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

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 - 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 - 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 - 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!

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 - 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-