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Weddings: You Get Exactly What You Pay For

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PC Skyline Trade Show Tips

I don't mean to be a bummer here. I AM a budgeting specialist, after all. But in my (recent) experience, it has become exceedingly clear that you absolutely get what you pay for.

That being said...is it possible to find adorable Sweetheart Table Decor on sale at Target, Party City or on Amazon? Yes!

Is it possible to save money by DIY-ing wedding favors that would cost twice as much to pay a company to put together for you? Totally!

Is it even possible to catch the vendor you want to hire having a sale on the perfect package? If you're lucky! (Jump on that, by the way! That's great!)

BUT what you can't do is bargain-hunt your vendors. It's the difference between coupon-clipping at reputable stores who have the occasional sale, and regularly shopping at the Dollar Store. The stuff at the Dollar Store cost less, therefore, it is worth less. 

A great example can be made of a recent wedding that I had the pleasure of coordinating. The florist was a wonderful lady that I believe was honest and ethical, and who did more than her job to accommodate a bride who wanted more than she was willing to pay. The bouquets of roses were a little bruised on the tips, but looking at the pricing on the contract, I know it was due only to a severely limited budget. Even so, the bride was very upset that the vendor dared deliver such work, and tried to get a discount. The florist came to me later and explained how she felt her hands were tied behind her back. There was nothing she could do if she didn't want to pay more for the roses than the bride was paying her to make them.

I understand that when you're in the lower- or middle-class, the average wedding budget can seem like a lot more than it turns out to be when translated into Wedding. But unlike the bargains you can conger up on a shopping trip, vendors whose bills are paid by the people who book them cannot afford to let everyone who asks get 50% off. Especially considering that there are only so many weekends in a year, and only so many of those that they may be able to book, it is vital that vendors charge enough to live off of. Their work is valuable, and if you choose to hire a DJ or a Florist or a Photographer for your wedding, you're going to have to pay for the quality that you expect.

This is true because--of course--vendors with low prices do exist. But vendors with low prices don't charge low fees because they somehow need less to live off of. They charge what they charge because they are hobbyists, they are inexperienced, or because the products and services they are offering are low-quality, and don't cost them much time or money to produce. 

You get what you pay for. You pay a high price to a reputable hotel for an all-inclusive wedding? You get all-inclusive. Things will run smoothly, people will do their jobs well, and your good money will have been well-spent. But you pull together a team of vendors who charge next to nothing--and then you expect a wedding with all the bells and whistles--and you'll be disappointed. 

Certainly, low-budget weddings can and should exist. Everyone deserves to have a wedding! All I'm trying to point out is that you shouldn't expect your vendors to deliver products and services you clearly aren't paying enough for. If you have a low budget for flowers, then simply don't choose expensive, out-of-season flowers. If you have a low budget for food, invite less guests to maximize food costs, or consider a food truck. If you can't afford a DJ--maybe don't hire a DJ. Not every child's 12th birthday is the magnificent Bat Mitzvah with the three course dinner,  plethora of decorations and bouncy houses, and clown handing out balloons that you've heard of. It's the same with weddings. Throw the wedding that you can afford, instead of pretending--up until your wedding day, when it all becomes clear--that you're throwing the one you haven't actually financially invested in. 

I'm not trying to be harsh at all. It is just so vitally important to understand that prices on wedding services don't lie. You can't get it for less. You might be able to get something ELSE for less, but it will cost less because you will be getting less.

Anybody have relevant experiences to share in the comments below? I'd love your input! 

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11 Questions You Might Forget To Ask Your Venue (Before Booking)

This list doesn't need much description. Sometimes the venue search is too exciting to remember all of those important questions. Not to worry! The questions below are commonly forgotten, so if you go over these, and remember the basics, you should be golden.

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PC Belle The Magazine

1) Do you have any discounts if I book on a day other than Saturday?

2) How many people can this location accommodate?

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PC The Knot

3) Do you require that I use your caterer?

4) Are there alcohol restrictions, or corkage fees?

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PC Pinterest

5) What's the weather contingency plan (for outdoor venues)?

6) Are their music volume restrictions my DJ will need to be aware of?

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PC WeddingWire

7) Is there ample parking?

8) Are there any hidden fees like service fees, gratuities, cleaning fees, or overtime fees?

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PC Chaine Des Rotisseurs

9) Are there any decor limits? (Such as lit candles?)

10) Are there any photo restrictions?

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PC Brides

11) Who will be available during the event to direct us? 

Wanna know more about why these questions are important to ask? Check out the video below for my personal explanations.

Did you find these questions helpful? Have one to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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5 Things To Do BEFORE Choosing Your Venue

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PC Karma Hill

Everybody seems to think that the FIRST thing you do after getting engaged and begin the planning process is book your venue. While it certainly is smart to get it figured out right away, choosing it before deciding on anything is a huge mistake. Venue deposits generally aren't refundable, and generally represent a fairly large portion of your budget, so this isn't something you want to mess up on...

As a wedding planner, I've worked with clients who chose and booked their venue before understanding what they wanted the very essence of their wedding to be, and it forced them to adapt many of the big details they would've changed otherwise to match their venue. It makes me frustrated that couples who believe they need a planner don't think it's necessary to work with a planner to find their venue also. Trust me on this--there's a little more to it than just finding a space that you like that you can afford!

In hopes of improving others' experiences with venues, I've written out the top 5 things to do BEFORE choosing your venue. These things are so important to work through FIRST that I can promise the couples who go through this list and do the work a much happier experience with their venue choices throughout the entire planning process. 

Ready?

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PC lesanella.com

#1 - Decide on Your Wedding Theme

Why? It doesn't make sense to book a barn for your reception if you are still thinking about a beach-themed wedding. Barn screams rustic, country, romantic, while beach says luau, chill vibes, and BBQ. Choosing a theme dictates what the desired atmosphere of your venue should be, and understanding that desired atmosphere as you look through venues will make the task of choosing much easier. Either it fits, or it doesn't. The bonus of choosing a venue that matches your theme means that you won't have to over-decorate to make your venue and theme marry (gasp! wedding pun!). If they're the right match, they'll work together perfectly just as they are, and isn't that better?

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PC Your North Country

#2 - Create Your Guest List

Since invites don't generally go out before 6-8 weeks before the big day, it might not seem obvious that you should have the guest list hammered out now--but it is so important! Venue rooms have a guest limit, so if you book a venue that fits just 100 heads, you can't add another 50 to your guest list after your mother comes to you with more names! 

Here's your Handy Dandy Guideline:

- For the ceremony, you should have about 6 square feet per guest.

- For the banquet tables, there should be about 12 square feet per guest.

- For the dance-floor, there should be about 8 square feet per guest.

Follow these guidelines and you'll be golden!

PC Coco Wedding Venues

PC Coco Wedding Venues

#3 - Understand Your Wedding Budget

This determines what you can spend on your venue! If you book a venue for $5,000 without realizing that your total wedding budget is $10,000, you just spent a (generally non-refundable) 50% of your budget on your location! That's not much wiggle room...

PC Bridebox Wedding Albums

PC Bridebox Wedding Albums

#4 - Decide What Other Kinds of Vendors You Will Hire

This is important not only so you can understand where you stand with your budget, but to understand how to accommodate your vendors needs...

Are you booking a DJ? You need to know--is there room for his DJ booth? Are there ample electrical plugs near the dance-floor? Will that booth fit around other tables you'll need such as the cake table, the consumption bar, the gift table, etc.?

Are you booking a caterer? Do they need a commercial kitchen or will they set up shop outside? If they set up outside, does the venue permit this? Is there an area where they can do this without being right in everyone's view?

Are you booking a florist who will need to arrange flowers on-site? They will need a corner during the morning of the wedding to do this without disturbing anyone. Will they get early access to the room?

These are all questions to keep in mind as you consider venues! Don't do yourself or your vendors the disservice of overlooking these details.

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PC Harper's Bazaar

#5 - Create a Basic Outline of Your Wedding Week Schedule

You might know you're getting married on a specific Saturday, so that's obviously the day you'll book, but did you make sure the venue is also available the day before for your rehearsal? You'd be shocked at how few couples think about this! Additionally, think about whether you'll need to be at the venue any other times before the wedding, and confirm with the venue manager that this is okay. You should especially be aware of when your decor and rentals will need to be delivered and set up. The venue will need to accommodate these vendors. (Late set up presents a whole new host of problems!)

Your wedding day schedule is also important to be aware of as you look at the actual building layout of your venue. If you have your wedding at the same venue in two different areas for the ceremony and reception, consider whether moving the crowd from one room to another other will present any technical difficulties. If there are other weddings or events going on the same day, is it possible your guests might end up in the wrong reception room? Don't let it happen!

Have any tips to add? Don't hesitate! Add them in the comments below!

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Three Things to Remember When Wedding Planning Gets Tough

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PC pinterest.com

The wedding industry is one not just of weddings, but of (very loud) opinions. Certainly the abundance of strong opinions is not a quality isolated only to the wedding industry, but it is one that I, and presumably others too, were surprised to find when first poking our heads through the industry's door. It would appear that--pretty often--the romantic, carefree feelings associated with wedding bells are not as present as the tricky guest-list etiquette, pressure to follow new wedding trends, and family's eager vendor suggestions seem to be. Wedding planning easily becomes expensive, overwhelming, and even conflicted very quickly... I get it. But hey--it doesn't have to be that way!

This post is written in with deep empathy, and with the hope that the following three suggestions will empower and encourage those who feel cornered by wedding planning complications.

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PC prezi.com

1) Expect and embrace that there will be conflict.

Be ready for it. Everyone has an opinion, and there will be so many of them that are so diverse that even the most people-pleasing bride will have to choose between some. That's okay--let me repeat myself on this one--conflict is normal, and should not surprise you. Not everyone's tastes or experiences match yours, nor should they; and while you now know that after reading this, keep in mind that not everyone consciously registers that wedding ideals differ. Furthermore, remember that many people consciously have no idea what kind of pressure or expectations their opinions may put on those around them. Do give people the benefit of the doubt here.

Here's how you deal with it: don't let it pressure you. Take it in stride. Definitely don't try to appease others wishes by letting them design your wedding for you; be gracious, but be firm. Be willing to say when necessary, "That's a really lovely idea! Actually, my fiance[e] and I were thinking we'd do [different idea] instead. Here, let me show you a picture!" 

At the same time, keep in mind that these are relationships that will exist post-wedding, so it's not worth it to permanently cut ties over something as temporary as cupcake flavors or reception playlists. Should a relational issue come up that is not solvable with a bit of insistence, consider compromising for the sake of the relationship. Sometimes you'll have opportunities to meet halfway. For instance, let's say your cousin is allergic to chocolate, but your fiance[e]'s favorite cake flavor is chocolate. So serve chocolate cake in most of your cake layers, but have one layer in a flavor you know your cousin prefers. This compromise is a great way to show how much you appreciate your cousin and want him to enjoy the wedding as much as you do. 

Compromise is key, but you can't bend every time your new mother-in-law insists upon having something her way, because this relational pattern is bound to continue post-wedding. And post-wedding, the issues being insisted upon will likely be more important, and you may have an even greater difference of opinions on them. (For instance, parenting.) All things considered, perhaps establishing during wedding planning the kind of steadfastness you will need later on will improve your relationships for the long-haul. Handling delicate issues with this in mind will also put disagreements over things like cupcake flavors in perspective. 

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PC goodhousekeeping.co.uk

2) Forget about following trends.

Do you like the recent wedding trends? If so, go ahead and do them all! But if you don't, then please, please don't have a trendy wedding if it isn't you. This wedding you're planning should be the ultimate expression of who you and your special somebody are. Just because naked cakes like the one pictured above have been trending for the last couple of years doesn't mean you too must have one. Get the cake you want. This cake is for you, not Pinterest. Having a trendy wedding can get expensive fast, especially if your decor becomes competitive with magazine pictures--or the wedding your sister had last summer. Be mindful about why you make your wedding decisions and ask yourself the following questions:

1) "For whom/why am I making this decision?"

2) "Is that what is best, or is there a cheaper/easier/better/different way to do it?"

3) "Does it match my and my fiance's personal tastes?"

4) "Will I look back and wish I had made a different decision?"

Move forward based on those answers, keeping potential conflict in consideration, and knowing that the more bells and whistles you throw in based on what's trending, the more expensive things will become. 

PC brides.com

PC brides.com

3) Remember your guests.

I used to feel strongly that wedding decisions ought to be made based solely on the tastes of the marrying couple--that is until I started to read Emily Post's Wedding Etiquette. Early on in the book it expresses the opinion that the wedding reception is a celebration of the happy couple's marriage as well as their valued relationships with all of the guests. This idea struck me as very balancing, since I see a lot of complaints online about how couples have poorly hosted their guests, who--on some occasions--have traveled, booked hotel rooms, and taken time off of work to make it to the wedding. It seems appropriate to thank them for their investment in the couple. 

Before I go on, I want to clarify what I'm NOT saying: 

1) "Weddings are all about the guests."

2) "The bride and groom have to spend a lot of money on their guests."

We clear? So here's what I AM saying:

A reception is a great opportunity for the bride and groom to thank their guests for their involvement in their lives by hosting a reception designed in part to pamper their guests.

Try not to think of the wedding in terms of money. Or heads in a banquet hall. Try to think of it in terms of an party with your dearest friends and family--even when price tags tempt you to think otherwise. You absolutely don't have to choose the most expensive food options or fancy dance-floor lights in order to communicate your sincerity, either.

When creating your budget, it's important to figure out what you and your fiance[e]'s priorities are. You each can list out your top five priorities, and then each come up with two ways through which you can treat your guests in a way that says "thank you" for their support and involvement in your lives. From there, compare lists and see where your priorities match. Try to consolidate both lists to one smaller one listing 5-6 of your top priorities, and do the same with your guest thank you list. The things on those lists are your big ticket items, and the things you choose to treat your guests with are where you can focus your attention without spending every penny you have. 

For instance, instead of spending money on food, an expensive cake and dessert table, alcohol, a DJ, entertainment, and a massive dance floor setup, choosing to treat your guests mainly to a great dinner and a generous consumption bar will make for happy, comfortable guests. They won't mind a smaller cake and dance-floor as long as their bellies are well taken care of. HINT: drinks make for a cheerful crowd that will happily dance anywhere. 

 

Obviously, there are other tough issues that come up with wedding planning that these three points don't cover. But these three suggestions do have the potential to minimize stress and drama during the planning process. By being ready to handle conflict, being focused on designing the wedding you want--regardless of what the magazines say,--and keeping your guests' happiness in mind, you'll be well on your way to planning a wedding that has something in it for everyone. 

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Battling the Budget Part 2: Inexpensive Alternatives

Nothing ruins wedding vibes like price-tags that say "no." In the same way, price-tags that scream "YES!" can really make a difference in the planning process, which is why I love my job. I have kind of an obsession with finding good prices and using creativity to come up with lovely alternatives to things such as standard wedding fare. (Don't believe me? I once developed a month-long meal-plan for myself that priced out everything with recipes, shopping lists, and all organic ingredients for three square meals a day with a budget of $100.) 

In the previous blog-post, I pinpointed the five common large expenses that nearly all weddings struggle to escape. In this blogpost, I'm going to return to those same five things and and share my ideas on how to avoid the price-tag with some creativity and extra thought. Ready to learn how to keep your wallet from emptying?

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PC Venuesafari.com

1. Ways to Save Money on Your Venue(s)

a) Just rent out ONE venue. Think about it: renting one area at a ceremony location costs, say $1,000. Later on, you decide you want to rent a second area at that same location for the reception as well. However, instead of that second area also costing $1,000, it costs $500, because you've already rented another part of the venue. So you're at $1,500. Now, let's suppose you rented a second location instead of an extension of the first location. Is that second location going to cost just $500? Probably not, because many venues have a minimum rental requirement, or they simply charge a higher minimum for rental of any area at their venue. So it's likely that the second venue will also cost around $1,000. So now you're at $2,000, instead of the $1,500, for the SAME purpose! Renting two different venues is also a lot more trouble, because sometimes you have to take into account the transportation of your guests, which might also come out of your pocket. 

b) Get hitched on a weekday. Most weddings are on Saturdays or Sundays because it's most convenient for guests to attend. However, because of their popularity, venues generally hike up the prices of venues on weekends, a lot like how airfares are three to four times the price on holiday weekends. They do it because they can. On weekdays, however, very few venues get weddings booked, so their prices generally go down. If your guests can get off work a few hours early, consider having your wedding on a weekday, such as Monday, to save some bank.

c) Have your wedding at a private venue, such as a friend's property or large house. This can save you thousands of dollars, and often does not compromise the quality of the location. It really does pay to know certain people!

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PC theweddingspecialists.net

2. Ways to Save Money on Catering

a) Plan your wedding around a lighter meal, such as brunch or lunch. Serving coffee, fruit salad, muffins, and deviled eggs for a light brunch is much more cost-effective than almost any dinner will be. Even a lunch of fruit, veggies, and tea sandwiches is cheaper than the dinner plates that most caterers will offer for evening meals. Including a brunch or lunch will change a wedding schedule around entirely though, and will only work if your vision includes a day wedding. 

b) Have a Potluck Wedding. This is more styled toward country weddings, or small church weddings where this kind of meal is common. It can certainly save a lot of money, though. 

c) Have the family provide the meal. This is similar to a potluck wedding, but it puts the provisional responsibility on the bride and groom's family members instead of on the guests. It is best suited for more intimate weddings, and is very convenient for weddings located at a house. 

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PC romanticdecorationnow.blogspot.com

3. Ways to Save Money on Guest Seating and Details

a) Move those chairs! When you have a ceremony as well as a sit-down dinner, you need twice the amount of chairs--unless you MOVE the ceremony chairs during the cocktail hour to the banquet hall! This can cut your chair bill IN HALF, and won't be noticed if your guests are distracted during cocktail hour.

b) If it is appropriate, consider paper napkins and plates, and plastic cutlery. Especially if your meal is potluck style, this won't be surprising or distasteful, and will save money the caterer or venue would otherwise charge for dish usage. It also eliminates the possibility of paying for damaged dishes, which is almost guaranteed to happen at least a couple of times at a wedding.  

c) Consider DIY wedding favors, such as cute baggies of Jordan almonds, prettily-packaged flower seeds with a reference to "growing love", tiny jars of homemade seasoned salt, infused olive oil, jam, or honey, servings of wedding cake, boxed truffles or bonbons, miniature s'mores kits, or homemade bath salts. Pinterest has about a million ideas!

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PC britishschoolalex.org

4. Ways to Save on Your Wedding Gown

a) Make your own wedding gown (if you know how to sew), or hire a friend or relative who knows how to sew. This gives you complete control over how you want it to look, but is a very time-consuming process. My mom did this, and saved plenty of money on the labor and alteration costs that she instead did herself. Fabric will be your largest cost--and it WILL cost something. But only a couple hundred dollars, as opposed to the thousand or so you'd pay otherwise.

b) Alter your wedding gown to fit you and your tastes. Whether it's your mother's gown or one you found at a thrift-shop, altering a gown allows you to keep the parts of it you love and jazz up the areas you're not so excited about. It's a money-saving, much less overwhelming process than creating a whole dress out of nothing but fabric yardage can be. 

c) Find a used wedding gown. Online stores such as www.preownedweddingdresses.com have dresses in all sizes, styles, and price-ranges that have been cherished by brides already, yet are still in tiptop condition. They are marked down considerably, and are a very lovely option that won't compromise your tastes at all. 

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PC portlandweddinglounge.com

5. Ways to Save Money on Entertainment

a) Replace a DJ with an iTunes playlist. You can make this yourself, hook it up to a speaker and have your wedding party members tweak it from time to time during the night. Have someone from the wedding party MC the evening instead of hiring a DJ to do this for you. 

b) Ask a friend who DJ's on the side to DJ as your wedding gift, or offer to pay him a fee. Be tactful about this, as you don't want to insult your friend or his side-business. If his business is too big, this might not be a good option. However, if he is a close friend and is invited to the wedding anyway, he may volunteer to DJ, or offer it as a wedding gift anyway. If you do pay an amature to do it, it is very likely that he won't charge commercial prices. 

 

No matter what your wedding budget is, at least a few of these fifteen suggestions can be applied to your wedding to free up money that can be put toward the most important details so that you get the day you've already imagined.

Have a money-saving tip of your own? Post a comment below!

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