You just got engaged (Congrats!). You’ve spent more time on Pinterest planning your big day than you’re willing to admit, but have no idea where to start in reality. Don’t worry, this is a judgment-free zone and we’re here to help. Whether you have an uncapped amount of money to spend on your wedding or you have a budget to follow, there are plenty of ways to have your guests wish you were getting married every weekend. We put together a detailed guide of the “big vendors” on your list and how you can splurge versus save.
1. Venue – Arguably the most important part of your planning process. First, this is where you’re going to celebrate your newlywed status with all of your loved ones – make sure you’re happy with your choice. Secondly, once your venue and date is set, you can now book all of your vendors since you have officially have a wedding date.
- SPLURGE: As you’ve probably learned by now, where you get married makes a big difference in how much you’ll end up paying for the wedding. If you’re in the NYC area, most venues in Manhattan can be considered a splurge. Most venues charge per-person and others charge a (large) fee to rent out a ballroom for your wedding – and that’s just the beginning. Not in NYC? Still easy to splurge. If you or any of your relatives happen to have one or some acres to your name, you could set up a beautiful wedding in your backyard – literally. Contrary to popular belief, this definitely gets filed under splurge. You’ll be responsible for hiring every vendor and renting every item needed to make your backyard rival North West’s birthday party.
- SAVE: Most venues have a per-person minimum and that number will also place you in a specific ballroom, assuming your venue has more than one room for events. Other venues charge a fee to rent their space but require you to hire outside vendors for everything else. Having a smaller wedding is the easiest way to save here, but certainly not the only way. Make sure to ask your venue a lot of questions – if they allow outside vendors, you have more flexibility to choose your vendors on your budget. If your venue requires you to use their in-house services for everything, ask them what that will include. A lot of times that per-person rate includes more than just the entrée and cocktail hour, but it can include the open bar, linens, custom menus, cake, lighting, and so on. If your venue adds all of this into your per-person price, not only does this make life easier for you but depending on what the per-person number is, it may be a really good deal.
Photo Courtesy of Buds of Brooklyn
2. Menu – If you’re planning on having a ceremony and reception that lasts more than 2-3 hours, your guests will expect to be fed. This will also ensure your guests don’t skip out early to grab some grub (side note: make sure to feed your vendors too).
- SPLURGE: For your menu, go all out – full open bar with top shelf liquors (might want to add some Advil to your favors for your guests’ next-day hangover), no shortage of appetizers during cocktail hour (and that includes the seafood station), a fancy selection of entrée plates for the actual dinner (don’t forget about your gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian friends!) and the dessert bar that no one will have room for by the end of the night, but everyone will indulge in. This is pretty easy to splurge on – a simple “I’ll have everything” will do the trick.
- SAVE: Consider having a brunch wedding or a buffet dinner. Weddings that take place earlier in the day are great for saving. For starters, most venues charge a lot less to get married during the day as opposed to having an evening wedding – the very same day. Also, you could get away with doing a lot less while still putting together an unforgettable event for you and your guests. Instead of having a full-blown open bar, create a boozy brunch bar. Skip the cocktail hour and opt for a buffet of all your favorite brunch foods and have a bartender whip up some of the best brunch booze (Mimosa, Bloody Mary’s, Bellini’s). We’ve been to this kind of wedding before and it was perfect, especially because you could go back for seconds, thirds, fourths, and so on. What? We love brunch. If you’re having an evening wedding, have a few items for your cocktail hour instead of an entire room worth of food and go easy on the alcohol by offering complimentary beer and wine only. Not willing to skip the cocktails? Another idea we love is to put together a list of his and hers favorite cocktails and have them flowing through the night. Love a good mango margarita? Put it on the board and give it a fun name. Whiskey on the rocks for the guys? Done. You can mix this with beer/wine or just put together a few cocktails that are available for your guests instead – this way, you know exactly what kind of liquor you will need ahead of time and can budget for it.
Photo by Emma Cleary
3. Bridal Party – If you decide to have a bridal party, that is. It is not easy deciding which of your girlfriends and bros will get the honor of being your VIP guests, especially when you’re worried people who get cut will get upset. We would like to seriously encourage you do to something here: what YOU want. Your wedding day is all about you and your partner and your friends should be excited just to be there. Now that we’re done ranting…
- SPLURGE: Have all your closest girlfriends, cousins, family – etc. There’s no set number of what is and isn’t acceptable, it’s whatever you are comfortable with. Keep in mind that every bridesmaid needs a bouquet (assuming you’re opting for flowers – we’ll get to that soon) and usually gets a gift for all her help and money spent for your big day. Since we’re in the splurge column, let us remind you that getting ready in the same outfit is fun for pictures and treating your ladies to some pampering pre-wedding won’t upset them either. Hair and makeup is another thing to consider – if you have a specific request that your ladies wear their hair a certain way and/or do their makeup a certain way, since we’re talking splurge, consider taking care of this tab for them. If you can afford to cover the tab for everything, your girls would seriously appreciate it – but there is no obligation to do so, even on a splurge.
- SAVE: Cut it down. If you have a lot of family you want in your wedding party, consider having just family – your girls will understand. Otherwise, choose a few of the people you really want up there with you and keep the number as low as possible. The less amount of people you have in your bridal party, the less you will have to pay for their flowers and gifts – two things that the bride should always take care of, unless you really can’t justify it in the budget. Ask your ladies ahead of time if they are financially comfortable with paying for their dresses, shoes, accessories, hair/makeup (if you are set on them getting this done professionally), and all pre-wedding festivities such as your bachelorette party, bridal shower and everything in between. Also, consider letting your girls wear their own shoes and accessories – this will help their budget and yours.
Photo Courtesy of Fern Studio
4. Guest List & Invites – Who’s paying? This is a serious question and one that is debated a lot. If one set of parents is paying on their own, they should be allowed to invite whoever they want. If both sets of parents are paying, both should be allowed to invite whoever they want. If no sets of parents are paying and the bill is yours, you make the final decision on who mom and dad can invite and what the cap is, if any.
- SPLURGE: You and your partner invite all of your close friends and your parents invite all of their close friends. The more the merrier! I mean, we’re splurging here, right?
- SAVE: Since this is YOUR day, we think you should be inviting all of the people you want there first and foremost. Remember that while this is your day and we are all about you having the final say, it is important for your family too and they want to share it with the people they love so if you can compromise and stay in budget, everyone is happy.
Photo by Daniela Constantini
5. Dress & Accessories, Hair & Makeup – This one’s easy. You are really, really, ridiculously good looking and you are going to look really, really, ridiculously good looking in anything you decide to wear. Do not let anyone tell you differently because they’re lying. Here’s some advice anyway:
- SPLURGE: Any bridal shop your heart desires. Customize your gown and veil. All of the diamonds. Slide into a Kardashian hair or makeup artists’ DM’s for pricing and availability. Let’s be real, you don’t really need advice on how to be a bride who’s balling without a budget.
- SAVE: If you’re great at doing hair or makeup, consider this approach if you’re comfortable with it. There are plenty of incredibly talented stylists and makeup artists that are reasonably priced, so don’t feel like you need to settle! The same goes for dresses – you don’t need to spend a couple month’s salary to look beautiful on your big day, and there are plenty of sites out there that offer brand new dresses worn only once for a fraction of the cost (sounds kind of familiar to us…).
Photo by Daniela Constantini
6. Flowers & Décor – This is really important but doesn’t have to be expensive anymore. Flowers are used to decorate your ceremony and reception, first and foremost, but also to decorate your name card table/entry table and much more.
- SPLURGE: Peonies any time of the year! Peonies are a very popular flower but only in season for a few weeks every year, and when that time ends, they are really expensive to get. With no budget for flowers, you can do anything your heart desires from building a flower wall for your guests to take photos in front of, decorate your arbor or chuppah in any creative way with tons of flowers, have the centerpieces of your dreams on each table and so much more. Another option for splurging is Bloomerent. We may or may not be biased, but hear us out – Bloomerent is not only for the bride who wants to save money or spend it elsewhere, it’s also perfect for the bride who wants to have flowers decorating every part of her wedding – from ceremony to reception and everything in between. While everybody likes getting money back, even on a splurge, you’re also paying it forward by helping the environment and giving another bride the chance to share the beautiful blooms you put together. Full creative control, choice of a top-rated florist, sustainability and money back? No brainer.
- SAVE: Consider local flowers that are in season only to save. This will eliminate the time and cost of flying flowers in and sourcing them from overseas. Bloomerent: reuse fresh floral centerpieces from a wedding or event the day before yours to save money and make a sustainable decision. You save 40%-60% on the centerpieces you reuse and have your flowers designed and delivered by a top-rated florist who you get to work with for all of your extra flowers. Want to make minor changes to the flowers before your big day? Go ahead! Since your florist is the expert repurposing your reused flowers, you can make custom changes ahead of time if you want to make any minor adjustments or add any flowers. Aside from your centerpieces, another way to save is having your bridesmaids bouquets double as your sweetheart table décor after the ceremony. Let your florist know you want to do this ahead of time and they will make sure it’s all set up when you walk into the ceremony for your first time as Mr. and Mrs., Mr. and Mr., or Mrs. And Mrs. If flowers aren’t your thing, there are other beautiful non-floral options for your centerpieces that are cost efficient – Pinterest, anyone?
Photo Courtesy of Fern Studio
7. Photos, Videos and entertainment – Every couple is different. Some prefer to have both photos and video while others prefer one to the other. Some couples prefer to have a band while others go with a DJ. There’s no wrong answer here!
- SPLURGE: A great band is usually more expensive than hiring a DJ. These amazing bands book up quickly, so act fast! When hiring your photographer, ask how many people you can hire for your wedding. If you’re splurging, you’ll likely want at least 2-3 photographers on hand so they can capture different angles and areas of your wedding throughout the night. Hire a videographer, too! Get those vows on video and all of your guests’ questionable dance moves so you have them for years to come. Don’t forget the photo booth. When you look back on your perfect wedding day, you’ll be happy you have photo and video memories for you and for your future children to get to experience your big day with you!
- SAVE: One photographer, one cameraman and a reasonably priced band or DJ. Ask your band or DJ questions – how many people are in the band and what does pricing look like? If you opt for a DJ, shop around to get prices then compare. If you want to cut down the costs even more, some people don’t hire a videographer and prefer to spend on photos only. Besides, who knows if you’ll be able to watch those DVDs in 10 years – I mean, do people under 15 even know what VHS was? #TBT.
Photo Courtesy of BloomBar
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to planning – every couple is different and each decision is personal. We hope the above tips help you plan your big day or at least get some insight into how to plan. Did we mention that we are really good wedding guests?