Planning a Wedding That Doesn’t Kill Your Budget or Your Relationship

If you’re planning a wedding and you’re concerned about your wedding budget, there are several ways to save. The keys to successfully planning a budget-conscious wedding are having the abilities to be creative, flexible, and opportunistic.

Think of this scenario: You wake up in the middle of the night with a craving for ice cream. All grocery stores are closed, so you run through the options in your head. You can go to the all-night convenience store or coffee shop and pay a premium price for this craving or you can settle for the granola bar in the back of your pantry. Then the thought occurs that you could have planned ahead while grocery shopping earlier that week and had your ice cream at a fair price. The same shopping options exist for every part of your wedding. Do you pay premium prices? Do you plan ahead? Or do you simply do without? There are no wrong answers, but planning ahead can almost always offer the most bang for the bucks.

The key trick in saving money for your wedding is flexibility. Think about your wedding date. It’s probably a mild Saturday evening in late Spring or early Fall. I’m no Nostradamus, it’s just a fact that the vast majority of couples choose the same dates for their weddings. You can slash your overall wedding costs significantly by changing your wedding date away from Saturday evenings in May, June, September, or October. Go crazy and avoid Saturdays altogether and have a raging Friday night wedding or a relaxing Sunday afternoon wedding. You might not think these date/time adjustments matter, but vendors’ schedules are much less likely to be full on a Sunday afternoon in August or a Friday night in March. This availability can translate into staggering deals if you shop around. I’ve seen $10,000-$15,000 weddings (combined vendor cost) reduced to $2,000-$3,000 with every component of the wedding staying exactly the same, including the venue. The difference? An 11am ceremony time on a Saturday in June versus a 5pm wedding the EXACT SAME DAY. An unexpected perk to avoiding Saturday evenings goes to your guests who can now plan a weekend after your Friday night bash or before the Sunday nuptials. That Saturday night wedding breaks everyone’s weekend in half. Having schedule flexibility is huge for all vendors, but specific savings can also be found for each part of your big day.

Wedding venues: The venue is usually the costliest of the wedding investments, but that only means it is also the biggest opportunity to save money. If you want elegance, maybe avoid the country clubs and golf courses and find a shady park or beach and spend a fraction of your budget on elegant tables, string lighting, and candle-lit centerpieces. If you’re quirky and fun, bypass a regular venue and rent an old theater or local art gallery. Think outside the box. Depending on the size of your guest list, you can find venues that aren’t considered traditional, but will more than fit your needs. Private residences and local restaurants might fit your needs perfectly. With any non-traditional venue, be sure to get all the details. Some places may require additional insurance or have restrictions on attendance, food/drink, etc, so be sure to be thorough in your interviews. If you are looking for a traditional venue, many times finding a location that can host both the wedding and reception is ideal. For both convenience and cost, this option almost always is preferable to separate locations. If you opt for a church wedding, keep in mind that some churches offer weddings a low or even no cost. Call around and you might find a great deal

Caterer: The ideal way to cut food/drink costs is to time your wedding between traditional meal times. Having a 11am or 2pm wedding allows you to escape providing full meals and instead serve small appetizers, sandwiches, desserts, etc. If you opt for this cost-cutting schedule choice, be sure to indicate to guests when type of food/refreshments will be served. Most people will grab a bite to eat before or after the wedding if they know in advance that only snacks will be available at the wedding. If you must serve food, shop around. Some venues require you to use their preferred caterers, so know this in advance. Sample each caterer’s menus and ask them how savings can be found. Many times a limited menu with more appetizer options works well. If you decide to serve a meal, buffet style usually costs less than plated meals. And keep this question in mind: How was the food at the last wedding you attended? Most people don’t remember. Find a balance between quality, service, and price.

Cake: There are reality TV shows dedicated to cakes. Amazing, beautiful cakes are everywhere. Now for the life-changing reality: Its still just dessert. I know, that sounds harsh and emotionless. But its sugar and eggs and flour, and you’re in a market than can charge thousands of dollars for a, yes, dessert. Think about your reasoning behind the cake. Its fun and you want photos of the cake-cutting and subsequent cake-smashing. You can accomplish the same thing with a small but still elegant cake. The photos look the same, and the crowd still gathers around. And when the smashed cake is wiped from the groom’s face, all the guests are served cute little wedding cupcakes or pieces of sheet cake that have been cut and are ready to serve immediately. Buy a pretty little cake for the two of you, or for the bridal party, and ask your baker to make a sheet cake or two, or cupcakes, of the same flavor as yours. Everyone enjoys the cake and you enjoy cutting your cake budget by 50% or more.

Photographer: Many couples make the mistake of forgoing a professional wedding photographer and hiring Uncle Harry because he always has a camera, and he’ll be at the wedding anyway. Or a niece in high school just bought a really expensive camera and took photography in high school. Remember that your photographs are likely going to be the only tangible reminders of your wedding. When the cake and songs and flowers are long gone, you’ll have your photography to enjoy and share for years to come. You want a photographer with wedding experience to ensure all angles are covered and all poses are ideal. This doesn’t mean you have to blow your entire budget on photography, however. Search photographers’ websites, and only contact those whose photos fit your style. When speaking with the photographer, request a quote that excludes prints, albums, or other photo products. Get the edited photography on a disc or flash drive with a copyright release that allows you to print your photos. Most photographers’ profit lies in the printing, so you can save that money and print economically at your own convenience. If a photographer doesn’t offer this, move along. There are plenty that will offer a no-prints option.

DJ: The DJ is the vendor that some deem unnecessary and others regard as invaluable. I think both are true depending on the type of wedding and reception you want. If you want a quiet, relaxed ceremony and reception with soft music in the background throughout, just find a venue with a sound system and plug in an ipod playlist of soft grooves. If you want your reception to be a party, then hire a DJ. DJ’s styles and levels of interaction vary, so keep this in mind. If you want someone to keep the guests dancing, get someone outgoing and fun. Like the photographer, don’t skimp too much and hire the high school tech geek down the street with the loud sound system. Weddings are unique, and you want experience. Ask for deals and compare prices. No real tricks here other than shopping in advance.

Florist: Flowers are beautiful and can enhance any wedding. They also sit in vases and soak up water. Each couple needs to decide whether a little color is pretty or more elaborate floral arrangements are necessary. If you find a venue that is attractive on its own, consider skipping or reducing the floral decorations. Many florists advise boosting the greenery in arrangement and using the actual flowers strategically, which makes a lot of sense both artistically and financially. Some couples are now opting for artificial flowers in lieu of actual flowers. This can be cheaper and offer the advantage of preparing months in advance. They also last forever, so your investment doesn’t end up in the compost pile the next day. If you decide to go with real flowers, check independent florists first, as they can often work with your budget with more flexibility than a larger retail chain.

Videographer: Have you ever visited a friend and been subjected to watching their wedding video? It’s painful. Now, with the development of high-def and superior editing, today’s wedding videos are more like Hollywood features than handheld camcorders of the 80’s. they can also be very expensive. The real question is need. After the first few weeks of being married, will your wedding DVD ever be seen? Aside from distant relatives visiting or an anniversary viewing, it likely sits on the shelf. Most budget-minded couples skip the videographer, but if you really want video then find a company that uses multiple cameras and edits in a style you enjoy. Be sure they know the style you want and ask them to work with your budget.

Other: There are several other ways to save that simply didn’t fit the other categories:

Wedding favors are cute, but often sit in the backseat of your guests’ cars and ultimately get tossed. If you have a budget for them, find something personal (a small framed photo of the wedding couple, a small package of candy or mints, etc). Find something fun or quirky, but cheap. Search online for many creative options.

With any wedding, avoid placing disposable cameras at guest tables. The idea is great, but the execution is horrible. You’ll spend hundreds on these outdated cameras, and hundreds more to develops photos of kids’ feet and empty plates. Don’t even consider this for your wedding!

Limousines: Beautiful and elegant, but really only use if transportation is needed. Hiring a limo to drive you three blocks doesn’t allow you to relax or save money. If you’re travelling across town and want to splurge, go for it. Ask for wedding specials, and find a service that will allow you to use the minimum amount you need. Don’t get locked into a six-hour minimum when you only need three.

Honeymoon: If you’re wanting a honeymoon but don’t have a big budget, consider registering for your wedding with a travel agent instead of a retailer. Your guests may gift you a vacation instead of cutlery! If you’re considering a small wedding, think about a destination wedding for the two of you (or small family), and combine your wedding and honeymoon instead of a reception. Sometimes this is more economical than couples think and provides a romantic and less expensive wedding option.

Craigslist: OK, this isn’t a wedding component. But Craigslist can be your best friend. You can find vendors, dresses, wedding locations, and much more in one convenient site. If you have a particular skill, service, or item, consider using the site’s barter section to trade for wedding services. Trading your unused timeshare for a wedding photographer or bartering your automotive repair business to obtain catering can be empowering and budget-saving. Read through the section and find ideas that may help you save.

Hopefully a few of these suggestions give you ideas on stretching your wedding budget. Weddings are beautiful, amazing events and should be celebrated, not agonized. Enjoy the process, and remember that this is YOUR big day. Build the wedding you want, and let your guests enjoy the ride with you.

Wedding Themes to Make Your Big Day Special

Wedding themes are used by more and more couples to turn their big day into an event that is both meaningful to them and enjoyable for their guests. You can always stick with wedding themes that are simple and elegant or go all out and do something that’s never been done before to make your wedding truly special. Remember that a wedding is an important occasion for both the bride and the groom, and a wedding theme needs to reflect that. Take the time to sit down with your partner to explore possible wedding theme ideas that will make you both happy. Consider the mood and atmosphere you want to set for your wedding. Would you like it to be very traditional or fun and quirky? Sophisticated or relaxed? Then go a little deeper and think about your personal style, personality and interests. When you figure out a general direction for coming up with a theme, the ideas will come to you naturally. Take a look at some wedding themes below and the areas of your ceremony and reception that can be influenced by the theme you choose.

Time Period

Medieval – The perfect setting for this theme would be in historical churches or castles. The use of calligraphy is a great way to distinguish this time period. Decorations with a gothic feel and deep rich colors such as blue and purple work best.

Victorian – The ideal ceremony location for this theme is a Victorian style mansion or a garden with a beautiful gazebo, and there is nothing more fitting for the reception than having it in a grand ballroom. Lace can be used to adorn not only the bride’s dress, but also the table setting and other elements for décor. Go with light colors in white, off white and pastels, and do not forget to add tea to the menu.

1920’s – The bride can be very creative with her wedding day look by wearing unique headpieces or donning long strands of pearls. Bridesmaids can opt for a shorter dress that resembles the iconic flapper image of that era and groomsmen can sport a fedora to take them back in time. Your music selection for the reception can center around jazz, couple that with a uniquely cabaret style setting.

Destination

Beach – A wedding that takes place on a beach requires the dress code to be casual, with dresses preferably short. Seashells, starfish, flip flops and sandcastles are all popular beach related items that are frequently used in the décor for this wedding theme. Blues, whites and sandy colors typically represent this beautiful setting, and tropical exotic flowers should be used.

Cities – Whether you are having a destination wedding in a different city or just want to have your wedding feel as if it were in another location, you can include specific elements to make a certain city become your wedding theme. Make good use of colors, historical sites, cultural relics, flowers that represent the city and of course the fashion.

Interests

Rock & Roll – The most important aspect of this wedding theme is the music, let your guests rock and roll all night long. Instead of dressing like a classic bride and groom, go with something a little more rebellious. Think of your favorite rock songs and use elements from the song for decorating ideas.

Fairytale – Most girls who dream about their happily ever after need a wedding that is fit for a princess. Get ideas for your ceremony and reception from your favorite fairytale stories. You can go all out with horse drawn carriages and a grand ballroom or use subtle touches to create this theme.

Movie – The big screen is a great source of inspiration for many couples. If you want to capture the feel of a certain movie for your wedding, the possibilities are endless. From the wedding attire and music to the food and decorations, there are a lot of different things you can do to make the movie come alive. Some great movie themes include Alice in Wonderland, Grease, and Gone with the Wind. What are some of your favorites?

Culture

Asian – There are so many diverse cultures in Asia, each with its own unique wedding customs and traditions. If either the bride or groom is of a particular Asian ethnicity, it’s important to incorporate the traditional dress of that culture into the wedding as well as food. Other cultural elements that can be used throughout include traditional patterns, artwork, colors, writing, etc.

Seasons

Spring – The weather is getting warmer and flowers are in bloom, there is no better season to have your wedding. A garden wedding would be perfect for this season, heavy use of flowers and butterflies are especially common for spring weddings. The colors that are used are usually light and so are the fabrics, pair that with food that contain a lot of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.

Summer – Everybody loves summer, that is why it is one of the most popular seasons to have a wedding. Outdoor ceremonies are perfect for this time of year and there are many different locations for you to choose from. The use of bright and vibrant colors is ideal for this season. Serve food and drinks that are refreshing, and let your wedding party wear something lightweight and comfortable.

Autumn – This season makes us think of falling leaves and rich colors such as red, orange, gold and brown. If the weather is not too chilly where you are, outdoor weddings can still be very appropriate. The menu should include meals that are made with foods common during this season such as pumpkins and apples. Centerpieces featuring autumn leaves and candles are also great for the reception.

Winter – Winter wonderland wedding themes are popular among many couples. With white being the primary color, it’s easy to have the décor look both sophisticated and elegant especially using silver or gold accents. Think of ways to incorporate snowflakes into the decoration of your venue and for your wedding favors.

Wedding Color Scheme – After deciding on a theme, selecting the color combination to use throughout your wedding becomes a lot easier. Choose colors in shades that are representative of your theme.

Wedding Location – Wedding themes also play a major role when choosing a venue for the ceremony as well as reception. Having a theme helps to narrow down the options you have for holding your wedding.

Wedding Attire – Wedding themes can influence the attire for the bride, groom, wedding party and sometimes even the guests. Whether you decide to wear something traditional or unconventional, formal or casual,it all depends on how it fits in with your theme.

Wedding Decorations – Looking for one of a kind centerpieces and table settings? Let wedding themes inspire the décor of your entire reception.

Wedding Menu – Wedding themes can greatly affect the food that you serve your guests during the reception. Your menu can reflect a certain time period, culture, location or season.

Wedding Favors – Give your guests something special to take home as a little token of your appreciation. Gifts that are related to your wedding theme will remind them of the great time they had.

Wedding Floral Arrangement – With so many flowers to choose from, having a wedding theme makes it much easier to settle on a color combination for your floral arrangement and narrow it down to a specific style.

Wedding Cake – Wedding cakes have become a piece of art in and of itself. Your wedding cake can be one of the best representations of your theme. Discuss your ideas with the expert and let them work their magic.

Wedding Invitations – Let everyone know what to expect on your big day by incorporating the wedding theme into your invitations. It’s a great way to get people excited and looking forward to being there.

Wedding Website – After the invitations go out, your guests can get updates about your wedding, take a look at what you are doing to prepare for the big day and get more information on what to expect through your wedding website. Grab their attention and keep them excited by creating a website entirely in the style of your planned theme.

The Process Of Hiring A Wedding Photographer

Although most people have attended a wedding, that doesn’t mean that they will know the process when it’s their turn to go down the aisle. Below is a step by step guide on the process of hiring a wedding photographer.

Step One: Hiring a photographer.

This can be a daunting task even for someone who follows hundreds of wedding photographers blogs. It is recommended that you hire someone within the state that you are getting married. Most wedding professionals travel all over and even if they do not live in the area you are getting married they have most likely photographed there before. Ask them to Narrow your search down to five wedding photographers that you really like. They can be in several different price brackets at this point. Begin communicating with them-choose three you want to meet with in person. The in person meeting is huge because the photographer will be with you the entire day and you want someone not only competent in wedding photography but someone you know you can get along with and wont mind having around. After your meetings you can then choose your photographer.

Step Two: Choosing a package

Hopefully you spoke with your photographer at the meeting about what kind of coverage they offer, and what kind of coverage you will need. Let them help with this they shouldn’t sell you more than you need, but they also should be there to cover all the important moments that will happen on your wedding day. Wedding photographer typical day is 8 hours just like any other professionals work day. That said often 10 hours of coverage is needed in order to begin with the bridal prep and end well into the reception. Your wedding photographer should help you decide if you would like a wedding album (recommended so that your memories are secure in print and digitally) and they should talk you through if they give you the rights to the wedding images or if they keep the digital files etc.

Step Three: Deciding how the wedding day works

There are two models for the photographer on wedding day… the first one is traditional, and the second is with a first look. These models are how we structure the time needed and schedule of the day for photographs.

Traditional: Photographer will come and start with the details at the hotel. Dress, shoes, invitation, rings, bridesmaid dresses, perfume, jewelry, and flowers. After those details have been photographed the wedding photographer will turn their attention to the women and their photojournalistic getting ready photos. This is where the wedding photographer begins to capture moments and build the story of the day. After the bride is in her dress an experienced photographer will often have a first look with the parents-so dad and mom will come in and see their baby girl for the first time in her wedding gown. Meanwhile the second photographer is with the men and taking candid shots of them tying their ties and just hanging out being men before the ceremony. As the bride walks down the aisle at the ceremony the second photographer is taking shots of the grooms expression, and the main photographer is photographing the processional with the bridesmaids and the bride walking down the aisle. After the ceremony the wedding photographer will (with help from the appointed family member) gather up the full family for their portraits. The wedding photographer will begin with the brides side of the family and break it down until the smallest family breakdown (mom and bride, dad and bride, siblings and bride) have been photographed. The wedding photographer will then move onto the grooms family and do the same thing starting with the biggest grouping and breaking it down to the smallest groups. When that is finished it is time to photograph the bridal party. An experienced wedding photographer should be able to get three different posed bridal party shots done in 15 minutes. From there the photographer will photograph just the group of men, and then just the group of women. These two groupings should only take 10-15 minutes and the wedding photographer should know exactly how they want each member of the party or grouping to stand. From there the wedding photographer will take a few portraits of the bride, then the groom, and finally finish up (this whole thing from family to finish should take an hour) with the bride and the groom together. At this point the wedding photographer turns everyone over to the coordinator and the band or DJ. They are in charge of how the reception flows. The wedding photographer will photojournalistic capture the moments from this point on. Even the formalities like the first dances, cake cutting, and bouquet throwing are done in a candid style.

First Look: The Wedding photographer will still meet you at hair and makeup and do the detail shots first. But after the bride is ready the wedding photographer has scheduled the day so that there is an hour and a half of photo time before the ceremony. It begins with a private viewing of the bride from her parents, and then the photographer has chosen an intimate spot with good light for the groom to see his bride for the first time in her dress. The wedding photographer will tell the bride and the groom how to walk to each other before so that they can be in the wings with their long lens getting great emotional moments. After this (generally 15 minutes) the bridal party will be gathered for the bridal party pictures, the women, and the men pictures. This will be about 30 minutes. Finally about 45 minutes before the ceremony the family will be photographed. The bridal party and bride and groom should be finished 30 minutes before the ceremony with all pictures as guests begin to arrive and often the bride doesn’t want to be where she can be seen by everyone. After the ceremony the bride and the groom can take a few moments to be husband and wife and the photographer can take pictures with little to no direction. Then the bride and the groom are able to go to cocktail hour with their bridal party and talk to all of their guests. It is recommended that in the traditional line up of a day there is a receiving line so that you meet all of your guests and don’t have to do it at dinner time. In the first look scenario you can do that at cocktail hour. Again the reception is photojournalistic and candid based for all events.

Step Four: What happens after the wedding

The wedding photographer hopefully explained how they work already in a meeting or in an email. After the wedding many wedding photographers will edit a photographers favorites set within several days and send you an email as well as post them to their blog/FB sites. If the wedding photographer is very busy make sure to ask what their turn around time for all of the wedding photos are. Often times a month is a reasonable amount of time. Also chat with them about their process for culling down the set of final images. It is very important part of a wedding photographers job to edit through and choose the best photos as we have the ability to process thousands of high-resolution images but it is often overwhelming for you the bride to process through that many which is why it is important that we are presenting only the best one of each of the images we take on the wedding day. That will be more than enough wedding images. Talk to your wedding photographer about how they send you the final set of images is it via web or is it via hard drive.

Step Five: The wedding album

If applicable one of the last formal business interactions (as hopefully you are friends at this point) is the wedding album design. Most wedding photographers will begin by creating a version for you telling your wedding story. Then from there you can make changes, edit it, and perfect it to be your favorite images. The wedding album is to take your readers in 10-40 years through your wedding day, so it is often best if you do not choose the images if you let the photographer choose the images to work from. Then as said you can make changes to the album. Wedding photographers are storytellers and this is where their final vision and style can be really seen. In your initial meeting with wedding photographers you saw their album style and hopefully choose someone whose design elements you liked and whose overall feel of the wedding day story through the albums you related too.

That is a summary of the involvement of the wedding photographer, and the process in which the wedding photographer evaluates your day. Each photographer will look for different things on a wedding day, and each wedding photographer will have a unique style but we all will follow a professional and meticulous formula for getting the wedding photos.