By Jessica Garvey
You’re engaged! Congrats! Now the real fun begins. And yes, it should all be fun. But sometimes, the stress of planning a wedding can turn a girl into a bridezilla. We all know the signs: bulging eyes, high-pitched voice, uncontrollable crying. But this state can be avoided! With the below budget tips and tricks, you’ll learn how to save your sanity and your money.
Setting your priorities for the wedding and deciding upon what is most important to you as a couple will help you save money and relieve anxiety. I tell couples to literally write up a mini contract between them and keep it as a pact of “What is actually important when things get stressful?” There are so many details in planning a wedding and each one can seem very important at the time. But if you refer back to your original priorities you probably won’t end up spending useless money on every little thing. You may want to have top shelf open bar for your guests, but you don’t need custom engraved ice cubes to go along with those kettle martinis. Consider these priorities:
Guest Count – Your guest count usually directly affects the cost of your wedding. From my experience, a nice wedding at an established venue costs between $750-$900 a person. I suggest you keep your guest count on the lower side not only for budget reasons but because you will be able to spend more quality time with your guests if you have a lower count.
Wedding Date – If you can be flexible with your wedding date, then there is a lot of money to be saved. Most venues have lower prices in the late fall and winter. Also, getting married on a Sunday instead of a Saturday night can be a huge saver. A lot of people see this as a weird alternative, but if it is a Sunday or even a Monday of a holiday weekend it won’t seem as strange. I got married over 4th of July weekend. The actual 4th was on a Tuesday and we got married that Monday. The venue/catering was 20% less expensive as a result and I still think that was one of the best decisions we made throughout the planning process.
Band vs. DJ – Many people opt for a band. They add a lot of ambiance to the event and it is always nice to listen to live music. However, if you are a couple that prefers the top 40 hits, a DJ may be a great option for you. The price difference between a band and a DJ is so significant that I always tell couples to really take their time deciding on which option they want to go with. A good band can cost between $9,000-$20,000 whereas a DJ can cost between $3,000-$5,000.
Florals vs. Candles – Flowers of any variety are beautiful and play a significant role in the decor and design of most weddings. However, flowers can be very expensive (orchids are amongst the priciest!) so to cut down on costs, I suggest thinning out the number of flowers you use and incorporating a ton of candles into the design. They instantly create a warm and romantic atmosphere and will significantly reduce your decor budget. A pro tip is to have your florist use silk faux flowers mixed in with the real deal to cut costs.
Consider this if you are going to have a Chuppah. Nobody gets that close to the structure and they will never know if some of the flowers are fake. See the picture above from my own wedding Chuppah. You think all those orchids are real? Not a chance.
Custom vs. Online Invitations – I know this is not a traditional point of view but I think a great way to cut down on costs is to send online invitations for your wedding. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good custom invitation suite as much as the next gal. However, for the right couple, digital invitations may be a more modern and cost-efficient option. You can do digital invitations ranging from free to $500 whereas custom invitations could cost you anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. That’s a big difference!
Additionally, understanding venue costs can be a huge help in saving your sanity and your money! Always ask a venue what their F&B minimum is. F&B stands for food and beverage; most venues make their money off of catering. This number is also what you have to pay no matter how many people you have coming to your wedding. So if you love the Hotel Bel Air but their F&B minimum is $65,000 and you only want to have a 100-person wedding, it may not be the best option for you. You would be paying $650 a person just for food.
Also, always ask venues about any site fees they may have. This is money they charge just for the space and nothing else. This can apply to certain ceremony locations so make sure you have the venue disclose ALL site fees. For instance, a venue may not have a fee to get married on their great lawn, but if you want to have the ceremony overlooking the water, there may be an additional cost associated with that.
Pro tip: Thinking through your timeline while you look at venues will help you get a realistic idea of costs. Most venues offer an open bar package for 4 hours but most weddings span about 5 hours of alcohol consumption. Make sure your quote includes that extra hour and associated cost upfront. Also, most weddings have cocktail hour from 6pm-7pm and reception from 7pm-11pm. If you are allowed to extend your reception time and want to have your wedding go until midnight, then there will be additional costs associated with that.
Many venues offer in-house tables, chairs, linens, glassware, plates, etc. at no additional cost. Wahoo! Something for free! Using these items can be a great way to cut down on costs that result from needing to rent specialty linens, glassware etc. I suggest you ask for an inventory list to get a good understanding of what they offer and ask to see the items on your site visit. Also, see if they have any nice furniture that you could use to set up a few seating vignettes. Choosing a venue that has options that are high quality and stylish could save you a lot of money in decor and specialty rentals.
Catering is usually one of the most expensive line items in a wedding budget. However, for the right couple, there are some really fun alternatives to the traditional sit-down dinner. I personally love a relaxed reception where people bring in a variety of food trucks for the reception and specialty bars for cocktails. These trucks also add a lot to the atmosphere of the reception space, as many of them feature a custom design. They tend to be reasonably priced, renting from $3,000-$5,000 per mobile eatery. Now that’s appetizing!
Your budget and priorities may be different, but with these simple tips you can rest assured that you have the tools to save money during your planning process and go from Bridezilla to Bridechilla in a flash!