Recently, I came across and article which spoke about 15 secrets of saving money on your wedding. I wanted to touch on this, not from the point of view of "you get what you pay for," many vendors do that, but from the point of view of how to get what you DON'T pay for.
The one thing I learned from planning our own wedding, was that 1, the budget was merely a guideline(really a wish) of how much you want to spend, and 2, no matter what we saved money on, we were going to spend the budget. Meaning that if our budget, which it was at the time, was $10,000 total, that even if we saved $2000, between the wedding and the honeymoon, that $2000 was going to be used. I think this a predicament that even the most financially discipline and frugal customers find themselves in, once they commit to a number in their head.
To me, the real trick is not always to just "save money" and "cut costs," but to stretch and maximize every dollar spent. Some of the tips in the article we used ourselves, 6 years ago and I am happy they are still working.
When we did this, for us it made sense. At the time I traveled to 4 different IKEAs to get this certain type of vase that we used, not only for the aisles, but also as centerpieces for the tables. This prove to be very economical, as well as a real pleasant surprise for our guests. The same aisle vases were used as centerpieces that lit up the table, without being too obstructive.
It is said, "The poor man always pays twice." Well isn't it better to PAY ONCE and USE TWICE? For us, each floral arrangement was around $150 all together, so you can see how that can get pricey really quick. After the ceremony and during the cocktail hour, they were brought inside and reused.
Take Advantage of the Holidays
Our wedding date was December 22nd. When you read the article, it speaks of getting married in the "off season." Well if you live in Florida or Southern California, then you may know that there really is no such thing as an off season, just some dates with less volume than others.
Our wedding date was about 78 degrees, so where do you think that most of our families that came from as far as New York would have rather been in December? You guessed it, FLORIDA! I will caution you though to give your guests enough time to plan ahead. While it is great to plan a wedding around the holidays, remember there are millions of other people who will not be going to your wedding who will also be traveling.
The area where you can maximize your dollars is not on the travel, but on the lodging. When you are in tourist areas such as Orlando and other places, between Thanksgiving until a few days before New Year's are often the slowest times. A lot of people stay with family and many hotels will give a great incentive on your guests staying there. Sometimes as much as 40% off of normal rates.
Ceremony and Reception in the Same Venue/Different Types of Venues
This is probably one of the best ways to maximize your money. Why? because while the venue may be a little more than any one spot, it is often much less than having two separate venues. One place where we maximized our dollars was the fact that our DJ only had to provide one main setup, which allowed him to have a portable setup outside for the ceremony and the cocktail hour. This saved us hundreds of dollars compared to being in two different spots. This also made the job easier for our photographer, she only had to set up at one location vice two, giving us an extra hour of coverage that did not have to be used for travel time.
It is good having a different type of venue as well. We chose the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs. One of the main reasons was because they only leased to ONE party per day. We found it by accident after coming from another floral venue where you had 3 hours to setup, get married, and break down, or you would have to purchase another block of time. Not only would this cost more money, but this would also cost precious time. Some other suggestions are of course, parks, but I want you to consider, golf courses, Libraries, and even airplane hangars at private airports. And for an alternative downtown venue, I've even seen the occasional roof top of a parking garage turned into a nice venue.
Pay for your dress in full/buy off the rack
I only agree with half of that statement. Why? Because I think that there are 4 things that most couples will splurge on if given the opportunity. The Venue, The Ring, The Honeymoon, and THE DRESS. The dress in essence is your signature for your wedding date. We were fortunate, because we purchased a near $3000 dress for under $1000 when one of the best boutiques in Virginia Beach was closing its doors at the time. When my wife saw that dress, SHE KNEW it was the one. At the time we were just fortunate that we had the money right then and there to buy it. And when I saw her coming down the aisle, I knew it was the one too. I will say this, find the dress that you LOVE and then find the way to get it.
My 2 Cents on how to save on the Margins
One of the things I don't think the article talks about are the details that you can really stretch your dollar. The most expensive part of a wedding usually is the reception. Ours was no different. It was beautifully catered by John Michael Events in Orlando. I didn't want to skimp on the food. Where I did trim on though was the bar. We had pony kegs of two kinds of beer, and champagne. Everything else was sparkling cider and soft drinks. Needless to say, no one complained about not having a full bar, and our alcohol bill, not including bartender, was less than $200.
I can say this. The cake is probably the one place during the wedding that your guests will know if you went the cheap route. Yes, unless the DJ does something drastically wrong, or the photographers are overly obnoxious, the one thing that all your guests will enjoy, hate, even judge you by, is your wedding cake. No matter how beautiful it is, it has to taste better than it looks. We wanted to be a little different. So we chose to go with cheesecake at the time from Andrea's. This was probably the biggest hit of the night, because not only was it unexpected, but that raspberry swirl was GREAT! While in smaller servings, cheesecake can be more expensive than the equal sized traditional cakes, as you get to more and more servings, for us, the cheesecake became a better option. Are there other flavors that you love? Red Velvet? Carrot? Sometimes the unexpected flavors are the biggest hits!
I think where I got the biggest bang for the buck was renting a car instead of getting a limo. Now, I am a HUGE fan of limousines. I think there is just something that is really elegant about having someone open the door for your bride as you watch her get out and come to you. That being said, I lucked out, because I got a great rate through USAA for an Avis Rental. Many companies have similar rate programs, and you may find one as well. I was able to get a 24 hour rental for less than $200 of a brand new, white, Corvette convertible. To this day, friends and family talk about how it was different and classic, and it was. But the reality is that it was practical for me. I picked it up at the airport, and dropped it back off when we left to go on our honeymoon. The style was just a plus.
The Final Word...
Earlier I mentioned that there were 4 things that many couples will splurge on. Those were, venue, rings, dress, and honeymoon. Leaving the latter three out of the mix, and keeping the venue, our wedding ended up being right around $12K of our $10k budget. That was for 75 guests, sit down reception, and photography and other aspects.
You may have noticed I didn't speak of value building when it came to photography, especially being a photographer. Well I feel that there are certain vendors like the planner, officiant, dj, photographer and even your seamstress, that their value is often a reflection of what they charge. Just because a photographer charges $4,000 does not mean that she will give you better photos than one that charges $400. What it does mean that that there is a level of service and often exceeded expectations that you will get. With so many things going on during wedding planning and the wedding day, the less you have to think about, the more valuable that vendor is to you. In the end whether it is a thousand dollars or a hundred thousand dollars, whatever you invest will always seem like a lot of money. The challenge is to do it in a way that becomes enjoyable and not a chore.