Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Easiest Way to Plan on a Budget

I’ve been reading lots and lots of advice on how to plan a wedding on a budget. Some of this advice has been excellent, some of it has been awful, and most of it has contradicted other advice I’ve read. So here it is, my practical advice for planning your wedding on a budget in only two steps:

Step One: Decide What Kind of Hostess Do You Want to Be (a.k.a. budget advice to ignore)

It’s YOUR day, but by inviting people to your wedding, you are accepting the responsibility of making sure your guests enjoy themselves. This is really important to me for a few reasons. Not only do I pride myself on being a good hostess, but I also know the (well-earned and prolonged) trash talk that follows a wedding thrown by someone who disregards their guests.

On many of these “ways to save money” lists I’ve seen, there are a few glaring culprits that show up repeatedly. A lot of this is regional and even family-specific, but in my area, these cost cutters will annoy the heck out of everyone you know.

1.       Cash bar. While I know in some areas it’s completely normal, fundamentally, I believe that if you invite people to an event where they bring you a gift, it’s inappropriate to ask them to buy their own drink. You can still save money here, but do it nicely. If you and your fiancé aren’t drinkers, don’t offer alcohol. If you’re trying to control cost, offer just beer and wine.  If you want to limit the drinking, try a champagne fountain and sodas.

2.       Potluck. As above, people bring gifts to weddings. Throw a potluck and you’re asking not only for a gift, but also for them to feed themselves… and other people!

3.       Dessert receptions. In my 20’s, I would have been all over this. In my 30’s not so much. Even if you are throwing a mid- afternoon wedding and don’t want a full meal, you should serve sweet and savory snacks.

Decide what’s Important to You

This is where you can get whiplash the advice: “programs are a waste, don’t do them!” and then the next site is “programs are a lovely way to tie together your theme.” So here is what I suggest:

Beyond being a good hostess, make a list of what will make you happiest.

Having a list will help you prioritize (because it can quickly become the case that EVERYTHING is critical if you don’t). Make a list of all of the elements of your wedding, and then rank them in order of what you care about most. Look at your budget and figure out if you’re out of whack. If programs are at the bottom of your list, cut them. If they are at the top, dip those suckers in gold.

I am atypical in that the photos and flowers are not very important to me, but serving an incredible meal is. So, I have a friend taking pictures for me, which saves over $1,300. My sister and I are going DIY the flowers, saving about $1,000. So $2,300 divided among about 90 guests upped my per person budget by $25 and let us select a nicer caterer. 

Maybe this is helpful, maybe not. All in all, just my two cents for what it’s worth!

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