How To Afford a Dream Vendor on a Tight Budget
Most couples who are planning a wedding now are doing so on some kind of budget, one that doesn't always allow for all of their "dream vendors." As mentioned on our main advice page, prioritizing when it comes to wedding expenses is an important first step in determining how to allocate your money. This is an extremely personal choice, as everyone places a different value on the various elements of a wedding. We personally feel, however, that the elements that will have the greatest impact on the event itself, and your memories of it, are worth the expense, whereas many "extras" can be skipped without your guests ever noticing.
There are several things you can do to make the most of your budget, allowing you extra money for the most important expenses without skimping on anything essential. Below are a few ideas.
Consider having your wedding on an off-night, or in the off-season. This is pretty standard budgeting advice, but for good reason -- most venues do discount their rates for Fridays, Sundays and the off-months (usually January through March, and sometimes November and April as well). Your family and friends won't hesitate to celebrate with you even if you're having your wedding on a night other than Saturday, and often it can be easier to book the best quality vendors simply because they're not as busy on Fridays and Sundays.
Make sure you're getting the most out of your vendors. The DJ is a good example of this -- a professional disc jockey will bring enough equipment to provide music and sound reinforcement for your ceremony, cocktail reception and dinner/dancing, even if all three are in separate areas. By foregoing the expense of live musicians for the ceremony and cocktails, you can save anywhere from $500-$1000 or more.
Choose a photographer that gives you all of your images after the wedding. Many photographers now include a DVD of all of the high-resolution images from your event, which enables you to order prints and design albums yourself. There are many reputable sites online that offer these services for considerably less than a photographer might charge. (This isn't to say you should skimp on the quality of the actual photography -- a good eye and talent for capturing the right shots is priceless -- just that you can save money by working with the final images yourself.)
Go seasonal when it comes to food and flowers. Most venues and caterers have a standard banquet menu to select from, but most will also work with you to create a custom menu that suits both your tastes and your budget. Consider discussing your general likes and dislikes, and allowing the chef to propose a menu that features seasonal (and less expensive) foods. Your menu will not only be more creative and unique, but also won't break the bank. The same goes with flowers -- your florist can suggest varieties of blooms, in your preferred colors, that are more readily available at the time of your wedding.
Scale back on the "extras." This means cutting back on, or skipping altogether, the expense of custom wedding favors, monogrammed cocktail napkins and cake bags, an engraved cake knife and server (which you'll likely never look at again), and wedding programs. While there are many beautiful and creative "finishing touches" on the market, the fact is, these items often go unnoticed or unappreciated. (Sadly, take a look at the tables at the end of the night at the next wedding you attend, and see how many favors are left behind, no matter how cute.) Cutting this expense not only saves you money, but also smiles on the environment.
We hope these tips will give you a little more freedom within your budget to make your event exactly what you've envisioned!
UPDATE: Read the post from our blog about the large cost differences between hosting a wedding in the Baltimore / Washington area and the national average.