your reasons for the cake. It’s fun and you want photos of the cake cutting and the subsequent cake smashing. You can achieve the same with a small but still elegant cake. The photos look the same, but the crowd is still gathering around. And when the broken cake is wiped from the groom’s face, all the guests are served cute little wedding cupcakes or pieces of cake that are sliced and ready for immediate serving. Buy a nice cake for the two of you or for the wedding party and ask your baker to make a cake or two that tastes the same as yours. Everyone enjoys cake, but you enjoy cutting your cake budget by 50% or more.
Photographer: Many couples make the mistake of forgoing a professional wedding photographer and hiring Uncle Harry because he always has a camera and will be at the wedding anyway. Or the niece in high school just bought a really expensive camera and took pictures in high school. Remember that your photos will likely be the only tangible reminders of your wedding. When the cakes, songs and flowers are long gone, you’ll have a photo of yourself to enjoy and share for years to come. You want an experienced wedding photographer to ensure all angles are covered and all poses are perfect. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire budget on photography. Search the websites of photographers and contact only those whose photos match your style. When talking to a photographer, ask for a quote that excludes prints, albums or other photography products. Transfer the edited photo to a disk or flash drive with a copyright release that allows you to print the photos. Most photographers make money from printing, so you can save that money and print economically when it suits you. If the photographer doesn’t offer it, move on. There are many that offer the option without printing.
DJ: A DJ is a salesperson that some people find unnecessary and others find invaluable. I think both are true depending on the type of wedding and reception you want. If you want a quiet, relaxed ceremony and reception with gentle background music throughout, find a venue with a sound system and plug in an iPod playlist with soft beats. If you want your reception to be a party, hire a DJ. DJ styles and levels of interaction vary, so keep that in mind. If you want someone to take care of the guests dancing, look for someone who is outgoing and fun. Just like the photographer, don’t skimp and hire a high school technician down the street with a loud sound system. Weddings are unique and you want an experience. Ask for offers and compare prices. There are no real tricks here other than shopping ahead.
Florist: Flowers are beautiful and can brighten up any wedding. They also sit in vases and soak up water. Each couple has to decide if a little color is nice or if more elaborate floral arrangements are needed. If you find a venue that is attractive in its own right, consider skipping or toning down the floral decorations. Many florists advise increasing the greenery in the arrangement and using actual flowers strategically, which makes a lot of sense both artistically and financially. Some couples are now opting for artificial flowers instead of real flowers. This can be cheaper and offers the advantage of being prepared months in advance. They also last forever, so your investment doesn’t end up on the compost pile the next day. If you’re going for real flowers, check out independent florists first, as they can often work with your budget with more flexibility than a major retail chain.
Videographer: Have you ever visited a friend and subjected yourself to watching their wedding video? This is painful. Now, with the development of high-definition and cutting-edge editing, today’s wedding videos look more like Hollywood features than handheld camcorders from the 1980s. they can also be very expensive. The real question is need. Will your wedding DVD ever be seen after the first few weeks of the wedding? In addition to visiting distant relatives or visiting on an anniversary, it probably sits on the shelf. Most budget-conscious couples skip the videographer, but if you really want video, look for a company that uses multiple cameras and edits in a style you like. Make sure they know the style you want and ask them to work within your budget.
other: There are several other storage methods that simply didn’t fit into the other categories:
Wedding favors are cute, but they often sit in the back seats of your guests’ cars and end up being tossed around. If you have the budget for them, find something personal (a small framed photo of the wedding couple, a small packet of candy or mints, etc.). Find something fun or unusual but inexpensive. Find many creative options online.
At any wedding, avoid placing disposable cameras at the guests’ tables. The idea is great, but the execution is terrible. You’ll spend hundreds and hundreds developing photos of baby feet and empty plates on these outdated cameras. Don’t even think about it for your wedding!
Limousines: Nice and fancy, but really only used when transportation is needed. Hiring a limo to drive you three blocks won’t get you any relaxation or savings. If you’re traveling around town and want to splurge, here you go. Ask for special wedding favors and find a service that will allow you to spend the minimum amount you need. Don’t limit yourself to a minimum of six hours when you only need three.
Honeymoons: If you want a honeymoon but don’t have a big budget, consider booking your wedding with a travel agent instead of a vendor. Maybe your guests will give you a vacation instead of cutlery! If you’re considering a small wedding, consider a destination wedding for the two of you (or a small family) and combine the wedding and honeymoon instead of the reception. Sometimes this is more economical than couples think and provides a romantic and less expensive wedding option.
Craigslist: OK, this is not the wedding component. But Craigslist can be your best friend. You can find vendors, dresses, wedding locations and much more in one convenient place. If you have a particular skill, service or item, consider using the barter section of the wedding favor barter website. Swapping your unused timeshare for a wedding photographer or swapping your auto repair business for catering can be empowering and a budget saver. Read the section and find ideas that can help you save.
Hopefully some of these suggestions will give you some ideas to stretch your wedding budget. Weddings are beautiful, amazing events and should be celebrated, not fretted over. Enjoy the process and remember that this is YOUR big day. Build the wedding you want and let your guests enjoy the ride with you.
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