I’m pleased to introduce Wedding Budget Wednesdays. I know, I know, it’s getting your teeth pulled. But, I love personal finance, and the staggering cost of weddings is a huge issue that I’m not hearing much discussion of. I know it’s supposed to be my BIG PERFECT DAY, but what about the rest of my life? Owning a home? Putting my kids through college? Sadly, weddings now cost so much that you start thinking about these things. The worst part is, every time I mention that we’re going to do the wedding on a budget, people tell me, “Oh, yeah, but you can’t really stick to a budget with a wedding.” I don’t know about you, but I stick to a budget every single month, and it’s always hard. Budgets are a b*tch. That’s just how they roll.
Ten minutes of looking at a wedding budget is enough to make even a girl like me, who’s dreamed about her wedding since she was four (it’s totally true, I’m a girls-girl through and through, I was just born like that) want to run off to the courthouse and get married. (This is especially tempting in San Francisco, since we have the worlds most beautiful courthouse). The problem with this is that we really want to celebrate with all of our family and friends. That’s the point of getting married for us, making a commitment in front of your community. Oh, and, since many of our family and friends will have to travel to get to the wedding, no matter where we have it, it seems polite to feed them. And maybe even give them something to drink.
So I know I’m tempting the gods by discussing things like wedding budgeting in the public square, but I’m going to brave it. Someone needs to do it. The average wedding in this country apparently costs close to $30,000 now. I’m not judging my fellow brides and grooms, because it’s really tough. And the minute you let slip that it’s a wedding, the price of everything goes up 25%. Lucky for us we’re having a ceremony at the synagogue followed by a family reunion.
It’s going to be a interesting process, keeping costs down, but I absolutely refuse to pay a amount that would have covered my first year at NYU for a party. Stay tuned…
I like this cake. I think it's sort of funny that I like this cake, because our idea is to go with something that looks really homemade. We think this new cakes as art trend is sort of silly. Don't you want a cake that makes you want to eat it, not one that looks like water lilies doing synchronized swimming in the shape of amorphous love? I mean, yuck. But this cake is simple and clean and modern, so I'll forgive it for not looking totally like food.
My general rule of wedding planning is this: If you wouldn't pay for something in the way presented to you in the real world, don't pay for it in the wedding world. It's probably a bridal scam. Apparently cakes like this routinely sell for $15 a slice. A SLICE! Who in the real world would buy a whole cake by the slice? Clearly you could argue there were just two slices in a cake, or infinite slices in the cake (hello Zeno's Paradox
). I hate to be the one to do this, but I'm here to tell you that the emperor has no clothes. Continue reading Wedding Budget Wendsday: Cakes and Zeno’s Paradox
So the picture of the juice bar in the last post got me thinking. Presentation makes the difference between a average wedding (or event) and a stylish wedding. And presentation is free! You are going to have juice, or champagne, and glasses... so style them. Add a piece of fruit, line them up, and you have something simple and lovely. Continue reading Simple Styling (ah, free, I love your sweet whisper)
Once a week (at least while we were picking our venue, tough on a limited budget) one of us would say, oh hell, lets just elope. But then we found out even elopement isn’t what it used to be! Now people sell “elopement packages.” They offer you a lovely venue to say your vows, a photographer, and dinner for your closest family and friends. You bring the dress and the flowers.
You tell me what’s wrong with this picture.
On the plus side, I’m sure $10,000 or so is considered a decent budget for today’s more modest elopement.
Photo via flickr.
Apparently, there are maybe one or two people who have given me wedding advice who are convinced that I am off my rocker. There is, they say, no possible way to have a nice wedding in San Francisco and not spend the GNP of a small country to do it (it hasn't seemed to occur to them that I might not have access to a whole GNP, making the point moot, but I digress). Given this, I thought it might be only fair to share my "Oh Dear God you want me to throw you WHAT kind of party on WHAT amount of money?" bona fides.
I spent the last five years of my life working in fundraising for non profit theatres in New York City. Non profit theatres, in case you haven't noticed, are not rich, but they do have a lot of fundraisers. This means I have worked on and attended more galas then any non Upper East Side socialite ever should. Continue reading Wedding Budget Wendsday: Not just naturally cheap, but a professionally thrifty
I think the first and most important thing you should do for a budget wedding is, well, put it on paper. I know that sometimes people are a little scared of budgets, and would rather not look at the money too closely, with the hope that you can just MAKE the money stretch far enough. My event planning experience tells me that doing that is just going to put you way over budget. This is something I want to continue talking about in more depth, but here are some tips stemming from years of working on events that never had enough money:
- Events almost always go over budget, usually by 10%-20%. If you can, plan for this. Depending on your personality either budget 10% below the amount of money you have, or make sure each line item contains 10% wiggle room.
- Wedding budgets provided to you by the wedding industry are way more complicated then you need or can afford for a simple wedding. The budget on The Knot has 38 categories! When you see things on your budget like hair & makeup, seven different flower categories, favors, limos, and pre-wedding pampering, its hard not to start thinking that you need to have all these things. You don't! Simplify, simplify, simplify. Figure out what you care about the most, and then start brutally cutting items off the list. If you have extra money you can always put things back on the list later. And no, you don't necessarily have to cut guests. For us, at least, we'd rather have more people eating chicken (or heck, cookies and punch), then less people eating steak.
- Don't be afraid to say "We can't afford that." The wedding world, in a genius of marketing, has made it really shameful to say that you can't afford something for your 'big day'. The message is: "Don't you want the best day of your lives? Don't you really love each other? Then you need the best!" I'm here to tell you that you absolutely do not need the best. You need good enough. What you DO need is joy and love aplenty. The rest is just icing. So don't be afraid to look people in the eye and say "We can't afford that. What are our options?" Which brings me to my next point:
- Don't be afraid to negotiate with your vendors. Negotiate kindly and respectfully. Remember that you are asking people to bring their prodigious skills and talents to help celebrate a joyful day in your life. But that said, all packages are guidelines, and there is often room to cut corners. I've had these conversations with managers of huge hotel ballrooms, with tiny wine stores, and with photographers. Listen to what your vendors need. Maybe they can charge less if you only have chicken, or if you have your wedding at an off-time, or if you make it an hour shorter, or if you let them use your photographs for promotional use. See if they can meet you halfway. In the end, you probably don't want want to work with a vendor who doesn't have flexibility anyway.
- Keep up your end of the bargain. If you've negotiated a vendors prices down, make sure you earn that discount back karmically. If you were a vendor, would you want to work with a disorganized, needy, demanding client? Would you want to work with said client for less than your normal fee? Um. Right. Keep that in mind.
- Talk to your friends and family. Figure out what their skills and talents are. You don't want to force people to do things for your wedding, but they may have skills that they want to contribute. We are finding that our friends have skills that we never even knew about, and we are thrilled that they are offering to help out. It makes our wedding more of a community celebration.
What other tips to you have? Continue reading Wedding Budget Wendsday: Creating a Line-Item Budget