Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wedding Wise Wednesday: Real Simple Wedding's Budget Tips Aren't Really Simple, At All.

Every Wednesday I bring you the best stories, tips and deals in Los Angeles and from around the web. And we call it Wedding Wise Wednesday. Welcome!

Wanna find out how to save money
without driving yourself nuts?
Not in this article, unfortunately. 
 Real Simple Magazine is definitely one of my 100 favorite things. I've been a subscriber since it was first published in 2000. I have never not had a subscription to Real Simple, as a matter of fact, I'm staring at November's issue right now. I am a fan.

I got their Wedding email newsletter yesterday, "12 Easy Ways to Save on Your Wedding." Cool, I thought, clicking the link, sure I would be nodding in agreement at almost every one.
Yeah, not so much.
These tips came from a former bride, who only spent $2,000 on her wedding. And good for her, too. But, "easy" is not how I would describe her advice. "Unrealistic" is the word that popped in my mind, frequently. "Stressful." "Unnecessary" was another one. But none of them were "easy".
Before we go to the board, as it were, I need to say that I know that just about every couple has a budget, that they want and need to stick to. You don't have to twist yourself, or your friends and family in knots in order to do it. It's more pressure and more stress that you don't need. Seriously:

1. Think of it As a Party
First of all, it's not very clear whether she's saying to think of your wedding as a party or reunion, so that it takes much of the pressure and expectations off, or, worse, to tell your vendors that it's a party or reunion, instead of a wedding.

Focusing on the reason we're all here is good, lying to your vendors is bad. First off, you're just going to have to keep lying to them, and you won't be able to pull it off. Second, it's not necessary. You want to stick to your budget? Tell your vendors what that budget is and/or how much you're willing to spend. They can either help you, or they can't. The last vendor you talk to is never the last option you have.

2. Look for a Wide Open Space

The Bride's wedding and reception were at a B&B, that doesn't normally host weddings. They got a great deal, including free breakfast every day for her their guests. "Think about public areas like parks and historical landmarks or wide-open spaces owned by someone you know. Eliminate places that have prices and packages for wedding parties, because it’s a near-guarantee you’ll pay a premium."

First of all, a B&B and a public park are not the same thing. The first has resources - tables, chairs, linens, silverware, plates - that the second does not. If it does not have them, then you're going to have to bring them in, and someone is going to have to set them up, and then break them down earlier. That can add multiple thousands of dollars to the cost of the venue, and it has to be done, one way or another.  I'm in Los Angeles, one of the most expensive wedding markets in the country, and most of the publicly owned parks and historical sites out here do have wedding and special events packages, and they are all way cheaper than renting a privately owned venue. The best thing that these places offer is a greater opportunity to control costs, depending on the choices you make. But don't go into it thinking that they don't see you coming.

And that whole, "...wide open spaces owned by someone you know." Yes, can I please have 100+ people descend on your property for  a few hours? Before you ask, you need to know exactly what that would look like for them, and how you - YOU - are willing to make that work. Pay for a maid or the gardener before, after, or even during your wedding? Limit the number of guests that will be there? What are you willing to do? But realistically, most couples don't know someone who can host their wedding. They do not have a friend with a great lawn in their backyard, and enough bathrooms to service hundreds of people.

3. Break With Tradition
You don't have to have Bridesmaids, you don't have to have a bouquet throw. You don't have to do anything that the Wedding Industrial Complex is pushing on you. Ah yes, the dreaded WIC. And she's right, you don't have to have any of these things - I've coordinated many a wedding that didn't. But, another thing you shouldn't do is act like your wedding is something that's happening to you, as opposed to something that you've chosen to do. Stop seeing your wedding planning as a war against the evil forces of the Wedding Industrial Complex. No one is reaching into your wallet and pulling out your money - you're handing it to them. Which means, as on any shopping trip, you get to decide where that money goes. Do you get mad at Coach because you can't afford a $400 purse? No, you just don't buy the purse! If you are not comfortable with the price, if you do not want what is in front of you, say so, and look elsewhere. Again, there are always other options. The number one rule to sticking to your budget: Stick to your budget. If you don't, that's your choice.

4. Go High-Low
At which point my head exploded:
"Think a photo booth instead of a photographer. It's personal and fun, without the high price tag. Cotner bought her dress at Target, a sweet white affair that she then embroidered to make more special. Instead of a full plated dinner—which will cost a mint—do fun finger-food hors d'oeuvres that you whip up with friends (think sliders and mini milkshakes.)"

Photobooth instead of a photographer. Photo booths are fun, and they are popular, but as a photographer friend pointed out to me, photo booths they can't take pictures of your ceremony, or of your first dance, or of anything else outside the photo booth. For the price of a photo booth, you can find a good photographer. I can name three really good photo booth-priced photographers off the top of my head, and I can give you suggestions on where to find a couple more. My contact info is below, just ask me.
Dress at Target - That will work, but who is doing the embroidery and alterations? Make sure it's not you, for the first time, on your wedding dress. Or, hey, just pick a dress that doesn't need the fancy-up. If you do want a designer dress at Target-ish prices, you have the time to find the pre-owned gown of your dreams. Or, rent it.
Make your own hors d'oeuvres - GAHHHH!!! When, exactly, are you going to be doing this?? You can't make sliders and milkshakes the night before. I'm all for friends and family pitching in, and all of them do, in one way or another. But think carefully about what they can do, and what type of time, and space that's going to take. Where and how are you making the sliders? Who has a blender to make the milkshakes, quickly, for a large number of people? If you're doing all of this on site, where, and what is that going to look like? How many people are going to be grilling and serving and pouring, and who are they?
Truthfully, An hors d'oeuvres or dessert reception is a good budget tip. But, you can still save money if a professional is making them, and delivering them. Call your favorite restaurants for these things and find out what's possible. The DIY hassle is not necessary, and not fun for anyone. Here's a rule: Your venue and your catering shouldn't take up more than 50% of your budget. Keep it simple.

5. Think Inside the Box
"Box" is a play on words. Bring in board games to entertain your guests! Have s'more making stations around your reception! Serve boxed wine and beer kegs!
I'm not saying that you can't do all of those things. But before you decide to, you need to get very, very clear on what how you're going to pull it off:
Board games - if you don't have them at home, you have to buy them. Multiple copies of them. On Amazon, Scrabble sets start at $15.00 each.  How many are you getting, and where are they going? On the guest tables, on a side table? And are they necessary? Unless your crew are big fans and you want to go a few rounds - Really? Your guests will not get bored. They will be talking, they will be eating, they will be dancing But they won't be bored.
S'mores making station - you have to have someone monitoring that (open flame!) at all times. Also, check and see if you need a permit, wherever you are. You might have to pay for that permit, too. Don't forget the steno containers! People always forget those, and then have to run out and buy them during the wedding.
Boxed wine and keg beer - Kegs are more expensive than you think, especially when you add storage (buckets) and ice to keep it cold. Price it out and compare it to bottles. Before you buy the wine, figure out how many boxes you need to get, and again, where and how you're going to keep it cold.

6. Spring for Recycled Rings
When I saw this one, I said oh, yeah, we got my ring set at a vintage jewelry store and I had Zane's made for a total of $500, THAT'S what she's talking about. I had hope when they mentioned wholesalers and Sam's Club. Oh, Dear Lord:

 "Cotner took it one step further with an unconventional approach...'We asked our friends and family to donate their old gold to an environmentally friendly jeweler, greenKarat,” she explains. 'The company melted the donated gold, credited our account with more than $1,000, and created new rings.”

Okay....Okay. Fair warning:  I have never coordinated a wedding where all the RSVPs came in on time. You will, a week, two weeks, three weeks after the RSVP date, have to call and email the stragglers to get a definitive answer.
Can you IMAGINE having to track down the folks who are donating gold for your weddings rings? Enough gold to make wedding rings? And putting people under the pressure of sending you that gold, or else they have ruined your wedding, nay, your marriage? Why?

Tomorrow, I'll tackle #7-12. It's all in the execution, and there are just easier ways to pinch pennies. iPod weddings, I'm looking at YOU. Plus, a little insight into why a lot of people think this stuff is just as easy done as it is said. It's not.

See you at the end of the aisle,

Liz Coopersmith
Silver Charm Events

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