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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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 - 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, (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 - Elegant Galas Made Simple