Friday, February 20, 2015
A Wedding Planner's Guide to Keeping Costs in Check
Weddings are similar to construction projects in that they are notorious for going over budget. Maybe you are wise enough to select a venue that offers packages that include everything, and then you discover that "everything" is not what you saw in the photographs but something different. Instead of the handsome Chiavari chairs, there is white plastic. The lovely draping and tiny lights in the trees costs extra. And the arch you fell in love with? A specialty item someone had built for their wedding and kept for their garden at home.
Shopping for a wedding can cause the most patient of people to growl and seek solace. It is somewhat like planning a dinner party on paper and then shopping for items you expected to find at your specialty shop and then cannot find, except on line and you really do not want to pay overnight shipping. Like planning any meal, it is far easier if you go into your shopping expedition with an idea of what you want, but no set menu in place.
So here are some of the items you are likely to have to pay extra for, and some that you might luck out with and find at the venue of your choice.
Many venues have a stock of some items. Any of these are great to find but beware ~ chances are they will not be precisely what you are seeking:
tables: long tables are more likely to be on hand than rounds. If you can work with the rectangular shapes, you might be able to save the rental fees.
chairs: typical chairs on site will be stacking plastic or folding style. The elegant Chiavari style is almost always an additional cost item. Chair covers are typically used with the folding chairs for a banquet, whereas the plainer chairs appear as is for the ceremony. When your ceremony venue and reception venue are the same, expect the chairs to be moved from the ceremony site to the banquet site while a cocktail hour is staged somewhere on the grounds, or pay double the cost.
flowers: there are inclusive pricing structures that will offer you table arrangements as part of your package. It is almost always worth it to go with the package offer on the flowers. You will have seasonal beauty, and can usually have some say in the choices. Expect your choices to be more on the side of eliminating certain flower types rather than demanding certain choices. Demands for certain flowers almost always add to costs.
linens: custom linens in pretty colors tend to make the rounds of the wedding blogs, and all custom linens will add heft to your budget, especially the textured kinds that are not likely to launder well. If you are budget conscious standard linens are your better choice. Sometimes there is even a no linens option. That generally will work only with heavy plank tables, sometimes available at rural venues.
table settings: This is an opportunity to either spend a lot of money or not. One of the surprising costs of a large wedding is right here. You may be shocked to find out that you seem to buying a table setting instead of renting one. If you choose a restaurant for your reception, this cost vanishes into the per person costs of the party, as the restaurant has all that on hand. The caterer on the other hand, particularly your less expensive caterer, brings the food, not the place settings. The venue may tell you the caterer will provide, and then when you contact the caterer, it is on a per person cost. Wine and champagne glasses, china for the entree, the cocktail hour, the cake, silverware for both banquet and cake are likely to cost $30 per person and up. The larger your guest list, the more likely you are to face these costs. There are a couple of ways to avert this. Some wedding coordinators can provide non-matching vintage style table settings at a much lower price. Wedding providers will collect items over the years, and can put together a beautiful set of tables, where some of the glasses are gold rimmed, some tall, some shorter, and the plates come from different makers and times, as does the flatware. Another option is to purchase disposables. Recylables made of bamboo are good for both plates and flatware. Glasses can be plastic. Or, rent only the glassware. For matching everything, and a quality set up, the costs will add significantly to your bottom line.
restaurant or outdoor venue in the countryside: Here is the single other truly big ticket item on your agenda. When you plan your wedding celebration, that is, the reception, in a restaurant, they are prepared for you already. They do food service, and have everything they need including the wait staff. When you see the bill and they have tacked on a hefty surcharge (25% where we are affiliated) understand that this charge represents the cost of the wait staff and the clean up. Your planner will be doing the set up, and most likely be present for the take down. Be aware that those charges will be included in the planner's bill to you. These charges will be far less than the costs for your lovely wine country style picnic in the woods, where every item will be trucked in, set up, taken down, cleaned up, and stored again. So hear ka-ching ka-ching when you see the words "country" and "rural". These are not ordinarily cost saving wedding venues.
So how can you save money on a rural sort of wedding, where everything is less formal? How much sense does it make to try to do-it-yourself?
The first step is to find a wedding designer who seems to be a fit for you in terms of personality, and then start asking questions. Do not expect to keep coming back to this person without engaging them and paying for their time, once your initial session has taken place. Let the designer know your budget, and what you have in mind. Ask if your budget is realistic. Ask the designer how you can trim costs if you find what you want and what you can afford are not in line.
Take the time to visit the venue with the person you are working with to put your entire wedding together, and see what is available there. You may be surprised to find that those old plank tables are stored somewhere and no one even thought about using them for an outdoor picnic. If you are going to be using a destination wedding venue, visiting it may not work for you. In that case, your far away partner is essential. Ask that person to make that visit for you, and work out what the costs will be to you for that. I typically charge $150- $200 for a site visit to plan a particular wedding, take photos and send them to the bridal couple, and then go over all the details that are all about that particular place.
As for the DIY aspect, where this begins to make sense is when the couple have a large family who want to help out. In that case, people to help with the set up and take down can be provided. Even chair movers between the ceremony and the banquet can come from willing hands. Family or friend can step up and act as cocktail hour bartender. Music can come from inside the circle of friends and family. Even folding chairs and tables can arrive early in someone's van. If your wedding needs just a few extras to complete the set up, this is where it can be easy to round up those things yourself. When thinking of "a few extras" those would be another half dozen table settings, not 40 more. When the numbers begin to go up, the do-it-yourself part begins to make very little sense.
The very best way to keep your costs down is to keep your guest list small. Venues that work for 20 people are likely to be far less costly even on a per person basis than venues for 200. And finally, you do not want to turn your wedding over to a committee. A typical committee will involve the wedding couple, two or more mothers, a best friend, a sister or three, perhaps an aunt, and the professional. This is how weddings turn into comedies or nightmares. The mother of the bride often wants to be the planner, and that is sweet, and loving, but chances are she is best involved in the invitations, coordinating the bride's maids, setting up a shower. Costs where there are multiple decision makers are seldom kept in check.
Putting together a wedding does not have to be intense or nerve wracking. The wedding itself can happen within the budget of your choice. Remember this, and have fun!