Ask Team Practical: How Can I Find Great Vendors Who Will Work With My Budget?


Q: I read your Ask Team Practical post about choosing vendors, but it didn’t address my biggest issue, which is how to deal with vendors as a bride on a budget with a sensitive ego. The hardest part of this whole process for me has been trying to find vendors for food, flowers, etc. who will work within my budget without making me feel terrible about how much I can spend. The last thing I want to do is low-ball someone—I truly value their skills and understand their needs—but it seems like every time I ask for clarification about a price or see if they can meet me somewhere in the middle, I’m met with a, “How dare you even ask that,” attitude. I’m trying to be as kind as possible and I don’t think I’m being rude by attempting to negotiate, but it’s becoming so disheartening. I’m starting to feel like I don’t deserve the beautiful flowers and tasty food because I can’t pay top dollar for it. Like, they are doing me a favor by even CONSIDERING working with me at such a low price. To make it worse, I’m getting married on a holiday weekend and have gotten the, “Well, it’s Memorial Day weekend so there are many brides who will be looking for our services,” comment, basically saying that someone will come along right after me with more money to spend so why do they care if they lose my business. Even though I might not be able to spend as much as those other brides, it’s still a lot of money to me!

This is a rambling question, but I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to handle these vendors without offending them and while still maintaining my own dignity. Oh, and maybe while you’re at it you could explain to me why so many wedding vendors are meanies? (Not the APW approved ones, of course! We need more of those in New England!)—Pinchin’ Pennies

A: Dear PP,

Budget weddings are hard, man. So is picking vendors and having professional conversations about your personal finances. Rough. But that whole “professional” part is really important to remember because, hey. Your vendors aren’t emotionally invested in your wedding. It sounds pretty obvious, but I think it might be a hard truth to hear for some of us. I mean, wedding vendors like weddings and couples and love and junk—that’s part of why they’re in this business (hopefully). But at the end of the day, they’re making business decisions, not emotional ones. Though we’re each positive that our wedding days are going to be the awesomest, not many smart business people can give discounts just because, well shucks, you guys make a cute couple.

Maybe I do live in a sheltered little bubble of friendly wedding vendors (love you guys!), but I don’t know too many who would try to make you feel weird and embarrassed about financial constraint. So maybe you should take a good long introspective look. Are you feeling weird and embarrassed about money period, or are people making you feel that way? If you’re anything like me, there’s a pretty good chance that first answer will ring true. “I can’t work within that budget,” doesn’t always mean, “You’re a terrible person for suggesting such a thing!” but if you’re already feeling sort of sensitive about money, you’ll hear the latter no matter what someone really says.

You’re starting to feel like you “don’t deserve the beautiful flowers and tasty food” because you, “can’t pay top dollar for it,” well, sweetie. I’m sure you deserve it. Just like I deserve that entire Pinterest board of fancy clothes I pin to each day. Thing is, my bank account disagrees. And that’s the real test here. It doesn’t change anything if you deserve a good filet mignon; what matters is if you can pay for it. The answer to, “I can’t have steak just because I can’t afford it?” is, well, yeah. That’s not just weddings, that’s adulthood. Sure, it sucks. But you can still have a perfectly nice backyard wedding, dessert reception, or barbecue that you both deserve and can afford. And while it may seem unfair, these vendors are doing you a favor by considering your low budget. There are very, very few times in life when you’ll be able to say, “I don’t have that much money. Will you take this much?” and when those times happen, you bet your butt those folks are doing you a favor. Of course, you know not to choose any vendor who acts like speaking to you is a chore or you’re a bother. Because you’re not! So you can go ahead and cross those guys off the list right now while you read this. But catering to your finances and having time-consuming exchanges about how to fit your budget are those lovely above-and-beyond sorts of things that nice vendors will do to make your life easier (or at least cheaper, hopefully).

Same goes for most of the rest—vendors are business people, so they’re making a bunch of business decisions. So, that holiday weekend that’s making you feel like, “We don’t care if we lose your business!” That’s probably not the case. It’s probably more along the lines of, “Why would I accept a lower paying job on a day when people are lining up to hand me piles of money!?” So, like the food or the flowers, maybe one concession you could consider is changing to a weekend when vendors aren’t in such high demand (not always an option, but sometimes a good one).

That’s the end of my tough love portion, so let’s shake it off and hug it out, k? Now we can really focus on your issue: how to handle vendors, and more importantly, why are they being jerks? To that second part—who the hell knows. Maybe you actually are talking to some irritable jerk vendors who aren’t just being business savvy, but rude. It may help to consider how the “budget wedding” trend suddenly blew up in the past few years, to the point where now it’s mainstream and trendy. Now try to imagine how many dang emails vendors get a day from snippy brides demanding lower prices. It doesn’t excuse some defensiveness on their end, but man, if I wouldn’t be irritable, too.

As far as handling them, Meg has a great post over here on the basics of negotiating, and I wrote up this little diddy with the help of the rest of the staff. Like we talked about in both, the key to compromising is, well, compromising. That means that wonderful “meeting in the middle” you mentioned. If you’re asking for a cut price, you need to be ready for a cut in service. It may help to figure out where you could make cuts before you even talk to vendors (fewer hours? one shooter instead of two?), but it’s also a good idea to ask where they suggest shaving to save some cash.

Before you even start talking that stuff over, make sure you’re finding the right guys. Word of mouth is excellent. If you know anyone who was married recently, find out who they hired and what they paid. If you already know someone they treated well, chances are, this vendor’s not a jerk! And starting with someone who already fits your budget saves the stress of haggling. While you ditch the nightmare vendors, make sure you’re not being a nightmare client.

Team Practical, what concessions did you make with vendors in order to fir your budget? How did you find vendors who offered services in your price range (who also weren’t jerks)?

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off!

Featured Sponsored Content

  • Nicole

    I knew from the beginning that I wanted an awesome photographer and was willing to pay more for one I loved, but found ways to switch money around in our budget. Other than our photographer, we pretty much avoided wedding vendors altogether (everything is so much more expensive when the word “wedding” is involved). I found the dress I had fallen in love with at the store on eBay for a fraction of the cost, bought all our flowers wholesale and arranged them with my mother and bridesmaids, ordered food from a local deli that wasn’t a typical wedding vendor, and bought cases of various drinks from the grocery store when they were on sale. All of our decorations were DIT or were on sale at very non-wedding related stores (Urban Outfitters, World Market, etc). Oh, and we were at the thrift store looking for coordinating blue and green vases at least 3 times a week. It took a lot of planning and looking around, but it was so worth it!

  • Amy March

    A) quit worrying so much about your vendors feelings. They are grown ups. It is their job not to be hurt by a bride saying- I can only afford X

    B) if the price you are proposing is substantially lower than their usual price, the are doing you a favor by considering it!

    C) of course they are pointing out that their services will be in demand on Memorial Day- hence the advice to get married off-season if you are looking for a bargain.

    It’s great that you recognize you’re sensitive about money, but dealing with it is part of life. Is your fiancé/e involved in all of this? It might be a help to bring someone you trust to these meetings. Or, if that isn’t feasible, do you have a trusted friend/family member who is a good negotiator who might be willing/excited to help? A big challenge of a wedding is translating the ohhh-pretty fantasy to reality, but remember your reality ends in a real marriage. The rest of this stuff is just a hurdle to cross.

    • KB

      I totally second the bringing your fiance, family member or friend to vendor meetings – essentially anyone who is willing to play “bad-cop.” Even the most dispassionate person can be swayed by “Ohh, but I really want this, and it’s my wedding.” Would it be great if you could set these feelings aside and learn to negotiate with vendors? Yes. But learning to play hardball is a skill that’s acquired with practice – you’re not ducking it or copping out by making someone else do it because you can watch and learn from them AND get what you want in the end.

  • One More Sara

    I do have one suggestion that wasn’t mentioned… These days most initial contacts with wedding vendors are made via email. While definitely the most convenient form of communication, maybe try to find a weekday that you can spend some real time making phone calls to these people. When you can actually hear the tone of their voice (and they can hear you, the person on the other end as well) these kinds of conversations might go a bit easier. Not to mention those initial emails are usually really formal since, you know, it is a business you’re dealing with.

    I’m a “budget bride” as well, and flowers are just something I don’t care that much about, but would be sad if they were completely missing. Right now I’m thinking of ways to cut what I’m asking for (by the nature of their product/service, florist are able to do more than one wedding per weekend). If you don’t need the “full” floral package (church flowers, bouqets and bouts for everyone, floral centerpieces etc.), they might be able to squeeze you in if you make a concession, like sending a friend to pick up your bouquets and bouts instead of getting them delivered and cutting the floral centerpieces altogether.

    And also remember honesty is always the best policy.

    • Just a quick thought for anybody who’s looking for ways to save on flowers… we found a wonderful woman in Harpswell, Maine who helped us buy flowers wholesale, picked up & prepped all the flowers, and then spent 2 hours giving me and the bridal team a little arranging lesson…

      In the end we made 6 bouquets, 16 centerpieces, 4 corsages and 6 boutonnieres for $600 (could have been less, but I wanted a few ‘pricier’ flowers in there, like freesias). So it was “DIY” but with a little hand-holding! Not to mention we had a great time actually doing the arranging together :)

      • SarahToo

        If you have a green thumb, consider growing your own. For $130 I bought tons of tulip bulbs (including early, mid, and late-blooming varieties to cover all weather hiccups) and planted them so we’d have tulip bouquets for our wedding in mid-May. We kept it simple: no fuss arrangements in mason jars, 2 per table for 20 tables. My Mom and her friends harvested them, brought them to the venue in buckets, and arranged them on the spot, and they were beautiful. Also, consider getting wild flowers or perennials from friends’ and family’s gardens…my Mom used her home-grown and wildflowers for a friend’s fall wedding, and they were lovely (and completely free!). If you do this option, remember to do a “test bouquet” or two a week before the wedding to make sure the flowers will hold up well (some flowers wilt shortly after being picked and are better left blooming in the garden).

  • What saved us, and made the whole wedding planning a lot easier, was doing our reception at a restaurant we love. Then we paid a price-per-person that was affordable and included the place, the chairs, linen, etc, service + drinks and food (and even decorations though we still added some of your own).
    At the flower shops here, you can normally ask them to make a bouquet for $X amount of money in x and x colors, and even show them inspiration. It probably means they won’t include expensive flowers like peonies but they will for sure make something pretty. Maybe don’t say it’s a wedding. Or you could do them yourself, the flower tutorials here at APW are great (though for logistical reasons (that is, how de we transport them to the venue) we did not use in the end)
    As for decorations (that are not necessary, but what comes up to mind is stuff we did) look at unexpected places like garden shops, furniture (that swedish place), and look for sales. Some shops online have good deals too.
    I guess I am saying look around until you find what you like, think creative, but when you find something that appeals you and is within budget, don’t second guess it, check it off list directly. Then you won’t go crazy.

    • Amber

      We’re getting married at a restaurant too. They have this wonderful garden and court yard area where the entire celebration (ceremony and reception) will take place. The rental fee was one of the lowest we found and includes tables, linens, chairs, etc. We’ll of course be paying for food and drinks, which will be more than the rental costs, but having good, local, organic food was a priority for us. Since we’ll be in a lush garden, we won’t have to do many flowers or decorations. I was set on having twinkly lights too, and they already have them! The other thing we have done to try and keep costs down is made a big effort to keep our guest list number small. Thus far, making our guest list and deciding who to invite and who not to invite has probably been one of the most challenging parts of our planning. I just want to include everyone! but that’s not realistic, or affordable. When we first started planning I had all the ideas and expectations of what I wanted for our wedding with little understanding of what everything costed. Throughout the process I’ve definitely had to adjust my expectations, let go of things that cost too much, and come up with creative solutions to have an affordable wedding. There has been some sadness there, like when I realized I couldn’t get the really fancy invitations I liked and wanted, but we came up with a great solution that I’m really happy with, and our invitations look awesome!! So, being willing to compromise, not just with vendors, but with yourself and your fiancé is really important.

    • A-L

      Sometimes not saying that it’s a wedding can bite you in the behind. When planning our wedding, we had narrowed it down to two options. One was a barbecue place that had set prices by the number of people no matter what the event. The other was a catering company to which we had said that we were having a family event/gathering. Before we did the tasting with the caterer I told them that it was a wedding composed entirely of family except for less than 10 people. The next day I got an irate e-mail about what a lying, conniving person I was and that they didn’t want to do business with me. Suffice it to say, we went with the barbecue.

    • alicia

      We got married at our local Irish pub, and it fantastic. They did a special menu for us and everything ended up under budget.

    • MD Bethann

      We had our reception at a local micro-brewery/restaurant that had a ballroom space. The food was fantastic (and we had so many more things to choose from than just beef, chicken, and fish, though we did go with a beef dish and a seafood dish because a lot of our family aren’t adventurous eaters) and people LOVED the beer. The prices were also the most reasonable ones I found and they didn’t charge differently for a wedding than for a banquet – I would pay the same price per person no matter what the event. I was all about vendors who would state their prices up front, which this restaurant did. They had a list of vendors they’ve worked with in the past and if the venue is budget-friendly, chances are vendors that have worked with them may be budget friendly too.

  • mep

    We’re in the same boat, a bit, but somehow seem to be pulling it off despite doing things fairly “traditionally” (in that we are using vendors for basically everything, not crafty friends or family.) We each made a list of the top three material things we cared about for the wedding, and found ways to achieve those goals. For example, my number one priority was lighting. I hate poorly lit weddings (either too bright or pitch dark with just one weird spinny DJ light to find your way to the bar) so a venue with big windows and that allowed lots and lots of candles was key. Luckily, it was a park building that was fairly cheap. Everything else we’re doing as cheaply as possible, either by using more candles on tables instead of flowers (helps with the lighting goal), having the florist use cheap in season flowers, and cutting out appetizers during the cocktail hour. Also, we’re only serving wine and beer. A friend sent her fiancee to the florist the night before their wedding to buy “a bouquet for his girlfriend” that was HALF the price the same florist had quoted her for a wedding bouquet that used the same flowers. So a little bit of lying in that type of situation is okay too. :)

    The way we’ve really kept ourselves from feeling down about the work it takes to keep it under budget is remembering this: I can definitively say that the best two weddings I’ve ever been to were clearly thrown together with sweat and scotch tape. Nothing fancy, lots of rough edges, but a lot of good music (on ipods, both times) and lots of laughter. It’s all we want in the end, and if we can achieve that in our daily lives without spending a lot of money, we can surely do it on a day when everyone is inclined to be joyful.

    • SarahToo

      I can totally vouch for the “sweat and scotch tape” approach…we REALLY wanted to invite as many people as possible to our budget wedding and so, ended up with 120 adults and 30 kids for a sit-down reception with a full meal. Nevertheless, due to lots of DIT and flexibility we ended up spending around $3000 for the whole thing. Creative venue choices like church halls, restaurants, community centres, or a local art gallery can help keep the price down. The elements that were most important to us were all there: our dearest friends, great food, lovely flowers (I’m a gardener) and lots of time to connect with each other. It had a very home-grown feel, without many of the glossy, perfect-wedding-magazine details that the WIC try to convince us are essential, and in the end, it really didn’t matter. People had a great time at our wedding…including us!

  • Rachel

    I have to agree with Liz’s tough love up above. The vendors ARE doing you a favour if they consider lowering their established prices. There are certainly exceptions, but most good vendors have put a huge amount of thought into making their pricing fair, and establishing prices that cover their expenses, and pay themselves and their staff a fair wage.

    Another factor, I work in the wedding industry, and I’m in an area of the industry where most of us are certified by a governing body. Under our business ethics code, there is a minimum fee we have to charge, because to charge less is considered unethical behaviour because it undercuts our competition and forces other people in the industry to lower their prices to unsustainable levels in order to compete. I already charge the minimum allowed price (because I’m still relatively new in the industry) – so lowering my pricing isn’t an option, I could actually lose my certification if I did.

    Like a couple of people above have said, it’s really not the vendors responsibility to lower their pricing to suit your budget, unless you’re willing to make concessions on your end to save them expenses (and even then, it’s really up to them). When you have a tight budget, you really need to be looking for vendors who fit your budget, not expecting vendors to adjust their pricing to suit your needs. An example I’ve heard before – if you’re on a tight budget and you need a new car, you would never dream of walking into the Ferrari dealership and asking them to discount the cost of a new Ferrari to suit your budget. You would go to a more affordable dealership or purchase used. I don’t see why it’s any different for vendors, artists, or other businesses whose products are less tangible. I’m not saying there’s no wiggle room at all and you can’t negotiate a bit, but it’s unfair to approach a vendor and ask for significant discounts without concessions on your end.

    • Laura

      Wow, that’s really interesting! I didn’t know about vendor certifications like that. It makes a lot of sense.

      • Liz

        I sort of love that idea and wish it applied to more fields and places (cough, design work).

        • Laura

          Yeah, and libraries. The number of people who think you can forego a fully trained professional librarian in lieu of a few volunteers never fails to astonish me.

          • Another Meg

            Or throw them out altogether, because internet. Seriously?

          • mep

            I love that there seem to be several librarians on Team Practical!!
            another librarian

        • MD Bethann

          On a bit of a tangent, but I saw an article in the Washington Post (Dec. 2 I think it was) about the largest teachers’ union coming up with a national certification process that would involve testing on subject matter expertise and some sort of exam like lawyers have to take to pass the bar.

    • Zoe

      Is setting a minimum price across a whole city…. legal?

      You don’t say what industry you’re in, but what if I’m a new photographer (or florist, or dj) and I want to get experience to get recommendations, etc. I can’t charge low rates and then increase as I go? If my clients know I’m new and I don’t have the experience of someone who charges more (plus I have no recommendations to offer), why shouldn’t I charge less?

      • Rachel

        Hey Zoe!
        There are certain concessions for brand-new vendors. It’s a bit complicated to explain, but basically there’s a learning process with mentoring and other opportunities to gain legit experience, as an assistant, and then you have a certain number of events you can do at a ‘learners’ rate, which is less regulated. Once you’ve accumulated a certain amount of experience though, you’re expected to charge the minimum. It’s also not city-wide, it’s country-wide.

        • Zoe

          Can I ask what industry this is? I’ve never heard of a minimum charge. Is it voluntary? What happens if a vendor DOESN’T charge the minimum?

      • Laura

        If you’re new to the industry, I assume that you may not be working full time yet and are supporting yourself primarily through other means. So at that point, yes, it may not seem like a big deal to undercut the competition due to a relative lack of experience.

        But when a new photographer/DJ/vendor of any kind. etc. gets to the point where they’re trying to earn a legitimate living through the expertise they have worked hard to acquire, it’s really difficult just to make ends meet when the prices are lowered to unfair rates. Consider how you might feel when you’ve gotten to the top of your game and have become a really awesome photographer who knows your stuff, and then someone comes to you saying, “I think I should only pay you half the rate you need just to break even on this day because that’s what So-and-So is charging.” Even though you know that So-and-So doen’t have your level of expertise, the client doesn’t necessarily know how to tell the difference. I work in a field where this happens often; after all the schooling I’ve done and experience I have gotten, people expect me to work for free. It’s disheartening.

        • Zoe

          I get why this is helpful for the vendor… But if a client can’t tell the difference (even after you explain it to her), why should she have to pay more… And why is a price that someone is willing to charge “unfair?” I agree with you that it’s likely that someone who is really undercharging won’t deliver the best service, but it should be up to the client to decide, no?
          This just seems like price fixing to me..

          • Liz

            I think you’re thinking of it from the perspective of the client, rather than the professional. If you think of it more like minimum wage, it makes a lot of sense. You must pay people this much, even if there are workers willing to take less than that for the job.

          • Rachel

            Exactly what Liz said. It’s basically like a minimum wage (a concept most people are not opposed to). I should also mention, this minimum is NOT high, at all. It’s basically the absolute minimum you could charge to still cover your expenses and take home a living wage. That being said, there are still vendors (especially those who are only in the industry part-time) who without the ethics code, would charge far less. So little, in fact, that they’re actually making LESS than minimum wage per hour once expenses are covered. They can afford to do this because they have supplementary income, but those who are making their entire living in the industry can’t live off of this amount. However, if the industry gets saturated by vendors who are charging miniscule amounts, it forces full-time vendors to lower their pricing to unsustainable levels to compete, which then drives them out of business. This eliminates competition and is bad for everyone, both on the business side and the client side. It’s unfair because it gives a huge advantage to vendors who have supplementary income and can afford to charge pennies for their services.

            Certification is not mandatory in my industry (event management – but I don’t live in the US), but it is sort of the ‘gold standard’ so to speak. You could certainly get away with not having it, especially for weddings (where you’re working with clients who have often never planned an event before, and don’t necessarily know the difference between certified and not) – but the certification is basically mandatory if you’re doing professional events (ie. government, corporate, etc). The consequences of not upholding the minimum event charge is being stripped of our certification. You could still work in the industry, but you would lose your ‘formal’ qualifications.

          • Laurel

            It’s not surprising that you don’t live in the US: I think what you’re describing is actually illegal here, so unfortunately is not an option for design pros in the US.

        • Amber

          I feel you on that one! I’m in the museum field, have a decent amount of work experience, am almost done with my M.A. and people expect me to work for free, or for close to nothing! Yay for itty bitty stipends. It really is disheartening!!

  • As a wedding vendor, I had the BEST response for your questions going in my head as I read your post.

    But, then….ahem!….Liz stole it. Every. Stinking. Word.

    She is spot on, so this is little more than a summary.

    First of all, if prospective vendors are irritable and mean, then dump them for the next one. You’re hanging out with the wrong class of vendors. I, too, must live in Optimal Vendor Cocoonhood, because I don’t know of any wedding vendors who aren’t truly dedicated to their profession and eager to talk with couples about their weddings.

    And it’s not a question of what you deserve; it’s a question of what you can afford. (Yeah, Liz said that too.)

    From a vendor perspective (and I’m not saying that you do this, I’m just addressing the issue overall), most of us hate dickering. That’s not the same as negotiating. Negotiating is, “if I cut out this and forego that and do this part myself, what would your lowered fee be?” Negotiating is, “my budget is XX–do you offer anything in that category and if so, what is it?” Dickering is, “I am paying for this wedding myself, so I’m on a tight budget, can you reduce your fee for (fill in the service)?” (Notice the bride is making no concessions on her end–she just expects us to lower our fee because she’s broke. I am SO going to try that on the electric company next month!)

    Also, if the first question you ask is bluntly about price, then don’t expect warm fuzzies from the vendor at the other end of the phone. It’s disheartening to answer the phone with a cheery “Hi, XYZ Wedding Business, this is Mary Lou, how can I help you?” to get a response of “Yeah–how much do you charge for a wedding?” (Ummmmm….and your name is????)

    And to Liz’ comment “There are very, very few times in life when you’ll be able to say, “I don’t have that much money. Will you take this much?'” I can only point you in the direction of this video to compliment that: And while this video is hysterical, it’s one of those situations where, when you’re actually dealing with this type of situation, it’s so NOT funny!

    Suggestions for you? You might need to reconsider your expectations. If nearly every vendor is telling you that your budgeted amount is too low for their service, then more than likely you have indeed budgeted too little. (I know that’s probably not what you want to hear.)

    Pick your priorities. Decide what you can scrimp or DIY on and throw that money into another category that is more important to you.

    If all else fails, get married on a Tuesday! I swear it’s the best cost-reducing tool you have in your tool kit.

    • Amy March

      Getting married on a Tuesday is only “best” is you discount entirely the costs to your guests of a mid-week wedding. If everyone is cool with it great, but I think it’s better to focus on what type of wedding you can reasonably afford than jumping to a Tuesday because it’s cheaper for you.

      • One More Sara

        I also got discounts for marrying on a Sunday. If you figure far flung guests would have to travel Friday to get to the Saturday wedding, or travel Monday to get home from the Sunday wedding, the cost to the guest is almost identical, but you still get that discount.

        • Copper

          but for a Sunday morning wedding they can fly back out in the evening, if it’s that important to them.

          • MTM

            I did an early Sunday afternoon wedding and folks were able to do this as well. We had discounts on our food (and drinks due to less being consumed), venue, and DJ all because it was a Sunday. We supplemented the Sunday wedding with renting out a farmhouse at a local brewery for a fun bash the night before (only $200) for those who were able to come for the weekend.

      • AnotherCourtney

        Actually, I disagree. I once went to an out-of-state wedding on a Friday, which required a couple days off of work. Sure, it was a little bit of a hassle, but I wanted to be there, and so did 200 other people. If it had been on a Tuesday or a Saturday, I would have made the same trip.

        Yes, it might be more difficult for some people, and if it’s very important to you to have those people there, then you should definitely take that into account. But that’s true no matter when you schedule your wedding.

        Your wedding is not an imposition. Even on a Tuesday.

        • Another Meg

          Friday nights are also much cheaper and still pretty easy on guests. Not as easy as Saturdays for many, but easier than a Tuesday.

        • Amy March

          You know, I’d love to have a post discussing this. I’m not a bride, I’m
          A guest, and I sure as heck feel imposed on by a Tuesday wedding. I am really comfortable with the word No, but I feel like you invited me because you wanted me there and because you think I want to come. And you’re right- I do! The whole reason I’m going to put on my party shoes and buy a gift is because your wedding matters to me. So yeah- scheduling it in a really inconvenient way (and I wouldn’t include Friday or Sunday in that category) feels like a huge imposition.

          • Liz

            AmyMarch, I think it would be really interesting if YOU wrote that post- the why you think it’s rude and what other concessions would be off the table. I think it could start a good discussion.

          • MTM

            If I had to choose between a Tuesday or not at all for financial reasons, I would choose Tuesday and hope folks would understand (and be understanding of those who couldn’t come).

          • Liza

            I hear you. I was sooooo bummed that my partner and I couldn’t go to some good friends’ out-of-state Friday morning wedding. It was scheduled just a few days before Christmas, and it would have cost us over 1K just to fly down during the holidays. Also, I work in a public school, and the number of days I can take off while school is in session is very, very small.

            I don’t fault the couple, I am happy they are having the wedding they want, and that they’re able to do it an an affordable way. I would caution couples who choose dates over major holidays and during the week to understand that they could have guests who really want to come, but just can’t.

          • I think my “Tuesday” comment was taken a bit too literally. Sorry for the confusion. (But it looked like it may have prompted a whole new post, so that’s a good thing.) The point I was attempting to make was to think about alternative options (day of week, number of guests, type of reception, etc.) in order to cut costs.

            “Get married on a Tuesday” was meant to be a metaphor for that.

          • Lindsay

            I got married on a Tuesday, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, or for the 50 or so guests who weren’t able to make the trip.

            For my husband and me, the reality was that as “bad” as Tuesday might be for some people on our guest list, Saturday could have been worse for another significant portion. You can’t spend all of your time coordinating schedules with everyone you know before setting a wedding date, so we picked one that made sense for us (ps, our wedding venue was booked every weekend into 2013) and then prepared to earnestly say to people that, while we did invite them because we want them to be there, if they can’t make it because of taking time off/ too far away/ too expensive to make the trip, we totally understood. In the end, we got more ‘thank you’s’ for giving people an excuse to get away to the mountains of Maine during foliage season outside of the weekend!

            Also, we put on the wedding of our dreams, cut tons of corners, cooked all our own food, and got out of it all with zero debt, which I think was a pretty awesome way to start our marriage. I don’t feel like it was an imposition on anyone, and I had the Best Tuesday of My Life.

        • Our wedding was on a Wednesday, in a city where we lived but a good portion of our guests didn’t, 2 days after a hurricane that shut down said city. The people who were physically able to come were there. And they were all over the moon happy for us, as we would have been for any of them.

    • Laura

      That video is hilarious!

    • Liza

      The biggest reason me and and my partner decided to get married on a Saturday is because it is most important to us to have the people there that matter and who will support our marriage. While my family is in-state, my partner’s family is travelling across the country. Our family and friends are like us – they don’t have the means to afford a big getaway. We have a shoestring budget, so we’re cutting corners in other ways. Free venue. Restaurant reception. Beer and wine, no cocktails. Friend officiating. Smaller dress. DIY makeup. Our small guest list consists of family and close friends – the people we really want there on the big day. It’s the people that matter to us – and so far, they are all coming! And I couldn’t trade their presence for a bigger or fancier wedding.

  • Jane

    We found an awesome photographer by putting an ad up on Craigslist with the price we were willing to pay for photography. Then, instead of calling around, we could look through a list of emails from vendors we KNEW were willing to work with our price. I highly recommend it!

    • Lauren

      I did the same and was fortunate to find a fantastic photog. And even SHE couldn’t work with me on price (we listed a max price) because of not wanting to undercut the competition.

    • Remy

      That seems reasonable to me, and it’s what I did to find a DOC when my original plans fell through. I got many responses for the (admittedly very low by WIC standards, but far above minimum wage) compensation I was offering, and I eventually found a very helpful person with event production experience who wasn’t put off by the low price for a small gig.

      However, I was unprepared for the (thankfully only one) rude email that told me that I was not offering enough for REAL event planning (which was not what I asked for) and that it was insultingly low and that I would never find anyone good for that price. Sheesh! I’m sure many professionals saw the post and decided it wasn’t worth their limited and talented time, and that’s FINE. Unsolicited nastygram? That would be the type of person I was trying to screen out, and the type we shouldn’t be supporting.

  • Laura

    I don’t know if I’m allowed to do this on here, but can I suggest a book? My maid of honour, who is getting married a month after me, suggested that I get the book Bridal Bargains by Denise and Alan Fields. Here’s the link:

    What I liked about it is that it has chapters on each type of vendor (caterer, florist, musicians, you name it) and suggests how to get a better deal. Not by lowballing, but by knowing well how the system works and how you can get the most for your money. My fiancé and I went into meetings with our vendors feeling a lot more confident and informed because we knew what questions to ask. It also gave me a ton of ideas for things I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. So yes, highly recommended.

    I hate to say it, but I agree with Liz that Memorial Day Weekend may not be the best time for your wedding if you’re on a tight budget. In fact, the best way to get a good deal would be to have your wedding on a weekday. My maid of honour is doing that for her own wedding. For her, the difference in price between a Friday wedding and a Saturday wedding was several thousand dollars.

    Personally, I found that our budget restraints just required more legwork. At first we wanted the same glitzy hotel where my fiancé has his dance competitions, but they just turned up their noses at us. So I asked everyone I knew who had just gotten married what they could recommend and scoured Google. I ended up finding an absolutely beautiful restaurant that is buried in a residential neighbourhood far from the trendy areas. Because of its location, the owner doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. But he’s compensated for that by marketing his restaurant for weddings, which have become his bread and butter. The prices are extremely reasonable and we’ve been really happy with his helpful attitude. It’s also got a lot of charm and character and is way better than the hotel we wanted at first. But let me tell you, we pounded the pavement for weeks before we found that place. There are hidden gems out there, but it means hardcore comparison shopping.

    Best of luck!

    • One More Sara

      I have that book too! And it is seriously helpful to understand why prices (can) get so high, and what you can do to try to ease the burden on the vendor, so they in turn ease the burden on your wallet ;) They also update the book every couple years. The current edition is from 2010, so some information might be a bit out of date, but the principles stay the same.

    • We used that book when my daughters got married. Fabulous resource!

  • Sarah

    I really feel your pain and have been there. I’m getting married in June (I really didn’t want a June wedding but between my fiancee’s law school, both our jobs and religious holidays, it literally was the only month we could get married and feel comfortable) in Baltimore – one of the most surprisingly expensive areas because of the DC market. Everything in our budget has had to be notched up and we thankfully have the financial support of our parents.

    We compromised on a few things (especially location) but also found vendors willing to work within our limitations (on top of financial concerns, we have religious constraints in some areas). We’ve had vendors where I am floored by their attitude and how expensive they are. But, so far, we have been fortunate to find some great people that we are excited to work with – and seem excited by the unique challenges of our circumstances.

    The biggest thing that has helped in this process so far (and hopefully over the next 198 days) is the ability to vent and talk about it with my fiancee. Thats my biggest piece of advice – keep the communication open with your fiancee.

    All of the advice and tough love above is right and I have to keep reminding myself of it on a weekly basis. But just because you know its right, doesn’t make it any easier. You are allowed to have your frustrations and feel the way you do. Then – as brides on a budget and already uncomfortable talking about money – have to buckle down and treat it as a business on our end too. Good luck!

    • LMN

      Are you getting married 6/22/13? That is our wedding date, too, but on the other coast. :) Happy “less than 200 days to go” to you, and best wishes for a lovely day!

    • MD Bethann

      I live in the Baltimore but got married in PA because our families are all there and because it was so much cheaper. That said, I did do a few things in the Baltimore area and if you need invites, I highly recommend Allison Barnhill Designs in Annapolis. They custom design invitations for you, use eco-friendly products, and she did my invites for less than it would have cost me using Vistaprint (which was the other option I researched). You may also want to look and see if there are vendors in Frederick or some of the more rural areas outside of Baltimore (Carroll and Harford counties come to mind) who might want to build up their business and come to your venue but might not be as expensive as a vendor in Ann Arundel, Howard, Baltimore City, or Baltimore County. Good luck!

      • Sarah

        Thanks for the invite suggestion! We live in Annapolis and I will look into Allison. We have most of our vendors — because my fiancee’s family is Orthodox Jewish, we have non-budget concerns (i.e. kosher catering and finding a photographer who has experience with orthodox weddings but understands that we aren’t orthodox . . . found a fabulous one!).

        Yup LMN . . . the date is 6/23/13! I didn’t want a June wedding but it happened to be exactly one year from when we got engaged so we thought it would be fun. Best wishes as you plan on the west coast!

  • Zoe

    It would be great if more vendors put pricing on their websites!! I know we contacted a lot of vendors only to find out that their pricing was way outside what we could afford. I would never have contacted them in the first place if pricing was on their website.

    Another thing is… some vendors are jerks. Our photographer completely ignored any contact from us after the wedding (and even after she said she’d have photos back to us.) Since we paid up front, there was nothing we could do and we felt powerless. I think that feeling of being powerless is what’s really frustrating, and that can happen when it feels like you can’t afford anything too. As Liz says, vendors should be professionals. That means they don’t have to negotiate with you if they don’t want to, but they shouldn’t get insulted for someone asking to work within a certain budget. Just like you can walk away, know that they too can walk away if they don’t feel like something is in their best interest.

    • Liz

      Whoa! Did you have a contract with the photographer?

      • Zoe

        We did. But she literally just disappeared/was screening our calls. We finally contacted her using an out of state number (I KNOW!) and threatened small claims court and got our photos. It sucked.

        • AJ

          That happened with our photographer, too! Well, almost. Our photographers (who we stupidly paid BEFORE the wedding) disappeared in the weeks leading up to our wedding. Since we couldn’t contact them, we were convinced that they would fail to even show up (they’d done that to another couple), so I came straight to APW and found Christopher Morris Photography ( in the vendor directory. They were so amazing, agreeing to work with us on short notice and THEY asked US to work partly in trade to design them a new website (I’m a designer and Mr. is a programmer), so we even saved money when we weren’t expecting it. And their work was just phenomenal!
          Our former photographers went out of business shortly thereafter, and even though we’ve taken them to small claims court and won, turns out there’s no way to get our money back without hiring lawyers and/or going through a collections agency.

    • Whoa! As a wedding photog, I have to say what your photographer is doing to you is totally unethical and really awful in general. If you have a contract, go after her!

    • Amber

      Totally agree! I wish more vendors had pricing on their websites! It would make researching vendors and venues, etc. SO much easier!!

      • IRMcK

        When we got married, researching photographers was my now-husband’s job. We were getting married in LA (at a time when there were no APW photogs in the LA area, to my continuing dismay), so he went to the Kn*t’s photographer page and made a spreadsheet of all of the photographers listed there. Because there were thousands of them, he immediately removed from consideration anyone who didn’t have prices listed up front or who wanted to change his screen configuration to continue to the website. I honestly don’t know why you want to hide what you charge – it just wastes my time and yours.

        Total thread hijack: I did find it funny through the whole wedding process how my sweet husband totally thought the Kn*t was a great resource. He didn’t feel any added pressure to do anything a certain way, he just thought it was awesome how they went and listed a bunch of vendors and things in one place.

        • AJ

          I design wedding invitations on a VERY part-time basis, and one of the reasons that I don’t list what I charge up front is that my invitations vary greatly depending on the size, the paper, the number of pieces, the complexity of the design, and how many revisions to the original that I make. I work on a completely custom basis (I don’t just change the names and dates on existing designs), so each invitation I make really is unique. It’s hard to set prices for that kind of work.
          That being said, I did just make a set of invitations for a bride with a very small budget. We worked together to simplify the invitations so that I was able to charge her less than I would have if she wanted lots of bells and whistles.

  • Alison

    Liz hit the nail on the head, as per usual! As a bride who just had a wedding on a limited budget, I definitely feel the OP’s pain. However, as a wedding vendor myself (I’m part of a string trio), it is really difficult to be asked if we can cut our prices. And as Liz pointed out, during “wedding season”, it’s entirely possible for a vendor to easily book every weekend, so it just doesn’t make good business sense to cut our prices when we can book another client for our full price. It may sound cruel, but you have to remember that your wedding vendors are doing this to feed/house/clothe themselves and their families, not simply because they love weddings.

    All that being said, I know that for me, I internalized a lot of my discomfort with money and my budget, and the “shame” around that (right or wrong, I felt weird about how much we could or couldn’t spend) and that attitude about myself colored a lot of my interactions with my own vendors. Try to be gentle, but frank, with yourself. You can afford what you can afford, and there’s nothing WRONG with whatever that number is. Your wedding will be beautiful and amazing because you’re marrying the love of your life.

    Good luck!

    • Marie

      So this is going to be slightly off-topic, but I recently got a quote from a string trio for playing a ceremony and I have no frame of reference for it. Their typical wedding charge is $1200. That includes 2 hours of music, basically. I told them that my ceremony would only be 20 minutes, tops, and they said they do not cut their hours and they would charge for 2 hours of music (plus set up) regardless of how long they actually had to play.

      Is this normal? It is far FAR outside our budget, and I told her as much and regretted taking the time to call (but they had no pricing info on their website). Do you know an average range for a string trio?

      • Catherine B

        I have no experience other than with our trio. They were recommended by musician friends, so we weren’t shopping around. Their rate is $525 for a trio, $625 for a quartet, they’ll play for about an hour and are Chicago based.

      • Alison

        Whoa! That seems really steep! I will say that my trio was in the “lower end” of price ranges and recently came up to meet what I will refer to as “local area competitive rates”. There are people who charge more than we do, but I would say that most of the groups I’ve surveyed/found online are in our range. I live in southern NJ and we work in the tri-state area, tending to stay within an hour of Philly (but we have gone to NY for a few gigs, especially APW-ers!). We start our ceremony pricing at $600, and that includes 15-20 minutes of music before the ceremony, the entire ceremony (including pieces during the ceremony), and 15-20 minutes of music post-ceremony. This is the same whether your ceremony is 10 minutes, or a full mass.

        So no, $1200 is NOT normal, and I cannot imagine what the heck they think they are charging for. I’ve found that many couples assume that we charge based on “hours of time”, like a photographer or videographer, but I think it’s more common to charge by portion of event. For example, we have a price for ceremony only, then a price for ceremony + cocktail hour, as well as an hourly rate (for parties and things). So, I think if you go into it thinking about it as “portion of event” time as opposed to “hours of service” it’s a little easier to navigate the “industry”.

        To answer your actual question about average range… it depends on the market where you are living. When we started we were $450 for a ceremony, and now we’re $600. I would say that for a ceremony, $600-$800 is probably average, but that doesn’t mean that a $450 group won’t exist and be great and fill your needs. Whatever you do, make sure that you can listen to recordings before you book!

        If you have any other questions, let me know!

        PS: I wish our group was close to wherever you are! We love APW couples!

        • What is the name of your trio / do you have a web site? :)

      • I recently hired a jazz quartet for an event (not a wedding) and they charged $620 for two hours of music. This was in Columbus, OH. $1200 seems very high to me.

        • H.

          Yeah. That’s definitely high. When I was in college in Atlanta, my string quartet would charge $100/person for a wedding ceremony or $100/hour of constant music for any other event. For a professional musician, it would be more than that, but probably not 3x that.

        • Ana

          Here in central NY, we’re getting our (locally well-known) string band for $100/musician for 2 hours. You have to take at least 3 members, but there are up to 5.

      • Laura

        I’m paying $450 for mine, but my friend is a member of the string trio and is making it his wedding present to me. (I still have to pay the other two musicians.) So if I was paying full price, I think it would be about $650. But I live in Canada, and weddings up here don’t seem to cost as much as Americans have to pay. Still, $1200 seems really steep to me!

      • The actual amount does seem high, but they wouldn’t be priced there if there wasn’t a demand for it. One thing to keep in mind is that some wedding vendors (musicians, photographers, officiants, some hair and makeup) can only do one wedding per day because of the logistics of timing. So even though you only need someone for 20 minutes or an hour,if they can’t double book clients on the same day, their rate is what it costs them to completely reserve the date from their calendar, and that’s why they might not be able to negotiate down more for shorter periods of time than they normally book.

      • AH

        Are you going through an orchestra or directly to the musicians? If you called a symphony office about it that could be the source of “2 hours, no matter” if 2 hours is considered 1 service in the CBA. Also, I know my orchestra charges more for weddings/companies/recital sales than perhaps a group would quote to a bride/company/person who wants to host a recital who approached them not through the office (though the office charges the same no matter the type of event and is willing to work, to some degree, with the purchaser on their budget).
        Source: I work in a symphony office.

      • SarahToo

        My partner’s a musician (in Canada) and $100/hour per musician isn’t actually that expensive for professionals. Keep in mind that you’re not just paying for the actual time played…you’re paying for their transportation, practice time, the time they spend waiting around before/after playing, plus years and years of hard practice and experience. Considering how much people are willing to pay for the services of other professionals (like photographers, or caterers) it only seems fair that a musician should also get a living wage. With that in mind, there are some ways to cut your costs on hiring musicians…for example, style of music (jazz musicians often charge less than classical), size (a solo artist or duo is cheaper than a trio or quartet) and experience (if you’re willing to go with musicians who are just getting started, and are local, they might charge less than someone who is unionized…yes, there’s a musicians’ union, and if you’re a member you can’t legally charge less than the minimum fee). But please keep in mind, you often get what you pay for.

      • AJ

        This isn’t really an answer, but for my wedding we hired a cello trio of high school students for a total of $300. While you don’t always get skilled players at that age, we were COMPLETELY blown away by our group of 14-year-olds. They even learned a Metallica song for my Mr.’s processional. You might want to call around to high schools, colleges, and even churches to see if some amateur groups will work at a lower price. Definitely go see a performance before you commit, though!

  • Liz

    Reading the comments, I’m realizing how often it’s coming up that fitting a wedding into a budget is WORK, which maybe isn’t discussed so often.

    I had a nice round figure in my head for what I thought I could afford and wanted to pay to feed people dinner. And then I ask 17 caterers/halls/restaurants for their prices and figure out that I set my budget impossibly low. So, back to the drawing board to set a more realistic price and see how I can wiggle the numbers to fit. Rinse, Repeat. Until we ended up with a Sunday afternoon church hall dessert reception instead of a Saturday evening restaurant dinner.

    • Marina

      This this this. Setting a wedding budget of what “seemed reasonable” really, really didn’t work for me. Doing pricing research and THEN setting a budget (and priorities) made it work.

      • Karen

        You got it! Finding out what actual prices are first is the way to go, then you can back into a budget. If you don’t know that catering in your area typically runs $25/person, but you only budget $10, you have to make some drastic changes. The more informed you are the better prepared you will be.

        • Amber

          Which again, is why it would be helpful if more vendors included their pricing on their websites!

      • SarahToo

        Although, to play devil’s advocate, we set our (rock bottom low) budget first, and THEN started shaping our decisions around what we could afford, and it turned out beautifully.

    • Erin

      This is a really good point. I actually didn’t even bother with a budget until I’d talked to a few vendors to get a feel for where their prices were. Then I went through and decided what was important to us and what could be cut. And I focused in some ways more on getting a ‘deal’ or ‘my money’s worth’ than an exact budget.

      For example, I didn’t think a dress was worth $800. So I found one off the rack. I didn’t think flowers were worth hundreds of dollars. So I used fewer and came up with a centerpiece that didn’t involve flowers (we used branches I cut off a tree on our farm, and they were startlingly gorgeous for a winter wedding) and used votive candles I borrowed from a dozen places. I didn’t think a DJ was worth the money, so I talked a cousin into playing announcer and had a dozen friends help contribute to a wedding playlist.

      But I /did/ think decent food and excellent service was worth it, so we ponyed up for the nicer place that had very proactive service when it comes to clearing plates and stuff, and that also set up all our tables and linens, lit all our candles, and most importantly, cleaned up everything including our decorations at the end of the night.

      I still feel pretty good about where our money went, because I felt that I put it toward the things that made the day happier for us. It was important to me to not make work for my family on our wedding day – and for me, personally, I didn’t miss the flowers.

    • This is also a great tactic for most things! We started looking at houses with a round number in mind, only to realize we really didn’t know the market, so we adjusted. I think getting estimates and ideas before setting your budget is key in any activity!

  • I found reviews for a local florist on a wedding review site, and people specifically said she worked within small budgets.

    I showed the florist a bouquet of purple flowers I liked, and she recreated it in the cheapest purple flowers in season. We also wanted two vases of flowers for the pillars that would set off our ceremonial area, and she used lots of greens to create a fuller look but at a lower price. We got lots of compliments on them, and everyone was surprised at the low cost.

    Just a random thought: I’m not sure if the person who submitted the question said whether or not friends or family were influencing his/her decisions. I think it’s easier (but never easy) to have a realistic view of things when you and your partner are calling all the shots. It’s hard enough blocking out your own internal “But, I have to have this…” without getting it from those around you. We kept our planning to ourselves because we were paying for it all ourselves.

    • Liz

      That last paragraph is a really great point.

  • granola

    I really didn’t mean to report that comment!! So sorry!! Clumsy fingers trying to hit “exactly ” on my tablet

    • Liz

      Happens all the time ;)

      • Not Sarah

        Have you considered adding a JavaScript “Are you sure?” confirmation dialog between someone clicking on “Report this comment” and it actually getting reported? That would probably help a lot! Or making reply bigger than report!

        • AJ

          I did the same thing to a commenter above! Please don’t delete her excellent question!

  • Lauren

    I am in a similar boat. I obviously don’t know the details of your budget restraints, but I’ll give you advice based on what we’re doing.

    References: I live in the capital city of a large Southern state. We’re getting married in late June in the city. Its not the most expensive area, but it’s not the cheapest either.

    I started out with a max budget of $10,000, knowing I had some emergency reserve money to tap into if needed. I unexpectedly got some help from family members, bumping that number up a little.

    The two most important things to us were that: 1) there be a champagne toast and 2) there be outdoor space. Some other things that I wanted were: 1) a dress that fit (I don’t wear sample sizes!) and 2) a served dinner (I LOATHE buffets)

    We are sitting at about half of our budget being spent right now. That’s involved paying more than we wanted for a venue, less than expected for music, less than expected for photography, more than expected for food. I shop around in the majority of my spare time. They say wedding planning is like a second job, and I’d add that budget wedding planning is even more so. My recommendation is to start with 1) changing your expectations of that is ESSENTIAL to your day, 2) changing your budget, or 3) changing both.

    There are lots of fab vendors out there that don’t show up on Kn*t searches or even Google. Ask around and don’t compromise what you value. There will be a vendor who works with or around your budget concerns, but you also have to do some working around and changing as necessary.

    • One More Sara

      I have to second that there are more vendors than you can find on the internet! My mom heard of a florist that works out of her home (low overhead!) from our hairdresser, but she doesn’t have a website, so the only possible way to find her is from someone who already knows her. My mom hasn’t called her yet (I’m out of the country) so I can’t confirm how much lower her prices are, but these kind of vendors are out there!!

      • Liz

        And friends & family have a fresh perspective on stuff you’ve been poring over. They’ll offer ideas you might not have thought of yourself, just because you’re SO entrenched it.

      • So much this! Also, once you’ve found a venue that woks for you, try asking them about vendors they have worked with in the past. We ended up getting great deals on vendors who would have otherwise been waaaaaay out of our price range or impossible for us to find because of the relationships they had with our venue. It also made our coordination a lot easier, because our vendors were intimately familiar with the space.

        • This is how we found most of our vendors. We rented a beach house that’s often used for weddings and the owner was able to suggest a lot of vendors for us. A friend of hers altered my dress for only $50.

  • Jane

    Oh, another thing–I definitely recommend getting catering from a restaurant, not a business that specializes in weddings. This works especially well if you have guests who are happy with things like Indian or BBQ. I went to a wedding catered by a local Indian place and it was fantastic. And this wasn’t a particularly casual wedding either.

  • granola

    Also, just wanted to say that I too encountered really rude wedding vendors and I second the plan of crossing them off your list. It may feel like you’ve tried everyone but there’s nearly always someone else, assuming your price expectations aren’t wildly out of sync with the market. At the very least, if you get stuck paying more, you’ll at least pay someone nice. And make sure to check what’s included, for example. It’s no fun to find a cheaper florist and then learn that delivery is an extra $150 where elsewhere it was covered by your fee.

    Lastly, a nod to the commenter who had problems with her photographer. I feel your pain – it’s taken two months to get out photos back (we were expecting a few weeks) and even if you have a contract, what can you do? They are the only person who has those photos and even sing then doesn’t get you a Mulligan on your wedding. If I did it over I’d have negotiated for a balance payment on delivery I think. It just feels icky, even when you’re per she it will turn out OK.

    • Liz

      Vendors who are rude in email/on the phone will probably be rude on your wedding day. And who wants that?

      Oh, but threatening a lawsuit can kick a vendor in the pants to get you those photos, stat! If your contract states a few weeks for photos, start using scary words like “breached contract,” “small claims court” and “lawyer.”

      • KB

        Also, just from personal experience – make sure you document your contact with vendors throughout the process, not just when they fall off the face of the earth! Print and save your emails, and if you call them, record when you called them, who was on the phone with you, and what was said. If (God forbid) you ever have to take legal action, “I called them a bunch of times and they never responded…” is less effective than “I emailed X times on these dates, and called X times and left X voicemails, and here is a log of my contacts with this vendor.”

  • kyley

    The budget has, hands down, been the most stressful part of wedding planning for me. I think one of the most helpful things from Meg’s book was the exercises from the beginning, where you sit down with your partner to discuss what your ideal, shoot-for the moon wedding would be, and then you figure out why that speaks to you. Also, you write down what are the most important things about the wedding, what are you really going to care about, and what are you giving yourself permission to care much less about.

    We settled on aiming for a really fun, joyful dance party with excellent food and in a great, unique space. At the top of our priority list was good food and a cool venue. We found the *perfect* space, but we couldn’t afford it on a Saturday night. So we’re having it on a Sunday night for about half the cost.

    On the not-very-important-to-us list was decor and invitations and flowers. And whenever we start to get wound up about having fancy engraved hand-calligraphy-ed invites, we remember that that isn’t where we want to invest our money. So we found a nice, high quality etsy seller who charges very little. Are her designs exactly our aesthetic ideal? Nope. But that’s fine. I think flowers are beautiful, but I’m not comfortable with how much they cost, and I’d rather put that money towards extra photography time or something more meaningful (to us), so we’re considering cutting flowers altogether–I might get a bunch of flowers from Whole Foods in the am and make them into a bouquet.

    The wedding media–(most) blogs, glossy magazines, tv shows–can really easily make you feel like there are all these details and a) you can’t leave any of them out and b) they all must speak authentically to “who you *are* as a couple.” Stepping back from that and deciding what is important and where you want to invest your money can be very freeing. Pick your top three and then parse out the rest with the remaining budget. If that means you don’t end up with centerpieces and your photographer is your uncle bob with his iphone camera? Not a person will care.

    • Kat

      Nail. Head. Hit it.

      I too work in the industry, but am also planning my own wedding for October 2013, and want to pipe in that the media’s role at setting expectations for weddings is a HUGE factor. More so now then it used to be just a few short years ago.

      Between tv shows hawking several thousand dollar designer gowns in mid-town Manhattan, or multi-multi tiered wedding cakes that taste like some obscure fruit from the Amazonian hinterland and commercials for halo diamond rings at a minimum of 20 karats, and then ALL the blogs, pins, magazines, celebrities….OH MY GOSH HOW IS ANY OF THIS ATTAINABLE! It’s really easy for brides or just anyone to get this whacked out skewed view of what goes on with weddings.

      Unless you have a massive unlimited budget vendors are going to come up with objections and constraints to your ideas/visions because they HAVE to make money, and it’s not just a WIC thing. APW vendors ALSO have to make money or they can’t afford to be in business for too long.

      I like food and eating and also keeping a roof over my head and gas in my non-luxury car, so if I get a potential bride who emails me saying “I have a small budget but would like the deluxe package/the works/world on a platter and you have to adjust yourself to have the pleasure of catering to my whims” I’m going to say to myself “Self, does this sound like someone I want to hang around with for x amount of time/provide x amount of blood, sweat and tears for?” In all likelihood probably not. I as a vendor also have the right to not hire that potential bride/person/couple.

      Now if that same bride came to me and said “Hey I absolutely love your work, you’re more outside my budget than I initially expected, but I’d love to have you do X on my wedding day, is there some way we can make that work?” I’m definitely going to be more interested in working with her/them and help create something they can afford, or if worst comes to worst give them referrals as to whom they might be able to work with.

      I could go on, but I think I’ll stop there.

      • Yes. This. EXACTLY.

      • Miranda VanZ

        “Hey I absolutely love your work, you’re more outside my budget than I initially expected, but I’d love to have you do X on my wedding day, is there some way we can make that work?”

        I sent something similar to this to a few photographers in my area that don’t have their prices listed on their site. Something more along the lines of:
        “Hey I absolutely love your work, it fits exactly what I’ve been wanting, I can only spend X, is there some way we can make that work?”

        I haven’t got a response back from any of them, it made me sad, so I asked if my sister wanted to look into it instead (she loves research.) I just don’t get why they didn’t even send back a once sentence “We are WAY out of your price range honey.”

        • anonymous

          I write the vendors online and compliment their work, describe the scaled-downness of my event (timeframe, location, date, number of guests) and then ask what their pricing would be for such a scenario. I also provide several scenarios of differing levels of complexity/duration and ask whether there is a difference. The vendors I have written to in this way have all come back with a lower price than what appears on their site.

          The key is already having scaled it down and asking what that costs. If people are not replying to the price you’re offfering, then your price is too low. So low that there is no way to reply that is not rude. If someone lists their price, you contact them with a counter-price that is too low, why is it worth their time to reply? They already told you the price and you already told them you wouldn’t pay it. There’s no financial benefit to taking the time to communicate with someone who has already expressed that.

          In the case of vendors who list no price, you’re still better off avoiding naming your number. Describe the scenario(s) and ask if there are differing prices. Don’t assume that there are.

    • Ana

      YES! We did the same exercise of picking our priorities and then we tried to book those items first so the money would be committed. Venue, photographer, someone to write the ceremony/marry us, and enough food to feed our loved ones were first. Once that money was spent we looked at what was left and started figuring out how to spend the rest. When something budget-y would be particularly hard (e.g. fresh flower bouquets are expensive, my ‘dream’ dress is 4x the budget) we would say “Well, we’ll have a meaningful ceremony and delicious food with great pictures and plenty of natural light, and that’s what was really important to us.” and move on.

      • Aero

        We did that exercise an I thought it was great too! It’s really stress reliving to think our venue has good food, great wine, nice lighting and we know that there will be heaps and heaps of dancing. Flowers, table decorations bonbonaries, cars, they fall to the bottom of the list – saves us stress, saves us money. Not doing things is such fun!!!!! (Seriously!) I want to not do more!

  • Try using a restaurant for your catering. Lucille’s has full service buffet catering for around $23/person. Wood Ranch has full service buffet catering starting at $11/person, plus 15% service charge. You can get an In-n-Out truck for roughly $1200 (I think it’s $9/person with a minimum number of people…). I went to a wedding that served Chick-Fil-A and it was soooo delicious! You’d have to rent your own linens, but if you get wooden chairs, eliminating the need for chair covers, that’s basically just tablecloth and napkin rentals.

    Regarding the flowers, they are rediculously easy to DIY. But if that’s not your style, using cheaper flowers will allow your florist to reduce the costs quite easily. And it’s okay to use cheap fillers like baby’s breath. I went to a wedding where the centerpeices were blue apothecary vases filled with baby’s breath. It was stunning.

    Budgeting is hard work. And you probably won’t be able to get everything you want. I did not get the wedding of my dreams. But I did get to marry the man of my dreams, and the prospect of the next 50 years with him more than made up for any disappointments of my wedding day.

  • Melise

    I think the best thing we’ve done to find vendors within our budget was to ask for help! I did a lot of research and looking around to find venues, but we had a really hard time finding something that worked. Somehow, my mom managed to find an amazing venue that I had missed. It’s about an hour outside of the big city we live in, and the owner has connections with all of the vendors in the town, which means that our catering and dj will be really inexpensive. My mom also posted something on facebook about photographers, and we ended up choosing her coworker’s cousin. I was a little hesitant at first because there weren’t many pictures on the website, but when we met him in person and saw a full album we were blown away! We may have just gotten lucky, but without my mom’s help we probably wouldn’t have found our venue or our photographer.

    • Amber

      Word of mouth is a beautiful thing!

  • Zoe

    I wanted to continue my conversation above about vendors setting minimum prices, but there’s no “reply” button after Liz’s comment…

    In response to Liz — yes, I am thinking of it like the customer — because, well, that’s what I was! Look, I have no problems if a vendor looks at their costs, and sets their OWN minimum price based on that. Then, the customer can decide if paying that much is worth it to her. But the practice of setting minimum rates across the whole industry still seems wrong to me. It leaves the consumer without a choice. If everyone INDIVIDUALLY came up with their own prices (while ensuring that all legal requirements are met — like paying assistants minimum wage, etc), and they all settle in a certain range, that’s FINE. But they problem comes when vendors get together and say “here’s the minimum we should all charge and no one can undercut.” That’s price fixing.

    • Liz

      This line of discussion has been really off-topic, so I’m going to make this my final comment. I think determining a minimum wage for freelance workers would be beneficial to the workers themselves and clients. Maybe we can discuss that further another day.

    • Rachel

      I mentioned this above (likely after you commented, so I know you may not have seen it) but the established minimum is the absolute minimum a vendor could charge and still survive off the profits. If you charged less, you couldn’t eat and pay the bills if you were relying solely on that income (and didn’t have a second job). To me, that’s the same thing as charging minimum wage, and very few people would consider minimum wage price-fixing. Like Liz mentioned before, there are people out there who are willing to take less than minimum wage for a job (especially if they have additional resources/income, or on the opposite end of the spectrum, if they’re desperate), that doesn’t make it fair or ethical to pay someone less than what they can live off of, especially because it eliminates people who will only accept a fair wage from the competition (and people should never be punished for wanting a fair wage).

      I get what you’re saying about vendors making their own decisions about minimum costs – I really do, but the problem is, as many unregulated industries have demonstrated, without regulations on minimum charges, there will always be people who will take advantage and undercut their competition. They may mean well enough, but when you’re not relying on your services to feed your kids and pay your bills, it’s easy to forget the impact of your actions when you undercharge.

      Anyway, as per Liz’s request, I will stop the tangent now – but definitely an interesting discussion for another day.

      • Zoe

        Thanks — this was much more helpful. And I appreciate your clarification on how certification works!

    • IMP

      I love a good antitrust discussion, myself. :) Thanks for the interesting perspective, Rachel.

      • Ris

        Haha “I love a good antitrust discussion.” I don’t know you, Imp, but I already like you ;)

  • Laura

    Two things I found worked really well for us on our limited budget:

    1) Starting off with vendors who we knew were in the general price range. As most everyone else has said–if their starting price is MUCH higher than your budget, there’s no way they’re going to be able to meet your asking price. And don’t worry–there ARE vendors out there who will be in your range. You may just have to dig.

    2) Once you find those vendors–what worked well for me was NOT, “I have $XX amount to spend, can you make that work?” Rather, after we’d talked about their style, what they offered, and I was quoted a price…if that price didn’t work for us, I said in all honesty, “Unfortunately, that is a bit out of our budget. Is there anything we could remove/do to make the price a bit lower?” And for most vendors, this worked. We chopped a few things and got the price down by a couple hundred bucks.

    I also third (fourth?) the restaurant recommendation. We went that route and loved it.

    • Laura

      Oh, also meant to add (because this word was sticking out to me)…

      I think the only thing any of us “deserve” on our wedding day is the right to marry the partner of our choice, and hopefully celebrate that newly minted marriage with loved ones. Everything else is icing on the cake.

  • As a former budget bride AND a wedding photographer, I feel both sides of this discussion! We had a ridiculously small budget– only about $2,000 for the entire shebang– and we definitely had to make some tough choices. We ordered flowers in bulk and made all the bouquets and centerpieces (this was actually way easier than I expected, even pre-APW-tutorials on flowers, which are great!) We had a Sunday afternoon wedding with desserts and punch and coffee, and we made the desserts ourselves (with my mom and sister’s help). We chose a venue that was not normally for weddings but was super super cheap- a community center than we got full reign to move furniture, redecorate, etc. We made the save the dates and invitations. We made an iPod playlist. Our photography was gifted to us, but if it had not been, we would have figured out a way to hire someone and either rearranged our budget or found a way to expand the budget, because that was one of the most important things to us.

    Not everyone is crafty or has family who can/will help with wedding prep, so our wedding certainly wouldn’t work for everyone. But I would echo a lot of the above commenters in saying that you should sit down, figure out what is REALLY important to you, and prioritize those things. And then, figure out what a reasonable estimate for those things is. And the commenter who talked about negotiating vs. dickering? I think that is a really, really good point. For a lower price point, there has to be compromise from both sides.

    As a wedding photographer, I know that we are one of the least expensive professional options in our area, and I STILL know there are some couples who can’t afford even our lowest price. We agonized over our pricing, because we want to be affordable, while also being able to support ourselves. (When we started out with weddings, we just picked a price… and later figured out we were both only making about three dollars an hour. Whoops.) We do our absolute best to work with people on budget, through negotiating packages, deciding on what is most important to the couple, etc. There are some things even we cannot do, though. Last week we had a bride contact us and say she was on a very tight budget, and was wondering if we were willing to work with her on price. We said definitely yes, and asked what her budget was, and…. she said she could only pay us $100 to shoot her entire wedding. Womp womp. We said we were so sorry, but we couldn’t do that- but we would love to do a “wedding clothes” session on another day, which has always been a great APW suggestion.

    Good luck, to the original poster! I am so aghast that wedding vendors would be outright rude to you– I hope you find your awesome wedding elves soon!

    • Jashshea

      Wedding clothes session! Such a great idea for a budget (or spur of the moment elopement).

  • Newtie

    I’m so glad this question is being answered! Dealing with budgets and vendors was really the only thing that made me stressed and sad during my wedding. Part of the difficulty came because I had an expectation that if I was Super Nice, and Reasonable, and Willing to Compromise, and Willing to Accept Reduced Services, then I would be able to find vendors who were willing to work with me. I memorized Meg’s negotiation rules and I felt confident that if I was truly willing to compromise then I would be able to get what I felt like I could afford. I thought it might take a lot of hard work and it might take talking to a lot of vendors, but eventually I would find people willing to work with me within my budget. I did not find this to be the case at all (I also live in New England, so I wonder if it could be partially a regional issue).

    Vendors weren’t exactly mean to me, but they had ZERO interest in my business if I wasn’t buying at least their minimum package. They would not even talk to me about a reduced price for reduced services. They weren’t mean, but a lot of them were indifferent — the average wedding around here is 40K, and I think most people felt like there was just no reason for them to bother working with someone who didn’t have that kind of budget when there were dozens of other brides who did. And I can’t say that I blame them, I just wasn’t expecting it.

    The ONLY things my parents really insisted on was that we invite everyone who was truly important (which, with our large, close-knit families, meant about 90 people) and that we feed our guests dinner. It didn’t have to be fancy, it didn’t have to be sit-down, but it had to be dinner. Which basically meant they were insisting on having the two most expensive parts of a wedding reception (the food and the number of guests). I had a budget set for what I thought was a reasonable price for food per person (it was the equivalent of a very expensive meal per person) and I couldn’t find any food vendors who would even talk to me with that original budget. Finally I found one who was willing to work with me if I basically went up to his “bare minimum” package price, and even then I was getting drastically reduced services and barely enough food to feed people. Luckily, this vendor was very kind – so even though I was worried it wouldn’t be *quite* enough food and people would be hungry, least I was working with a cheerful, understanding person. There’s no question he would have rather spent that time working with someone with a larger budget – I think he worked with me simply out of kindheartedness and bleeding-heart sympathy. I think he also thought I might be able to scare up more money than the extra I was already scaring up, and when I really couldn’t he didn’t have the heart to drop me.

    In order to afford this vendor, we cut a lot – all flowers, all music, some alcohol. It was hard to do because I thought if I was willing to give up a lot I would still be able to afford the basics (for example, I thought if I was willing to give up using a flower vendor, I would still be able to afford DIY flowers – but every last spare penny had to go to the caterer!!! There wasn’t even enough for DIY flowers). Instead I found that vendors in my area really have no reason or interest in working with someone who can’t afford their cheapest package. Negotiating a la Practical Wedding really seemed to not exist here. I think the only thing I could have done differently was to find friends and family to cook for us, and in our case that wasn’t possible for a number of reasons.

    I give this long, personal example not to discourage you but to let you know that you may be trying to fit a square peg in a round hole – it might not actually be possible to get the services you want on your budget, no matter how reasonable your budget seems to you, and no matter how politely and respectfully you negotiate. You may have to decide what is the one type of vendor you really must have, and then be ok with completely letting go of all other services.

    I know this is pretty much the same thing that Liz said, I just wanted to give my own experience so you know you aren’t alone in this. Sometimes negotiating just doesn’t work, and it doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong or vendors are being mean. Maybe you happen to live in a region where this just isn’t done. Giving up things you want is hard, especially if you felt like you’ve already given up a lot of “dream” ideas, but remember at the end of the day you’ll still be married to the person you love — it doesn’t matter if you couldn’t even afford a bouquet from trader joe’s! :)

    • Edelweiss

      I initially planned a New England wedding (or sketched out the plans) then it got axed for a PA wedding. But our budget solution was a lobster bake (and I don’t even eat lobster – but I do eat clams). It ranged from 23-35/person for all food and dessert depending on the service.

      There was even a place in Portland that would take you out in a ferry to an island that had an indoor and outdoor option so no weather worries and let you stay for 4 hours, decorate, ferry you back and let you add-on a bar package pretty cheaply. (Casco Bay Lines). I didn’t end up using them so I can’t quite recommend them – but we did communicate a bit and they weren’t the most organized, but they were sweet as can be and flexible. I was pretty stocked (traveling guests think lobster bakes are amazing). I still mourn that wedding a bit.

      It might not be doable for a Memorial Day Weekend wedding, but any other New England bride may want to consider it!

  • If you’re running up against this wall over and over again, one thing I’d try is focusing on vendors who have some idea of pricing on their website. That way you at least have some idea if they’ll be anywhere near your budget and be able to work with you. Granted, it’s not always possible because so many businesses don’t list prices, but if you start your search there it may save you some headaches.

    Another idea if you find a vendor whose work you like but can’t afford is to ask if they know of anyone who might be able to work within your budget.

  • We’re getting married on December 29, which has saved us a lot of money. Vendors have been really willing to work with us since they likely wouldn’t have any other events that day and our band even told us straight out that normally they’d charge $600 more, but it’s their slow season so they’d cut us a break. (I hadn’t even asked.) I was nervous about going to a high-end florist with my small budget ($500 for six bouquets and two corsages) but she was really nice about working with me to figure out what we could get for that budget in my colors and suggesting that we pick everything up so we could get more flowers by losing the delivery fee. The other florist I went to quoted me $1000, so it was an easy choice of the vendor to work with. (Bear in mind that this is Pensacola. I assume that in DC, where we lived before this, $500 would get us nowhere.) We’re doing candles instead of flowers for the centerpieces, which is saving us a lot of money. By using one vendor for our catering and cake, we’re saving cake delivery and cutting fees and we’ll save a lot of money by being able to buy our own alcohol. I also made our invitations with a $9.99 kit from Target. Of course there are times when I wish I could just throw money at it, but overall it’s been worth all of the work to have the wedding we want within our budget.

    • Liz

      I’ve found winter events to be SUPER budget-friendly.

    • A friend of mine got married between Christmas and New Years, and the church they were married at still had all their gorgeous holiday decorations up (Christmas trees, poinsettia arrangements, twinkly lights, etc). They ended up not having to spend any decorating money on the church and it still looked fantastic. I think a lot of people are worried about winter weddings because of weather/travel/etc., but there can be a lot of surprising benefits to getting married during that time of year.

    • alyssa

      We had a New Year’s Eve wedding, and we loved it! Candles and Christmas lights in our photos… done. Flowers and decor already in the church? Perfect. Champagne from Costco? Delicious. I loved my winter wedding, and I hope you love yours, too! Go you for sticking to your budget. It’s soo hard, but for me, it was so worth it in the end! :)

    • I’ve also discovered that a lot of winter resorts consider winter to be their off season! We are doing a winter wedding over President’s Day weekend 2014, and I’m amazed by how affordable it is, considering it’s a really nice resort and a holiday.

  • Amanda

    Dear Pinchin’ Pennies,
    I have been a long time reader (lurker) of this blog and never felt inclined to leave a comment until now. I am also planning a wedding in New England on a budget and have encountered the same attitudes with potential vendors. Your feelings are completely justified and I completely disagree with the “tough love” answer to your post. I have negotiated with every single vendor except the baker, because she’s a family friend and it was awkward. They have all worked within my budget as best as they could, but often I find myself going above budget just a little and getting something slightly below my expectation to meet them in the middle. I completely feel your pain, because I also value their expertise and time. I hate that this industry sort of works like a haircut where it is not the norm to ask the price before you sit in the chair or ask every hairdresser at the salon what they charge for their service so you can go with the lowest bidder. Just try not to let them make you feel like they are doing you a favor. I am sure there are MANY very lovely vendors. I have found some of them! But honestly, there is a mark up on anything that has to do with a wedding in the first place. When else are you expected to spend $80 per person (not counting alcohol) on a meal that isn’t being cooked by a renowned chef?

    • Laura

      “When else are you expected to spend $80 per person (not counting alcohol) on a meal that isn’t being cooked by a renowned chef?”

      But that’s the thing–you don’t HAVE to do this. There are other options. We spent (I think) about $60 per guest…which included food, alcohol, set-up and clean-up. And this was in a fairly big city.

      I’m sure many wedding vendors DO mark-up just at the sound of wedding bells. But a lot don’t. At the end of the day, they’re professionals who are trying to make a living (just like freelance writers, designers…the list goes on and on). The hunt can be TOUGH (oh so tough), but you CAN find the good ones out there.

      And if a vendor is making you feel like crap for asking about pricing? NOT WORTH YOUR TIME. Seriously.

      • Amanda

        That’s why weddings are so personal! We’re all working with different numbers of people in different areas of the country and with different priorities. There are not a ton of venues that hold 200 plus people, for example. It’s tough work and I was merely agreeing that in PP’s situation it is hard to keep chugging along with a positive attitude. I’m glad we can all help each other with our discussions!

        • Laura

          “It’s tough work and I was merely agreeing that in PP’s situation it is hard to keep chugging along with a positive attitude.”

          That is DEFINITELY true. If you don’t enjoy the hunt (I don’t, but have some friends who do), slogging through all the vendors until you find the right fit can be SO discouraging.

  • Martha

    Budgets are the best!



    What I really mean is that budgets are just a part of wedding planning. Liz gave some great advice (shocker). I’d also like to mention that you should not feel bad about your budget or your wedding in any way. You should follow a lot of the commentators advice and maybe adjust your expectations if your budget just can’t be changed. And as much as it might suck, it will pay off in the long run. I love weddings and I can’t wait for mine (6 months and counting!) but it is just one day. The marriage is the end goal of all the celebration. And I’ve heard (haven’t we all?) the first year of marriage is hard – it could be worse to add guilt or debt from trying to pay for a wedding you just can’t afford.

    If you’re having trouble with a florist, I am purchasing my boutineers, bouquets, and “church” flowers from my florist and loose flowers to make my own centerpieces. This cuts down on the number of places she has to go (if yours charges a travel/delivery fee this can be helpful) and the price – but still gives her business from me.

    Good luck!!!!!

  • The gist of my initial email to our photographer:
    Hey! You seem awesome! Here’s some info about us, we’re awesome, too! Also, we saw you are $X,XXX for coverage with you plus a 2nd shooter, what is it for just you.

    Gist of email from her:
    Wow! You guys seem great! Here’s more info about me! PS I don’t do solo shoots for [these valid reasons].

    Actual email from me in response:
    Thank you so much for your heartfelt and quick response! You seem like a great fit for us in so many ways. Unfortunately, your base price is pretty far outside of our budget (~$XXXX) (which is why I asked about you shooting solo). Your pictures are wonderful, and I understand your pricing logic 100%, but I think we will have to pass just for financial reasons.

    Gist of the email from her in response:
    You know what, you guys seem great. Let’s make a deal. Here are some ways that we could bring cost down to your budget. For instance, I’ll get a student shooter to be the 2nd shooter instead of a more experienced photographer. Would that work for you guys?

    Moral of the story is: I felt like my response allowed her to gracefully let us go or gracefully meet us where we were. By sharing our budget, I let her know what our real ball game was, and she could make the choice whether to come down or not.

  • KB

    I actually have a bang-on example of how we worked with a vendor to get what I wanted. I know a lot of people on here don’t really care for flowers and how much they cost, and neither did I when we started this thing. But then I fell in love with this one centerpiece idea – flowering trees with hanging votives. Even though it’s “just a centerpiece,” it made me happy in a weird way. And while I know that I could probably DIY something similar, I also know that I’m not going to have time to do that and I don’t want to be stressed out about depending on other family/friends to do it for me. So, I thought I’d check out some florists, knowing that I would be paying more for the convenience of someone to design, set-up, and break-down everything.

    I then found out that my lovely idea would cost an INSANE amount of money – those “flowering branches” are actually orchids wound around manzanita branches, which happen to be THE most expensive branch in the floral industry because it is imported, delicate, and finicky.

    Instead of throwing money at someone for the sake of prettiness, I reallocated within my budget. I told my favorite florist that I don’t care what we do with any other flowers, but I want “something like this, but not exactly this” for preferably X amount of money. And he was able to work with me. We switched out materials so it doesn’t cost the size of a small country’s GNP and we halved the number of centerpieces and are doing something VERY simple for the other tables. But even then the proposal was too rich for my blood. So we downsized the scale of the table trees and are only doing a full-scale one for the escort table, and we’re giving him total free reign with all the other flowers to reduce costs. Our second proposal was much more manageable.

    What I learned from this – set your expectations before you meet with your vendors. Figure out what it is that you like/don’t like about your ideas and if you can you substitute ingredients/materials to achieve the effect you want. Ask your vendors for their advice, too – they’re not all out to gouge you. I asked my florist “Do you think this would look dumb?” about a couple of options and he politely pointed out the pros and cons. And don’t think that prices or proposals are set in stone, it is not a final draft by any means. Don’t be afraid to tweak it and ask questions so that you’re comfortable with the product or service that you’re buying.

  • Chalk

    I haven’t read all the comments thoroughly, but I’ll echo what I’ve picked up in some. Prioritize the list of things you want for your wedding. As real numbers started materializing during my planning process, I found myself constantly (up to the last month) shifting funds and re-examining what was important to me. For example, I decided that I didn’t need to spend a thousand dollars on cake because the caterer already provided amazing dessert. I applied the “cake budget” to something that was more important to me (extra face time with my guests), and guess what? No one noticed I didn’t have a cake! But everyone remembers the extra cocktail hour I threw the night before the wedding.

    Also, having your wedding on an off day works wonders on a budget. Not only was there more vendor availability, but most vendors offered a discount up front. I got married on a Sunday and it saved me several thousand dollars.

    Looking back, the most important thing I could buy was time. The day goes by so quickly, and the more you budget to buy yourself time with your guests and husband (maybe it’s an extra hair/makeup person or the extra hour of bar service), the more memories you can bring with you into your marriage. Guests don’t remember the flowers in your bouquet – but they remember getting to spend that extra time with you on the dance floor.

  • Alexis

    I feel you, PP… I also found it very difficult and uncomfortable to discuss financial matters with vendors and would often worry about offending folks with numbers that might be be low. Vendor transparency has been discussed here before, but unfortunately many vendors (especially caterers in our area of New England) still don’t list prices on their websites so you may not know what would be low for their services. If this is the case with some of your potential vendors, you might save yourself some new gray hairs by asking the vendor for a ballpark price for the level of service your looking for before revealing your budget. Then, if it’s way out of your budget, you can politely reply with a ‘thanks, but no thanks’ and move on. If their costs aren’t SO far out of your price range, then you can let them know the number you’d like to work down to and try to negotiate services to fit your budget. Yes, you may end up with a little less options or less coverage, etc., than what you originally envisioned, but your guests likely won’t know that and if you’ve hired vendors with good reputations as Liz suggests, you’ll probably still get great products/services :)

    Also, sometimes people are just jerks. Maybe they’re having a bad day or maybe they are always a jerk, but part of this ‘remember you’re dealing with a business thing’ is to try and not take it personally when a potential vendor ignores or belittles you (this can be hard).

    To conclude, as a formerly stressed out and sensitive pre-married lady, it does get easier once you get the hang of it (this can take a while) and you can totally get through it :) Good luck!

  • Moe

    Everyone before me, including Liz have all given you fantastic advice. I can sympathize with your situation. I’m planning a $7k budget wedding and I’ve found a few truths that really work for me.

    My worth is not equated with the size of my wedding budget. Which is something I kind of hear in your letter. A vendor doesn’t make you feel you bad, you allow yourself to feel bad and I wonder if it’s something in your head that is hearing everything through a very self-critical filter. Previous posters already gave you many great suggestions on how to save money. The first quote I received from a family restaurant for catering was about 25% more than what I could handle. I went back to her and asked “what can you do for x-dollar amount.” Her revised quote included less appetizers, one less staff person, and by not supplying plateware (something I will source for myself) we arrived at a number I can live with.

    Yes, you deserve a fabulous celebration, but that doesn’t necessarily equate to “all the stuff”. Your wedding will be memorable because your mom is on the dancefloor, because you will laugh with old college buddies, because your cousins will get to be reunited, because you are glowing from the excitement of committing to a fabulous spouse…not because your cake came from a designer bakery. Remember the last wedding you went to, what did the cake look like? I don’t remember such things.

    So from one wedding-planning-weary bride to another, you can do this!

  • K

    I hope this isn’t considered totally off topic, as I have no advice about working with vendors, because we managed to have a wedding with no hired vendors at all. I realize that doesn’t work for most people for very good reasons, but I can share some ways that we saved a bunch of money, which might leave you with more for stuff you do need a vendor for.

    Flowers: Two of my cousins went down to the local Saturday farmer’s market the morning of the wedding and bought $5 bouquets for the tables, which went in mason jars I had owned (and actually used for canning) for years. They were going to buy the same for me to carry but got all excited and got a bigger fancier one for me, but there’s no way even the fancy bouquet cost more than $30. The wedding was outside so there was no need for flowers for anything else.

    Food: I don’t know if there’s anything like this in your area, but we saved an insane amount of money on food by not having a real “caterer” at all. There’s a fancy schmancy grocery store here called Metropolitan Market that does cold platters of fruit and fancy entrée-sized salads and cold cuts and so forth for parties (which we all know are way cheaper than weddings), so we bought two big spiral sliced hams and everything else was cold platters – caprese salad ($50 for enough to serve 40), fruit skewers ($80 for enough to serve 35), etc. It worked out to something under $15 a head. We *did* have a very well organized and experienced friend who managed the food for us, but if there are any local places that just do party platters, you have someone willing to take charge, and you’re ok with a more picnic-style reception, that can be a good way to go.

    Alcohol: We got a keg and a couple of cases of wine – a local shop does seasonal “tasting cases” for $80 a case – and that was plenty of alcohol for ~80 guests. We’re older so many of our harder drinking friends are now married with kids and have calmed down a bit, which made the booze go further – your mileage may vary!

    Photos: With a $5K budget, we didn’t have enough to hire a photographer, so we asked my cousin and one of my husband’s friends to take photos. My cousin was amazing and took great journalistic style shots of everything. They may not be totally professional quality, but since she knew many of the people there, she knew to get shots that a hired pro probably wouldn’t have – for instance, she knew, hey look, there’s the mother of the bride just chatting with her three sisters, get that shot! Plus whenever I look at the photos I get a warm fuzzy for my cousin, which is fab.

    Tablecloths: This may be an odd thing to add in, but I couldn’t find rental tablecloths for less than $25 a pop, which seemed insane to me. In the end we covered the tables with butcher paper (actually, in our case, plotter paper, because I got it free) and I bought a box of crayons and we put them out on the tables in jars and the kids colored all over them. If it’s good enough for an Italian restaurant, it’s good enough for us.

    Invitations: I got a box of laser-printer-ready invites from Office Max for $35 that I even got compliments on them from more than one guest!

    • We didn’t want to spend money on rental tablecloths, either, so we actually ended up buying a bunch of muslin fabric– it’s thin and pretty and comes in white and cream (and perhaps other colors? But we bought cream). It is only about $2-3 a yard, and I used a coupon at our local hobby lobby, so I think it worked out to be about $5 a table for the tablecloths. We just cut the fabric with pinking shears and didn’t even hem them and it looked fantastic. And afterward, we washed the whole lot of it and gave it to my grandmother, who is a quilter!

      • Moe

        Don’t forget Craigslist! I bought all my tablecloths from a bride for about $6 each. I’ll pass them along to someone else when I’m done, or sell them.

    • alyssa

      I know this is so not the point of your comment, but Metropolitan Market is the BEST! :)

      • K

        Aren’t they? I also understand that Costco does a similar sort of party-platter catering thing, and they’re nationwide, so that might be an option for non-Northwest budget brides.

    • MD Bethann

      I second the art/butcher paper table covering idea. We did that for the kids’ table at our wedding and got some neat “murals” out of it that I absolutely love. Amazingly, the kids didn’t make a huge mess either!

  • Jashshea

    I’m sure there are great comments above and I may be repeating some of the advice.

    I wouldn’t use the term budget to describe our wedding, but I was extremely mindful of what was important to me (Food/Music/Booze/pictures/My continued sanity) and what wasn’t (decor/flowers/trinkets) and used that to fuel my decisions. Our breakdown ended up looking like this:

    Line item percentage
    photo 11.30%
    food (includes dessert) 40.61%
    booze 9.54%
    transport (important to my father) 7.06%
    B&G Outfits 11.65%
    music 5.65%
    flowers 1.47%
    décor 3.53%
    Coordinator (my sanity) 8.83%
    trinkets 0.35%
    locations 14.13%

    What helped me do that?
    1) I kind of do that for a living – I have projects with particular characteristics, budgets, and timelines that I have to weigh against reality (i.e. if something generally takes 2 weeks, you can maybe have it in 1.5 weeks, but you can’t have it tomorrow or (translated to wedding-land if flowers usually cost $3000, you can maybe have them for $2500, but not for $500).
    2) I’m really practical when it comes to money – I know what I’m willing to spend and what that gets me and I make myself comfortable with that. I met with one fancy-pants caterer who was AWESOME, but would have taken 70% of my total budget. I drove 20 miles out of the medium sized city I live in and found another EXCELLENT caterer for far less.
    3) My “budget” was a combination of a generous donation from my parents, our own money, and the time and energy of some wonderful family members (for example – I owe my mother in law…pretty much my kidney for taking on all the decor).

    You’ve already had some tough love from Liz, but let me pile on:
    What can you do? Decide what you care about and make that a priority. Is it one particular flower that you can’t fit into the budget, no matter how you move things around? Think outside of the box: Are you willing/able to get a seasonal job over the holidays or deliver pizza nights/weekends to afford it? Do you have a skill you can trade with the vendors – good with computers/numbers/cleaning offices? Do you have friends who are crafty or know other vendors that can help out? Are you willing to work with newbies to “the biz” to get something that looks like what you want? Are you a blogger who can give some free advertising?

    Re: Negotiating specifically. I’m from New England. Those people can be tough. And set in their ways. But they are business people and should be polite to all customers (even ones who can’t afford their top tier package). Look into vendors from outside the area that are willing to travel or from smaller towns – they might be used to smaller budgets and/or cheaper.

    • Jashshea

      Forgot invites/std/stamps. Must have been freudian: Wasn’t important to me but I ended up overspending on it (that shit was gorgeous, though).

      Line item percentage
      photo 11.30%
      food 40.61%
      booze 9.54%
      transport (important to my father) 7.06%
      B&G Outfits 11.65%
      music 5.65%
      flowers 1.47%
      décor 3.53%
      Coordinator (my sanity) 8.83%
      trinkets 0.35%
      locations 14.13%
      Invites/STD/Shipping 8.12%

      For further perspective on my mindset on “what mattered to me”- I didn’t have cake because cake cutting takes up at least 2.5 dance songs and I touchdown spiked my bouquet at the end of the night.

  • Pamela

    For me, the only way I could maintain my sanity during wedding planning was to drastically scale back my expectations. I realized I could not have a wedding that looked like it cost $25k on my budget of $10k (ish). Maybe some people could pull that off through lots of shopping/negotiating, DIYing, etc but I knew I couldn’t, so I didn’t try. Instead, I tried to focus on looking on what I could afford rather than what I knew we couldn’t. We used a public park for a ceremony and a restaurant for our reception, and that made it easy – the park had a standard price, and the restaurant had posted prices. I knew that I had a limited dress budget so I didn’t even bother going to the bridal boutiques and trying to find a sample or some such that would fit me and my budget – I went to the big box bridal store and found something pretty. I hate to shop, plus I wore a size 18 at the time, so going to a store where I knew they had lots of selections at a price point affordable for me really saved my sanity. I did my own flowers.

    The hardest thing for me to find was a photographer – so many of them don’t list minimum prices on their sites, and I didn’t want to offend them by telling them my (really low) budget. I did figure out that if a photographer was regularly posting weddings where the bride’s shoes alone cost more than my entire dress/shoes/alterations/accessories budget, I probably couldn’t afford the photographer. I think that was just the hardest thing, because I wanted decent photos, and I know that there is a lot of hard work involved in photography that should be fairly compensated; at the same time I simply could not afford to spend the multiple thousands that many photographers charge. Finally, we found someone who was good and we got nice pictures at a price we could afford. The pictures aren’t breathtaking, but they’re really nice, and ultimately, I had to be ok with that.

    In looking back at the wedding – it’s been two years – I’m really glad we made the decisions we did. Being true to ourselves meant being true to our financial values as well. Sure, it was a little hard when I compared my park wedding to other bigger, fancier weddings I’ve been to (with the espresso bars, the horse-drawn carriages, the crazy dance parties, the custom grooms’ cake, the stunning gown), but ultimately our wedding reflected us and I’m happy with that.

    • Kat

      YES to the bride’s shoes reflecting the photographer’s price thing.

      Being on the inside of the wedding industry there is IN FACT a direct link between the venues, decor, florals, transportation, dresses, accessories cost and the price of the photographer.

      Often high end photographers, caterers, florists, officiants, planners etc will be on a “preferred vendors list” for a high end reception venue.

      Look for portfolios that feature intimate backyard weddings, small church weddings, tent receptions at grandpa’s little dairy farm… If the bride has two Ralph Lauren dresses, 8 bridesmaids in Vera Wang, and they’re all standing in sky high red soled heels and there are more flowers than at 5 florist shops chances are the photographer is outside a $10k budget.

      Of course there are exceptions to all of this…but what their pictures show are generally a good indicator of what the bill is going to be.

      • We had a super cheap wedding and a VERY expensive photographer. (Like, he was 1/3 of the budget. Photography was about the only thing we needed to spend money on that was important to me.) He usually does weddings at the most expensive hotels in town, not a little community hall like we had. I accidentally got an email from him the other day (wrong Morgan) and I replied back, and he mentioned that he remembered our wedding well. David and I joke that it’s because it’s the poorest wedding he’d done since he started out.

        But damn if he didn’t take amazing pictures. Best portraits I’ve ever seen of my family – posed and informal.

  • This may have already been said, but the No. 1 thing I would do is be upfront about what your budget is from the very start. “I have XXX budget for flowers on my Memorial Day wedding … what kind of service/products can you offer?” That way you’re never having to meet in the middle, and with less back-and-forth, you have fewer emotions involved.

    Also, remember: hard decisions are hard, but they’re a part of weddings at most any budget. Know that all of us on the married side had to make tough decisions about what we could and couldn’t afford.

    • KB

      Word – also saying “I realize that my options are limited – what can you offer?” People will try to hem and haw at you by going on and on about how you’re not going to get a lot for that, so you need to cut through the crap and acknowledge it so that they know they need to get to the point. And be firm about your bottom line or else that hemming and hawing is going to go on MUCH longer and irritate you.

  • Elizgracie

    I actually don’t tell vendors my budget upfront. I tell them what I want and ask for a proposal. If the proposal is outside of my budget, I ask them to cut specific things from it (e.g. Can we please cut the lamb meatballs?, etc.). The only vendor that has been a problem is the florist–I just don’t know enough about flowers to pick and choose things to cut. My mom is talking to another one next week who works out of her home. I am confident that she will be cheaper, but I still may have to cut things after I get the proposal. Maybe that isn’t very transparent of me, but, hey, put your prices online then.

    • Peg

      LOVE THIS!

  • soraya

    I originally planned my wedding for April, which made finding vendors and making decisions easy, since it’s technically the off season and tends to rain in central and southern california that month. After an oven accident, we’ve postponed the wedding to July, which I’m finding is a slightly different ball game. So here’s my advice after over a year of planning a wedding (with 7 months to go).

    *Be flexible! If you want certain people, but can’t afford them the Saturday of memorial day weekend, go with the next weekend. Or better yet, Off Season all together. I picked my new date based on getting the caterer and venue I wanted for the price I wanted.
    *Do wine and beer instead of a full bar. Make your own flower arrangements, there are tons of resources (on APW alone) on how to do this. Use in season flowers. Print your invitations. Ask friends for help. Shop
    *Make a list of the elements your really want for your wedding. Then number them 1-10, one being the most important, ten being the least. Anything on the 5-10 scale is probably stuff you can DIY or eliminate all together. For us, we’re willing to pay top dollar for the food and desserts we want (but still within out budget). Great music is key, but we’re DJing ourselves. It’s gotta be pretty and look like us, but I’m not willing to pay a lot for anything that will be thrown out.

    I hope this and all the other comments have helped. Good luck planning!!!!

    • MD Bethann

      I second the wine and beer! That’s what we did and I heard no complaints (then again, it was a microbrewery, so the beer was literally the house specialty!)

  • It’s funny, when I look back at my wedding, the budget should have been a much bigger issue than it was. We ran to about $8,000, give or take, and it was a mix of parent contribution and our own money – both sets of families wound up contributing two-thirds of the total, as without them we really would have been getting married under a tree in a public park with paper cups of Kool-Aid (though I think that sounds like kind of an awesome wedding).

    I think the secret to our success, vendor-wise, was a combination of luck and recognizing that we had to be very choosy about what we included and cut everything else out. No served meal – we had a buffet (sorry for everybody that loathes buffets), no crazy Saturday night dance party – we did a lunch. No live music for the ceremony (even though I’m a musician!) – we used an ipod. No open bar or hard liquor – just wine and champagne that we brought ourselves. After consulting with a few florists I sadly came to the conclusion that we just couldn’t afford lots of flowers, and my mom and one of her friends did the bouquets, corsages, and one decorative arrangement with flowers we bought from Kroger the day before. The hardest thing was recognizing that since food was one of the 2 most expensive things on the program, we couldn’t have a large wedding, and we couldn’t invite everyone who expressed an interest in coming. We capped our guest list at 60. If having a bigger wedding had been the most important thing to us, we would have compromised again and not gone with the venue that we used. You just have to choose the things that are most important and recognize that you can’t get everything unless you have money to throw at everything.

    That said, we got lucky on several accounts, too. Our venue gave us a huge discount for the site because the business owner had known me growing up. After months of trying to find a photographer who could fit our budget, I had just about forced myself to come to terms with the notion of asking a family friend to shoot the wedding, when I came across a woman in the unique situation of having just moved her family to Haiti for charity work. She was coming back to the U.S. to shoot one last wedding to pay the bills…the weekend before mine. She was willing to throw mine in there too, since she would already be in the area, and gave us several package options within the budget I gave her. I thought we could never in a million years afford letterpress invites, and on a whim I went into a local stationery shop in Chicago for advice only to find that her in-house prices were hundreds of dollars lower than anything I’d seen quoted anywhere. I just got lucky.

    So even though the whole budget/vendor process is one of the most stressful parts of wedding planning, sometimes things just work out. And I don’t regret any of the things we “gave up” because we couldn’t afford them. Keep looking, keep breathing, keep working. And if you wind up in the park with Kool-Aid…I guarantee you it will still be a fantastic wedding.

  • Hannah

    When we were planning our wedding, I tried to stay away from folks who wanted to sell a package of anything. I’m particularly grateful for our photographer, who we found via the Professional Photographers of America website. He just sells his time, and then we could order prints, albums etc. from him or not. I found that I could save quite a bit of money by designing my own album (used PhotoBooks Press) but did order the wall prints that we liked a la carte from him.

    And I remain grateful for all the friends who helped us–we had a friend who did the flowers, and a friend who made a gorgeous and delicious cake. We paid both of them for their time & supplies, but I know it saved over traditional vendors. Friends & family helped with the set up of the reception. On our wedding day, I really felt like I was supported by a community who loved us, because so many friends were involved in making it all happen.

    • Laura

      Our photographer is like that too! I get the sense that what he likes most is the photographing – he doesn’t care so much about putting together X number of albums or X number of Poses 1, 2, and 3. After the wedding he just uploads everything to our own password-protected section of his website and then we download whatever we want. He has a deal with a vendor who can produce a professional album for us, but it’s up to us whether we want it or not. In short, he’s pretty awesome.

    • Remy

      We found a photographer who was just moving to full-time photo work (and not just weddings) and doesn’t do a lot of editing or her own printing, and our contract said that we got digital images with full personal rights (we can print or post them anywhere and edit them if we want, as long as she’s credited and no one makes any money), which was key for us. If, in the future, we have the funds to get a professional print (and space to display it) of one of our favorite shots, that’s great — and we have the high-quality files. But we don’t need or want prints right now, and that cut the cost way down.

  • Ha, everybody got in here before me, but as a vendor, I’d like to chime in anyway. This part of Liz’s advice was spot on:

    “Before you even start talking that stuff over, make sure you’re finding the right guys. Word of mouth is excellent.”

    If people are rude or condescending (I am sadly not in an awesome vendor bubble, so I’ve met some of these people) eff those guys. Some wedding vendors remind me of that scene in Pretty Woman where the snooty store clerks won’t give Julia Roberts the time of day. You don’t have time to deal with people who are going to make this already hard thing even harder.

    HOWEVER, there is definitely a balance. As much as you can, go into this as if you were negotiating services for your own business. Be polite and professional, and you should be able to expect professional behavior in return. (If they’re not, seriously, eff those guys.) If you can take your emotions out of the picture and negotiate logically, the situation will turn out better for everybody. Good questions are things like :
    “my budget is $xxx. What can you do in that price range?”
    “Can you suggest any good substitutions that might lower the cost?”
    “I’m really attached to x. What else can we eliminate or change to make it fit my budget?”
    I wish you the best in finding fantastic vendors!

  • We eloped! (We had lots of reasons, but budget was a really big one.)

  • Adi

    I know this won’t work for everyone, but I saved a ton of money by:

    1) Getting married on a Thursday (many of my friends were flying in and had to take time off work anyway)
    2) Having an Indian buffet (it was ridiculously cheap when you break it down by person, especially when you consider that I had eight entrees, four apps, two desserts, and bread and rice)
    3) Having the ceremony at a park and the reception in my parents’ backyard (we rented a tent, tables, chairs,and silverware, and it was STILL less than any venue we looked at)
    4) I bought my tablecloths, napkins, plates, and glasses. The plates were mismatched from charity shops (it felt eclectic, not messy, SOMEHOW!), the glasses were all colored pressed glass also from charity shops, and then I searched online for cheap napkins and cloths. It was cheaper than renting, AND I plan on reselling most of the items
    5) My decor was free books from the Baltimore Book Thing and random colored glass bottles–no flowers. I didn’t even miss them
    6) My bridesmaids’ bouquets were the premade $9.95 bouquets from Whole Foods. I called ahead and asked them to call me when they got the bouquets in for the week so I would have first pick of colors

    I keep meaning to write a grad post (my wedding was two months ago) but I’m not sure I have anything inspirational to say. I liked my wedding, but it was just a day. I still got mad, I still got bored, I never reached wedding zen, and it wasn’t the best day of my life.

    • Liz

      That sounds like the perfect sentiment for a grad post.

    • Laura

      I’m so jealous that you got to do an Indian buffet. We tried and tried to make it work and it just wouldn’t. There was no shortage of Indian caterers in our area that were reasonably priced, but any venues that could accommodate our number of guests also required us to use their in-house caterers unless we wanted to pay an extra $3000 fee. Sorry, but no. We even tried to book an Indian restaurant for the reception, but we would have had to buy out the restaurant’s sales for the evening, which would have run an additional $10,000.

      We’re having our wedding at a French restaurant now that I am completely in love with, but there is still a small tiny piece of me that mourns the Indian buffet my heart dreamed of. ;)

    • Hlockhart

      I love your final paragraph so much. Perfect.

  • Julia

    Hey there fellow New Englander! Sorry if this is totally off-topic, but a quick tip as a fellow budget bride (getting married next week – yikes!).

    I was in the same boat, especially with some of the big ticket items like photography. I managed to get a GREAT photographer at a price I could afford by advertising my wedding on the jobs board at the New England School of Photography (link below). I listed my date, my location, and my maximum budget and got dozens of proposals from current students and recent grads. Amongst them I found someone who I really loved who was willing to work with my (somewhat tiny) budget.

    Feel free to shoot me an email if you have questions – I am at monaghan dot julia at mac dot com.

  • Alexandra

    My own issue with budget was that I had to come to terms with the idea that the venue I wanted was not going to be doable on the budget I’d set. I considered venue and guests to be a really important part of the wedding, and my fiance considered food to be a very important part. We spent a lot of time and effort trying to fit them both into a budget that seems to far below the average in the area. And well, we were getting close to managing it, mostly by looking at places that let us bring in our own caterer and such. Until we walked into a venue that just happened to be perfect. There was nothing about this venue that we wanted and it didn’t have, or that it offered and we didn’t want… Except the price.

    And well, at that point, we had to sit down and make a decision on it. Really, it was hard. This venue + their in-house caterer was the entire budget we had set out. The discount offer saved us $2000, but that’s not much for spending on everything else. And well, it truly left two options. Either walk away and find somewhere less perfect, or expand the budget. I’d called my parents, and there advice was simply that there’s always another option. And basically what was said here. There’s always somewhere prettier, or something more expensive. You could always be driving a Ferrari. But there’s a price that comes with that. And it really comes down to if you’re willing to spend that price.

    In the end, I’ll probably never drive a Ferrari. But well, I expanded my budget., as much as that might not be the practical answer. Like I said, food is important to us. A lovely venue that feels connected to nature is important to us. We’ll scrimp elsewhere, maybe even when it comes to guests and quantity of food. I don’t necessarily think that this is the right choice for everyone, but I think it was a good one for us.

    • LC

      Yes, thank you. I’ve been struggling with making potentially impractical choices, and it’s nice to know that it’s not just my fiance and me. One of our priorities is food, and I’m happy to spend more on that, but finding a place that we can afford to serve that food has been really overwhelming. We’ve found an amazing caterer we can’t wait to work with, but my family has been suggesting it’d be cheaper to go with a country club or somewhere else all-inclusive. It’s amazing how quickly planning turns from fun inspiration boards to spreadsheets and stress.
      Good luck to you in your planning, and thanks for sharing!

      • Alexandra

        Well, I’ll be your partner in impractical budget blowing. I suppose if you consider that “you might have to compromise some of your wants” as part of the practical advice here, what we did was compromise the price we wanted.

  • Heather

    Great responses all around – I just thought I’d add my bit. I had a $5000 budget in Los Angeles – not easy. I didn’t try to negotiate, but I did stick to my guns and only worked with vendors who were in my price range. Here’s what helped me find affordable vendors:
    1. I kept looking. It took a lot of digging and asking around to find vendors I could afford. When I looked at online directories I would skip all the nice advertisements with photos and scroll down to the smaller vendors with one or two lines. That’s how I found our photographer who was just starting out and probably the best bargain of the whole wedding.
    2. I was honest and direct from the beginning. I emailed three or four caterers and simply stated what I was looking for and what my budget was. I then asked them to “please respond if you have menus and services that fit this budget”. I loved my caterer and she was happy to work at my budget level.
    3. I went slightly outside of my area. LA is expensive, but a nearby suburb had a venue I loved for a quarter of the prices I was quoted in LA.

    Hope this helps someone!

  • Oof, I feel you, LW. I was pretty sensitive about the financial stuff during our wedding too — I felt really embarrassed when I was quoted a price out of our reach and had to say “thank you for your time but we can’t afford that.” I was lucky in that people were pretty gracious, but still … not my favorite few months.

    One thing that worked for us was asking for recommendations for people who were just starting out. Towards the end of our planning, my husband and I decided that we would like to look into hiring a day-of coordinator. One established group asked for roughly triple our budget for two-person coordination. I politely said that their rate was out of our range and asked if they might consider letting us hire just one person; they politely said no, they wouldn’t do that. Then I asked if they knew anyone starting out in the industry who might be looking to build a portfolio by taking on lower-budget clients. They pointed us to our absolutely wonderful DOC, who was exactly within our budget and worked her butt off for us.

  • Emma

    I actually found the vendor process relatively easy. For photography, I would check for price lists online/email for a price list, and if it was outside of my budget, I simply moved on. When it was an email, I would thank the vendor for their time and advise it didn’t fit in my budget. I found that worked well for most vendors, actually.

    If the vendor was open to negotiating, they could respond, otherwise it was dropped and I was looking with someone new. I did a lot electonically and narrowed things down to a few potentials to spend time pysically going in to speak with them. There was no sense in wasting anyone’s time if we knew in advance that someone wanted 3 times what we had intended to spend for the budgeted item.

    When it came to catering, I had pre-approved caterers for the venue, so I contacted them and indicated what I was looking for and my ideal price point. The caterer came back with what could be offered for our price point – it wasn’t a fancy meal, but it was good, and our guests enjoyed it. The caterer even made comments that if we wanted to save a little more money, he could cut something out and save us x per person.

    In terms of other vendors, we didn’t like what we could get for our price point, so we did it ourselves. For example, we picked up flowers (well, mom in law picked up flowers) and arranged them morning of the wedding.

    Did we get everything we originally wanted? No, but we did get what we needed to be happy.

    Realistically though, everyone is working with a budget – some just have larger ones than others! I don’t think it’s bad to lay your cards out – saying “we have about $x available for this item” isn’t shameful or bad. It’s realistic! There is no reason to be embarrassed or ashamed about the money you are looking to spend for something. We kept our prices pre-tax and pre-tip in discussions, realizing the final price would be higher. You want to be realistic and fair to the vendor, but you also have to be realistic and fair to yourself.

    If you have a $5,000 budget for everything, you may need to forego the open bar and instead have a signature drink. You may not have a for a sit down dinner with 5 courses, followed with a midnight buffet. This does not mean it is wrong. You just need to adjust your expectations to fit what you can afford. Sometimes what you can afford is different from what you imagine, and that is what happens in life.

    (I mean heck, somedays I want a pegasus to fly me to work instead of being hoarded like cattle on a bus, but my reality is one where I can afford a bus pass.)

  • Theodora

    Something to help cut down the cost of photography:

    I have several friends who have gotten pro photographers *only* for the ceremony. There have been more than enough guests who knew what they were doing to take reception shots with their own cameras. Plus, the happy couples ended up with a much more comprehensive selection of reception shots than they would have otherwise.

  • This is such an important, and an emotionally loaded, discussion to have. We were fortunate when planning our wedding to stumble upon a talented photographer duo that shoots weddings on a part time basis (i.e. they have full-time jobs in other fields). We knew them from high school, and after learning about their education background since college and seeing some awesome photos, we hired them – and they gave us a deal.

    I know how lucky we were – they have since raised their prices 2.5 times the amount we paid.

    I also learned (quickly) that we were especially lucky to find our photographers and get a “deal” from them, because that was the beginning and the end of any other deals – we had to pay up the wazoo for other vendors, and there were no more deals to be had.

    The point of what I’m saying is this: sometimes, you get lucky. And that’s what it is – lucky. Vendors are small business owners, and giving someone a “deal” is such a big commitment – be grateful that they even entertain what you are able to afford, if it is below their pricing. And keep looking!

  • Mrs S

    “the key to compromising is, well, compromising.”

    Right on Liz. This was my little secret to negotiation. Like Pinchin’ Pennies, I was well pinchin’ pennies, but also felt incredibly awkward about asking a stranger to take less to give me more.

    In case you haven’t tried these, here’s what worked for me:

    (a) Flowers – often the flowers that we see in vogue are expensive flowers. They’re either out of season, or difficult to come by or have to be imported. But really, unless you’re a florist you wouldn’t know that hydrangeas in the middle of Winter cost much moolah (I didn’t!). So I called my florist (and absolute darling) and asked her if there was anything we could do (together) so that I could still have her (amazing) flowers at my wedding, within my budget, without her losing out.

    Turns out we could – small tweak to the flower composition, a few less flowers and Bob’s your uncle, we were within budget.

    (b) Cake – same deal. I got two quotes one rather high one (for me) from a cake designer who I was obsessed with (seriously, butterscotch ganache… need I say more…) and much more reasonable one from another cake designer. But for quite similar cakes. So I emailed my cake designer and again asked if we could tweak my cake to make it fit within budget.

    Turns out my cake designer used two layers of icing instead of one to ensure the cake was stable. She was willing (if I was) to take the risk and only put one layer of icinig (thereby halving the cost of the icing). Between that and less flowers on the cake – budget target accomplished.

    My point is that the best way to get a better price is to try to understand the vendors business and work with them to reduce the cost.

    But I do agree with Liz, sometimes you do have to make sacrifices to make the budget work. We got married at lunch time in the middle of Winter. On an otherwise quiet weekend, the alternative for a lot of our vendors was to not have a wedding on their books at all. So our budget wedding was a win for them and for us!

  • Nina A

    For us, an all-inclusive venue was the best way to save money. Getting married off-season for us was out, as the summer heat in Arizona is just too extreme, especially for several elderly guests. They provide the food/alcohol, space, linens,tableware, furniture,heaters, etc.
    Another thing that helped was letting certain things go. Our venue has many of the things we wanted-great food, indoor/outdoor reception space, gorgeous outdoor ceremony spot, fabulous coordinator-but the indoor space is very dated looking and there’s no way to disguise that without spending a ton of money. So, we’re letting that go. The venue will put candles on the tables, and it includes linens, but that will really be the majority of the decor. And I’m OK with that, because I’m getting everything else I want.

  • Kara

    “I can’t work within that budget,” doesn’t always mean, “You’re a terrible person for suggesting such a thing!” but if you’re already feeling sort of sensitive about money, you’ll hear the latter no matter what someone really says.

    Great advice. And there’s nothing wrong with grocery store catering, daytime receptions, and all that jazz. My job and life did not lend themselves to DIY/DIT, so I didn’t. I don’t sleep enough as is.

    I will say that I was up front with my budget with potential vendors, which wasn’t super-limited, but was fairly firm and really appreciated when people were up front and said that they couldn’t work at “x” but could at “y” — or better yet, tried to draw up a proposal that came as close as possible. With my florist, I was actually able to increase our budget at the last minute since she’d done such a great job of being on target and we wound up with fewer tables than expected. She took our original ideas and just made them bigger/more flowery. I actually used a florist connected to a garden center, so some of the floral arrangements she did were simply potted pansies. And they were lovely and inexpensive.

  • I am way late to the party on commenting here (I was on vacation last week when this ran), and this probably has been covered, but in case not, let’s just say, I feel your pain.

    The key with when you’re working on a Budget is to nail down your Priorities. The sad, cruel truth is, if you’re on a Budget (I mean, everyone has a budget, but you know what I’m saying with the capital B), you can’t have All the Things. And really, that’s OK! Because I’d be willing to bet that some of the Things, you could really care less about.

    The only reason I even signed up on The Kn*t was for their budgeting tools. And I know there are better ones. However, I found it extremely freeing and helpful to zero out certain “requirements”. Such as flowers. We decided we didn’t really need/want flowers. So we didn’t get any. At all. Not even bouquets. No one missed them, least of all me.

    However, I really wanted a bagpiper for the ceremony. C really felt strongly about the cake. We both are particular about food and drink. So, we made these priorities. We got married out of town (driving distance, but not close by, so I would call it “semi-destination”), and we did it on a Friday. Those who could make it and wanted to be there, did. I’d be lying if I said some bowed out because of it being a Friday, it being a roadtrip, or both – but as Meg has said previously, your wedding is not an inconvenience, and if people cannot make it, they cannot make it. You just have to react gracefully.

    Your priorities may be different than mine. You may, for example, not really care about ceremony music and be happy to sport an iPod, but really want those beautiful flowers. And that’s OK. Because this is what is going to make your wedding yours and your FH’s.

    It’s not easy. Not by a longshot. Finding something that fit our vision required a lot of compromises on our part and a few all-nighters putting it all together, but in the end we were happy with what we crafted, and we stayed (mostly) within our budget.

    Good luck with everything, and try not to take any of this personally, because it isn’t personal.

  • Alexandria

    As a bride on a budget, it was really difficult to find vendors within my price range as well. The hardest part is that most vendors are transparent about their prices. I wish that vendors were more open about their prices so that I didn’t have to waste time emailing or calling vendors I couldn’t afford!

  • Pingback: Links I Love()