Before we get into tips and tricks to maximize spending, the most important thing a couple on a budget must do before anything else is get a plan! I hear people all the time saying they went “over budget” when in fact they never had a realistic budget or expectations to begin with. These couples had an amount they wanted their wedding to cost — not an accurate or realistic figure — so were doomed to overspend from the start.
Before you book
To avoid this stressful planning conundrum, do up an estimated budget before booking anything. Factor in all your major wants and needs, including invitations, venue and a realistic food and drink estimate (you might ask the venue or caterer to provide an estimated bill so you can see the total with taxes, gratuities, applicable rentals and all the little extras). Then include flowers and décor, DJ, photography, videography, transportation, the dress, hair and makeup, tux rentals, wedding rings, bridesmaid dresses, cake, guest favours and, finally, a decent contingency to allow for all the little extras you will no doubt want and need down the road. Those “little” extras — like a slideshow screen and projector rentals, dress alterations, accessories, stationery extras like a seating chart and place cards, entertainment extras like a photo booth — all add up and can totally throw a budget out of whack, and most often, too late in the game.
Set your priorities
Once you have an estimated budget, you can then determine if the total number works within your financial means. If not, decide from the start what’s really important and what products and services might be omitted to trim costs. A realistic budget created at the beginning will allow you to control costs and prevent a stressful and difficult financial situation halfway through the planning process when it may be too late to make changes or scale back.
5 budget tips & tricks
So now that we know how to be a savvy wedding consumer, here are a few fun ideas for keeping your spending under control:
1. Keep it simple.
No one says you must have a multi-course dinner or over-the-top buffet affair! Offer an understated and thoughtful menu focusing on quality and presentation over quantity. A simple three-course set menu (for example, a garden salad, salmon entrée and a lovely piece of wedding cake for dessert) is totally acceptable. The money you save on the dinner menu may then allow you to offer pre-dinner passed hors d’oeuvres and a late-night snack station to keep guests contented throughout the entire evening.
2. Embrace the season.
Spring wedding? Tulips are very inexpensive at this time of year, come in every colour imaginable, and when placed in a simple glass vase in abundance surrounded by candles, make for a truly stunning yet frugal centrepiece. Autumn weddings can also be very romantic. A candlelight ceremony decorated with yellow, orange and red leaves and simple twiggy branches offer a dramatic effect without a huge price point.
3. Raise the bar.
Keep bar costs under control while still being a good host. Offer a thoughtful yet simple selection of beer and wines. Opt for two or three types of beer (perhaps a lager and a pale ale to appease varying tastes) and a couple of white and red wine options. Limiting the bar to beer and wine will prevent expensive excessive drinking while still meeting your guests’ expectations of a well-hosted affair. If budget permits, include a pre-dinner cocktail or glass of bubbly to kick off the festivities — a great way to add variety and flair! Tip: Be sure your specialty cocktail actually tastes good and doesn’t just match the colour theme — or it will be a complete waste of money.
4. A venue that holds its own.
Book a venue that already has a bit of style, doesn’t need a lot of décor to make it pretty, and which perhaps offers additional value-added benefits like free wedding night accommodations for the bride and groom, complimentary chair covers (or even chairs that don’t need to be covered), upgraded linens, etc.
5. How about brunch?
Instead of a six- to eight-hour dinner reception, host a late-night champagne dessert reception following a candlelight ceremony. Or if you’re not big dancers or drinkers, a romantic morning ceremony followed by mimosas and eggs benny may be a perfect, not to mention very authentic, way to celebrate!
Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.