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Planning a Wedding That Doesn’t Kill Your Budget or Your Relationship
If you are planning a wedding and you are worried about your wedding budget, there are several ways to save. The keys to successfully planning a budget-conscious wedding are the abilities to be creative, flexible and opportunistic.
Consider this scenario: you wake up in the middle of the night craving ice cream. All the grocery stores are closed, so you go through the options in your head. You can go to the convenience store or the all-night coffee shop and pay a premium price for that craving or you can settle for the granola bar in the back of the pantry. Then the thought arises that you could have planned ahead while grocery shopping earlier that week and gotten your ice cream at a fair price. The same shopping options exist for every part of your wedding. Are you paying premium prices? Do you plan ahead? Or do you just do without? There are no wrong answers, but planning ahead can almost always offer the most bang for your buck.
The main trick to saving money for your wedding is flexibility. Think about your wedding date. It’s probably a mild Saturday evening in late spring or early fall. I’m not Nostradamus, it’s just a fact that the vast majority of couples choose the same dates for their weddings. You can significantly cut your wedding costs by changing your wedding date from a Saturday night 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 not think these date and time adjustments are important, but the vendors’ schedules are likely to 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’ve seen $10,000-$15,000 weddings (vendor cost combined) reduced to $2,000-$3,000 when every element of the wedding remains exactly the same, including the venue. the difference? A ceremony time of 11:00 on a Saturday in June compared to a wedding at 17:00 on the same day. An unexpected benefit of avoiding Saturday night comes to your guests, who can now plan a weekend after Friday night’s entertainment or before Sunday’s wedding. The Saturday evening wedding breaks everyone’s weekend in half. Schedule flexibility is huge for all vendors, but specific savings can also be found for each 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 opportunity to save money. If you want elegance, maybe avoid the country clubs and golf courses and find a shady park or beach and spend a fraction of your budget on elegant tables, string lights and candle-lit centerpieces. If you’re into quirky and fun, bypass a regular 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 better suit your needs. Private residences and local restaurants may suit your needs perfectly. With any non-traditional venue, be sure to get all the details. Some places may require additional insurance or have restrictions on attendance, food/drink, etc., so be sure to be thorough in your interviews. If you are looking for a traditional venue, often times finding a location that can host both the wedding and the reception is ideal. For both convenience and cost, this option is almost always preferable to separate locations. If you choose a church wedding, remember that some churches offer low-cost or even no-cost weddings. Call around and you might find a great deal
Catering: The ideal way to cut food/beverage costs is to schedule your wedding between traditional meal times. Having a wedding at 11:00 or 14:00 allows you to avoid serving full meals and instead serve small appetizers, sandwiches, desserts, etc. If you choose the reduced cost schedule option, be sure to tell guests when the type of food/refreshments will be served. Most people will grab a bite before or after the wedding if they know in advance that only snacks will be available at the wedding. If you must serve food, shop. Some venues require you to use their preferred caterer, so know this in advance. Sample the menus of each caterer and ask them how you can find savings. Many times a limited menu with more options than an appetizer works well. If you decide to serve a meal, buffet style usually costs less than plated meals. And remember this question: How was the food at the last wedding you attended? Most people don’t remember. Find a balance between quality, service and price.
Pie: There are reality shows dedicated to cakes. Amazing and beautiful cakes are everywhere. Now for the life-changing reality: it’s still just dessert. I know, it sounds harsh and callous. But its sugar, eggs, and flour, and you’re in a market that can charge thousands of dollars for dessert, yeah. Think about your logic behind the cake. It’s fun and you want pictures of the cake cutting and subsequent cake smashing. You can achieve the same thing with a small but still elegant cake. The pictures look the same, and the crowd still gathers around. And when the crushed cake is wiped from the groom’s face, all the guests are served cute little wedding cupcakes or pieces of sheet cake that are cut and ready to be served right away. Buy a nice little cake for the two of you, or for the bridal party, and ask your baker to make a sheet cake or two, or cupcakes, in the same flavor as yours. Everyone enjoys the cake and you enjoy cutting your cake budget by 50% or more.
photographer: Many couples make the mistake of forgoing a professional wedding photographer and hire Uncle Harry because he always has a camera, and he will be at the wedding anyway. Or a 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 cake, songs and flowers are long gone, you’ll have your photo to enjoy and share for years to come. You want a photographer with wedding experience to ensure all angles are covered and all poses are ideal. However, that doesn’t mean you have to blow your entire budget on photography. Search websites of photographers, and contact only those whose photos match your style. When you talk to the photographer, ask for a quote that doesn’t include prints, albums, or other photography products. Receive the edited photo on a disc or flash drive with a copyright release that allows you to print your photos. The profit for most photographers lies in printing, so you can save that money and print economically at your convenience. If a photographer doesn’t offer it, move on. There are many that will offer an option without prints.
DJ: The DJ is the provider that some consider unnecessary and others consider very valuable. I think both are correct depending on the type of wedding and reception you want. If you want a quiet and relaxed ceremony and reception with soft background music throughout, just find a venue with a sound system and plug in an iPod playlist of soft grooves. If you want your reception to be a party, then hire a DJ. DJ styles and interaction levels vary, so keep that in mind. If you want someone to dance the guests, get someone outgoing and fun. Like the photographer, don’t skimp too much and hire the high school tech geek down the street with the loud sound system. Weddings are unique, and you want experience. Ask for deals and compare prices. No real tricks here other than shopping ahead.
florist: Flowers are beautiful and can enhance any wedding. They also sit in vases and absorb water. Each couple has to decide if a little color is nice or if more elaborate flower arrangements are needed. If you find a venue attractive on its own, consider skipping or reducing the floral decorations. Many florists advise increasing the flora in the arrangement and using the actual flowers strategically, which makes a lot of sense artistically and economically. Some couples are now opting for artificial flowers instead of actual flowers. It can be cheaper and offer the advantage of preparation months in advance. They also last forever, so your investment won’t end up in the compost pile the next day. If you decide to go with real flowers, check out independent florists first, as they can often work with your budget with more flexibility than a larger retail chain.
video photographer: Have you ever visited a friend and were subjected to watching their wedding video? It hurts. Now, with the development of advanced and superior editing, today’s wedding videos are more like Hollywood features than handheld video cameras of the 1980s. They can also be very expensive. The real question is the need. After the first few weeks of marriage, will we ever see your wedding DVD? Other than visiting distant relatives or watching the anniversary, it’s likely sitting on the shelf. Most couples on a budget skip the videographer, but if you really want video then find a company that uses multiple cameras and edits in a style you enjoy. Make sure they know the style you want and ask them to work with your budget.
Other: There are several other ways to save that just didn’t fit into the other categories:
Wedding favors are cute, but often sit in the back seat of your guests’ cars and end up thrown away. 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 quirky, but cheap. Search the Internet for many creative options.
At any wedding, avoid placing disposable cameras at the guests’ tables. The idea is great, but the execution is terrible. You’ll spend hundreds on those old-fashioned cameras, and hundreds more on developing photos of children’s feet and empty plates. Don’t even consider it for your wedding!
Limousines: beautiful and elegant, but really only used if transportation is needed. Hiring a limo to drive you three blocks doesn’t allow you to relax or save money. If you are traveling around the city and want to pamper yourself, go for it. Ask for specials for the wedding, and find a service that will allow you to use the minimum amount you need. Don’t lock yourself into a six-hour minimum when you only need three.
Honeymoon: If you want a honeymoon but don’t have a big budget, consider booking your wedding with a travel agent instead of a retailer. Your guests may 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 a reception. Sometimes it’s more cost-effective than couples think and provides a romantic and less expensive wedding option .
Craigslist: OK, this is not a wedding item. But Craigslist can be your best friend. You can find suppliers, dresses, wedding venues and much more in one convenient site. If you have a particular skill, service or item, consider using the site’s barter section to trade wedding favors. Trading your unused timeshare for a wedding photographer or bartering your auto repair business to get catering can be empowering and budget-saving. Read the section and find ideas that may help you save.
I hope some of these suggestions give you ideas for stretching your wedding budget. Weddings are beautiful, amazing events and should be celebrated, not agonized 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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