For the couple on a tight budget!
Now that you and your fiancé have decided on your vision and the most important aspects of the wedding, the next step is the budget. A realistic budget that will allow you to choose most of the must-haves for your special day. In order to do this well you should know approximately what things cost in your area. You don’t want to spend time creating a budget only to discover that flowers cost twice as much as you had hoped to spend, so do the research. When you have info on most of the costs, you can look at the available funds and figure out what kind of wedding you are going to have. If needed and possible, ask your parents if they are willing to help in some way – whether by paying for some aspect of the wedding or just adding funds to the budget. Have a discussion with them and share your wish-list so that they know the scale of the wedding (and also so that they don’t try to pressure you into having the wedding of their dreams!) With open communication, parents can tell you how much they were planning to contribute. If you want their help financially you’ll get much better results when you invite parents to participate and allowing them to state what they’re comfortable with. Show them your priority list and share your excitement about the wedding planning process, rather than just telling them what your dream wedding is going to cost or trying to guilt-trip them into contributing more than they can afford. Never compare what they are contributing to what the in-laws are! If you initially told your parents that you are paying for the wedding yourself but after a period of time expenses have piled up and you now need help, just be direct and ask whether the offer of financial assistance is still on the table. Just FYI – couples typically spend between $20,000 and $33,000 but, it is possible to spend less than $10,000 and still have a fabulous wedding.
Assuming that you have your priority list, (for instance entertainment, catering, gown and photos) you may decide you are going to spend say 70% of the budget on those while spending less, or doing without some of the other items. The budgeting part of the wedding is often the most stressful but necessary and remember that the best budgets are there to guide you and not stress you out. If you have not decided on the date yet you may want to consider which months are going to be less expensive to have your wedding. This does not include cost for a honeymoon. The bottom line is that this is where you get real. The 250 guest sit-down dinner in a hotel ball room may not be in your budget, but you could have everyone you want there if you are creative and I think for most couples, spending their most important day with the people they love is more important than the venue. While there are always ways to save money, if your budget and your vision are in direct contradiction, you have to find ways to level out the plan. Galvanize your friends to help you. I can promise you they will LOVE that you are involving them in your big day so don’t hesitate to involve talented friends and family but be prepared to tell them NO if there is anything they suggest that is not part of your vision.
Invitations: Eventbrite or Mail chimp! You can create a really beautiful invitation with either of these and print out the rsvp list or you could sign up free for one of the sites such as WeddingWire or The Knot; either one has great tools that can help you with rsvp’s and you can even create a wedding website with all the relevant info about your wedding. If you really want to send the invitations the more traditional way, there are many low cost options at a stationary store or online.
Venue: Backyard or local park: If you are on a tight budget and have a small enough guest list, (recommended for a small budget) you could consider having the wedding in a friend or family member’s back yard. I have decorated many backyards of all sizes and somehow, with some creativity you can make it into a fairytale wedding venue! With some fairy lights in the trees, candles on the tables, lanterns surrounding the area or hanging from the trees and colorful flowers, you could turn it into quite a breathtaking space. You may consider having the wedding reception in a local city or state park which might initially appear to be low cost, however, once you have added the cost of rentals and the kitchen the caterer has to set up because the park doesn’t have anything other than pretty flowers, the costs may have added up to more than renting a space with all included. If you are on a really tight budget and don’t have your heart set on a specific venue you could also decide to go completely casual and have a picnic-type reception with games for the kids and guests. I know of couples who got married in a synagogue or church and had someone hold a picnic space for them on the beach or near a lake or park, with canopies and chairs and had their reception in the form of a BBQ or picnic. You could even have your wedding there! Going casual has so many options and will absolutely be fun. If you choose to go with a city or state park remember that they will require you to leave the place as you found it and you have to pay for the clean-up so add a cleaning crew to the budget. If you have your heart set on a more traditional reception you could find that your favorite venue cost half the price during the week and of course out of season and are far more willing to give you a great package deal during those times. Indoors: Most synagogues have facilities they rent out and if you have the wedding at the shul AND you are a member, they will often let you rent the venue at a really low cost. Most of them have tables and chairs that they will include in the rental fee and it usually has a kitchen the caterer can use. For the most part their maintenance crews will clean up and put away the tables and chairs so you just have to remove your stuff and leave it reasonably clean. Here is a list of SoCal wedding venues. http://www.wedding-spot.com/wedding-venues/ Many city and state parks have indoor/outdoor spaces and you could have the wedding indoors and the reception or cocktail hour outdoors. Especially if you find a location near a beach or a park with a great view.
Rentals: If these are not included in your venue fee or you are using someone’s backyard, shop around for the best quote. There are some smaller companies who will give you a great rate especially if you are outside of the busy season.
Catering: Assuming you are going to feed your guests, you need to get really creative to keep costs low such as having a cocktail or dessert reception, but as I said previously make sure you have enough! If you decide to hire a caterer, choose menu options that are tasty and filling that you can present beautifully and won’t break your budget. If you decide to have a full lunch or dinner, remember that if you have a buffet or stations you have to serve more food. It is a myth that this costs less because with a buffet your guests will help themselves to more than one entrée item as opposed to a plated meal where your guests will choose for instance fish or meat. On the buffet you will likely have both, as well as aditional vegetarian and vegan options and you can believe your guests for the most part will take some of each of the options you are offering. The only way you will know exactly how much food to serve is when you do a plated meal, however then you have to have additional staff to serve the food, so that it is not cold by the time it reached the tables and the guests get to eat almost at the same time. You will find caterers who are not expensive and who will make a delicious meal for you for $10-$15 per person. It won’t be steak and branzino but it can be delicious!
You could have a BBQ during the reception in the summer and have some salads and sides with a dessert buffet for a very reasonable amount and if you have someone in the family or circle of friends who can cook they might be happy to help you as their wedding gift to you, which will then cost you only the food! If your reception space is small and you don’t have seating for everyone, set up buffet stations. This will keep guests moving, chatting and nibbling. Also remember this isyour wedding and your budget. Don’t worry about impressing the guests. They are there to share your special day not judge you by the food you serve and if they don’t LOVE anything you serve them they should not be on the guest list! All you need to do is make sure there is food for everyone including vegan and vegetarian options and something for kids if you are allowing kids at the wedding. Pinterest has fabulous catering ideas for anyone with a budget or you can get a food truck that serves tacos! There are many ways to have great food on a low budget but don’t underfeed your guests. The true gift you’re getting is your guests’ presence at your wedding, so feed them well. If possible devote a larger portion of your wedding budget to unique and delicious food stations, passed hors d’oeuvres, or a sit down meal with delicious desserts. If you have a really small budget, consider having a potluck! If you cannot afford a traditional wedding cake how about making cupcakes and have a cupcake tower or even an Oreo cookie “cake” with milkshake shooters! Add some whiskey to the ice cream for a little stronger “milkshake.”
Beverages: You could ask your guests to byo wine/beer/alcohol or ask some family members to contribute in lieu if a gift so you just need to provide ice and glasses. Alternatively, if you are providing the alcohol, Trader Joes and Smart and Final have great low cost options and they will give discounts for large orders as well. On the other hand, if you belong to a wine club they will also give you a huge discount if you order a large quantity of wine. You can create large pitchers of cocktails with inexpensive liquors such as sangrias or margaritas for instance to which you can add some fruit as decor and you have a great looking drink with a kick! Don’t forget water and soft drinks as well as virgin cocktails.
Décor/Flowers/Lighting: If you are DIY’ing it and you have done some research you will know where you can purchase flowers wholesale or really inexpensively as well as décor items such as lanterns and lighting for an outdoor space and you can always use them again or sell them when you are done. Etsy has great stuff and there are many inspirational DIY websites with décor ideas for the DIY bride. One of my favorites is http://www.save-on-crafts.com . Sign up for the newsletter and you will be informed when they have sales for the items you are interested in. This site also has great ideas for wedding guest books and many other budget friendly ideas. In L.A. there is also a place called Moscatels near the flower markets downtown. Depending on when the wedding is and how far you are prepared to walk to compare prices, the cost of the flowers is very low! You can even make your own bouquets and table decorations. You will find MANY YouTube tutorials on how to do this. Why not involve your wedding party and make it into a project.
Hair and make-up: Sephora does make up for FREE with a $50 purchase and they are great. You can go to the shop before the wedding and try them out and you are set! Hair will depend on your wedding style. If this is a casual wedding, then again there are many tutorials for different hair styles and if you have someone who is gifted and willing to help you make time to practice for a few months until it looks the way you want it to!
Music: If this is important to you but you lack the budget for a DJ or live band then compile a list of your favorite songs on your or someone’s iPod, rent some speakers and let it play all night. You can even create playlists for various times during the wedding. I catered a “backyard” wedding on Valentine’s Day a few years ago and the bride knew a couple who offered their DJ services for her wedding as their wedding gift to them. The couple brought their equipment and played the night away. They were so good I referred a LOT of couples to them since the wedding. Ask your friends for help – I cannot say this enough!
Photography: Your memories are important so I would spend whatever possible in your budget on a good photographer even if you only do a short session for the “official” photos. Yes, they’re expensive, but the good ones are truly worth it. Those gorgeous photos get more valuable over time, and this is not a day to trust an amateur or the cheapest ‘expert’ you find. Research well, ask friends who they hired, and invest in the best package possible. It’s worth every penny to get such masterful images of your day. If this is really NOT in your budget, there is an app called http://www.wedpics.com that will accumulate all your guests wedding pics and videos and you can download themand create a wonderful album and you don’t have to wait long!
The dress: There are MANY stores that have really inexpensive and beautiful options for the bride and bridesmaids and you can also rent a beautiful gown. Get on the mailing lists of several bridal gown shops, so that you get advance, VIP notice of upcoming and last-second-planned designer trunk shows and sample sales. At these events, you can find gowns for up to 75% off, as well as shoes, veils, headpieces and accessories for up to 70% off! You should also sign up at your favorite designers’ websites as well, since they sometime plan last-minute trips through your area and their staff will email you to invite you to the sale. For grooms, rental tuxes are the go-to choice of many couples or again borrow one from a friend or family member.
Officiant/Gifts: A friend can do an online course that you could pay for (or they can do it as a gift) and officiate at your wedding. I also happen to KNOW there are Rabbis who will waive their fee if it comes down to that especially if you are a member of their synagogue. As far as gifts for the wedding party are concerned – something that will help them remember the day will be great and it doesn’t have to be expensive. One word – Pinterest! You will find a plethora of ideas there for inexpensive but adorable gifts for your wedding party and also as favors for your guests. They could also double as table numbers.
There are MANY blogs and articles about brides who sacrificed and planned carefully to have something close to the wedding they wanted. The internet is your friend and then again, don’t forget to ask your friends and family for help! Those couples who have already gone through this experience or are about to, could have lots of information for you!
Most of all enjoy the process. Treat it as an adventure no matter how much or little money you spend on it because in the end it is about friends, loved ones and getting hitched to the partner of your dreams!
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Thank for spending this time with me and see you next time!