Now that you have an ideal budget in mind the key is to stick to it. This can be the tricky part. It is important to keep a good record of your costs so that you do not loose track of where you are at and end up overspending. A spreadsheet is a great way to do this and if you are not super computer savvy there are a lot of resources online to use such as on TheKnot.com.
Let's talk about some easy ways to keep your costs down.
TIME OF YEAR/DAY: The time of year you decide to schedule your event can have an effect on your budget, as well. Peak event season in Michigan is from June to October, with September and October being very popular months due to the Fall foliage. Most venues will offer discounted rental fees during the months of January, February and March, this is a great option if you want a completely indoor event and don't mind the colder weather. The time of day can also make a difference. A late morning brunch or luncheon will cut down on your bar bill and possibly even your room rental fee. And depending on the type of event you plan you may not need to hire a DJ or band if it is more of an intimate, mingling luncheon.
GUEST LIST: This topic can be just as stressful for couples and their families as the budget but it is just as important. Before you begin hunting for that perfect venue you need to know approximately how many guests you will be inviting to make sure the venues you consider can accommodate that number. It can be extremely difficult to minimize your guest list if you come from large families. If you can, limit it to just immediate family, aunts and uncles and first cousins and your closest friends. Do not feel that just because 3 years ago you were invited to a friend's wedding you need to reciprocate that invitation, especially if you have not even seen them since their wedding! Your guest list should not feel like a time or place to "return favors". Your wedding is a very special day and you should want to spend it with only those closest to you. The larger the list becomes, the less likely it will be that you are able to greet and spend time with everyone.
Cutting down on the guest list can influence your budget in a HUGE way. Not only can you look at smaller more intimate venues but you will have more money to spend on the things most important to you. (Side note: if having 300 people is the important part to you then by all means go for it! You will just need to cut back on other expenses to balance it out.) For every 8-10 guests you have an additional table, chairs, linens and napkins, place settings, food costs, drink costs, centerpiece, favors and invitations/postage. It is not just the food costs that are involved, it is EVERYTHING.
BRIDAL PARTY: You may have a large family or friend group but if your budget is small keep the bridal party small too. For every bridesmaid or groomsmen you add you are also adding a bouquet/boutonniere and making your head table longer which means more decor. Also, if you want to provide transportation for your bridal party the difference between a small limo or a large party bus can add up.
FLOWERS: Do you love red roses and want to use them in all of your bouquets and arrangements? Stay away from February....due to Valentine's day they will cost you at least double. On the same note, ask your florist what flowers will be in season during your wedding month. Local and in season flowers can be a great way to save. In lieu of floral centerpieces on every table, add some simple candles. If done right, they can be an inexpensive option as well as add lovely ambiance to your venue.
TRANSPORTATION: Offering your guests transportation to and from their hotels is a great service to provide, especially if having an open bar! This is also an area that can cost you. If your guest's safety is a concern for you but you do not have the room in your budget for shuttles consider hosting your reception at the hotel itself. Most hotels have event spaces and some can be quite lovely. If that is not an option for you, at a minimum have information for taxis available at the end of the night.
RENTALS: Rentals can add up quickly. You may be tempted to bring in chiavari or cross back chairs instead of using what is provided but that can cost anywhere from $8-$20 per chair. If the included chairs are that awful, a fabric chair cover may be a more reasonable option at around $4-$5 per chair. I love chargers plates on tables but renting them can be a large expense. If looking to make a statement think of investing into a colored or textured linen instead. Linens can make a big difference in the overall look of a room at a reasonable cost.
BAR: The bar is always a large line item cost. A few ways to cut back on this expense would be to offer only beer and wine for all or part of the evening. During cocktail hour, perhaps, you could add in one or two signature cocktails with the beer and wine but then end them after dinner. Use plastic cups after dinner instead of glass to cut down on rentals. I do not recommend a cash bar as an option. My reasoning for this is that you have invited these guests to your event, they should not be expected to pay for anything. If you decide to cut the bar all together and plan a "dry" event plan for your evening to end slightly earlier than normal. Most people will leave sooner if there is no bar provided.
CAKE: Everyone loves to walk in and see a 5 tier wedding cake just waiting to be cut and enjoyed, I know I do! To save some cost on a large cake like this some bakeries will make "faux" layers out of Styrofoam and decorate them to look like your actual cake, then serve cut sheet cakes from the back. Another option is doing a smaller tiered cake for maybe half of the guest count and sheet cakes for the rest. Most good quality bakeries will make sheet cakes that look just like the regular cake so there would be no noticeable difference to your guests. If thinking of doing cupcakes or other desserts in lieu of a cake double check with your caterer that they will not still charge you a "cake cutting fee". This fee covers plates and forks for the desserts which you may be able to bring in disposable instead.
There are lots of great ways you can cut back to make your budget work for you. Just because you have a smaller budget does not mean you can't have the wedding of your dreams!
In our next post we will be talking about Finding the Perfect Venue!