Unless you are or are marrying a billionaire, your wedding has a budget. For some it’s smaller than others. How do you determine what to spend on or what to skimp on?
I was lucky to have a large budget for my Disney wedding and parents who supported, in fact enabled, some of the unnecessary but awesome add-ons we had. For my dad, he always was thinking of the ‘wow factor.’ The items that would be impactful for guests when first seeing them, and stay in their memory long after. For example, the Cinderella Glass Slipper filled with sorbet was an exorbitant intermezzo, but was absolutely thrilling for our guests.
Of course, everyone has to draw the line somewhere and figure out what’s worth having and what won’t be missed. Having been through all the planning and hosting a number of wedding events I present my recommendations on a few items to splurge or skimp on.
Splurge – All showers need alcohol, let’s face it, that’s half the reason we attend. But really, add a mimosa bar or Bloody Mary’s at least to take the edge off everyone’s Sunday morning.
Skimp – Prizes or Favors. I’m not saying don’t have them, I’m only saying be mindful of how much you spend. Having a game or two is fun to pass the time but you don’t need to give lavish prizes out. A simple Dunkin coffee gift card for $15 is just fine. It’s more than the winner had walking in. People don’t attend showers to win prizes, they attend for you (and the booze). My overall recommendation for favors is to keep them simple, useful, and not personalized. Nobody wants to put coasters with your name on them in their living room. I tend to like consumable gifts. For instance, mini prosecco bottles were my bridal shower favors. A succulent, herb plant, or baking mix are good ideas. At least they won’t get shoved in a drawer and forgotten about!
Reception Splurge Items
Food & Beverage
Obviously food and beverage are going to be the majority of your budget. It’s worth it to have good food, enough of it, and a great bar. If not, you know that’s what people are going to remember or complain about. As painful or alarming as it may be to see a high line item, you must spend here!
Whether you choose a DJ or a live band this sets the tone for the party ahead. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a great personality, just do your research and book early. Have any girlfriends getting hitched? See if there are discounts if you both book through the same entertainment group.
I’m not really talking about your formal photographer, though trust me I believe that is the most important choice wedding planning. Read my post on Photography Lessons Learned over at the Bummed Bride.
What other ways will you capture the memories? This is where photo booths or Polaroid camera stations come in. There are lots of options beyond the traditional photo booths nowadays. I used PhotoMingle. Another ideas is to go old school and put throwaway cameras on each table. Whatever you do, have a plan to allow your guests to take some silly photos and get a copy of them.
Reception Skimp Items
Do you really need customized cocktail napkins for people to smear their lipstick on? How about lavish place cards that everyone is going to leave on the table? Menus? A nice touch but unless they are included I wouldn’t pay for them. We priced out custom table numbers, placecards, and menus through Disney and they were so expensive. Would they have been beautiful and tied in with our theme perfectly? Yes. But important? No. We went with the standard included black and white menus, I crafted my own table numbers, and ordered cute place cards from Etsy for a fraction of the potential cost. Don’t waste your money here. The items will get left behind and they won’t impact the ‘wow factor’.
How many weddings have you been to with baskets in the ladies room full of personal care items? What about the flip flop basket near the dance floor? These are nice gestures to show you care but you’re dealing with adults here. They can bring their own Tylenol and flip flops rather than you spending another hundred or two on these items.
Now, I personally can’t really speak to skimping on this. We had uplighting, lit drapery behind the head table, tulle and string lights across the ceiling, custom monograms on the dance floor and walls. But, if you are on a tight budget you don’t need to go all out here. It does provide a wow factor but that’s probably about it. The room decor doesn’t impact your guests ability to have a great time and it certainly isn’t cheap. Splurge on adequate lighting if your venue is darker but skimp on anything else if the budget is tight.
Splurge Within Reason – Unless you get very creative you will need flowers in your centerpieces, but they don’t need to be expensive. Ask for in season blooms and supplement with greenery, fruit, or even baby’s breath to keep costs down.
A bouquet is important of course but you can get creative with this. If you are crafty you can build your own faux bouquet, just visit Michael’s or AC Moore, especially when they have floral sales, and pick out some blooms. Wrap the stems in ribbon and you’re all set. They even have pre-made bouquet balls or smaller bouquets in the springtime for your girls.
Skimp – Your bridal party doesn’t need to eat up your floral budget. Keep bouquets and corsages simple and only for who really needs them. Grandparents, mothers of the bride, readers, or extended family don’t really need corsages or boutonnieres.
Spurge or Skimp? You make the call!
Or course there are hundreds of items up for consideration when planning your big day and you’re going to want all of them. Just keep a mindful eye on your budget and ask yourself, is this item really going to impact how much fun me or my guests have? Will it negatively impact the experience if I don’t have it? If you answer yes, then you might want to try to accommodate that item. If not, keep it on the back burner for only if you have extra to spend. Keep it simple and you’ll be all set!