Save or Splurge – The Guide to Making Your Wedding Budget Work

The longer you have been planning your wedding, the more you have dealt with the juggle between what you want and what you actually need. There are so many options and features when it comes to a wedding, how do you decide what to prioritize for your budget? Here are a few tips for things you should keep as well as things you may want to ditch.

Programs – SAVE
Realistically, guests don’t need a program to know what happens – there’s no intermission and if they are at your wedding, they know your name.  Not to mention, ceremonies always end with ‘I do’!  Other than the five aunts, grandparents, and close family friends who have watched you grow up, not many people will care to have a program as a keepsake.  If you feel a program is a must-have, keep it simple and only print enough for the first 3 rows on each side. The most important people who care to have a program tend to have reserved seats closer to the front. To ensure they each get one, have your house party or coordinator place them on each chair in those special rows. If you have any leftovers, leave them by the sign-in book for others to grab.

Specialty Linens – SPLURGE & SAVE
It might sound confusing, but it’s simple – splurge on your important tables and keep the others basic.  Your sweetheart/head table, cake, gift, and welcome tables get the most attention, so it makes sense to deck those out!  Spare yourself from going overboard – no one will have eyes on random guest table #11, it can have a basic linen without hurting your wallet or anyone’s feelings.

Cocktail Hour Bites – SPLURGE
I may be biased, but I feel offering food is never a waste, especially after your guests have just sat through your ceremony.  Depending on what time dinner begins, some of your guests may get a bit cranky waiting for the main meal.  Cocktail hour is designed to keep your guests happy and entertained while you are taking photos.  Food is the easiest way to do this, and it doesn’t break the bank!  Passed hors d’oeuvres can be ordered per person or per dozen, which makes them more flexible for your budget.

Top Shelf Bar – SAVE
I see a lot of couples who feel pressured to offer nothing but the best for their guests, but realistically, guests are happy to spend the day with you!  Offering a well or call level bar is nothing to be ashamed of, after all,  an open bar is an open bar!  As long as guests don’t have to pull out their wallets, they won’t care what you are serving.  Some wedding budgets don’t have room to host open bar for more than 2 hours (or any drinks at all) and that’s okay too!  Don’t stress about it.  If you are worried about impressing a guest based off of what you have paid for them to enjoy, maybe they aren’t the right guest to keep on the list.  Offer whatever works for your budget and know that your guests will have a great time.

For most couples, maintaining your budget is the most stressful part of the wedding planning process.  I hope these tips help you to better prioritize where your wedding budget is going.  In the end, this day is all about you and your new spouse celebrating your love.  Whether you spend top dollar on every aspect of your event or go the money saving route for everything you can, your guest will just be happy to be able to share the wonderful memories to come with you!  You’ll be surprised at how well some money saving tips can ease the stress on your budget and your mind.  Happy wedding planning!

Three Simple Ways to Cut Your Wedding Costs

It sounds easy enough, but the further along you get in wedding planning, the tougher this concept can seem!  Rest assured, there are some quick and easy ways to cut costs, and don’t worry, none of them involve cutting back on the bar package or dress budget!

  1. Friday or Sunday Weddings
    Before you write this one off, put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Would you miss your friend’s wedding simply because it was on a Friday?  Of course not!  You may leave work a little early to give yourself time to get ready and get through the traffic, but it is all worth seeing your friend’s special day. Your guests will feel the same way!

    Often times, venues offer a reduced rental rate for a Friday or Sunday wedding because they are not as much in demand as a Saturday date.  They may also lift any food or beverage minimum they apply to a Saturday event, which helps reduce your costs even more.  When you tour venues, ask them for their Friday and Sunday rates. You could be pleasantly surprised, and if your guests value you as much as you value them, they will make time for you any day of the week.

  1. Buffet Dinner
    Again, put yourself in your guests’ shoes. Would you be traumatized if your friend’s Sunday wedding had a buffet dinner?  Probably not.  The second you smell the delicious food, all you will care about is making room for seconds!

    With most catering companies buffets are self-serve, which greatly reduces your staffing costs.  When you first start to research and look over menus, you may see the food is a couple dollars more per person than the plated option, which could steer you away, but you have to consider the OVERALL catering cost that comes with plated versus buffet. Less staff on site means a smaller percentage of your budget is being pulled toward labor. Even if you think you are set on plated or action stations, always ask for a buffet quote to compare. You never know – it could end up being the perfect fit!

  1. Cut the Guest List
    This one is always tough, but it can be done!  There are two approaches to cutting the guest list, some find one way works better than the other, while others use both rules.  It’s really up to you and your other half to decide what the two of you feel most comfortable with. There will always be pressure from family and friends on this topic, and when that happens, kindly remind them that their input matters, however, the budget will always win!

    Rule #1: We both have met you
    It’s simple, have both of you met this person?  By ‘met’ I mean, longer than those 10 seconds at that one barbecue 2 years ago, it needs to be a significant person in your lives together.  There’s no harm in mentioning work friends, old college roommates, etc. that may have played a big role in a chapter of your life before you met the person you are about to marry, however, they need to be placed on the ‘maybe’ list until your guest list is more developed.  Include all of those close to you that know BOTH of you first, and then add in the maybe’s after that.  It’s all about compromise.

    Rule #2: Have we seen you in the past year?
    This is for your own interpretation. Depending on where your families live, this rule may bend a little, because of course, you want to include your grandparents who live 2,000 miles away!  This is a general rule of thumb and up to you to enforce as you see fit.  Just as in Rule #1, there may be people who are important to you that you just don’t see as often as you used to, and it’s okay to add them to the maybe list!  But if you want to cut your costs down, you have to start with the essential guests and add from there.

Wedding planning is hard, and budget tends to be the most difficult thing about it.  Making the final decisions on all aspects of your big day is tough and some require more thought than others.  It is important to step back and look at the big picture when it comes to making the tough decisions.  Is your day really going to be ruined if you trim the guest list a little or make a tiny menu change?  Stay positive and remember, there are always ways to cut costs, even if your budget is small, you can still pull off the wedding of your dreams.  Happy wedding planning!

4 Details You Need to Know Before Meeting Wedding Caterers

Wedding planning can be made into a bigger beast than it needs to be, but if you come prepared to vendor meetings it will tame things quite a bit.  Vendors don’t expect you to walk into the meeting knowing the ins and outs of the wedding world … that’s their job! However, in order to successfully find the right vendors for your big day, you do need to know what you want to a certain extent. Here are four key things you need to know, or at least have some idea of before starting your search for the perfect wedding caterer:

  1. Your Budget
    This topic always feels so taboo to couples which is why I bring it up first.  Your budget really dictates what can be made possible.  There is nothing wrong with saying your budget, it actually helps in many ways and makes planning much easier. Stating your desired budget helps your prospective caterer choose the best menu for you. Don’t fixate on whether your budget is too high or low for what you want.  Tell your caterer what you want and what you are willing to pay for it. If your budget truly is unrealistic, caterers will help bring you to reality.  There isn’t a caterer out there that could pull off serving surf and turf for $8 per person.  However, if you are willing to work with the caterer and be open-minded to their suggestions, you may be able to get closer to your ideal wedding menu without completely hurting your wallet. Trust the pros! Tell them what you want. Be honest and open, and they will do the same.
  2. Your Desired Theme/Style
    Whether you want traditional or quirky, you need to have an idea of which road you want to take. Some caterers specialize in very elegant, traditional plated meals while others are known for breaking the mold. Then, of course, there are the caterers in the middle who do a little bit of everything. It’s not a matter of talent, but your preference.  Knowing earlier on what type of meal you want to have at your wedding helps save you time and stress. Choosing your vendors is like dating all over again, you find the one you click with, and the rest is history.
  3. Guest Count
    By no means do you need a final headcount before meeting with caterers, but having an idea of how many guests will be attending will help your prospective caterer choose menus that are more realistic for you. This goes side by side with your budget like we just talked about above, 250 people versus 50 people can mean a completely different menu for your desired budget. If you really don’t have any idea how many guests you plan on having, you need to step back and sort that out first.
  4. Event Hours
    This detail gets overlooked a lot, but it affects your caterer just as much as the menu or rentals. Most caterers include an hourly rate for their staff, so you need to have an idea of how long you want your event to be. If you already have your venue booked, this should be an easy answer. If you are still looking for your venue, just having an idea of the type of event you want is enough for your prospective caterer. Some couples choose to only have a light cocktail reception that wraps up within two hours while others want a six-hour reception. You don’t need to know your exact event start and end time, you just need to know what kind of event you have in mind.

So there you have it, the 4 details of your wedding that you should know the answer to before starting your search for the perfect caterer.  The more information you can provide your prospective caterer with, the better off you will be and the more they will be able to help you.  Planning your special day is never anything short of stressful, embrace the help when it is available and allow your caterer to make your ideas work the best they can.  You will be surprised at what is possible when you let down your wedding planning guard a little and leave some aspects to the pros.  Happy wedding planning!