Planning a wedding takes time, money and hard work. Maybe you have the means to throw a lavish, elaborate soiree, but even if your budget is tight, fret not! Just like a good marriage, a stylish wedding requires far more love than money. With a little thinking outside the box – and a healthy dose of determination – you can plan the wedding of your dreams.
Most couples want to use a 12-month planner that begins on Engagement Day and ends on Wedding Day. But the experts say that a shorter schedule forces you to concentrate on essentials rather than getting lost in not-so-vital details. Some also choose to wait for seasonal sales in order to save on decorations, flowers, and other niceties.
Your Guest List
The more people on your list, the greater the expense. We know it might not be what you want to hear, but trimming your guest list is the best option if you want to save. Consider this: Each guest absolutely must have an invitation, a meal, a dessert, and at least one drink, if not an open bar. Cutting your list from 150 to 100 will increase your savings exponentially.
HINT: It’s more than acceptable to have a ceremony and reception on Wedding Day with a smaller group, then throw a bigger bash later. Sometimes one or the other set of in-laws will happily host a barbecue or picnic. You could even have a pizza party. The idea is to have fun and include everybody one way or the other, all without breaking the bank.
“Classic and timeless.” It may sound cliché, but that phrase does describe the perfect wedding gown. If you need to cut a few dollars off the price tag of your dream dress, there are many options. Simplify the design, leave off some of the lace, and skip the beading and other glitter. Instead, choose sparkly accessories. If your gown is sleek and simple, you can wear as much jewelry as you dare.
Think about it: If you skimp a little on the dress, you can splurge on an elegant necklace and earring set, maybe even a bracelet, and wear them over and over again. One more design option would be to choose a less expensive fabric and limit embellishments to the bodice only.
One of the other biggest budget-killers is custom alterations. Moving the hemline alone could run you close to $100. Call any bridal shop in town and ask for the alteration price list. Look for what adjustments cost the most, then try to choose a gown that requires the minimum tweak here and there.
Hint: A fuller underskirt or slip, plus shoes with just a little bit more than a kitten heel, can raise the hemline of a gown enough for you to bypass the hem alteration charge and splurge on the gorgeous crystal comb or beautiful full-length gloves in your bridal retailer’s accessories case!!
When it comes to cost, another factor is fabric. Less yardage equals less cost, and much of that cost goes by the name The Train. If you truly want a ball gown, choose a dress with a full skirt that’s evenly hemmed all the way around, then ask your bridal retailer about adding a detachable train at the waist. You could also wear a straight-cut simple dress with a long mantilla-type veil that sweeps behind you as long as a traditional train. You can also save a little more by choosing a dress without yards of taffeta or organza.
If you’re concerned about your midsection, consider a lace-up corset-style gown. This is a beautiful look, and can help you bypass alteration fees because you can adjust the gown yourself!
Hint: A corset dress might be marvelous for your bridesmaids, too, especially if there’s a chance that one of your married ladies might end up expecting a little something more than your wedding on your wedding day!
Also, peruse your area ads for designers’ seasonal trunk shows at your bridal retailer. Check out options for placing orders on the spot. It’s not unusual to save 20% or more, and you’ll be thankful you did, especially if you simply must have a mile-long train, or cannot bear to live without a gathered gown with yards and yards of dupioni silk.
Every one of these ideas can save you at least a little bit, and none will drastically detract from your overall look, so the more creative cuts you incorporate into the making of your dream dress, the more dollars you’ll have for everything else.
Your Wedding Date
If you don’t have any particular tradition to follow, scheduling your wedding on an off-peak day almost always saves you a bundle. And while it’s charming and romantic, if you want to hang on to your cash, holidays like Christmas are a no-no because holiday rates are almost always higher than other times of the year.
Keep in mind that, tradition aside, Saturdays are always pricier. Weekends do make sense because most of your guests will be free from work and family obligations. But still, if you’re counting pennies, traditional Saturday afternoon-into-evening ceremony and reception is always the most expensive option. Saturday mornings can be lovely—have a brunch or lunch and then plan non-venue activities for a fun afternoon with friends and family. Another charming—and very romantic, mind you—evening alternative is Friday night. You can also book almost any upscale venue on a Sunday afternoon. Many venues will happily roll out the red carpet for a nice, big wedding at a time otherwise hard to book. It may feel clumsy at first to have your wedding on a non-Saturday, but if you talk to your friends and family, you’ll find that, with very few exceptions, they’ll free up any day at all for you, just because they love you.
Location, location, location. That goes for real estate, and goes double–maybe triple–for weddings. Give some thought to bypassing that posh country club and tie your knot in a rustic garden. If you thrive on being quirky and creative, and would love to let your surroundings do the decorating for you, explore offbeat venues like art galleries and colorful ethnic restaurants. The more intimate the gathering, and the more unique the setting, the easier your wedding will be on your budget. Do be triple-sure that the site you choose can handle your intended crowd, else you might wind up with pricey rentals for tents and chairs and such. Check for promotions in venues where catering and entertainment are already incorporated. Potluck receptions can tickle the taste buds far more than catering if you or your friends love to cook, especially if there’s an ethnic twist to the table.
Your Photography & Videography
Memories are best stored on film, so this exactly why you want to trim the budget on other nuptial details and book the very best you can afford in the way of visual recording. You can still keep your cents (pun intended) and your sanity by having your photographer cover the entire ceremony, but spend a limited amount of time at the reception. For sure, you want to capture such moments as the cake cutting, bouquet toss, and the dance, but talk to your pro about options. If you’re willing to bypass convention and adjust the traditional schedules somewhat–perhaps by cutting the cake, dancing your dance, and tossing your bouquet all in one sequence that’s done right after dinner–you’ll save your technician time and can splurge instead on a beautiful memory book or a poster-sized panorama shot of the entire crowd.
Important note: One photographer is truly enough for a small wedding. You can always get those neat little disposable cameras for the tables and let your guests do the shooting.
You also absolutely want superb video quality, but you can ask for limited camera coverage and super-simple editing. The more cameras and the fancier the final film, the more money out of pocket. Ideally, your video should cover the best moments, the ones your grandchildren will want to watch in time.
Sneak Peek: Keep a close eye on our blog. We’ve recruited some truly talented folks who will share some of the most creative cost-cutting yet still spectacular wedding ideas you’ll ever see!
It used to be that buffet-style was always less expensive, but these days it all depends on the venue. Traditional plated meals–where the wait staff serves everyone’s entree individually–are pretty much, across the board, pricier. There are some exceptions to both rules, and sometimes there’s a middle ground like family-style or some other creative serving alternative. Ask the caterer or venue manager what they consider as their off-hours. They may have even more cost-effective time slots than Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Ask about menu options. Maybe your location offers lighter meals or smaller portions. These days, there are very few guests who will be insulted if you don’t serve a nine-course meal.
The bottom line when it comes to the menu–and everything else wedding-related-is this: It Never Hurts to Ask. Polite, respectful questions posed by a sincere and thoughtful couple are never a bother to a true professional.
The venue you choose will determine the liquor you serve (or don’t serve – remember, you always have options). You could have a time-limited bar with a few signature drinks and house wine for your guests, or go casual and just serve beer and wine. If you limit the champagne toast to just the bride and groom, you’ll save a bundle, but do take into consideration the feelings of your guests. It’s not uncommon for one or the other set of parents to pick up the bar tab or provide perhaps one bottle of champagne per table. You also don’t have to serve pricey champagne. It’s the bubbles that cast the spell, so watch for weekend wine demonstrations in the smaller markets and grocery stores. They’ll often have samples of alternative bubblies like sparkling Moscato. See what you like, and then shop at the local discount liquor store for the same type of product, but from a more cost-effective vineyard.
Fondant and handmade sugar flowers are gorgeous but pricey. Also, not everyone likes fondant, but buttercream frosting is pretty much a universal hit. Classic flavors like vanilla and chocolate are sometimes a little cheaper than red velvet cake, depending on where you shop. You can also have a 2-layer tier cake (a smaller version of the traditional towering layers) then order sheet cakes in the same flavor and frosting, so everyone gets a slice.
There’s a custom, not always followed these days, that the wedding cake is cut into small slivers and then put into boxes (usually monogrammed) for each guest to take home. That means there’s a regular dessert after dinner, plus the cost of a wedding cake and the boxes. If you like the tradition, you can do that on a much smaller scale and decorate the boxes yourself for a truly personal touch. You could also make it fun and serve a scoop of ice cream with the cake.
If you want to keep it formal, ask the caterer to control the plating of sweets with a flavored sauce for each of your guests. Candy buffets can be costly unless you put something together yourself. Also, don’t forget The Cupcake Craze. Tiers of cupcakes stacked on a traditional tiered wedding cake tray are practical and fun. For a different kind of giveaway with a delicate touch, you could purchase gourmet cookies or pastries from a local bakery and put a few each in a dainty pouch with a ribbon.
Your Floral Design
Huge Money Saving Tip: Stay in season!
If you go with a traditional florist, then flowers currently in bloom, either locally or easily procured, are far less costly than something out of season that must be flown or shipped in. There are also some very lovely wedding flower sets available for you to order on your own. Online florists who provide specific wedding packages—bride’s bouquet, a couple of bridesmaid’s bouquets, boutonnieres and maybe a corsage for each mom—can be a terrific compromise between a traditional florist and DIY. If you do make your own bouquets and arrangements, stick to one, maybe two varieties of flowers that you can order in bulk. Carnations are much more affordable than roses, and can be dolled up very nicely with a fancy ribbon. If you just love the smell of a roomful of fresh flowers, consider a few strongly fragrant blooms. Lilies like Stargazer or Casablanca can make a fragrance statement with only one or two blooms per bouquet or arrangement. And don’t forget all the stunning silks available these days. You could spritz the silk bouquets with lavender or rose toilet water and keep the decorations as a memento of your day to display in your new home.
If you want live music, scout local bands and dance clubs in your area. If you can find a combo that’s versatile enough—for instance, a piano, bass, and drum, then one woodwind or brass or string player—they could cover both your ceremony and reception. Hiring a DJ is always cheaper than booking a band, sometimes as much as 60% less! Some venues can stream music from an iPod, which would cut out the DJ entirely.
Fun Suggestion: If yours is a lighthearted crowd, and you’d love something totally different, find a DJ who also does karaoke, and your guests will entertain themselves!
These days it’s a no-brainer: DIY, all the way. And before you start feeling too self-conscious about your graphic arts skills–or lack thereof–check out super-affordable software like Broderbund’s PrintMaster or Encore’s Print Shop. Both come with built-in templates compete with color schemes, and your local office supply is sure to have plenty of variety in paper and envelopes.
Hint: Check out the square “invitation” envelopes. They’re commonly referred to as A2 and are designed to hold a piece of stationery–typing paper size-folded into quarters.
And remember: No matter how imperfect they seem to you, so long as they’re made with love, guests really do like the personal touch of handmade programs and invitations. Plus which, your wedding program is a built-in take home favor!
Limousines are lovely, but unless you have a friend who’s a professional driver, you’re better off finding a more creative choice. Many car rental companies offer luxury sedans, and you only need one car because your Best Man and Maid of Honor could play chauffeur to you, the bride and groom, as you happily smooch in the backseat. If you want something super sporty, and you happen to be really blessed, you just might find a friend (or a friend of a friend) who’ll lend you their hot little Mustang convertible!
Earlier we hinted about a Sneak Peek, so here’s our bottom line:
DaVinci Bridals exists specifically because we want to help you make your planning enjoyable, your wedding amazing, and your budget not drained dry. So add our website to your Favorites tab, follow (and Like, please) our Facebook page, and say hello on our Contact tab. We want to know who you are, how we can help, and be your number one online resource for the Very Best of the Best tips, tricks, hints and suggestions to make your wedding day the Best First Day of the Rest of Your Lives!
Here’s to You!