What do you think a wedding costs these days? As with everything else, the cost has just gone up over the years, and weddings will now run you about $24,000. And that’s just the average. Your tab will likely be higher if you’re hosting the event in a more expensive region — New York, for example.
That doesn’t mean you need to head for City Hall. Sure, we all have friends who’ve thrown lavish receptions, hiking up the average with full orchestras, scads of peonies (out of season), and gift bags that compete with high end swag. But what do you remember about those weddings, the best man’s speech or the flowers?
The fact is, you can spend as much or as little as you want — the idea is to create a memorable occasion that will carry you into a happy marriage. So how do you throw an experience that you and your guests will remember for years to come, while staying within the confines of a budget?
Do the math. In order to stay within bounds, you have to actually set a budget. Your first priority may be flowers, but you’re off to the wrong start if you allocate money to buy them without first determining how much you can spend on the entire occasion, including engagement ring, honeymoon, and everything in between.
Once you’ve put a cap on spending, evaluate your priorities. A budgeting tool, like the one found on TheKnot.com, will help you divvy up the money so all your bases are covered. Don’t forget to create a buffer of about 10 percent of the overall budget in case you go over.
Consider a destination wedding. It sounds more expensive, but it actually isn’t, especially if you choose your location carefully. Also, many beach hotels and resorts are all-inclusive, meaning meals and drinks are included in the price of your stay. But be wary of the wedding packages offered — they may come across as a great deal, but many services are ala carte.
Throw your weight around. Vendors want your business, so there’s no harm in trying to strike a bargain. In fact, not negotiating is downright silly. When buying your dress, it’s always a good idea to shop around — most bridal stores can order any dress, so if you have a picture of what you want, bring it to a couple shops and compare prices.
Once you’ve decided, then offer to purchase the bridesmaid dresses from the same store — for a discounted price. By the same token, you can ask the caterer if they’ll throw in linens, or any other services not already covered, for free or at least at a discount. These little things can really start to add up fast.
Get creative. People tend to put so much emphasis on proper wedding etiquette, forgetting that this is their day. I’m definitely not suggesting you skip the thank-you cards, but it’s OK to stray from the norm in other areas. Like having a cocktail party with passed hors d’oeuvres instead of a normal sit down dinner.
Make some cuts. Rather than trimming the people you want at your happy occasion, think about trimming say, two courses from your five-course meal. Then get rid of the fully stocked bar and offer a signature cocktail instead.
Let the experts be experts. Your job with vendors is to be upfront and firm about your budget; their job is to stay within it. Go into meetings with a clear idea of how much you can spend, and ask what they can do in that price range. If they’re good, they’ll be able to offer lots of suggestions: florists can substitute flowers that are in season, but still offer the same color scheme and feel; the bakery can create a small version of your dream cake, and then a similar sheet cake to serve; and wedding invitations can be done without the fanciest paper or designs.
Your Perfect Day…because you deserve it.