Denise and Alan Fields, the brains and authors behind Bridal Bargains, a book dedicating to helping brides find creative ways to stay within their budgets, are sharing their wedding knowledge with you! Read on for their expert answers to the PW community's recent questions:
KristinKay asked: How about the best way to deal with a large guest list - like if you HAVE to invite 250-300 people how can you still make it budget friendly?
Denise & Alan: Controlling food and liquor costs will be key to making this affordable. First, choose a reception site that lets you bring in an outside caterer--that will help you bid out and find an affordable caterer. Think ethnic--you can feed 200 affordably if you stick with ethnic crowd pleasers (Italian, Mexican, Chinese) versus a fancy sit-down dinner with steak or seafood. Finally, for liquor, instead of a full open bar, consider just beer/wine and then champagne for a toast. Or go for a signature drink (a blue Mojito for a Mexican theme; peach Bellini for Italian food) as an affordable way to do liquor without the full open bar.
Carpepm asked: I'd love some advice on bridal jewelry. I need a necklace to go with my dress, but my budget is totally maxed out!
Denise & Alan: Two words...family heirloom. Ask your mom or grandmother if they have a simple string of pearls you can borrow. Or see if one of your bridesmaids has something that might work. Don't be shy--you're bound to have a friend or relative that would love to loan you that special family heirloom necklace!
FinnandDavid asked: Can I get advice on inexpensive non-flower centerpieces. Can you spend less than 15 dollars a head on food and still have it catered?
Denise & Alan: Balloons are an affordable alternative to flower centerpieces and add a festive air to any reception. Also--hit your local craft store and buy simple tall vases; fill with clear marbles and add a LED light for a bit of drama. Voila! Centerpieces at a fraction of what a flower centerpiece would run.
A catered reception for under 15 dollars? First, aim for a reception that isn't around dinner or lunch (that is mid afternoon). Then serve a selection of light snacks, cake and punch. At 3pm, guests aren't expecting a full meal and you don't have to provide it!
Another way to save -- go ethnic. Ethnic food buffets are crowd pleasers, but much more affordable than a prime rib dinner.
Tkclark asked: How about favors options or registration options for OLDER (NOT OLD :) couples. Great idea. I LOVE that book. Read cover to cover.
Denise & Alan: Thanks for reading our book! Glad you found it helpful.
Favors...we aren't big fans. Most are dust collectors that are discarded right after the wedding. Instead of doing a traditional wedding favor, consider making a donation to your favorite charity. Then put a small card on the tables to let guests know about your donation in lieu of favors.
Registry options for older couples--good news! Many non-traditional registries have sprung up in recent years. One couple we interviewed registered for sod for their new home--yes, sod. Instead of another toaster or more china, they got a lawn for their new home. The message...think outside the box.
Most folks are forgoing the formal china or kitchenware today and registering for more durable items at places like Home Depot and other home/garden stores.
Marissa asked: It's a little late for me, but would like to know what are some of the extra fees that reception sites charge that you can negotiate your way out of? And how so!?
Denise & Alan: Hotels and wedding reception sites employ an army of accountants who think up creative fees that can be charged to engaged couples. You name it, we've heard of it! Cake-cutting fees, corkage fees, coat check fees, valet parking...the list goes on and on. Some fees are legit, but others are questionable.
The most effective way to negotiate away these fees is to find a competitor of the site that doesn't charge that fee. And then ask the site to match their competitor's fees/policies. In this economy, most reception sites don't want you to walk out that door. Take a few steps toward the door and you'll suddenly find them more agreeable when it comes to fees!
Another fee area to watch out for is sales tax. We've found some sites that charge sales tax on items that are NON-TAXABLE. Examples--room rental fees and services like DJ's, etc. While we hope that this is just a mistake, we wonder if some sites are pocketing these taxes as extra profit. The best defense is to ask the site what items are taxable and then double check with your local government sales tax office to make sure this is legit.