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!
This was the first time I was privileged to cover a wedding at the Spruce Mountain Ranch in Larkspur, Colorado. Wow! What a venue! Beautiful facility and views. Katey & Joe had a fabulous all outdoor event at this Ranch. Check out the clip above to see their amazing wedding!
Dennis & Cassie’s Fall wedding at Boettcher Mansion was a beautiful event that matched the personalities of the couple. It was elegant with touches of rebelliousness with their “Skate and Lace” theme. The groom is really into skateboarding so we made sure to do a few photos of him with his buddies on skateboards. And even though the bride still wanted the lacy wedding gown she found lacy tennis shoes to match, which were super cute and I imagine much more comfortable than high heels! In fact the entire wedding party wore vans on their feet!
Because their wedding was late in the season when the sun goes down earlier, the couple chose to do a “first look” rather than the traditional wait and see each other when the bride walks down the aisle. There’s a couple advantages to doing the first look. First, it can sometimes calm the nerves to see each other before all the guests are present and it’s a beautiful moment to have photographed. Second, it allows you to plan to do some if not all of the formal portraits together that you have planned before the ceremony. If you are having your ceremony close to sunset time then it’s a good idea to do this so you can have more photos taken with available light. And third it may allow you to spend more time with your guests. Some couples that have chosen to do their first look may even get all of their photos done so they can mingle with their guests during cocktail hour instead of taking photos! We took advantage of the time afterwards at Dennis & Cassie’s wedding to travel a short distance to a lookout point that has an amazing mountain view to take more photo of just the two of them!
Boettcher Mansion has a beautiful patio to host your ceremony on connected to the reception hall. It’s a lovely spot that feels like it’s in the middle of the woods. This venue is one of the closest venues to Denver where you can get the outdoor mountain feel with an approx. 30-40 minute drive from most locations in Denver. I loved how Cassie & Dennis incorporated personal touches in their ceremony such as “tying the fisherman’s knot” and bubbles when they walked back down the aisle since they were not having a grand send-off at the end of the night.
We lucked out at this event that the rain held out until just as we took our final posed photo of the night. The image above that you can see the droplets of rain in. It made for a very striking image! What an amazing event! I’m so happy for these two! Best wishes! You highlight video is also forthcoming!
It ended up being the perfect Fall day for this wedding in Morrison, Colorado at the Historic Morrison Church. Tatiana and Michael had a beautiful and lovely event complete with Irish touches! The mother of the groom made the child’s size kilts that were so adorable! And the bride did all of the floral arrangements herself. I really love covering weddings here because they end up being some of the sweetest and simplest events. The location is a small chapel with room for maybe 100 patrons which limits your guest count to close friends and family making it very romantic.
We were getting a little nervous about storm clouds moving in from the West at the conclusion of the ceremony so the bride and groom decided to go with plan “B” for taking more photos of just the two of them afterwards. We had originally thought about doing the photos downtown Morrison and at a park just West of town, but with the rain looming I’m glad we decided to stop at another park that I knew of to the East of us on our way to the reception at the Irish Rover in downtown Denver. We ended up being at the park at just the right time to catch some amazing sunset shots and these were some of my favorite photos of the day.
The bride had two surprises for her groom on their special day and both were musical in nature. The first was an Irish String band that played music at the chapel and the second was a bagpiper that played their grand entrance at the reception and both were a perfect fit for this event! I did also really like the reception being held at this Irish bar. It was defiantly not a typical wedding reception because of the location and size of the room, but again worked for this event and the couple’s theme. And kept everything cozy and intimate.
Rain was not going to ruin Katie and Ryan’s big day. This bride was determined to have her ceremony outside despite the cloudy and rainy day and Gregory & Lawrence at Willow Ridge were more than happy to oblige. The venue provided umbrellas for all the guests and wiped down all of the chairs so that guests could still sit outside and enjoy this lovely couple’s wedding. A lot of preparation goes into getting the bride and groom ready for their Big Day! Here are just some of my favorites from this wedding at Willow Ridge Manor.
A beautiful rainy ceremony held in the Foothills of Colorado.
Formal portraits of the couple along with their wedding party.
A rocking reception and tons of fun had by all !
Finished the highlight reel from Tim & Liann’s amazing mountain wedding in Edwards, Colorado last month! Enjoy!
After many years photographing weddings in every type of wedding venue imaginable I started thinking about some of my favorite venues to photograph in and ones that are really challenging to work in. The challenging ones have many different reasons that make them challenging and are not necessarily reasons to completely take them off someone’s list of choices, but knowing what the obstacles are beforehand would help facilitate an easier day on both the photographer and possibly even your guests! This post is going to be about some of the criteria I would use for choosing a wedding venue (as a photographer) as if I was choosing it for my own wedding… it’s some of the things I looked for in a venue when I was planning my own wedding more than 10 years ago because well, photography was my number one priority after marrying my husband! Hope these tips help!
1.) Picturesque Views – Colorado is full of amazing venues with equally amazing views… the better the view, the higher the price the venue commands (most of the time). Most couples want something in the mountains, but there are also a lot of venues in the Front Range that have mountains in the background as well. If you can’t afford a venue with a view then finding a park near the venue with some great photo opportunities is also another way you can still get beautiful photos with lovely scenery. We plan a lot of park visits in between the ceremony and reception especially if couples are getting married in a church, but still want beautiful outdoor photos.
2.) A Lot of Available Natural Light – Now there’s nothing wrong with having a church basement reception. I’ve covered a lot of events in some of the most plain establishments ever designed. A great photographer can use angles and lighting to make even the drabbest areas more interesting and there’s a lot to be said about decorating. But I’m talking to all of those people looking to have the most amazing photos ever! Lots of window light with beautiful views makes it so the photographer doesn’t have to use a lot of additional lighting unless he/she wants to. It also makes your event feel more airy and romantic. The key to this though is to not choose a space that is really dark inside with a lot of bright light pouring in, particularly behind the head table so that all of the wedding party is back-lit because even with a ton of fill-flash the area behind the people will still be very bright. Look for light and airy spaces for the best photos!
3.) Lots of Ample and Available Parking or a Solution to a Venue without a Lot of Parking – This year was really a difficult year for me with parking and at more than one event! The one that stands out the most is the one I’m about to describe… I showed up to a high-end resort for preparation photos and because there was a festival going on there was no parking to be had anywhere! The hotel was not going to let me valet my vehicle even for an hour. I had to call the bride and get her involved… trust me a call to the front desk from a bride who was paying a ton of cash to stay at the facility got me a parking space pronto! Magically, they were able to find space for my vehicle, but again not without a lot of stress and having to bring the bride into the situation. This was one of those almost not foreseen circumstances that I hadn’t ever encountered in 17 years of covering weddings. However, with a little foresight it is something that could of been addressed before the big day. Check with the place that you are staying at or having your event at to make sure that there will be parking available for all of your guests beforehand. If they only provide parking for registered guests make sure that you pay or arrange for parking for your vendors because you don’t want them to be running late due to having to find a place to park.
4.) Large vs. Small Venues, Reasons to Consider a Second Photographer – Weddings can even be held in stadiums now! For a baseball enthusiast getting married at Coors Field is amazing, but it to is not without it’s challenges. I found this out the hard way years ago when I covered my first event there. When the bride and groom are getting ready they put each person on opposite sides of the stadium! Do you know how large that venue is?! Also because of security concerns they will not allow you to walk anywhere in the stadium without an escort. I spent needless amount of time looking for my escort (who kept leaving) to walk me back and forth between the getting ready areas as well as the amount of time it took to walk back and forth between the areas (time that I could’ve used taking more photos). I now know… don’t book a wedding there unless a 2nd cameraman is hired so one can be with the bride and the other with the groom. When choosing a venue think about how close the separate getting ready areas are to each other. Perhaps you will be getting ready at a hotel and then traveling to the venue. Would it be more economical to go with a venue that provides both rooms on site near each other or would it be better to hire a company that provides two photographers so things don’t get missed?
5.) Consider How Well the Venue will Work for Inclement Weather – I’ve had previous posts on how to deal with bad weather, but this one has to do with choosing a venue that will facilitate Amazing Photos in any type of weather. Look for venues that also have great areas indoors for photography too. A nice fireplace or staircase to take your family photos in front of due to a storm is a great back-up plan. Does the venue have a place to hold a ceremony indoors should you need it? Crossing your fingers and hoping for a Sunny day is not really a good plan unless you are ok with having a drenched cake and guests.
6.) Pay special attention to the lighting. If a venue is too dark, it can make it tricky for your photographer to capture all of the details that you worked so hard to plan. While a great photographer still has ways to work around this, your photos will still look a lot darker if the walls and ceilings are all cherry wood as opposed to walls painted white. I’ve been in churches that won’t allow any flash photography during the ceremony and then their hall is super dark without additional lighting. Modern cameras can take better photos in low light situations, but you won’t be able to see much of your background in the absence of light and it’s something to consider. I also recently took photos at a wedding that was held outdoors after dark. The only thing the couple lit was the gazebo they were getting married under. While it was different and really dynamic, it was very difficult for photography. We had to add video lights on either side of the couple so we could see their faces to focus as well as use a handheld light to light them coming down the aisle. And no amount of light that we added would show off a completely dark background. I’m sure the couple thought it was an amazing idea, but didn’t consider that every single photo taken would have to be with flash photography or that we would have to add lights to even be able to see them!
7.) Ask if you’ll have exclusive use of the venue. It’s important to know how many functions they’ll have going on at once and how much interaction there will be between your guests and theirs (if any). The privacy factor differs for every space; some venues may offer separate restrooms and parking areas for guests from different events, while others have the rooms set close together, so you might hear the other party’s music pumping from down the hall. Will you have to compete with the other events for the most picturesque areas to do photographs? If you’re getting married outdoors in a public space, such as a park or beach, be aware that strangers may stop to give you their good wishes or find their way into the background of your wedding photos.
8.) Time Allowed for Your Wedding – Venue packages widely vary and so do overtime fees. Some venues will let you party to the wee early morning hours, while others are in neighborhoods with noise restrictions and have to be shut down promptly by 9pm. Nothing is worse than having a kicking party going on and then having the owner of the venue shut down your dance party because it’s too loud! (Sadly, I’ve seen this on more than one occasion) If you are looking to have an awesome dance party it’s good to know the venue’s policy before signing the contract. Also if overtime is allowed what their fees are. If your event starts to run behind because of some unforeseen circumstance, will the venue charge you a lot more fees and will the other vendors as well. Because every extra minute that a clean-up crew has to wait before they can start on their duties they are still getting paid by their employer.
9.) Does the venue Restrict Where You Can Take Photos At? – What if you choose a beautiful country club with many gorgeous views with plans to walk out on to the course to take some photos and then the day of the event find out that you and your guests are suppose to stay in the area you rented and are not allowed to go out on to the course what so ever. Most venues would be up-front with their restrictions before you sign the contract, but it never hurts to ask ahead of time. Maybe you saw a really neat barn and silo next to the club and assumed it could be used for photos as well, but come to find out it is not on the venue’s property. Find out if you can contact the other owner for special permission to take photos on their property. Don’t just assume that you can or plan on getting a trespassing ticket. Also churches may have restrictions on where a photographer can be during the ceremony, some just forbid a photographer from going on the alter area during the ceremony while a few will only let the photographer take photos from the back of the church without a flash! Asking questions about restrictions will help you quickly weed out venues that don’t work with your vision.
10.) If You Have a Photographer in Mind Before You Choose Your Venue Ask Them What Their Favorite Venues to Work At Are. If they’ve been working for a number of years then I’m sure they have a short list of venues that are awesome to work with. Maybe they have a lot of great spots to take formal photos at, or they know how easy the staff is to work with or can give you lots of tips and hints about their faves and maybe they can even steer you away from venues that won’t fit your vision or better yet can suggest ones that they know will come out under your budget!
11.) Finally, Be sure to go to the venue, especially for outdoor weddings, at the time and around the date you plan to get married. You will want to see how the sun shines during different times of the day to avoid you, your fiancé, and your guests having to stare directly at the sun. Squinting eyes don’t make for the best wedding photos! You may have picked a venue because of it’s beautiful views, but if you choose a time of year when the patio that you are holding your ceremony on has absolutely no sun and the background is very bright the photographer is going to have to choose whether or not to expose for their subjects (which is you) or the background. I’m guessing they will want you to be visible in the photos so they are going to choose exposing for the subjects and let the background go white thus eliminating the mountain backdrop in most of your photos that you worked so hard to find. If you don’t know a lot about photography then arrange for a walk thru at your venue with your photographer even if it costs a little extra so you can avoid potential pitfalls before the big day!
This lovely small wedding was held just after Sunrise at Sapphire Point in Dillon, Colorado. A beautiful national forest location at spot that overlooks Lake Dillon. An amazing view with an inexpensive place to hold a wedding ceremony for either a very small amount of guests or an elopement. Jennifer and Darren had a wonderful intimate ceremony that was perfect for them. It was a pleasure being there to document their special day.
Liann and Tim had a really beautiful event at the Vista at Arrowhead Country Club in Edwards, Colorado with my whole team covering it! We did photo and video and my husband, Mike of Digital DJ provided their music entertainment and MC service. The day started out with us covering the couple getting ready at the Beavercreek Lodge and Resort. A beautiful facility with ample preparation room.
Also an awesome bridge for the “First Look” shots and a fun bus for transportation to the venue.
And who could complain about the amazing view from the back patio at the Vista at Arrowhead Country Club where the couple said their “I Dos”
We also had a lots of options for places to do the formal portraits. This large wedding party did not disappoint with their flexibility and willingness to go above and beyond for this couple!
Congrats again Tim & Liann and thank you for having us be a part of your special day! Your highlight video will be forthcoming!
This was the first wedding I’ve covered at The Pinery at The Hill in Colorado Springs…. what an amazing venue with an equally beautiful view! This fully modern facility has all the elements for your perfect wedding. A lovely bridal suite for the bride and bridesmaids to get ready in complete with a make-up counter, fireplace and awesome places to display your dress. Also a great room for the guys to chill in as they await the festivities.
Aaron & Abby planned their destination wedding all the way from Texas and did everything via the internet and phone calls. I think they did an amazing job! They had guests all over the country so finding a central location for everyone to meet at that was away from the hot Texas Summer and with a beautiful view, The Pinery at the Hill met all their criteria. It was a small affair so they used just the chapel area to set-up their reception right next to the outdoor patio where they held their ceremony. All the details brought everything together!