Almost every girl dreams of having a spectacular wedding when they are little. Maybe for my age range seeing Princess Diane’s big day televised created an idea in our heads about large elaborate affairs with cathedral length gowns! Whatever it is was we all have some idea of what we want, but when it comes to actual execution and spending the money than we can’t always afford it. I’ve helped a few friends keep their dream weddings in the realm of something they can afford without having to take out a loan so I thought I would also give a few tips to those looking to keep their wedding at $10,000 or less. Here are some ideas –
1.) The First Big Expense is the Venue! If you blow your entire budget on this then you won’t be able to afford much else so I think the trick to this is to be open to many possibilities. In Colorado the most expensive venues are going to be the most beautiful and probably in the mountains. So if you dreamed of getting married on a mountain top, but can’t afford Vail prices then here are a couple ideas.
Sapphire Point in Dillon, CO – This is an overlook point in between Silverthorne & Breckenridge that looks over lake Dillon. It has a stunning view which is amazing for photos and right now only costs $120! Here’s some of the downsides: 1.) It’s an incredibly small area so you can’t have a lot of guests. 2.) You can’t do a whole lot of decorating, etc. 3.) It’s still remains open to the public so you can have hikers and other lookey loos walk through the middle of your ceremony. If you’re having a small event and are willing to deal with some of the pitfalls it’s an amazing place to hold your wedding ceremony!
State & City Parks – There are a lot of amazing places to hold weddings in the city parks that won’t cost an arm and a leg. City Park Pavilion, Washington Park Boat House and Cheeseman Park are just a few that I know of in Denver. Again one of the things that you can not avoid using one of these locations is that the parks remain open to the public while you are hosting your event, but at these locations I tend to see most park goers avoid the party out of respect for the people getting married. The costs of the Denver parks have gone up over the years, but are still going to be less than a facility that caters specifically to weddings.
A Private Residence or B&B – Do you know a friend or a relative with a rather large property that can host your event? I’ve covered weddings in back yards of all shapes and sizes! One couple got married at the Denver Botanic Gardens and held their reception in the back-yard of their modest ranch style home. Another held their ceremony in their parents’ lovely landscaped back yard complete with ponds, trellis, etc and then had their reception at the Wheat Ridge Recreation Center’s Ballroom. Rec Centers are very inexpensive and sort of a well kept secret!
2.) The Food – The next big expense you will have outside of the venue and sometimes it’s more than the venue itself is the food for all of your guests. I’m not going to lie… catering is expensive! And before you start complaining about how can these places charge so much you have to be in their shoes for once. It costs a heck of a lot of money to stay in business as a caterer! And really great companies fold under all the time because they underestimate the amount of money it takes to stay in business. They have to keep large insurance policies to cover everything from the damages they could possibly do at the facilities they work at to if their employees get hurt on the job! Then there are wages, food costs, food waste, breakage of china, etc. All of these things have to be taken into account and when it’s all said and done the profit margins are actually pretty low. You do get what you pay for, so the more expensive the company is, probably the food and service is going to be better. In order for an employer to be able to get really good workers they have to be able to compensate their staff really well. If I was going to budget for anything it would be for this service (right after photography! LOL!) because you don’t want to have to worry about the food on your wedding day! If however it just isn’t in your budget here are some ways to cut the corners.
Pot Luck Wedding – I’ve covered a few weddings where either the family of the couple cooked the meal or guests were requested to bring a dish to share. It’s by no means glamorous, but it gets the job done! If you have a venue that will allow this and you also have a person that can act as your contact person (not yourself, it’s a great job for an aunt that wants something to do) then by all means go for it. A potential issue would be having duplicate dishes so maybe a sign-up sheet for requested items would be best.
Barbecue – A company that caters BBQ is usually going to be on the lower end of per a plate pricing. Most of these companies might not provide servers for their meals so you may have to hire a staff of some kind to serve the guests. But here is another idea… sometimes youth programs have some sort of service where they can provide young adults to help serve your meal for less than hiring a company. Check out 4H and scout clubs or even your churches youth group. Some of these groups might even just do it for a small donation to their organization!
3.) Decorations & Floral – In my opinion this is where you can cut the most money from your budget. Is it nice to have elaborate centerpieces on all of your tables, sure! But is it needed? Absolutely not. While I’m kind of tired of seeing the trendy “mason jars” at every wedding that I’ve covered for the past few years there’s a reason people use them… they are cheap and can be filled with almost anything!
Other ideas for saving on decor is to check out Recycled Wedding Facebook groups where previous couples go to sell slightly used wedding decor. I’ve seen some pretty great deals on some amazing items. Everything from an entire paper flower flower wall built for a photo-booth backdrop to wedding gowns are on these sites! Craigslist, Ebay, Let go etc. are also more great resources for used decor. Keep an eye open for coupons to fabric and hobby stores. Hobby Lobby almost always has a 20% coupon on their website so if you download it before you go shopping for decor in their wedding aisle it can help save you some!
Floral arrangements – Now this is something I would never tackle myself because I just wouldn’t be very good at it, but I’ve seen some amazing floral arrangements done by crafty family members and even brides themselves! If you’ve done this before than by all means go for it. What you should not do is think you can do this if you’ve never done it before and wait until the night before the wedding to put the flowers together! Bad, bad idea! I’ve seen this on more than one occasion and while an ugly floral bouquet will not ruin a wedding. It’s better just to put this stress on someone else. Some people even do fake silk flowers. The benefits to these is you can do them months in advance prior to your wedding and not have to worry about them wilting. Here’s an idea I did for my own wedding to save money. Skip the bridesmaids bouquets all together and do a tasteful flower for the hair and have them hold something else like a parasol!
4.) Cake – Ten years ago at the first bridal show I went to I got a quote for over $1000 for a small cake and I nearly cried… it’s cake for pete’s sake! But there must be a market for it because the company is still in business. Prices for cakes are all over the place. And again this is something you either spend a lot on or nothing if your grandma insists on making it for you! Just make sure that if someone wants to gift you a cake they know what they are doing. Ways to save on your desert… Buy it from a grocery store. Bakeries at grocery stores will make wedding cakes. I’ve seen some great ones and then some not so great ones. It might be good to get one of their $20 party cakes to sample it first before making a decision. Do a small cake for just you two to cut for photos and then do cupcakes for the guests. This might even save you a cake cutting charge with your caterer since they wouldn’t have to cut it up for you!
5.) Music & Entertainment – Because my husband is a DJ I’m sort of biased in this area… In most circumstances do not skimp in this department! I’ve seen many weddings where the couple chose to do something like iPod for their only musical entertainment or chose to not have any music at all. The only time I’ve seen this successful is for elopements or small 20 person weddings where they were going to do a daytime ceremony and maybe have brunch afterwards. If you want your guests to stick around and enjoy themselves you need someone to run the music for your event. The bonus also is they are there to make announcements and facilitate the reception events.
Live music is awesome, but in most cases it will be more expensive than a DJ. If you are planning to do a DJ for the reception and let’s say a string quartet for the ceremony that’s also a great idea, but be aware the cost to have a DJ play recorded string music at your ceremony will be far less than having to pay four musicians and you may still need to pay a DJ to be there for a sound system anyways so that your guests can hear the officiant. You may even feel like your crowd is not really a dancing crowd, but they may surprise you! It’s better to have entertainment than to have nothing at all. If you are interested in finding out more about the discount we offer for booking Photo, Video & DJ together please contact us!
6.) Photography & Video – And this will be my last piece of advice for the budget bride. I understand that prices are all over the place again for photographers and videographers and nowadays you are really going to be able to find someone in almost every budget. Again the old adage that you get what you pay for still rings true. Someone in the hundreds of dollars price range rather than the thousand of dollars price range is either very inexperienced or they don’t value the work that they do. I’ve been in the business for 17 years. There is no way I would still be doing what I do if I was even in the $500 price range for a full 6 hour or more wedding because it’s just not sustainable for the amount of work that it is involved. I would have to be doing 4-5 weddings a week at that price point to pay my bills and couple’s would be waiting 5-6 months for their images because of all the work I do in post production. Not to mention I would burn out doing that for more than a year! So again, someone charging that low of an amount might not be doing anything to enhance their photos either after the wedding. While people who hire us may only see us for the 6-8 hours that they hire us for the day of their event there is many, many more hours of work on the front and back end of the actual wedding probably close to 40 hours of work per a wedding or more. Take out the cost of products included in your packages as well as the costs of someone legitimately in business and not just some fly by night such as insurance and taxes and again the profit margin can be low. All things to consider when shopping for a photographer.
So how can you save money with these services…. Look for someone in your budget range, but be open to going a little over if you really like their work and they have a lot of experience. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. For instance if you like a package that they offer, but maybe not one of the items that comes in it ask them if they are open to substituting something else in place of the item you don’t want. It also doesn’t hurt to ask for discounts, the vendor may say no, but again it doesn’t hurt to ask. Do you offer military discounts or weekday wedding discounts or an incentive if we use you for both services? And don’t discard a photographer just because they don’t offer discounts. Maybe a vendor might charge a travel fee to travel 100 miles to your event and you don’t want to pay travel fees, but maybe they are less expensive than photographers in the area you are getting married in.
And do hire a photographer even if it’s a cheap one! Don’t just rely on wedding guests to take and send you their photos. Treat guest photos as bonus photos not your main ones! Whenever I talk to a bride who didn’t hire a photographer their biggest regret was not having some professional images to remember their day even if you can only afford a photographer for two hours which would cover the ceremony and some formal portrait afterwards you should do it! I do a few of these type scenarios a year, but here’s my stipulation for these bookings. I won’t book them on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday during prime wedding months three – six months out from your event as I need to fill in clients willing to pay my full price first. If I still have availability a month or two out from your event or you are getting married on a weekday I’m more likely to do a short hourly charge. Again it doesn’t hurt to ask…
One last thing skip the disposable cameras on the tables… that’s so 80’s & 90’s and a waste of money. In this day and age where everyone has a smart phone with a camera that takes better photos than a disposable film camera that costs money to develop it’s better to utilize their cell phones. Create a hashtag for finding photos through social media networks. Set up a “drop box” that friends and family can upload their photos to you after the wedding or if you still have some family members that are “old School” that at least know how to burn a disk or transfer photos to an USB drive provide those items for your guests along with a self addressed stamped envelope so they can mail them to you after the event!
Happy Wedding Planning! You can keep it within your budget!