Weddings can be expensive. No doubt about it. According the The Knot the average cost for a wedding is $28,000. That could be a down payment on a house. If you’re one of those fortunate couples who have a large budget, that’s not a problem. But if you’re like most people in this economy, that’s a lot of money.
We all want to have the “Perfect” wedding and many have dreamed of this day for many years. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement and let emotions make the decisions. If this happens you can expect to go over budget and regret it later.
So how do you control the expense? The first thing is to create a budget and stick to it the best you can. An excel spreadsheet is an easy way to do this. First list every expense that you can think of in one column. Brainstorm this with your fiancé, family and friends. List all the obvious items first, e.g. venue, gown, flowers, photography, video, entertainment, food, drink, favors, decorations, etc. Don’t forget the Officiant. Then list the less obvious items, e.g. gratuities, taxes, wedding party gifts, alterations, etc. Keep the list handy and as you think about your wedding or read articles about weddings add any other items that you can think of.
When the list is complete start putting the cost of each in the next column. Be sure to add tax, gratuity, etc. For example, most venues will quote a per person cost for meals, but the quote often doesn’t include tax and gratuity, which can add as much as 25% to the quote. Be realistic when estimating the costs and do your research. Call vendors and get some quotes. Check online for prices of ancillary items.
When you have finished entering all the costs in the second column, add them all up and compare that number with the amount that you can afford to spend on the wedding. If the total is less than your budget, you’re all set. But if you are like many couples, the total will be more than your budget and you will be faced with a choice: Increase your budget or find ways to cut costs. Let’s discuss how to save.
Think about the time of year and day of the week that you have your wedding. Peak wedding season is from early May to late September and weekends, particularly Saturday, are the most popular days. That’s when the demand is highest so you can expect the prices to be the highest. Consider having your wedding during an off-peak time of year or during the week when the demand is lower and you can negotiate a better price. This applies to venue, catering, entertainment, etc. where scheduling is important, but not to items such as gowns, gifts, etc.
Think of alternatives to traditional venues. A park or beach setting is far less expensive than a hotel ballroom. See if your local university has a chapel or reception center. Look into museums, historical sites and botanical gardens. A bed and breakfast may offer their site for a smaller fee and perhaps will even include the site if the couple stays at the B&B for a couple nights. If a family member or friend has a nice backyard, that’s always a good spot for a small wedding.
Maybe you can cut some items from you budget. Do you really need a horse drawn carriage or limousine? Do you need to have your names printed on the napkins or will plain napkins do just as well? A string quartet is wonderful for the ceremony, but will some recorded music work almost as well? Look at each item on your list and consider eliminating it or modifying it.
Rent or borrow instead of buy. Would it make more sense to rent tablecloths instead of buying them? How about the punch bowl and glasses?
Food and drink are big budget items. Of course limiting the number of guests is the obvious way of cutting back, but if your guest list is set, consider a no host bar or putting a one hour limit on the open bar. Do you need to offer top shelf drinks? Will a nice fish or chicken dinner be received as well as filet? If the reception is not catered, be sure to buy in bulk and don’t be afraid to ask family or friends to help out.
The cake can be expensive costing anywhere from $2 to $15 a slice or more. Maybe you can have a smaller wedding cake and a separate sheet cake for the guests. It all tastes the same and your guests will be just as happy.
Photography and videography are expensive. I suggest that you not skimp on the photography. You will want those memories throughout your life and if you rely on a family member or friend to take the photos, you can be sorely disappointed. But you can still shop around for a good price, but be sure to ask for references and look at sample albums. Video is nice, but expensive and after viewing it a few times, the video often is put away and rarely watched again.
Flowers are an expensive item, but you won’t want to skimp here either. Silk flowers are inexpensive but nothing is as elegant as fresh flowers. Cut back on the number of guests and have fresh flowers. But there are other ways to save. Flowers are seasonal. Your florist can have out of season flowers flown in at a price, but consider in season flowers as a way of controlling cost. The bride should have a nice bouquet, but the bridesmaids can be fine with a single stem flower. Boutonnières for the men can be a single bloom and corsages for mom’s and grandmothers can be smaller while still very nice
Entertainment can be anything from a CD player to a full orchestra. If you decide on a DJ, be sure that s/he is a wedding DJ. There is a big difference between a wedding DJ and a party DJ. The DJ is the master of ceremonies for the reception and will need to be familiar with toasts, introductions, bouquet and garter toss, cake cutting, etc. Having a family member of friend act as DJ can save money, but be aware that a professional DJ can make a big difference in how the reception goes and can keep things on a timeline.
Do It Yourself decorations and invitations are great ways to save money, but keep in mind that you will need to spend a lot of time on them.
The wedding ceremony is the “Main Event” of the day. The purpose of the day is to get married and you will want a ceremony that you and your guests will remember for all the right reasons and not because the ceremony was botched or amateurish. For this reason, be sure to have an experienced, professional Officiant. Asking your future brother in law to get an online ordination and perform your wedding ceremony will save money but can be disastrous. And if the ceremony is not conducted in a way that meets legal requirements, you can have a lot of trouble later in life.
Hiring a professional wedding planner can save you money. A good planner will be able to make suggestions, negotiate with vendors and provide discounts that will most likely exceed the fee charged by the planner. Look for a planner who has years of experience and can provide references from satisfied couples.
In conclusion, you will want to have a wedding that you can look back on with great memories, but no wedding is worth going into debt for years. Be sure to be realistic in your planning and budgeting and you will start your married life on the right financial footing and can look forward to a bright future.