So you’re engaged! Congratulations! After you’ve mass texted all your friends and scream-sobbed the news to your parents, you’re going to have to come down to earth eventually. You are now engaged to be married… that means there’s going to have to be a wedding involved… which means that somewhere along the lines, cash will exchange hands at an alarming rate and there’s nothing you can do about it but look at your empty bank account and cry.
Never fear, my beloved bethrotheds. There are ways around this dilemma.
Having been recently engaged myself (February 2010, to be exact), I’ve quickly found myself in quite a jam regarding money and who is paying. First things first… before you decide on where or when to have your wedding, figure out your budget. Try to figure out how much you are willing to spend on this occasion. Discuss with your sweetie how much both of you are willing to contribute to the wedding fund. Better yet, if you’re living together, plan a new budget around how much you can afford to save per month without leaving important luxuries out (some days, you just don’t want to cook… and that’s just peachy).
After you decide how much YOU are willing to contribute, ask your parents (and his) how much, if anything, they are willing to contribute. Some parents are more than happy to plunk down a few bucks; some parents simply cannot afford it. That is perfectly acceptable. Be warned: any money you receive from parents might come with the unwritten rule that they can tell you what exactly to do with that money.
After that’s been settled, now’s the time to decide where and when you’ll have this shindig. There are lots of places for both ceremony and reception to choose from, which makes it very difficult to sift through information but also very helpful in deciding your budget.
Ceremony: or Aisle Always Love You
-If faith is important to you, then a religious ceremony is the way to go. Check with your local house of worship for anything related to the wedding that you might need to complete before you are married. For example, Catholics are required to do “pre-cana”, which can range from anything between listening to a recorded tape to attending a weekend away in same-sex dorms and talking about your feelings.
-Additionally, most houses of worship require a fee for an officiant. Most of the time, this is an “at-will” donation, and often requires a set fee for whatever musician the house provides.
-Religious ceremonies are often the most cost-effective option, if you don’t mind doing some extra legwork.
There are a lot of places that will allow you to have your ceremony outdoors. This could make for a very beautiful and intimate ceremony, but also requires a lot of guessing and luck.
-A spring ceremony would have budding flowers, birds singing, and all sorts of romantic sights and smells. It also could have pouring rain, soggy grass (a no-no in heels), and unwanted animal visitors.
-A summer ceremony would have flowers in full bloom, luschious green trees, and gorgeous sunny weather. But it could also be unbearably hot and humid (sweat and frizz were not invited) and you could be surrounded by bugs (you don’t want a giant bee in your beautiful bouquet, do you?)
-Fall is my personal favorite time of year, when the weather is just a bit nippy and the leaves start to turn those rich jewel colors. Unfortunately, you can never really tell what the weather will be like in fall; chilling wind, rain, or even snow could befall even the most prepared bride.
-Winter ceremonies… Well, I would avoid this at all costs if you live anywhere in the northern United States.
-Check with the ceremony site to see what is included in the rental fee. Oftentimes, you are required to provide chairs (or pay to rent theirs), officiant, musicians, decorations, etc.
Reception Hall ceremonies
More and more people are opting to have their ceremonies in the same reception hall that they are having their big party in. This is a great idea, and might be the best option for your guests that don’t really know their way around the area.
-Check with your reception hall to see if they have a space available for a ceremony. Make sure to ask what all is included: a lot of times, you have to pay to rent the space, in addition to chairs, decorations, musician, and officiant.
-Also make sure that they have an alternate place to have the ceremony in case of disaster. And yes, there will be SOME disaster on your wedding day. Better safe than sorry.
-Reception hall ceremonies often mean you can nix the limo.
Reception: or The Big Fat Afterparty
Now that you’re officially Mr. and Mrs., it’s time to really cut loose and have some fun with your favorite people. After all, they’re there to see you and celebrate your love! Receptions are where the biggest chunk of most couples’ budgets come out of, and with good reason: the average cost per plate is upwards of $75. Here are some little ways in which you can cut that cash cow down to size.
-Check out most reception venues in your area. Email the ones that look the most interesting to you and ask to see their menu pricing. Additionally, ask them if they offer discounts on Friday or Sunday weddings (or even Saturday afternoons). More often than not, there is at least a 10% savings on having your wedding on an off day (or even off-season).
-After reviewing each vendor’s pricing with your sweetie, pick the top 3 that most appeal to your wallet. Make appointments to visit these vendors to discuss your reception more in-depth.
-A lot of reception halls’ menu pricing includes open bar, decorations, linens, and cake, all for a reasonable price. Try to book with one of these halls if you really want to save some green.
-Ask if they have just a “beer and wine” option. This is not the preferred way to go, but it’s a lot better than having cash bar for EVERYTHING.
-You don’t need to do top shelf liquor. Get a few drinks in everyone and I can guarantee you that they won’t be able to tell the difference.
-Ask if they offer a tasting. Not only will it help you decide on an entree, it’s a free dinner out. Can’t beat that, right?
Stay tuned for part two of my guide to saving on your wedding!