You’re engaged now and it’s time to plan your special day that includes celebrating with family and friends, and starting a new chapter in your life. There is so much to do and so many facets of planning that can be overwhelming to anyone. The first step in the process is to determine your budget to help guide you through the planning process. Without a defined budget, the planning can become a little chaotic. So, where do you start to determine how much of an investment you are willing to put forth? As a standard guide, food will be approximately 45% of your budget; the venue will be approximately 20%, floral and décor approximately 15%, photography approximately 10%, and so forth. Statistics for the wedding industry indicates that the average wedding is around $28,000*. Last year, the average cost of a wedding was around $30,000*; a record high and a sign that the economy was moving in a positive direction. This average varies by geographical location. For example, comparing major metropolitan areas versus rural areas, New York City had the highest average of $87,000*, rural areas such as Idaho the average was $17,000*, and my local area Washington, DC the average wedding is around $37,500*.
With a little explanation of wedding costs and you have determined your budget, the next step is to govern the number of guests that will be in attendance which has a tremendous impact on your budget. Third, determine what is important to you to navigate the percentage that you will invest for items for your wedding. Fourth, be realistic and wise with your budget, and do not go into debt to have a wedding; invest in what you can actually afford. Last, relax and set guidelines to keep yourself on track.
Now that we have established guidelines for the budget process, let’s discuss avenues in which you can save money to plan your wedding day. In this discussion, I want to focus on, Timing & Flexibility, in the following possible ways to save – Venue, Food & Beverage, and Floral Décor – all which revolve around time and flexibility.
The wedding venue is the location in which you will say “I Do”, take your first dance, and celebrate the night away with family and friends. The wedding venue to most has sentimental value or has the romantic ambiance that you are looking for to host such a special occasion. To reduce cost in this area of planning, timing and flexibility, play an essential role to your investment. I recommend to aid in cost reduction to be flexible with your date in regards to the time of year and day of the week. Most venues have peak periods when the negotiation for cost will be very minimal, so ask your venue coordinator what are the non-peak periods in which the cost of hosting an event will fit more into your budget. Most non-peak periods are in the winter months, however, it does depend on the location; example the Mid-Atlantic area might be flexible during the winter months than areas like Florida when it’s warm all year round. Scheduling your wedding during a non-peak time could reduce the cost anywhere from 15-20%. Also based on timing, if you are flexible, is the day of the week. Traditional weddings occur on Saturdays (the most popular day), however, if you are open to a non-traditional day consider hosting your wedding on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or Sunday. Weekday and Sunday weddings have become popular based on the premise of the lower cost to entertain during the week. The savings for weekday wedding range from anywhere from 20-40% – a huge savings if you are flexible to hosting during the week. When speaking with your venue coordinator acknowledge your budget in the beginning of the conversation, next ask with your established budget how and where you can save to host your day at their location.
After you have established the location, it’s now time to determine the delightful part of planning, the food! There is an old cliché that says “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach” – food! I say “the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach” – with food! The word food alone encompasses love, passion, sharing, and it’s always the perfect ingredient to have the perfect gathering. The first advice that I share in regards to food is to make sure that it is scrumptious, and that it feeds the heart and soul. Next I want you to consider time and flexibility (think non-traditional). The traditional wedding reception is the standard evening dinner that contains a beef, chicken, or fish entrée, preceded with the traditional hors d’oeuvre selections. Now think, non-traditional, consider hosting a brunch style reception starting around late morning or early afternoon. The style of service for brunch receptions can either be served, buffet, or interactive stations (omelet station, waffle station, potato bar). In addition, since this is an early reception you can also limit the amount of alcoholic beverages hosted since many of your guests will not want to indulge in heavy alcohol during the early hours of the day. Creative beverage cocktails that embrace tantalizing spirits can be Mimosas, Bloody Marys, Bellini’s, Irish Coffee, etc.; these types of refreshments are light and refreshing for an afternoon brunch. The excitement around the brunch is that your guests that commonly attend events or weddings, have the opportunity to taste something different and have fun with some of their favorite breakfast treats. Brunch receptions that I have hosted in my market average around $85 to $100 per person versus a dinner reception around $175 to $200 per person. If you are flexible with the time of day for your reception, you can ultimately save, save, save.
To coincide with food, your beverage selection is another route to consider alternatives to reduce cost on your special day. My first suggestion in this area is to limit your beverage selection from a full bar to just wine and beer. To add a little spice to your selection, create 2 specialty cocktails in which its ingredients is one source of alcohol; have one cocktail for the gentlemen and one for the ladies. The second suggestion is to eliminate alcoholic beverages from the bar completely and have mocktails. Some flavorful and interesting mocktails are the Reno (a grapefruit based cocktail), Sweet Sunrise (similar to a Tequila Sunrise but hold the Tequila), and Virgin Mary. Have your venue or caterer to be creative with various types of punches, teas, and lemonades. Add a little sparkle or fizz to the drink by adding non-alcoholic choices such as ginger beer, root beer, or seltzer water. The third alternative, if you are hiring an outside caterer, purchase the alcohol yourself and purchase it from a beverage company in which you can return bottles/cases that have not been opened. You can save as much as 50% by purchasing the alcohol yourself rather than having the caterer to purchase the alcohol for you. This method only works with an outside caterer, unfortunately, you would not be able to purchase alcohol yourself when hosting your wedding at a hotel or a venue that does its own catering.
The last suggestion to help preserve your financial resources during the planning process has to do with your floral selection. As you have seen in my conversation there is a continuous theme, time and flexibility…time is key also when selecting flowers. Consider the time of year when selecting flowers; select flowers that are in season year round. Flowers in season include baby’s breath, calla lilies, carnations, gardenias, orchids, roses, hydrangeas. Although orchids are in season year round, phalaenopsis orchids are more expensive than dendrodium orchids. Same scenario with hydrangeas; your typical white or blue hydrangea is less expensive than a purple or pink hydrangea. When discussing flowers with your floral designer, inquire with them about what is in season, how you can achieve the same look that is cost effective for you (be flexible with the selection), and ask if their source is from a local grower or from a source outside of the area/US. Other options when working with floral décor is to re-purpose flowers from the ceremony to the reception. Be flexible with your design style. You may have the desire to want tall floral arrangements on every table, however, to reduce cost consider alternating high and low centerpieces for your tables, or alternating floral centerpieces with trio of cylinder vases with floating candles. Implementing some of these options can save anywhere from 10-20% off of your floral budget. Be sure to work closely with your floral designer and be open to alternative design concepts.
In summary, your wedding day is special because you are marrying the person that has won your heart and soul, and you are sharing the love you have found with your closest family and friends. If you are flexible with considering alternatives and flexible with time, you can plan the perfect wedding with the perfect budget!
Photographs of the table decor designs are real weddings by Perfect Planning Events; Photography credit – Procopio Photography and DHT Photography
(*Source – CNN Money – http://money.cnn.com/2014/03/28/pf/average-wedding-cost/)