Brides typically have a vision of their dream or fairy tale wedding: the dress, the ceremony venue, the reception venue, the flowers, the food, the music, etc., but for the budget-conscious, you realize early on that you have to prioritize and make sometimes difficult choices along the way.
Statistics show that a wedding with 100 attendees can cost an average of $25K to $60K, depending on the city where you live, of course.
1. Consider different options for the RECEPTION:
The reception cost is the single biggest wedding expense that will normally take up at least 40% of your budget. This includes the venue, the venue décor, food and drinks, cake, tables, chairs, and cleanup.
- Hotel Reception but keep the party SMALL and INTIMATE ($$)
- If your reception venue is @ a hotel; you'll soon find out that when you add up taxes and service charges, you'll pay a minimum of $100/person.
- Consider a DIY Reception ($)
- If you have family and friends who are able and ready to help you with a DIY reception, you’re almost halfway through the battle to reduce your cost. Be sure to do the math as this requires a lot more work and coordination. Given the amount of time and effort involved, and the tiny incidentals that add up, you may want to consider the DIY option if the cost reduction is significant enough. You’ll probably need a friend to do the detailed wedding planning.
Typical hotel wedding reception: ~$10,000 (100 guests).
Our hotel wedding reception: ~$3000 (30 guests)
2. Choose your WEDDING DAY wisely (Friday or Sunday or a weekday):
Saturdays are definitely in high demand, so vendors charge top $$$ from venue to professional services. You have a lot more leverage with all the vendors when you choose a day other than Saturday.
Our wedding church coordinator also noted that if you hold your wedding on Easter Sunday, there'll be an abundance of church flowers by default that you won't have to worry about it anymore - it will be one thing you can cross off your list.
Typical hotel wedding minimum: 100 guests (Saturday wedding)
Our hotel wedding deal: 30 guests (Friday wedding)
Details: We almost ruled out a beautiful boutique hotel as our venue because they had a minimum of 100 people which was out of the question for us. When the hotel rep learned our wedding date was a Friday, there was no minimum!
3. Research a good but reasonably priced PHOTOGRAPHER.
If you exclude the rings and the honeymoon, the photography will be the 2nd most expensive item in your wedding budget.
- Do online research - even craigslist has legitimate vendors, but take the necessary precautions and screen the candidates by phone and email, before you meet them in person at a public place (library, restaurant, etc.)
- Level with the vendor to state how limited your budget is; negotiate no. of hours, no. of photographers (hint: small party = 1 photographer), etc. Chances are, if they are available on your wedding day anyway, they will re-consider.
- Get a photographer's release signed - this gives you the flexibility to do your own prints, if you need any. Some major photo reprinting outlets (like Costco) have strict rules about printing professional photos because of copyright issues. The truth is, you'll want to distribute most pictures online or in soft copy anyway, except for those you want to display on frames.
- Be sure to spell out the terms in a written contract.
Typical wedding photography minimum: $3000-$5000, excluding extras like touch-up, correction, album.
Our Deal: $1400 for an 8-hour coverage (~800 pictures on CD, online hosting, no extras)
4. Do Your Own WEDDING ALBUM.
There is no need to outsource this to the photographer - there are so many online sites that let you do this yourself. If you’re already doing some DIY wedding stuff, this is a natural extension of putting your creative flair to work and adding your own personal touch. These websites offer so many different choices from paper to album size, no. of pages, etc. You can start and test them out with a basic album as a gift for your parents or in-laws, then go fancy for your own copy. Some online websites also provide photo re-touching or color correction that costs a tiny fraction of what a photographer will charge.
Typical wedding album minimum: $1000 and up, based on no. of pages, and other options.
Our Deal: $40-$250 for 26-76 pages (10x12.5), based on website and promotional discounts.
Details: I tried a couple of websites to create basic albums (~26 pages, 8x11) as a gift for my mother and my mother-in-law. I also created a smaller, scaled-down album for sharing with officemates and friends, for FREE and only paid for shipping. There's a lot of competition among these online websites - you just need to find out which ones offer the best deals and will be a good fit for you.
5. Research a good but reasonably priced VIDEOGRAPHER.
Seek amateur videographers or those trying to build their portfolio; cheap doesn't mean bad quality. You'll be surprised at how good some of the newbies are. You can get offers through referrals from a local university or seek offers on craigslist. Craigslist listings can be a good resource provided you take the necessary precautions and screen the candidates by phone and email, before you meet them in person at a public place (library, restaurant, etc.)
Typical wedding videography minimum: $1000-$2000.
Our Deal: $300 for 6-hour coverage (full coverage video + highlight video)
6. Do Your Own INVITES.
I struggled with this because deep in the heart of this practical bride, I had envisioned the classic thermography-type wedding invitations. My hubby helped put it in perspective and said he's thrown away all the wedding invites he's ever received; I guess only the bride and groom and their immediate families would hold onto their copy for sentimental reasons.
Typical wedding invitations minimum: $300 (25 invites + RSVP set)
Our Deal: $30.
7. Take the "WEDDING" word out of products/services negotiations.
Wedding-related products and services have much higher pricing compared to their generic occasion equivalents. This goes for most services like photography, videography, DJ services, and hotel room reservations.
Local Hotel’s wedding group rate: $2580 ($129/night x 2 nights x 10 rooms)
Our Deal (Family Reunion group rate): $1904 ($119/night x 2 nights x 8 rooms).
Details: We wanted to block hotel rooms for our selves and our out-of-town guests but since we had a very small party, we found out the hotel (reception venue) required a 10-room minimum; we only needed 8. Turned out, when my hubby inquired at the same hotel for a block of rooms for a family reunion, they were able to give us an even lower room rate for 8 rooms with no minimums! Problem solved! To make the deal even sweeter, they also gave me and my husband a free upgrade to a suite!
8. Check your Mileage account for Award Redemption (e.g. FLOWERS).
If you have a mileage account that you will not be using right away, check to see if the provider offers rewards that you can actually use for the wedding, like flower arrangements.
Retail price for 2 flower arrangements: $120 (2 x dozen rose bouquets)
Our Deal: FREE
Details: When I realized that my mom had a soon-to-expire mileage account, I thought that flowers from the mileage rewards program would be a nice remembrance/gift from my mom (who could not fly anymore for health reasons). They turned out really nice.
9. Put your CREATIVITY to use.
9.1 Reception Display Photos
- Engagement Photos: $300
- Photo Collage Alternative: $15
- Flower Arrangement: $60-$100 per unit
- Pillar Candle Alternative: $12 per unit
10. Be Your Own WEDDING PLANNER.
There’s a lot of research and decision-making in the months leading up to the wedding. For hands-on brides like me, this is better handled by the bride (and groom).
Past the major research and decisions, there’s a little bit of coordination on the 2-3 days leading up to, on the day of, and on the day after the wedding. If you have decided to have a small wedding, the wedding planning becomes really manageable, with a bit of help from your husband, family, or a good friend.