Skimp vs. Splurge: Those pesky decisions

Everyone who plans a wedding has a budget…whether or not they realize it.  There’s always a number I can hit where they say “Well, we don’t have THAT much to spend.”  The question is really “How big is your budget for this wedding?”  For many of my brides, the budget number may feel painfully small, but I’ve encouraged them to think on two things:

1.  At the end of the day, this big party is really about joining two lives together.  If all you had money for was the marriage license, you could still choose to be happy:)

2.  There are some tricks to make your budget work a little harder for you.  With a little elbow grease and skimping here and there to splurge on the important stuff, you can still have the wedding of your dreams.  So here, I have decided to share a few tips.  Obviously, every bride is different and every bride gets her heart set on different things.  Keep that in mind.

What to Splurge on:

  1. Photography/ Videography: You’re trusting your memories to be preserved by someone for the rest of your life so hire a good photographer and if you can get a videographer as well—not just a family friend who has a nice camera. 
  2. Bridal Gown:  I suggest going to a bridal shop and trying on lots of dresses.  When you find one you like, don’t get sucked into buying it right away.  Get the designer and style number off the tag and write it down.  Check out eBay and and see if it happens to be available in your size. I recommend against having a Chinese shop online “make” an identical dress.  They normally look completely different.  Pre-owned dresses are only used once (you hope;) and most brides nowadays get them cleaned right away so there’s very little risk.  HOWEVER, make sure you LOVE your dress even if you do have to buy it brand new and splurge on it.  The Bride is the focal point of almost ALL of your photos.  If you are happy and feel good in your dress, you will always love your pictures and in time you will forget all the things you could NOT afford.
  3. Food:  You do not have to plan a steak dinner for all your guests, but if you are inviting your closest friends and families to celebrate your union, you should feed them–And they should have tables and chairs to sit at.  Throughout ALL of human history, sharing a meal is the most common symbol of a bond of friendship.  Don’t skimp on this step…even if it means inviting fewer people.  Take care of the ones you do invite.  Choose cheap food (Jim n Nicks is a GREAT wedding caterer) and make sure you have enough.  Brunch is cheaper than dinner so keep that in mind.
  4. The Venue:  Be careful here—you don’t have to get married in a castle to feel like a princess so the trick is to know WHEN to splurge on a venue.  If your venue offers chairs, tables, a reception space, and has beautiful flowers surrounding it which cuts down on your decorating costs, then it might be worth it.  Always compare what you get with what you don’t get when comparing prices.  Most venues are cheaper on weeknights than weekends so if you can swing a Thursday night instead of Saturday–go for it!
  5. Nails: Get a mani/pedi.  No matter what happens on your big day you’ll feel better about the photos, wedding, and first night if your nails look good!
  6. Music:  Good music and dancing isn’t a must, but it is an easy way to upscale your wedding a little.  Check out music students at colleges—sometimes they are more than willing to get their name out there and get experience and you can pay them less.  Sometimes a single pianist or violinist is all you need to change the mood of your ceremony and is very inexpensive.


 What to SKIMP on:

  1. Don’t have two cakes if you’re truly trying to save money.  A groom’s cake is unnecessary.  In most cases, the Groom doesn’t care and it’s cheaper for you to just have one large cake that feeds all of your guests.  OR:  Go with cupcakes!
  2. Don’t get attached to your flower selection.  Consult a florist and have her use cost-effective in season flowers or fruit to make your arrangements.  Choose non-floral centerpieces that you can make yourself.  Think of ways to double-purpose your decorations…it might be worth it to have a giant floral centerpiece if you can use it in the wedding AND reception or use the fruit centerpieces as favors as well.  Get creative!
  3. Don’t rent a limo or some fancy car. Sure it can make for a cute picture, but that moment passes so quickly.  Put that money into something else instead.
  4. Invitations:  Print them yourself or get them as cheap as possible.  Most people are just going to throw them away.  Try to order from a big company online (like vistaprint or zazzle)since they are likely to be cheaper than print shops in town.  Having people RSVP will save you money in the long run because you will only rent and have enough food for that amount of people.  Make sure to specify if children are invited.  To save the cost of the RSVP card, direct guests to where they can RSVP online after you create your own wedding website.
  5. Don’t do save the dates:  If you send your invitations out at least 2 months ahead of time,  that is usually plenty of time for people to plan to attend.  You will need to communicate sooner to anyone coming in from out of town.
  6. Don’t buy an expensive veil:  I’m appalled at what bridal shops will charge for a piece of tulle!  Unless you have your heart set on a quality silk veil that you plan to keep in your family for generations, get a cheap simple veil and pair it with a pretty headpiece, tiara, or headband.  They all look the same in pictures.
  7.  Examples of cheap homemade favors:
  • Fruit centerpieces that have “worked double” as something you give away after they have graced the tables. (wrap with twine and tag that says “take me home”.
  • A bag of fresh cherries
  • Handwritten recipe cards with favorite recipes from both families.
  • Seed packets dressed up nicely with twine or ribbon 
  • Make a sign that says that instead of wedding favors you have chosen to donate $1 per guest  to a charitable organization instead.
  • Rosemary Sea Salt—looks beautiful in a small glass jar and rosemary is the herb of love &remembrance.
  • Don’t worry if it can’t be personalized.  Sometimes personalization can be more expensive and at the end of the day, your guests would probably rather not carry around that key chain that has your adorable faces on it.

What are some great wedding favors you have received as a guest?  I’m always looking for new ideas!


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