We have a very special guest blog this week from Ryan Anthony Marston, a fabulous event planner in Atlanta. Ryan has been planning weddings and doing events for years at Park Tavern in Atlanta, and recently started her own event planning company, Organized Occasions.
Ryan is one of my best friends and was a bridesmaid in my wedding (ps-Ryan is feeeemale!). I was very lucky to have a wedding planner in my bride tribe as catering decisions can be really tricky especially when you're on a strict budget. And, at my reception, she saved the evening when the bartenders tried to close the bar 30 minutes early! Nosiree. Thanks to Ryan, the party would go on!
Top 10 Ways to Save BIG on Your Wedding Day!
I’ve been in the wedding industry since 2008. Over the past 8 years, I’ve seen a lot of trends come and go but one thing remains: brides (and their families!) are always looking for ways to make their money go further. The first thing you need to do is prioritize. Make a list of your wedding “must-haves” and then find ways to scale back on some other items without sacrificing your style. In this article, I am going to highlight my top tips for saving money and stretching your dollars.
Invitations can set the tone for your wedding style, but they can also be a huge expense! Don’t overthink it. Instead of having a calligrapher address all of your envelopes, save the money and grab some friends (and a bottle of vino) to help you. Alternately, you can save money on the pricey envelopes and numerous invitation cards (welcome party, rehearsal dinner, farewell brunch, etc) by sending out a creative postcard as your RSVP card for guests. On the post card, list a link to your wedding website where people can RSVP online for the weekend’s events and transportation options. Also, don’t forget about amazing sites like Minted and WeddingPaperDivas. Here you can design your own card suites online and they will pre-address the envelopes for you!
2. The Dress
For most brides, the dress is the most important piece of clothing you will ever buy and wear. You’ll spend a lot of time (and money!) searching for the perfect fit. In order to snag a discount, try attending a trunk show or a sample sale at your neighborhood salon. Most salon’s give a reasonable cut off the price if you buy during a trunk show, and you may even get to meet the designer! Even if you can’t find a sale happening at the time you need it, just ask the bridal consultant if they have any sample dresses for sale. Reminder: be sure to purchase your dress at least 8 months ahead of time in order to avoid hundreds of dollars in rush fees!
3. Venue Selection
When searching for your perfect wedding venue, make sure you ask the important questions. What’s included in your costs and are there any hidden fees? If you can, try to find a venue that considers itself a one-stop-shop. You will be able to take your money further if they already provide the reception tables, linens, and chairs. If they do their own in-house catering then that’s another plus! Venues are always looking to fill empty dates during the slow season so ask if they offer any discounts during certain months or for a specific day of the week. Friday night weddings are less popular than Saturday so most of the time you can receive a nice reduction on the rental cost.
The food you serve is viewed by many as the main event. Make it tasty! But don’t make it cheap. You want to offer a variety of options to cater to all palettes, but you also don’t need to overdo it. Have a conversation with your caterer about cost effective menu items such as potatoes, veggies, chicken, and affordable seafood. The rumors are true in that a buffet is the most cost effective option. Your vendor will save on staffing costs, and your guests get the bonus of mixing and matching food items to fit their tastes. Plus, a buffet keeps everyone moving and mingling throughout the reception as opposed to staying in their seats for the first couple hours of dinner service. Who doesn’t love extra time to catch up with old friends? Fun fact: most caterers provide discounts for kids so be sure to factor those kiddie prices into your overall cost!
5. Bar Options
Alcohol. Because no good story started off with a salad. Am I right?? Most guests these days want a little liquid courage before stepping out onto that dance floor, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank providing the hard stuff. Opt for a light bar package (beer, wine, and champagne only) or ask your vendor if they can set up a per-consumption bar. This way, you will only be charged at the end of the night for what your guests actually consume. Its sort of like one really large bar tab that you get to pick up at the end of the evening. If you are able to find a venue that allows you to bring in your own alcohol, then purchasing it on your own will also be a huge money-saver. If you want to provide liquor, select the well brand options instead of top shelf.
6. Centerpieces and Décor
One word: REPURPOSE! Flowers can create a huge hit to your overall budget, so don’t be afraid to repurpose your blooms. If you have large altar arrangements, then have someone move them to the buffet table at your reception. You spent a lot of time dreaming up your bridesmaids bouquets so why not put them on display as centerpieces on the guest tables? Having your florals play double duty will save you a lot of money and energy. Also, don’t underestimate the power of beautiful hydrangeas and lots of greenery. Items like these are cost effective, but always make a classy statement with texture and size. Ask your florist for other budget friendly flower options in order to bring your costs down.One last décor tip: when in doubt, add more candles!
7. Wedding Cake
Wedding cakes are works of art and can make a great statement at any reception, but this doesn’t come without a price! Everything from the type of icing and the style of décor can cause your price to rise, so cut back where you feel comfortable. Naked cakes are a huge trend right now so save on the icing and decorate with real flowers (not sugar flowers) to maintain your budget. Bakers usually charge by the slice, so select a smaller cake to cut with your groom and then purchase delicious cupcakes or pies for the other guests to enjoy. Alternately, get creative and incorporate a cookie bar or an ice cream sundae station in lieu of a big fancy cake.
Photos are the one thing that you don’t want to skimp out on. After all, these are the photos that you will be looking at for the rest of your life! Make sure you do your research and invest in a fab photographer. A few tips to help cut back the costs: book a photographer for 8-10 hours instead of for the entire day. Just have them there for the “can’t miss” moments, and try to ask a more seasoned photographer if they know anyone trying to make a name for themselves in the biz. They may know someone that is very talented but lower in cost due to the fact that they still need to build up their portfolio.
DJ or Band? That’s the big question! There are pros to both. If you want to save money but still want to make sure everyone hears the songs they love then hire a popular DJ with great reviews. Meet him before you book to make sure you like his personality and persona; he will have the mic all night long so he needs to be entertaining! Bands, on the other hand, bring great energy to any wedding reception. Similar to a photographer, try to find a local band that is still working on creating a reputation in the wedding industry. They are sure to be priced at a great rate. Alternately, save on the horn and saxophone player and just focus on a band with the necessities: drums, guitar, keyboard, and vocalist.
In order to save on transportation costs, think about hosting your ceremony and reception in the same location. Maybe you can find a venue with a stunning garden setting for your ceremony and then the guests enter the main building for the evening reception. Your guests and your wallet will thank you for keeping it simple. At the end of the evening, instead of shuttling people back to their hotels, try contacting UBER for a custom discount code for your event. UBER will love the extra business and this will encourage your guests to find their own safe way home.
You can find Organized Occasions on Instagram @organized.occasions, Facebook @Organized.Occasions.ATL and organizemyoccasion.com.