How to plan wedding, keep costs under control - desintaiton weddings
We’ve all heard about the brides whose idea and needs for their wedding gets way out of hand.  (We aren’t calling them bridezilla but you know you are thinking it.) And then we hear the tale of woe their families tell when it comes to paying the resulting bills.

HOW did they run up such a bill?  In a word–shopping. I was just reading an article about the “feel good” results of shopping which seem to be a lot like eating chocolate or having sex. If some of it feels good, more feels even better.

In addition there are vendors out there–hundreds and thousands of them–just waiting to offer brides “things” to buy.  The situation becomes a huge mine field for people who can’t resist shopping, bargains and “cute stuff.”

I am going to be the voice of reason here. I’m going to tell you how to get to the altar without breaking the bank.bridal bouquet

•    Shorten the time between engagement announcement and wedding, and between starting to plan and the wedding date.
Every day between those two dates is a day to shop, a day to spend on unnecessary things and  a day you should not have been near a store or the internet.

•    Which brings me to #2 – If you really want to hold down costs DO NOT shop often or at all in bridal stores, craft or florist shops, internet websites devoted to weddings in any form. Do not look at other people’s wedding albums or news about wedding trends. Stay away from style magazines and books on marriage (except the ones on how to make a marriage work AFTER the ceremony)

Rather than be negative (who wants to be told “no”?), let’s take these positive steps:

  • 1.    Find your soulmate and get engaged
  • 2.    Pick your bridesmaids…………..NO! wrong.
  • 3.    Actual #2:  Establish your budget. I don’t mean a floating target. I mean cold, hard dollars, identified with an actual number which you and your family can realistically spend, that dollar figure you cannot exceed no matter what
Your etiquette questions answered

Your etiquette questions answered, from engagement to honeymoons. Link to Emily Post.

I know “budget” is such a dreary topic. Let me try to show you why it is also at the heart of all things wedding.
For the most cost-effective wedding (and I assume that is what you want or you would not still be reading this article) you must make all the components add up to a dollar figure at or under the magical budget limit. The only way to do this is lay out all the parts, put prices on them and start adding it all up–rationally and ahead of time.

So let’s continue:
If possible, find someone who works with wedding planning regularly so they can be your guide. Wedding planners or innkeepers at a wedding venue are possible choices.

From the location, the date to the time of day of your wedding, each item can add to the cost OR hold the cost down.  You’ve probably heard of vacationing “off season” because the rooms and the airfare cost less.  IF you are really on a tight budget, you may need an off season wedding. That can mean the month you pick (summer is most popular along with October/leaf season).

Choosing early spring, late fall or winter, which are less popular,  and therefore may be less expensive. Same with the day of the week. Most people choose Saturday. Other days of the week are often less expensive because the venues and caterers have less demand on those days.  So, can you be flexible in order to save money?

Numbers of guests. OK, I know you want to share your special day with ALL your friends. Are you really prepared to spend $50-$100 on EVERY single person on your Facebook page? Do you have enough money to do it?  If not, you will need to come to terms with the fact weddings need to be for CLOSE personal friends and CLOSE relatives (how well do you know those cousins twice removed anyway?)  Are you in an extreme bind to save money but still want to celebrate with a meal and dancing?

Here’s an idea:

White lisianthus

White lisianthus from Shady Grove Gardens

A small destination wedding for you, your closest relatives (parents, grandparents, siblings and their spouses and dearest of friends).  This is usually in the 10-45 person range for most couples. With 45 or less persons to entertain, you may be able to have that sit down dinner you’d like. What about the rest? Are you afraid they will feel left out? I highly recommend the Wedding Celebration Party.

As quickly as one day later or a week or two later you return from your destination wedding throw a Wedding Celebration Party to celebrate your recent marriage. You pay for snacks and possibly an open or limited bar. You have a cake, possibly a small duplicate of your destination wedding cake then supplement it with cupcakes or sheet cakes lacking the elaborate decorations of the ceremonial cake.  Have the party in your back yard and the cost will run in the hundreds, not the thousands.

Another big ticket item is flowers. Find a local grower and select in-season flowers (flowers shipped from the ends of the earth cost more). Go with the flow when it comes to exact flower types.  Specifying an exact flower color or species will always cost you more than saying “I like yellows; any flower shape is OK.”   It goes without saying that the fewer bridesmaids needing bouquets you have and the fewer dining tables you outfit, the less money you will spend.

When you have “a number” to outfit, here are some ideas:

  • Have the bridesmaids carry ONE flower stem, carry a nosegay (small), flowers in their hair or wear a wrist corsages. (This is especially nice IF you plan to have one of the dance-down-the-aisle wedding party entries).
  • Flowers throughout the wedding venue are beautiful; I love them!  But if your budget is tight, bouquets on the end of each pew or chair row, huge arrangements near the altar, skyscrapers of dining table flowers and massive displays on arbors, etc.,  are something you can eliminate or scale back. Use ribbon and bows, look for things which are large and with great visual impact but small on cost. (How about $4 vases with natural sticks spray painted silver?

Which brings us to funding only the things which are most important to you.

What exactly is most important to you?

Two tone white and purple calla lilies

Two-tone calla lilies

For most couples it is one of the following:
•    the dress/train/jewelry/shoes
•    the flowers
•    the food
•    the music
•    the venue/scenery/location
•    the transportation (Rolls Royce, horse-drawn carriage, etc)
•    the large quantity of attendants
•    the cake
•    table arrangements, favors, room decorations
•    favors, guest gifts, custom programs, monogrammed souvenirs, special signs, etc.
•    professional photography
•    the honeymoon

Please number this list with the item of most importance to you at the top. Then, set up your budget accordingly. There is no wrong answer. The only REAL issue is that few of us can afford to go all out  on every category.  Some items are eliminated by some couples because they don’t matter very much. That’s fine. Most importantly, this list will help you NOT spend on things which are really not important to you….. even IF shopping for them feels oh so good.

Bridesmaids and Ushers, Oh My!

Now to the attendants, their numbers and their cost. Even IF they all rent or buy their own clothes you still have the cost of feeding them multiple meals, giving them gifts, outfitting them with flowers often as elaborate as any elopement bride has as her own bouquet. You may even have to rent them hotel rooms and pay for their transportation.   It can add up fast.

So, before you go further, think about who really needs to be by your side during the ceremony and who would be just as happy watching you from a pew. These days many girl friends gather in the bride’s room and help her dress. They don’t need to be bridesmaids to share your special moments. Don’t worry about “offending” people by not asking them to be in the wedding party. More people are privately relieved than you might think. This may also account for a tremendous surge in numbers at rehearsal dinners.

As we begin the new wedding booking season,  I am seeing requests  for “rehearsal dinner”parties of 75 even 100 persons!  A lot of weddings are not that large or elaborate!  Clearly not all these people are standing up with the happy couple!  They are people who will be in town the night before the wedding and have been asked to share the evening.

Banquet room set for a small wedding reception at Prospect HIll.

Seated dinner for a small wedding – inn’s party room.

There are so many requests for pre-wedding parties I think I see a new trend: Party Then Get Married Wedding Weekends. In place of a rehearsal dinner for those “standing up” at the wedding and close family, instead there is a full blown dinner and party the  night before the ceremony. Then, on the special day, the couple and their families come together for the serious,  sentimental and often religious exchange of vows followed by a low-key tea party type reception, often at the church or wedding site.  This sort of set up helps out couples where one side of the family likes to drink and party and the other frowns on such goings on. Both sides are well-served by this division. The cost is lower because the pre-party does not require less elaborate decoration and food. Money can be spent on a band, appetizers and alcohol, if so desired.


It is common practice where I live to announce an “open wedding” at your church. Anyone and everyone may show up. We had one such reception; the poor mother of the groom spent the entire three hours making sandwiches as the undetermined number of guests arrived (it was double the estimated guest roster since no one was asked to RSVP).
Unless you are excessively wealthy–or don’t mind us running out of food–an open wedding or any event where RSVPs are not respected is a recipe for disaster, especially IF you plan to offer a full meal where people come hungry.  It reflects badly on everyone when we run out of your food!

So, how is food related to location?  IF your location is far enough away from your hometown people will have to plan to attend. They are more likely to accurately RSVP and few are likely to just “show up.”  That alone keeps your food costs in line.

Another good thing about distances

There is one more really good thing about a destination wedding:  you can blame the LOCATION for the fact you can’t invite everyone at work to the wedding….. you can always add, but you ARE invited to the party!!! 🙂

Our inn’s banquet room can seat 50-55 comfortably.  That is it. Having a non-expanding number helps brides hone down the guest list to the desired number which will fit. Luckily most people can visualize how unpleasant it is when not everyone fits…  In addition, the “sorry cannot attend” rate for a destination wedding at some hour’s drive from home  is higher (up to 50%). That can be OK, too. On a purely selfish note:   A gift may be forthcoming but the couple did not put out $100 /guest to obtain that $29.95 towel set!!!

Just so much stuff…. or, “too many moving parts”

Fall theme wedding table decorations and tree

Banquet room with lots of table decorations

There are a lot of products out there designed to catch a bride’s eye.    Think of a bride as a crow:  every pretty, shiny object is super cool to a crow.   And she wants to take every single one of them home.   She simply cannot.
•    It is hard to ask these questions, but you must:
•    Is this necessary?
•    Can I get married without this
•    Will the guests’ experience by enhanced by this?   Is it unique, memorable and does it say something about us as a couple?
•    Will anyone who attended care about this next month, next year?

Stuff costs money, a whole lot more than you think.   Monogrammed mints?    Tiny boxes for extra pieces of cake.   I have only seen two items lately which guests really enjoyed:   Silver plated mint julep cups (most of them NOT monogrammed with the couple’s initials or wedding date), and candy.   These were bags of pre-wrapped, off-the-shelf candies in several varieties were literally opened and poured in a line down the center of the tables. Guests ate them on the spot or took them home in little mesh baggies (provided) or in their pockets.

And so….

Look at the following important wedding decisions and work them together to create the wedding you desire and the budget you can love:

  • Number of guests
  • Location
  • Food type (driven by time of day and location)
  • Most important item(s) you personally must have (see list above).

Now, let’s look at the dollars you have to spend and how we can make a fantastic wedding day for just that amount!

Written by Judy Hotchkiss

The Bridal World According to the Recycled Bride

Rain might have “ruined” this wedding; however, it made for a charming, perfectly wonderful wedding photo

“…when I talk to brides who are fretting about the imperfections, the awkward moments, the feeling that they’re somehow not living the “big day dream”, I wish I could bundle up all of my experiences, good and bad, and magically infuse them into every bride’s brain.  Because I might have screwed up a lot (yes, a lot!), but I learned some good lessons.  Here they are, in no particular order:

1. Your wedding, your marriage, and your life will be filled with flaws, mistakes, inappropriate jokes, and unexpected plot twists.  Embrace the weirdness of it all, and learn to laugh at yourself.

2. Planning a wedding is just like starting a business.  You have a budget and need rent space, hire employees, and create something that delights your customers/guests.  If wedding planning with your partner isn’t fun, you probably shouldn’t start a business together.

3. Wedding photos lie.  Especially the ones on blogs, in magazines, and on Facebook.   Pretty does not equal happy, and happy is way more awesome.

4. Everybody has gross morning breath.  That’s kind of unrelated, but not necessarily.  It just a thing that’s true.

5. There are no signs or omens.  If your dress arrives late or it rains on your wedding day, it has no bearing on the quality of the life that you build, every day, together.

Now go forth, and be married!”