Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Size Counts - Save on Wedding Music with an Ensemble Catered to your Guest Count

Having live music at your wedding ceremony doesn't have to be a budget breaker. A string ensemble can be a gorgeous accompliment to an elegant ceremony, but the potential cost of a string quartet can deter the budget-conscious bride.

But remember this - the size of the string ensemble should be determined by the number of guests at the gathering. It is not always necessary to have a string quartet (the most popular and costly string ensemble) if your guest list is less than 150 persons. A string trio, or duo is perfectly adequate for smaller venues, at less cost than a quartet.

For more advice to help you plan your entertainment, visit my complete wedding music guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Save on Wedding Attire - Excellent Option for Flower Girl Dresses

Believe it or not, Easter dresses make excellent flower girl dresses. Arriving in department stores around February, Easter dresses come in a wide variety of colors and sizes and cost much less than dresses at bridal shops.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Save on Wedding Flowers - Decorate for Impact

In decorating your event spaces, remember the importance your guests' first impressions as they enter your ceremony or reception settings. Brides often spend a lot of money on things that go largely unnoticed. If budget is a concern, first spend on areas that are the most noticeable - such as arrangements in the entrance way or candles on ledges, windowsills or walkways.

For more advice on planning your wedding day floral scheme, visit my complete wedding flowers and decor guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Monday, December 18, 2006

Don't Get Stuck Paying for Wedding Guests Who Don't Show Up

Without a doubt - you will allocate the largest portion of your wedding budget to wining and dining your guests. You should count on spending as much as 50% of your total wedding budget on food and beverage, more than any other element for your big day.

The easiest and most efficient way to slice your costs in half is to shrink your guest list. Food and beverage costs are charged per person, and whether you choose to serve filet and caviar or vegetable pasta and chicken wings, the cost is going to multiply by the number you are feeding

Along those lines - here is an easy, failsafe way to save:

There are always some guests who respond that they will be coming to the wedding, and then cancel at the last minute for some unforseen reason. Quote your headcount to your reception site about 10 less than your actual total. You can always add-on up until a few days before the wedding. I followed this advice and saved a lot of extra cash.

Looking for more budgeting advice? Visit the complete wedding budget guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Engaged for the Holidays - 10 Holiday Inspired Wedding Proposal Ideas

This post is timely, because December is apparently the most popular month to pop the question. Almost 1 million couples will get engaged this holiday season. And a lot of those pre-engaged men (and women!) turn to the internet for a creative "holiday-themed" proposal idea.

So Elegala.com (online wedding planning resource) just released a list of the top 10 holiday proposal ideas - all inspired by favorite holiday tunes and Christmas carols.

Hint: if you're hoping your boyfriend (or girlfriend) will pop the question this holiday season - casually forward this link from an anonymous source :)

OK - on to the list; here are the top few proposal ideas:

Silent Night
Ah, the first snowfall…the sparkling white silence, the blanketed landscape catching the glow of the twinkling lights and stars above. The season’s natural landscape sets the perfect ambiance for a romantic marriage proposal. Take a moonlit stroll through the new fallen snow, and ask her to be your wife.

Jingle Bell Rock
Arrange for the two of you to put up the holiday decorations together. Carefully attach a sparkling rock to her favorite ornament, and give it to her once all the rest have been placed on the tree.

And a Happy New Year
Ringing in the New Year goes hand in hand with a glass (or two) of the bubbly. Make hers extra sweet by dropping a dazzling diamond in her glass, and present it to her at the stroke of midnight.

Let it Snow
Ask her in a winter wonderland; write “Will You Marry Me” in fresh snow.

Read the rest of the top 10 holiday proposal ideas in the California Chronicle.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Videography Virtuoso - How to Capture Your Wedding on a Budget

Emotions, reactions, interactions…there’s no better way to capture and preserve it all than live footage. Your wedding videographer has the unique capability of documenting every moment of your special day as it unfolds. In theory, your wedding video is a priceless memento; in reality, it can cost anywhere from $500-$10,000 and beyond. With these simple tips, you can have memorable wedding footage without breaking your wedding budget.

Learn the Lingo -
There is a lot more to videography than just “record,” “fast-forward,” and “rewind.” A number of fancy editing techniques exist, such as animated titles, still shots, slow motion and dissolves. These techniques can be appealing, but will likely increase the price tag. Educate yourself and decide which editing techniques you want included in your videography package before getting carried away with all the belles and whistles. If you’re on an extremely tight budget, select a straight shot package, which covers the event in its entirety with little or no editing.

Sound Check -
Quality sound is a must – so know the different microphone options and their costs. Digital sound recorders attached directly to the bride and groom provide the best up-close sound, but because it is recorded onto a separate disk that must be synched with the footage, it will cost you more during the editing process. A professional videographer should have state-of-the-art equipment, in which case sticking with the single mic that is built into the recorder should suffice.

Be a One-Man Woman -
If necessary, stick to one camera operator. Extra cameras will tack on $400 to $1000 a piece, which may not be the most efficient use of your budget. Most weddings are actually shot with one camera, so rest assured that a single operator will be able to capture the important moments. Forget all the FootageIf you simply cannot forego some of the pricey sound and editing options (we don’t blame you), consider saving on time alone. Hire your videographer for the most important part of the day only – such as from the beginning of your ceremony until the first dance – and save on billing hours and editing fees.

-contributed by Joni Lacroix-
For more ideas and advice to help you plan your videography, visit my complete videography guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

5 Frivolous Wedding Details that Rack Up Your Wedding Budget

As you plan your wedding, you will find that around every corner lies another opportunity for a costly add-on or upgrade. Many brides are quick to nod yes to every seemingly fabulous idea and little extra presented to them. Hey - when you're spending upwards of $30,000 - what's another $300?? It's an easy conclusion to make when swept up in the chaotic sea of wedding planning.

But if you're on a budget, the easiest way to stick to it is to just say no. For what seems now like an idea that you absolutely cannot forego lest you want a completely unremarkable and utterly forgettable wedding reception will eventually wind up as just another unnoticed wedding detail that burried you further into debt.

That said - here are some common wedding details and extras that you can live without, and neither you nor your guests will be the wiser:

1) The Champagne Toast - This is a biggie - almost every reception venue offers to pass a champagne toast to all of your guests for a $200-$400 fee. Don't do it - it's a waste. Many of your guests will simply take a sip and set the glass down - or not take a sip at all. It's best to allow your guests to simply toast with the drink of their choice when the toasts are made.

2) The Champagne/Chocolate Fountain - Fountains - especially chocolate fountains - have been the rage for the last few years. My opinion is that the trend is now cliche and tired. If you have your heart set on one - fine. But if not - this is another extra you can do without. Trust me - your guests aren't going to search your reception site for the chocolate fountain. Really, they won't.

3) The Groom's Cake - The groom's cake is a southern tradition that has recently been spotted at wedding receptions throughout the country - (we all remember the armadillo cake from Steel Magnolias). A southern girl myself, I admit that I couldn't do without this one, but it too is an unneccesary expense. No one ever runs out of wedding cake at a reception, so why have two cakes?

4) The Tossing Bouquet - Having your florist create an additional bridal bouquet for the bouquet toss has become the norm. The idea makes sense in concept, as most brides wish to keep their real bouquet as a keepsake. But there is no need to have your florist create a tossing bouquet - which can tack on an additional $50-$100 to your floral bill. Instead - have a friend or family member pick up some flowers from your local grocery store - a mere $5-$10.

5) The Extra Hour - Almost every reception site has an upfront overtime fee, and they'll casually mention that your reception can go an extra hour for, say, $200. It may seem tempting to turn your make your 4 hour reception last 5, but the extra hour is not only unnessasary - it could also increase your wedding costs exponentially. For you'll probably have to contract your entertainment, transportation, photographer and videographer for an extra hour as well. Guests are usually ready to call it a night after 4 hours - let them.

Brides - got any more ideas? Send them my way!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Plan a Thanksgiving Wedding - Creative (and Budget Friendly) Ideas

Thanksgiving is the perfect time for an elegant yet relaxed wedding celebration. The autumn holiday lends itself to natural settings, simple decor and comfort food - all which can prove extremely friendly to your wedding budget. Looking for thanksgiving-themed inspiration? Here are some creative and wallet-friendly ideas to get you started towards planning unforgettable nuptials with a Thanksgiving twist.

Invitations and Stationery - Dress up ordinary wedding invitations and wedding with inexpensive silk fall leaves included in each mailing.

Wedding Flowers and Decor - Instead of gaudy arrangements featuring pricey blooms - keep your decor a simple enhancement to mother nature's natural bounty. Use the autumn harvest for inspiration; think gourds, pumpkins, squash, gold dipped fall leaves...you get the idea.

Menu and Catering - The food is the main attraction for this wedding. You cannot go wrong with traditional favorites: turkey, red potatoes, corn bread dressing, green beans, and honey glazed carrots. Consider incorporating your family recipes into your wedding menu and serving the meal family style (if your guest list is small). To round out the thanksgiving feast - serve a pumpkin cake or even a tiered pumkin pie!

You can find even more ideas and advice on planning a theme wedding at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Transportation Tip - Save Money with Two Trips

Here's an easy tip to help you save money on your wedding transportation:

When reserving your wedding day transportation, remember that the groom and his groomsmen need to be at the church 45 minutes early to seat your guests. Instead of paying to rent 2 separate vehicles (and drivers), have your driver can pick up the guys first and return for the bride & bridesmaids. This will save you from having to contract two vehicles/drivers - which would double the cost.

You can find even more tips to save on wedding transportation in this article at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Thursday, November 02, 2006

5 Ways to Save on Wedding Décor

After selecting the perfect reception site, it’s all about the details. Consider the venue a blank canvas upon which to create your stylistic masterpiece. Event décor can make or break the ambiance, but don’t assume it has to break your wedding budget. Remember—less is always more. Here are some simple ways I found to get the most bang for your decorating buck.

Choose Wisely -

Make your wedding venue work for you – not against you. Find a ceremony and reception site that complements your desired style – so that you don’t have to decorate around it with pricey floral arrangements. For instance, if you envision a relaxed natural setting, go with a park or botanical garden. Or for a formal stately affair, consider a museum or historical building, with dominant architecture as your wedding backdrop.

When I scouted reception sites, I paid close attention to the ceremony and reception settings at each site. I wanted an antebellum style setting with gorgeous grounds, greenery and flowers - and I didn't want to pay for expensive decor to make it happen!

Something Borrowed -

Add a personalized touch and honor your heritage by using family photos as wedding décor pieces. Gather some stylish frames and ask for photos from both sides from the family (black and white works perfectly here). These inexpensive touches can embellish your guest book table or decorate otherwise décor-impaired spaces in the facility. I did this - and everyone agreed that it was such a classy touch - and it hardly cost me a thing.

Think Double Duty -

Wedding flowers are pricey, so make your floral arrangements earn their keep. Invite your ceremony flowers to the reception! You can use them to decorate your cake or gift table – and your guests will never be the wiser.

Go For Impact -

Unfortunately, some elements of your special day simply go unnoticed by guests. So if your budget won’t allow you to drape your entire reception area in stylish décor pieces, relax. You can still create a noticeable impact by saving your decorating dollars for the areas that will pack the biggest punch – such as the entranceway or a grand staircase.

See The Light -

The right lighting can transform an ordinary room into something extraordinary. If hiring a lighting technician is out of your budget, consider creating this effect with candles. Fill glass bowls with floating candles and flowers, or place a single pillar candle in a hurricane lantern for a dramatic effect. The result is romantic and elegant…and inexpensive.

For more ideas and advice to help you plan your wedding decor, visit the complete wedding flowers guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wedding Flowers - 6 Ways to Save

How much do wedding flowers cost? You'll soon discover that the sky's the limit. But many brides, myself included, have a hard time stomaching extravagant spending on something that might not even make it past the cake cutting.

Bottom line: expect to spend about 10% of your overall wedding budget on the flowers - this will include the bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and any ceremony and reception decor.

While this is a good estimate – you can modify many floral elements to help you cut costs without cutting elegance and beauty.

Ways to Save:

1) Reduce the number of attendants in your wedding party. With less attendants, your florist won't have to create so many bouquets and boutonnieres

2) Invite less people to your wedding. Fewer guests means fewer tables - which means fewer floral centerpieces.

3) Choose in-season wedding flowers. They are often less expensive and easier to find. For a list of common flowers for each season, visit the seasonal wedding flower guide at Elegala.com

4) Choose less complicated flowers. Certain flowers will run up of the cost of your floral budget no matter what season. Ask your florist to re-create the look of any pricey floral bouquet or centerpiece you see in a magazine, swapping out the expensive booms with less costly alternatives. Your florist can review your options with you.

Flowers that tend to be expensive: Lily of the Valley, Calla Lily, Orchids, Magnolias, Peonies, Gardenia and Hydrangea

Flowers that tend to be moderately priced: Orange Blossoms, Lavender, Daffodil, Daisies, Chrysanthemum, Carnations, Roses (due to huge variance in kind, quality, and color) and Greenery – such as ivy

5) Consider options other than floral arrangements for table centerpieces. For instance, scattered flower petals surrounded by votive candles create an elegant effect that won't maximize your floral budget.

6) Choose a naturally beautiful location. A springtime wedding in a garden hardly needs additional floral arrangements, while an ornate church may be breathtaking on its own. Also consider that many facilities are decorated for the holidays, so holding a December wedding may provide you with gorgeous poinsettias and garland free of cost.

For more ideas and advice to help you plan your wedding decor, visit my complete wedding flowers guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Catering - Budgeting Tips for Each Serving Style

Before you begin choosing between filet and chicken, you'll need to consider how you'd like to serve them. The most common serving options include seated meal, buffet and passed-tray reception. When it comes to budget, each style has it's own important budgeting considerations and tips:

Seated Meal: At a seated meal, guests are seated and served by a waitstaff at tables usually pre-assigned by you. This style is the most traditional and typically the most formal. The types of sit-down services include: 1. plated service - where the full meal is pre-arranged on individual plates before served to guests; 2. Russian service - where wait staff serves courses from platters onto plates already on the table; 3. French service - where two waiters serve guests from the platter, one holding the platter and the other serving.

Budget Tips:
Don't assume a seated meal is a drain on your wedding budget. Costs are moderated by the fact that guests eat what they're served and cannot go back for seconds, making the amount of food consumed easier to manage. Costs also depend almost completely on what you choose to serve. One way to save cash is to decrease the number of courses. For instance, serve either soup or salad, not both. Chicken tends to be the most inexpensive of the proteins, and although beef is typically the priciest, you can cut down on cost by serving a triangle-cut sirloin. If you prefer seafood, consider farm-raised salmon which tends to be the most reasonably priced fish with the widest appeal. Other options include pork, lamb, pasta and vegetarian. If you must, rely on dinner rolls and other inexpensive sides to satisfy your guests' appetites.

Buffet: At a buffet, guests select their food from either one long table or stations strategically placed throughout the room. An advantage is that you can serve a varied menu from which guests can choose what they like. Having a buffet-style meal does not mean that you have to sacrifice sophistication. A buffet can be formal when served by stylish wait-staff or more relaxed with self-serve stations.

Budget Tips:
Although you will save on the cost of wait staff by presenting your meal buffet-style, the total cost may not be less. People tend to eat more because they can return to the buffet as often as they wish, so you may have to order more food, which can cut into your wedding budget. Again, costs depend almost entirely on what you choose to serve.

Passed-Tray: At this style of reception, there is no full meal. Instead waiters circulate the room, offering trays of hors d'oeuvres to standing guests. This style of service is ideal for a cocktail reception, which is often a shorter duration than a full reception.

Budget Tips
If cost and time are major considerations in your wedding planning, then a passed-tray reception consisting entirely of cocktails and appetizers may be the perfect option for your wedding budget. This style is typically the least stressful and the most wallet-friendly. Since these events typically run for only two hours, in addition to savings on food and beverage - location, staffing and other rental fees are also considerably reduced.

For more advice on planning your wedding menu , visit my complete catering guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Wedding Venues - How to Keep Reception Costs Down

Your wedding location is one of the most important decisions you'll make in planning your wedding - AND it's the highest cost you'll endure, so choose wisely. Expect to spend about 50% of your total budget on hosting, wining and dining your guests. So when scouting potential reception sites - you will first need to determine the cost of holding your wedding reception at each location. Sounds like a given, right? Not exactly. You will soon discover that most reception sites break down their costs differently, and what may seem to be less expensive may wind up more costly once all of the figures are totaled.

Avoid confusion, and keep costs down -
Request an itemized list of fees from each venue, and tally the costs of each fee and service you will most likely use for your event. Many fees are determined by head count, so have an idea of your guest count beforehand to get an accurate estimate. Then compare your itemized cost lists to determine which site is the most cost effective for your needs.

Already confused? Not to worry—I have compiled a complete list of typical costs and fees charged by wedding reception sites. If a facility does not provide one of these services, such as an onsite caterer, factor in the estimated cost of contracting the service from an outside vendor when tallying your total expenses.

Compare These Fees for Each Potential Reception Site:
1. What is the facility rental fee? (this is huge because rental fees can vary greatly. Some sites don't charge anything - while others can charge upwards of $10,000 and beyond just to hold your event there - on top of food and beverage costs!)

2. What is the cost—for food? (sites typically offer more than one menu package; determine which menu package you will most likely utilize for your wedding reception—and use that amount in determining your estimate.)

3. What is the cost—for beverage? (save time by having an idea of what beverage package you would like to serve beforehand, whether a full bar, limited bar or non-alcoholic bar)

4. If you can hold your ceremony on site, what is the ceremony fee? (obviously if you plan on holding your ceremony at another location - this fee is irrelevant)

5. What is the set-up/break-down fee? (some sites charge per chair or table, others charge a lump sum)

6. What is the staffing fee? (including bartenders, waiters etc.)

7. What is the overtime fee?

8. Is there a fee for security personnel?

9. Is there a fee for parking or valets?

10. Is there a cake cutting fee? (some sites charge a cutting fee only if you bring in your wedding cake from an outside vendor. this may be a lump sum or a per slice fee)

For more ideas and advice for planning your reception, visit my complete wedding reception guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Invite on a Dime - A Budget Friendly Guide to Wedding Stationery

Your wedding stationery is your first opportunity to wow your guests and give them a prelude for fabulous things to come. This is your chance to foreshadow the style of your wedding, so take advantage. But don’t let memorable wedding invitations and stationery spell the end to your carefully planned wedding budget. With my simple suggestions, you can make an impressive impact without breaking the bank.

Cut That Guest List!
I've said it before, I'll say it again…downsize the number of invitees. Forget inviting every person you’ve ever known; your stationery costs increase exponentially by the number you need to print. So for every guest deemed unnecessary, voila – instant savings!

K.I.S.S.
When selecting a design, remember to Keep It Simple, Sister (no, not stupid). Custom graphics and colored inks all increase the bottom line. Try to stick to one color, and select a classic design that is clean and elegant.

Learn your Lingo
The printing method you choose impacts the price, so go ahead and familiarize yourself with the common printing methods and their costs. Engraving, which results in raised print that is pressed through the back, is the most formal and elegant printing technique - but it will cost you. If your wedding budget is extremely tight, laser printing is your least expensive option. For a complete list of printing methods and their costs, visit my wedding invitation guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Lighten Up
A stationery rule of thumb: the more your wedding invitation weighs, the more it costs. Not only are bulky papers more expensive, but heavier invitations cost more at the postage meter. So if you found a design you love but can’t afford, re-create it on lighter weight papers and include less inserts. Consider losing the inner envelope, and use response postcards instead of cards with envelopes.

Mind the Meter
When multiplied by hundreds, postage costs add up quickly. Beyond using light paper and eliminating extraneous inserts, there are other tricks to keep postage costs at a minimum. Bring your wedding invitations and other mailings to the post office and have them metered for the exact amount, instead of buying stacks of stamp books and rounding up to the nearest 39 cent mark. Also keep in mind that square or any oddly shaped envelopes incur an extra charge at the meter, so choose a design that fits in a standard envelope.

Eliminate the Extras
While it can be fun to go wild with your wedding invitations and stationery, superfluous extras come with a cost. So choose only those stationery items that apply to your event. Save-the-date cards are not mandatory; consider skipping them if most of your guests are in town and your wedding date doesn’t fall during a peak holiday time. If your reception and ceremony will take place at the same location, you can eliminate the separate reception card from your wedding invitation. A map and directional may be unnecessary if the reception is across the street from the ceremony.

Shop Savvy
You may be surprised to find the very same wedding invitation or other stationery item offered for a number of different prices. That’s right – some retailers have higher markups than others – big shocker. While paper boutiques often have beautiful merchandise, mail-order outlets or online retailers may offer better deals (the boutiques have to cover higher overhead costs). So be a savvy shopper - find a design you like, then shop around to get it at the best price.

Make Like Martha
Calling all Martha Stewart wannabes! If you’ve got the creative knack, we say go for it and make your own wedding stationery. Sure, it’s time consuming, but the end result can be priceless. Not only will you cherish a one-of-a-kind keepsake customized to the style and theme of your event, but chances are you’ll save a pretty penny too.

-contributed by Joni Lacroix-

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Wedding Favors - Great Favor Ideas for Brides on a Budget

When it comes to your wedding budget, wedding favors are often the first item to suffer deletion from your list. They're not mandatory, so why waste precious wedding dollars on these seemingly frivolous items? I had already decided I wouldn't be wasting money or effort on this wedding detail, but my mom reminded me that wedding favors are a great way to thank guests for sharing in your celebration. I conceded.

I soon found that wedding favors are also a fun little extra to tie in the style of the occasion. And If I know anything about today's weddings - it's that they're all about the details. No one wants a cookie cutter wedding, and wedding favors offer a relatively inexpensive outlet for you to demonstrate your creativity and set your wedding apart from the rest.

Just like everything else in the wedding planning process, if you would really like to give favors at your wedding, you can always find a way to make it fit within your budget.

What They'll Cost
Expect to spend around $1 per guest on the low end, and just like any other element of a wedding, costs can always creep up to suit your wildest imaginations

Budget-Friendly Favor Ideas

• Here's what I did for my wedding favors: For my Atlanta wedding, I gave guests cds featuring selections about Georgia or from Georgia artists. The discs costs virtually nothing; and I ordered customized decorative cd labels and holders for a minimal amount.

• Food and candy items are often inexpensive and always popular. Make yours stand out: give a regional favorite from your wedding location - peanuts in Georgia, Vermont maple syrup, or hot salsa in Texas.

• Round up your family or bridesmaids for a fun night of homemade favor-making. Test your culinary skills and make a homemade jam or spread for your guests. (package them in festive customized jars!)

• Even if you have your heart set on a high-end item, save by giving one gift per couple, placed between their dinner plates and tagged with the couple's names (of course, your single friends will each still receive one).

• Get two things for the price of one, and ask your florist to create centerpieces that can be split into tiny bouquets for your guests to take home.

For more tips on favors and accessories, visit my complete wedding favors and gifts guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Your Wedding Dress - Cost and Budgeting Tips

As a recent bride myself, I know this... Shopping for a wedding dress is one of the most anticipated wedding planning milestones for a bride-to-be. There's just something awe-inspiring and almost magical about "the dress." Whether you have been dreaming of it since age four or have yet to give it much thought, seeing yourself in a wedding dress for the first time can be a wonderfully disarming moment.

That said, shopping for a wedding gown is a tad more involved than shopping for your basic pair of slacks. After all, this is a dress that will most likely be the most expensive and most photographed you've ever owned. But don't let the potentially high price tag scare you. This being a budget basics blog, I've compiled some useful cost and budget information so that you'll be prepared when shopping for your wedding dress.

Determine Your Budget
It's best to have an idea of what you would like to spend before stepping into a bridal salon. This will save you the hassle of going to salons out of your price range or allowing the sales clerk to bring you dresses you cannot afford. The average cost of a wedding dress is around $800. However prices can range from anywhere as low as $100 to as high as $10,000 and beyond. Shop around online and in magazines to get an idea of how much wedding dresses cost and how much you want to spend. In general, your wedding gown shouldn't exceed 10 percent of the cost of the wedding reception.

When determining the cost of your wedding dress, remember to factor in the cost for the veil, (which can run up to $500 and beyond), and other accessories such as shoes, headpiece etc.

Know Where to Shop
The most popular choice is the bridal salon, known for a high level of customer service. Bridal salons exist almost everywhere; you can search the local wedding services directory at Elegala.com for ones nearest you. Of course, all bridal salons are not the same. Some feature wedding gowns from multiple designers, others feature only gowns from one specific designer custom for their particular store. Price ranges vary as well. While many bridal salons offer gowns starting as low as $300, prices at other stores can start as high as $4000. Call and inquire before choosing a store.

Brides on a tighter budget can try an outlet. Bridal outlets offer hundreds of dresses, often from past seasons, at a discounted price. For more information on bridal shops, this wedding dress shopping guide can help.

Or try a nationwide bridal chain store (such as David's Bridal) These national chains manufacture, import, and sell their own private label wedding gowns. While the style selection is more limited than in other types of stores, the prices are usually lower. For more information on national bridal chains, review the wedding gown shopping guide at Elegala.com -Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Wedding Invitation - Budget Considerations and Ways to Save

Worried that your wedding invitations are going to break your wedding budget? Don't fear; here's what you need to know about ordering wedding invitations...

Before you go shopping, become familiar with the invitation printing process and lingo; this will help you determine your needs in advance and avoid unnecessary costs. Price is determined per invitation, so if your guest list is huge - be prepared to designate a significant portion of your budget to wedding invitations.

Costs can range anywhere from $1-$50 each. Bulky papers, colored inks and unique graphics all increase the cost. Custom designs can also be pricey.

Printing options also affect the cost. Here are your printing options:

Engraving - most formal and most expensive - results in raised print that is pressed through the back.
Thermography - less expensive than engraving - results in raised print that does not press through the back
Lithography - less expensive than either engraving or theromography - results in print that is neither raised nor pressed through
Laser printing - the least expensive option. - produced on a laser printer and results in print similar to that of lithography.When factoring total costs, don't forget to consider postage as part of your budget, including stamps for the response card envelopes.

The bottom line: If you're looking for ways to save -

1) Keep your design simple, sticking to one color.
2) Use lighter weight papers and include less inserts. Use response postcards instead of cards with envelopes.
3) Select a less-expensive printing option - such as laser printing.
4) CUT THAT GUEST LIST!!

Need more advice and tips on planning your invites? My complete wedding invitations and stationery guide can help.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Complete Wedding Planning information at my new Wedding Lens

Hey everyone - I just created a lens at Squidoo - which has complete wedding planning advice, useful tools, links and resources. Check it out: http://www.squidoo.com/weddingdiva/.

So far I've included a list of links that I found useful in planning my own wedding; along with a few planning articles and lists. I will eventually be adding a complete photo gallery of wedding details - images from my own wedding and others of wedding details (cakes, bouquets, centerpieces, favors etc) that I found particularly unique and inspiring. So keep checking back!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wedding Transportation - How to Arrive in Style on a Budget

Every girl dreams of making a grand Cinderella-like entrance to the ball – and her wedding day is the perfect excuse. Although not the most exciting task on your wedding to do list, planning your wedding transportation represents yet another opportunity to show off your creativity and personality. But at what cost should you be willing to sacrifice your wedding budget for glamour? With my sound advice, you can save and still arrive in posh style. Make an impression on a budget with these top five ways to save on wedding transportation:

Downsize Your Ride
You don’t necessarily need a stretch limo for an intimate bridal party. Traditional limos seat 6 passengers and are a perfect budget friendly alternative to their stretch counterparts. If scaling back the size of your bridal party isn’t an option, consider having a close friend or relative transport them to the wedding, and save the hired ride for you and your hubby.

Save the Drama
Determine what point in the day your mode of transportation will have the greatest effect – and hire the fancy ride for that one way trip. Do you really need a chauffeured limo if you’re showing up in a t-shirt and jeans? Perhaps you would rather make a dramatic getaway at the end of your reception. Sign up for the hourly rate instead of the entire evening, and enjoy considerable savings.

Designate a Driver
Ditch the chauffeured ride, and opt for a rental car that is equally as glamorous. Recruit someone reliable (and sober) to drive your rental.

Omit the Amenities
A television and sunroof might seem like an enticing add-on when booking your wedding transportation. But consider the circumstances - just how much TV are you going to watch on your wedding day? Take our advice – lose the pricey extras – and put the savings towards more noticeable wedding details.

Have an Off-Peak Gala
Again, there is no rule that states that your wedding has to be held on a Saturday in June. If you hold your event on a day when rental vehicles are in less demand, chances are you can negotiate a considerable discount.

For more advice to help you plan your wedding day ride, visit my complete Wedding Transportation Guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

5 Ways a Professional Wedding Planner will Save You Money

If you think that a wedding planner is a luxury reserved for the wealthy, you may be surprised. As I set out to plan my wedding, I soon found that hiring a professional planner to lend a hand is actually a wise economic decision. Need convincing? Here are the top reasons a wedding planner can help you save some serious headaches – and cash:

Time is Money
Oh so cliché – but oh so true. As a bride to be, you don’t need to be told twice your time is valuable, so why waste it when it counts the most? Planning a wedding is essentially a full time job, and if you’re already a busy professional, guess what? Your work week doubled the moment you said “yes.” Trust me, your boss won't like it if you're caught surfing the net for wedding dresses on the job. Your career, your wedding or your sanity may suffer if you don’t get some help.

Set Your Budget...And Stick To It!
Once you set your wedding budget, your planner will help you stick to it. Be open about any budgetary constraints during planning sessions. Once you’re on the same page, your planner can help you determine what’s most important to you and make spending choices accordingly.

A Friend Indeed
A good wedding planner will get the most for your money by choosing the best vendors. As industry insiders, wedding consultants have built a network of reliable professionals and can make recommendations based on your style and budget. These vendor recs. save countless hours of research and can potentially avert costly mistakes (you can rest assured knowing Johnny Photographer isn’t going to skip town with your photography deposit).

Prime Negotiator
Your wedding planner will review all vendor contracts before you sign on the dotted line, catching any hidden fees and ensuring your needs are covered. As repeat clients, planners may even score you some vendor discounts. (mine was able to get me a reduced rate on our wedding transportation!)

Go Part Time
Still think your wedding budget’s too maxed out for hired help? While many wedding planners orchestrate entire affairs (which can be pricey), most can be hired on an hourly basis for services tailored to your needs. So if you find yourself stumped on invitations – a pro can come to the rescue. Another option is a week-of or day-of planner, a great alternative for the bride who plans everything herself but would like to have a professional on hand to attend to last minute details.

-contributed by Joni Lacroix-
Still not sure whether a wedding coordinator is for you? This complete guide to hiring and working with a wedding planner will help you decide.

Friday, August 25, 2006

5 Ways to Save on Wedding Music

Every bride worth her weight in tulle knows - when all is said and done – your guests may not quite recall the centerpieces, but all will remember whether (or not) they had a good time. I've found that elusive “fun factor” rides undeniably on the quality of your wedding entertainment. Of course, like everything having to do with weddings, the high price tag of wedding entertainment can intimidate the budget conscious bride - it certainly intimidated me! I didn't want to sacrifice the vibe in the name of savings, so as I researched my wedding entertainment, I looked for some creative budget saving tips. Here's what I learned...

1) DJ Vs. Band
It’s the age-old argument, but when it comes to your entertainment budget – the DJ usually wins the price war (unless of course DJ AM is on your vendor list). For me, however, nothing compares to live music, so I really wanted a band. Thankfully, I found that even if your ideal wedding reception includes drums and a vocalist (as mine did), you can still fit live music into your budget. Limit the number of pieces in your band, and save about $150 per musician. Or hire a band for cocktail hour and the first dances, then switch to a DJ for the final foot stomping moments of your reception – a budget-friendly best of both worlds!

2) Be an Off-Peak Bride
A wedding does not necessarily have to take place on a Saturday night in the spring or summer, and if you're willing to be flexible with your date and time, you can drastically cut the costs of almost all wedding services - including wedding music. Most bands and DJs offer discounts for off-peak times. (unfortunately - I couldn't take advantage of this -as my wedding was on a Saturday night in April)

3) Beware the Overtime
Most entertainment books for a four hour time block. Think your reception might run longer? Book ‘em for five, and be on the safe side. An extra hour of wedding music in advance is usually cheaper than a steep overtime fee.

4) Ceremony Savings
Ceremony musicians can tack on an extra $500-$1000 to your entertainment costs. One way to save money is to contract your reception musicians to play your ceremony too - they'll usually add the extra half hr or hr at a considerable discount (mine did!). Or consider some musical alternatives, and pocket the extra cash. If your ceremony site boasts a respectable sound system, round up some classical CDs and someone reliable to cue the music – and voila – instant background music. Or better yet, ask a talented friend or family member to perform during the ceremony (a perfect job for that cousin you couldn’t quite squeeze into your wedding party). You’ll cut costs and give a special person a significant role on your special day.

5) Go Amateur
Check out local universities for qualified and inexpensive musicians. Music professors and department heads can recommend the best students in the program. I do say this with caution – because a bad band can kill the party. Talented amateur musicians do exist, but be sure to hear them in person before making the hire.

-contributed by Joni Lacroix-
For more advice on planning your wedding entertainment, visit my complete Wedding Music Guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Friday, August 18, 2006

Save on Catering - Don't Let Your Bar Break Your Wedding Budget

OK - so you’ve read the etiquette rules proclaiming cash bars a no no, and now you’re fretting the potential costs of a pricey open bar at your wedding reception. Relax, an open bar does not have to kill carefully planned wedding budget. For me, an open bar was a must (hey - my group likes to have a good time). So I did a little bit of research to find out how I could pull this off without breaking the bank. And now I'll pass this knowledge on to you! Consider these ways to save:

Find a Reception Site that Allows Outside Alcohol
This proved to be my saving grace - and I had never even realized this was an option until I began touring reception facilities. Believe it or not – many wedding reception sites will let you bring your own alcohol – which can lead to extensive savings! Liquor store prices are always less, and you can usually return any unopened bottles for a full refund after the wedding. When prospecting potential reception sites, ask whether stocking your own bar is a possibility. *Tip - hotels, restaurants and country clubs seldom allow outside alcohol because they're in the business of selling food and beverage. If you want to take advantage of these savings - consider having your wedding in an historic mansion, museum or other unique location. These types of venues are more likely to allow - even require - outside food and beverage. I got married at a Georgia plantation - and almost half of the locations I considered allowed outside alcohol.

Select a Reception Site with Reasonal Bar Prices
Even if you can’t find a desirable reception site that will allow you to stock your own bar, compare bar prices when interviewing facilities. Yes, this sounds like a given - but just like catering menus, all bar menus are not created equal. Many reception sites offer reasonable bar rates (anywhere from $15-$25 per person), while others charge exorbitantly. Choose wisely…

Serve a Limited Bar
Even though cash bars are frowned upon, you don’t necessarily have to provide a completely open bar at your wedding reception. Consider serving beer and wine only; this will substantially cut down on bar costs and most wedding guests will hardly notice. If you’ve got a number of liquor drinkers on your guest list - serve a full bar stocked with only well brands - or only a few types of liquor.

Cut the Guest List
I know you’ve heard it before, but the only way to substantially cut your wedding budget is to decrease your guest list. Almost all wedding costs are tallied on a per person basis – bar packages included. Decreasing the number of people in attendance will significantly decrease your bar costs.

Looking for more tips to help you plan your wedding menu? Visit my complete Catering Guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

7 Ways to Save on Wedding Cake

Your wedding cake…the ultimate wedding reception centerpiece. It should be eye-catching and fabulous. (tasty too!) And just like every other aspect of your wedding day – costs can creep skyward. But don’t let a tight budget stand between you and the ultimate wedding cake. Here's what I learned when picking out my wedding cake - size and design are the two main determinants in cake cost. Creative brides can play with these elements to create a confection that is super-fab….and kind to your catering tab. Have your cake (and eat it too) with these budget saving tips:

This article lists seven easy ways to save on wedding cake prices. I've pasted the tips below:

Cut that Guest List
OK - I harp on this point ad nauseum - but that's because it's SO true. A smaller guest list equals a less expensive wedding - period. As with all cost-per-person aspects of your wedding, narrowing down your guest list will result in significant wedding cake savings. Less mouths to feed = less slices; you get the idea. And any cake cutting fee, typically charged on a per slice bases as well, will also be reduced.

Hip to be Square
A cake square in shape yields more slices than one that is round with the same dimensions. So go square – and make a deliciously modern statement!

Go Natural
Hand-constructed gum paste or sugar paste flowers can quickly rack up your wedding cake cost. Substitute these costly adornments with fresh fruits and flowers – an inexpensive option that is equally stunning.

Keep It Simple
While intricate, over-the-top cakes evoke the ultimate in wedding day opulence, today’s shift towards modern minimalism can foray into the world of cake design. The result is always chic - never a budget breaker. Lose the ornate adornments and infinite skyward-stretching tiers, and opt for a clean design with an impeccably smooth surface. Add simple details such as a Swiss dot pattern or wide ribbon around the base. Stick to one flavor, as multiple flavors will increase the bottom line.

One Stop Shopping
If your wedding reception facility offers an onsite caterer, employ their services for your confection as well, and save on delivery and service fees. You will also ward off chances for a transportation mishap – a headache you surely want to avoid on the big day! Many reception sites offer a wedding cake as part of their package deal (mine did!), so be sure to inquire when scouting reception sites.

"Dummy Cakes"
Fancy a towering and dramatic wedding cake but don’t want to shell out the extra cash? Instead of paying for extra layers, ask your baker to create faux layers consisting of iced Styrofoam (one of my girlfriends did this). Trust me – your guests will never be the wiser; it will be our little secret.

Outside the Proverbial Cake Pan
Of-the-moment brides are breaking with tradition and forgoing the cake all together - presenting instead pies or pastries on tiered platters as the centerpieces of their wedding receptions. Depending on your selection, this can be an uber-chic way to save. Dare I say it, even doughnuts are in vogue – having been spotted at some of the poshest black tie events! Mmm - gotta love those Krispy Kremes - deliciously kitch, yet oh so fab!

-conributed by Joni Lacroix-
For more inpiration on planning your wedding confection, visit my complete Wedding Cakes guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Your Wedding Photography Budget - 5 Ways to Save

As a recent bride, take it from me... Your wedding photography is arguably one of the most important wedding planning decisions you will make as a bride – after all, once the plates are cleared and the flowers die – all you’ll have left of your wedding day is the photographs. Bottom line: scrimp on photography, and you'll regret it forever. You should plan to allocate a significant portion of your wedding budget to ensure photographs are perfect. Expect to spend at least $1000 on a professional wedding photographer to document your event. Albums and prints are usually extra. Other extras that may increase your bottom line include additional hours, additional photographers, custom albums etc. etc. Add on too many extras – and your photography budget could quickly creep to $5000 and beyond! Before you panic, remember that just like every other element in your wedding day, there are ways to save on wedding photography without sacrificing on quality. Here are five money saving tips I learned while planning my own wedding photography:

Cut the Extras - Pay for Skill Only
Purchase a basic wedding photography package from a skilled photographer. By paying for the photographer’s expertise only, you will ensure great artistic images – while buying yourself some time to save for the custom album and prints after the wedding.

Get the Proofs
To that end, try to find a photographer who will let you keep the proofs. Many photographers consider themselves to be photographers only - artists not in the business of selling photographs. After the big day, they’ll hand over your proofs and be on their way. They’re yours to keep – you can print them in any manner you please or save them for printing after you’ve saved up some cash.

Enter the Digital Age
Digital photography is often less costly than film, and with technological advances in equipment – digital images are no longer a sacrifice in quality. Many photographers have taken the digital plunge – which results in savings for you!

Cut the Timeline
The longer your event, the more it will cost to document it. Since photographers often charge based on the number of hours they will spend at your wedding, a shorter/smaller wedding celebration will yield big savings in your photography budget.

Do Your Research
This sounds like a given, but you will find that a number of photographers in your area offer similar skill levels and packages – yet varying prices. I'm not saying to go on price alone, but definitely take your time to shop around and REALLY compare what you are getting. Determine the skill level, photography style and products that suit your needs, and then shop for the wedding photographer who meets your requirements and budget.

For more tips on planning your wedding photos, visit my complete wedding photography guide on Elegala.com - Weddings with Elegance.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Save on Catering - 5 Ways to Serve a Tantalizing (Yet Wallet Friendly) Culinary Experience

Looking for ways to save on catering? Of course you are - you will allocate almost 50% of your entire wedding budget to wining and dining your guests. If you’re already dreading the look on their faces when offered bread and water (as I was), browse through my favorite ways to save on catering costs.

Eliminate Courses
Break from the five course mold – it’s tedious and expensive. Why not serve a 3 course meal that’s extraordinary?! Eliminating a soup, salad, or an extra dessert will go unnoticed and will free up some of your catering budget for what really excites you.

Appetizer Tables
Passed hors deuvres, while elegant, can drain your catering budget. Consider instead an appetizer table. And don’t fret that this decision will scream “low end.” Infuse the table with creative displays – even a vegetable tray can be done to invoke chic.

A Casual Affair
The most stylish events are not always black tie. A recent trend has brides breaking from the stuffy formal affair and embracing a more casual and festive atmosphere. Consider instead a down-home barbeque, a New England Clambake, a Mexican Fiesta. With a little insight and ingenuity, you can serve these relaxed themes in a manner that’s positively chic.

A Non-Dinner Affair
Dinner is the most expensive meal to serve. Save on catering by considering a brunch, lunch or even a dessert reception. Your wedding budget will thank you.

A Cocktail Reception
Along those lines, consider a menu consisting entirely of hors d'oeuvres. If your reception does not coincide with a meal time, a cocktail and appetizer reception is perfectly suitable. Since these events typically run for only two hours, in addition to savings on catering - location, staffing and other rental fees are also considerably reduced.

For more ideas on planning your wedding menu, visit my complete Catering Guide on Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Top 5 Ways to Save on Wedding Costs

Believe me, if anyone understands the initial wedding planning sticker shock - I do. I've now been happily married for four months, and my recent wedding is still fresh in my memory. When I first started planning for the big day, my head was abuzz with ideas, pictures and trends. In fact, the day after I got engaged - I started a new job - as Editorial Director for a new wedding planning website and magazine, Elegala.com. (I know, huge coincidence). Crazy how within one day - my normal "wedding free" life transformed into an almost unrecognizable existence completely monopolized by the concept of weddings. But I digress...

When I realized how much the wedding of my dreams would cost, my heart sunk. I envisioned an unremarkable reception lacking all the creative touches I had wanted. I did have one advantage, however. Now that my profession consisted primarily of researching and advising brides-to-be on planning their weddings, I could apply my knowledge gained towards my own wedding. Hmm - was I really getting paid to essentially plan my own wedding? Nice how that worked out.. Anyway, through my research, I found some creative ways to craft a stylish wedding on a reasonable budget - without cutting corners. Let's face it - no bride wants a bland cookie cutter wedding, some just erroniously believe that their budget contraints won't allow for anything better. So if you're set on serving filet mignon and champagne, envisioning an extravagant 7 tiered wedding confection and dreaming of a classy aperitif station - guess what? You can still have it! There are some easy, steadfast ways to create the wedding of your dreams without breaking your wedding budget. You can still wow your guests. Here's how…

1) Cut the list, cut the list, cut the list!
The easiest and most efficient way to slice your costs in half is to shrink your guest list. Food and beverage costs are charged per person, and whether you choose to serve filet and caviar or vegetable pasta and chicken wings, the cost is going to multiply by the number you are feeding. Also consider things such as table linens and centerpieces, chair set up fees, cake cutting fees etc. The cost of these services is based on the number of guests at your wedding. Fewer guests mean less spent on these wedding standards and more money available for those luxurious extras your guests will remember, the decadent chocolate fountain, the Rolls Royce getaway car, the sassy martini station.

2) Not ALL your best friends
In going with the "less is more" theme, reducing the number of attendants in your wedding party will also save money. With fewer bouquets, boutonnières, gifts, and people at your rehearsal dinner, you will save all kinds of money. Take your savings and splurge on hair and makeup for you and your maids.

3) Lose the formality
Stuffy weddings are over anyway. A truly awe-inspiring wedding does not have to be black tie. A simple yet elegant beach wedding can be equally chic, and it lends itself to steel drums instead of a 10 piece orchestra, a casual buffet or barbeque instead of a 5 course meal, and simpler wedding attire - all of which can save some serious cash in your wedding budget.

4) Do it yourself
If you have the time and the skill, why not take advantage? Lose the wedding coordinator, calligrapher, hair and makeup artists, made-to-order favors and welcome baskets, and create your own! (What better way to put your personal stamp on the big day than to leave guests with a memento you made yourself?). You can save a lot of money on these services and use it towards something else. A designer gown perhaps??

5) Be an Off-Peak Bride
Avoid Saturday nights in June. It's cliché anyway. Why not do something different? A wedding does not necessarily have to take place on a Saturday night in the spring or summer, and if you're willing to be flexible with your date and time, you can drastically cut your wedding budget. Weddings in January can be equally romantic and beautiful, and afternoons, Friday or Sunday weddings just as fun. More than likely, you and many of your guests will have to take some time off of work to attend your wedding anyway; with the money that you will save by having it at on a Friday or Sunday, you can throw an exquisite extravaganza that will make it worth their while.

Looking for more advice on setting and sticking to your budget? Consult the complete wedding budget guide at Elegala.com - Elegant Galas Made Simple