In 2010, I noticed a new trend emerging in our industry. Many people, having fallen on hard times, consequently began limiting their spending, and understandably so. Luxuries were cut down to a minimum and many of my clients became much more strict with their budgets. I also learned firsthand of many of the complications and difficulties couples face when I became the Orchestration Chairperson for the nonprofit organization, DreamTeamWishes.org. Committed to helping couples that have experienced heartbreaking personal challenges plan a wedding to remember, I have found new ways to plan dream weddings in even the most difficult of situations. And all couples, no matter the budgeting woes or difficulties faced, still share one thing in common: a wish to bring their vision of the perfect celebration of love to life.
As a bride, it’s very easy to overspend. Perhaps you like a more exotic flower; the dress you’ve fallen in love with is a bit more then you were planning to spend; the perfect venue is just slightly over budget; and so on. As a start, I always suggest a client sets a maximum budget then takes it back two thousand dollars-that being the real budget. Also, the technology is out there to make life easier-use it! Let your fingers do the walking and search the Internet first for whatever you need-which stores carry your choices and how much they are. The wedding dress and accessories (veil and shoes) are pretty much the only thing that you actually have to physically go to the store and try on.
With so many of us having iPhones, there are some great apps to help you find the best price. Red Laser, an application I use often, allows one to scan the barcode on any tag and instantly searches for the best price available. Many stores will price match and this is a simple yet incredibly useful tool for ensuring you always get the best price. If you don’t own an iPhone, write down a description of the item you like at the store and search the net. Find who has the item in a twenty-five mile radius with a lesser price. If your store price matches, bring in the Internet ad. Or simply check online for printable coupons as many stores now have coupons exclusively on their web site. Also, do not hesitate to ask for their “best” price. You never know what the store can do for a client-sometimes they’ll offer an additional discount or even something useful as a free bonus. However, you never know unless you ask.
Make a list of those elements you feel are most important to your wedding/event.
For example, on invitations/place cards/thank you notes you can spend anywhere from $5.50 a set to infinity for a custom design. You, your time and effort, and a little bit of money make the difference. Last year three of my brides ordered the same invitations and place cards-two of them were friends and the other had some guests in common. All three sets looked completely different in the end and all it took was a different color ribbon for one, a spider web wrap on the second, and the third wrapped in a different lining with the couple’s names on the envelope. Don’t be afraid to get creative. It’s your day! For one of my brides we purchased plain place cards (pack of 50 for $5.99) from Michaels, bought a small glue gun ($2.99) and glue sticks (a useful item in any household) and attached mini burgundy roses. The “homemade” place cards were beautiful and matched the bridesmaids’ dresses as well as the linen.
A little note on the subject of favors: how many times have you attended a wedding and left behind some bulky frame at the end of the event? Choose your favor wisely… Again, use the Internet to begin your search for the perfect favor. You might also consider buying a small box with the wedding date and couple’s names imprinted, and place beautiful truffles or almonds inside yourself. It would surprise you how much that alone could save you. It is also practical-guests can eat this treat at the event and be done with it. You can wrap it with a beautiful ribbon and voila! You have presentation and quality without outrageous expense.
Flowers-now there is a budget buster! Low centerpieces require less flowers then a tall design; a ball of flowers uses significantly more flowers than a loose, natural starburst shape with green fillers. Look at various styles online. Find some samples of what flowers/centerpieces you like and print them out. Look through a few bridal magazines and flag some of the photos you like. Take these images and go to 2-3 florists for estimates. Florists are a very creative group of people. Give them your approximate budget right away and show them your pictures. They will work with you and if the flowers you’ve chosen push the limits of your budget, than they may offer you a substitute variety of flower. (Plus, you still have that $2000 we deducted from your original budget total to fall back on if necessary!) Ask for a proposal. Once you’ve gotten all your proposals, its time to compare. Decide what makes sense to you and whose creativity and suggestions you liked the most. Now, you’ve found a florist.
When choosing flowers for the ceremony ask yourself, are they going to be used strictly for the ceremony or can I use them for the reception as well? If they serve both purposes you’re saving quite a bit. Do you order separate bouquets for the head table or can you use loose petals and possibly bridesmaids’ bouquets to decorate it? How many bridesmaids use their flowers during the reception? Not many that I have seen.
Candles-all brides love them. Candles create a romantic, lovely ambiance in any room. Florists will charge for them-most venues do not. Try to use whatever the venue can provide free of charge. If they can provide mirrors and votives, ask the florist to add flower petals. The decorations will match your wedding, look wonderful, but not cost you an arm and a leg.
Music is such an important issue. I think to ensure a successful wedding event music is one of the most important elements. Granted, a good orchestra is expensive and the more time you have them, there is the real possibility of paying for overtime. I suggest hiring a good DJ along with the orchestra. The combination of both will provide you with continuous music and won’t be as expensive as a 7-10 piece orchestra for 6 hours. However, choose wisely. Maybe you won’t need a full 10-piece orchestra in the beginning since there will be toasts and speeches, and the first dance is often to recorded music played from a CD. So, the orchestra will begin to play an hour or so later. During the cocktail hour people usually like to mingle and chat, so if the venue can provide background music, this should be fine. A 3-4-piece group for cocktails can cost from $600-1200. If you’d prefer, and the venue has a baby grand, use that and hire a piano player. It’s classy, live, unobtrusive and not nearly as expensive.
The venue, food and bar time are by far the largest expenses you will incur at your wedding. Normally forty to fifty percent of your budget will go towards them. Make sure that your four-hour bar does not have to be consecutive. Read the package carefully and ask questions. More than eighty percent of the venue packages serve wine during dinner More than likely, your guests will not be venturing to the bar while eating their entrée and so the bar could be closed during the thirty minute window allowing yourto extend your bar time overall.
After the cocktail hour guests come in and sit down. The bridal party enters by announcement, as well as the bride and groom. Open your bar thirty minutes after the doors open to the ballroom and add another time extension. Rarely have I seen guests going to the bar during the announcements of the bridal party, bride and groom. Certainly, each wedding is different, so it is ultimately up to what suits your needs best.
Your wedding is just that-yours. Keep in mind that all your decisions should be based on what suits your needs and make sure to never compromise on what’s most important to you. Being a savvy couple means to take advantage of all the opportunities our 21st century has to offer. Search the Internet for the best deals. Take the time to do price comparisons and never be afraid to ask for the best deal. And remember, no matter how small your budget, there are couples out there less fortunate as I and the Dream Team can surely attest. Be thankful for your wonderful partnership and the wedding day you are blessed to be able to celebrate with all those you love. Happy planning!