Don’t budge on your budget


For a lot of people, budgets are like dirty laundry, better left unseen and unspoken of. For us, not so much. When planning our wedding our budget was front and center throughout the whole process. I would often joke with friends that our wedding was based on an Excel spreadsheet, funny as it may be, it was also extraordinarily helpful. Planning a wedding for a bride and groom (and their families) is a stressful and often expensive event, the last thing anyone wants is a surprise bounced check, or unexpected vendors fees.

In our wedding planning my husband was our CFO (Chief Financial Officer) and I was the CCO (Chief Creative Officer). I admittedly zone out around spread sheets and cash flow analysis, but am acutely aware of peonies in the perfect shade of strawberries and cream, chivari chairs, bustles and bows, so this is how I saved when planning our wedding, and many of them can be applied to
any event on a budget. Oh, and every event has a budget, some are just more grand than others.

  • Pick your season. The first tip any magazine or website will tell you to plan your event “off-season” to save money. Season in most places is April, May, June and off-season is December and January for weather related reasons. In Florida nearly the opposite is true. When planning an event off-season, or on a Thursday, Friday, Sunday night, your date is less vied for and you have negotiating leverage.
Image Courtesy Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau
  • Know the climate. This is less about weather, and more about the economy. I planned a wedding in Florida, in January at the peak of the season. Was my budget blown? No way! Florida, and many destination travel cities, took quite a tourism hit in the down economy – knowing this and using this to negotiate is key.
  • Be persistent. I booked two different hotel options for our nearly 70 out of town guests. One was a more budget friendly option at $140/night and the other was luxury hotel that I negotiated to $220. Oh, but wait! I noticed on hotels.com a cheaper rate a few months later, new price $180. Not so fast, then I spotted the price dropped on the hotel’s website to $160! Score for our guests and for being an avid emailer!
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Shop around. I found my dress, Milana by Maggie Sottero and fell in love. The store told me it was $1350. This was within my budget and I was all set. In searching for a picture of the dress online to send to friends I saw it offered for $875. I called another local store (online prices don’t count for a variety of reasons) and they had it for $850. I called back the original boutique and they happily price matched. Shop around.
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Don’t be shy. My husband loved a tuxedo by Ermenegildo Zegna. We didn’t love the price tag. We found a close contender by Hugo Boss, but the lapel was just a bit wide, and he’d prefer a slimmer cut. We asked at Bloomingdale’s if they did alterations – and wouldn’t you know it, they did and they were very affordable. We’d never have known if we didn’t ask. Oh and the kicker, we bought the Hugo Boss tuxedo, Ferragamo Shoes and groomsmen’s ties on a day when Bloomingdale’s was having a sale for customer’s who have registered with the store. 15% off of a lot, is a lot. The same goes for bridesmaid dresses, tuxedo rentals and the like – ask for a discount when buying multiple items.
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Use the Internet. I made my save the date postcards using VistaPrint, and a Vista Print promo code. Total price, $14.00. Major score.
  • Know your talents. I searched far and wide for invitations I loved that were in my price range. This was not happening. Then I got creative. I kept coming back to the DIY (do it yourself) concept, and so I did just that. I did my invitations myself. I bought paper for online wholesalers, made many trips to the Paper Source, set up the text, printed the cards, drew, painted and assembled each one. For a similar style card by a pro the invitation suite would have cost upwards of $7.00/each, mine cost less than $3.00.

  • Don’t be afraid of new talent. Our photographer, the very talented and amazing Ashley Colhouer of 1313 Photography was new to South Florida, and was ready to work with us to make our dream photography fit within our dream budget. She was willing to modify her packages to fit out needs. She and her husband (they work together) were by far our best expense, and the best bang for our buck. I have very happily referred many brides to her, and the raves are the same.
  • Rock it out. We went with a DJ. In the South Florida market this probably saved us between $5,000 to $8,000. This is a pretty personal decision, but our belief was that if it wasn’t going to Fergie singing “Tonight’s gonna be a good night” then it might as well be a recording.
  • Mix it up. Want a grand floral experience? How about half of a grand floral experience? If you’re all about height, save money by doing half or a 1/3 of your table with tall centerpieces and the other half with low centerpieces.
  • Pick a color. With your flowers you’ll get more visual impact with all your flowers in one or a few similar shades then with a variety of colors. Also choosing fewer varieties of flowers allows your florist to order in bulk.
  • Accessorize. You can make a strong and beautiful impact with your decor with candles (cheap!), bold linens (less expensive than those beautiful orchids!), and glass or mirrors that trick the eye and strategically placed lighting in a room. Shop around in unexpected places, we found beautiful glass votive holders at Walgreens – yea for mom’s that know how to shop!
Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography
  • Eat something. You really don’t need to serve filet mignon and lobster, although if you can and must, who am I to stop you? Serve what you like. More and more often I see weddings where the couple serves bbq, tapas, Indian cuisine, Mediterranean mezze or all of the above because this what they really enjoy. Side note, check your menu packages a buffet is often more expensive than a sit down plated meal because the kitchen has to prepare extras.

Cupcakes: Sara Coleman, The Cupcake Shoppe, Raleigh

Photo By: Kellie Kano Photography, Greensboro

  • Read the fine print (and then be creative). Our venue had a surprising $5 cake plating fee if you purchased your cake from someone other than their $7.00/slice baker. $5 x 130 is $650. You know what has no fee? A cupcake tower. Cheaper and sweeter too than a huge cake made days in advance.

In the end keep in mind what matters most; know yourself as a host and know your guests and their needs.

We did away with a lot of “traditional” items – I didn’t wear a garter, or custom Britney Spears “I’m a Bride” tracksuit, my bridesmaid did my make up, we did’t do a champagne pour for the toasts, and yes, we served chicken and fish (because that’s what we eat – chicken and fish).

It was important to us to serve good food so – we upgraded on our cocktail hour, have a good time – so we had an open bar, keep it personal – so we had Italian favors and chocolates and a homemade cookie bar. And at the end of the night had the most memorable, totally us, and under budget wedding!

Image by Ashley Colhouer Photography

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