It would be stating the absolutely obvious to claim that weddings are expensive! No arguments there, surely!
What is less obvious is spotting where you can save some money.
For example, areas where you may not need to spend so much could include your venue, the florist, the dressmaker, the photographer or the celebrant. We’ll look at each of these in a moment.
Obviously, every ceremony is different and no two couples are likely to have the same needs and dreams. So my comments will be more appropriate to some of you than to others! However, I may just be able to set you thinking.
In my work, I understand the importance of friendly, professional service. I am not suggesting that you avoid professional suppliers (unless that is your choice). For example, you can save money if you do not hire a professional caterer. You can arrange it all yourself, but it is likely to be a huge headache for you, and I wouldn’t advise it.
Venues normally need to be booked at least a year in advance. I speak in other blogs about how you might go about choosing a suitable one, but here’s how you may be able to cut some costs.
Don’t go for a day that is likely to have high demand (Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, high Summer). Similarly, if you don’t have your wedding in the evening, you may have some bargaining power with the venue. And you may be able to hold the ceremony and reception in one room or hall (with some time allowed in between for setting up).
Go for flowers that are in season and local. That can save you a surprising amount.
Having your own dress may be very important, but it is possible to buy – or hire – some wonderful used dresses for nothing like the price of a new one.
A dangerous one, this. A friend might be able to do this job. But will their enjoyment of your wedding be compromised? What if their results disappoint? Might your friendship be sacrificed consequently?
A professional photographer is likely to have functioning equipment and know what to do and how to do it. (That’s partly what you’re paying for!)
I price my services based on my expertise, and the amount of time and work I anticipate I will need to put in. Like many suppliers, I have a certain amount of flexibility. For example, I usually offer a reduction, if someone books me at a Wedding Fayre. In the case of a ceremony that I particularly want to do or a couple I particularly want to work with, I may offer a one-off price.
I do need to live and try to charge a fair price – but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
I hope this gives you a few practical ideas for saving money (there are many others I could have included) and that your wedding will cost you less than you thought!
Whether or not you are planning a micro-wedding or still hoping for a bigger one, you are likely to be looking for a supplier or two. Simple examples would be a photographer, florist or a civil celebrant.
How do you know they’ll be any good, and what do you need to ask them, so you can judge?
Ideally, you’ll have positive first-hand experience. Or else the suppliers come with a recommendation from someone you trust who has used them. We had our reception in the same place as an aunt and uncle’s golden wedding celebration, so we knew the venue could offer just what we were looking for.
What do you do, if none of your acquaintances can recommend anyone? Maybe your FaceBook contacts can help. If not, I’d advise you to Google your supplier(s) and have a look at their website.
The main thing you are looking for is whether they can offer the particular service you desire. In these trying times, you may also want to see their cancellation policy too.
If you like what you see, check out testimonials. Are customers happy with what you are after and does the supplier provide it the way you want it?
If it still looks good, make contact, preferably face-to-face or on zoom or Skype. Have questions ready. Availability is the first question, of course. “How much?” is important, but less so than whether the supplier will listen to, and can share, your vision.
Ask for (and then read!) the Ts & Cs.
If all tallies, then don’t forget this one: do you actually trust, like and want to work with this supplier? I usually tell my brides and grooms only to go with me, if they feel happy at the thought of being married by me.
So, go with your heart, once your head is satisfied!
To discuss this further, please contact me for a chat.
As a civil celebrant, I come across some wonderful professionals, and I’m extremely fortunate to have enlisted the help of Event Planners, Mish & Katy of KP Events, who have written a marvellous article about controlling your wedding costs. Something that affects us all! There’s so much useful information here that I’m dividing the piece up. That means you’ll have to come back next week!
IS THE COST OF YOUR WEDDING SPIRALLING OUT OF CONTROL?
Here’s some advice on where and where not to compromise.
So we’re all agreed … low key, nothing fancy, just an intimate celebration with close family …
Until … “Darling, you know my Mum’s rellies in LA – that weird family with 6 kids … we can’t not invite them. I know they’re not close, but they are 1st cousins after all …” or …
“You know, it’s going to have to be proper über-kosher. I know we’re not into all that, but we just can’t make assumptions about all our guests.” or …
“I know it was stupid but I promised your niece she could have a frilly pink bridesmaid’s dress with ruby sequins … I just can’t let her down. I know, I know – it means we have to get all five of them matching dresses …”
Familiar? Of course it is – that’s just the way it always pans out!
But is there a way to prevent it? Is it actually possible to stop the whole thing from spiralling totally out of control and ending up with a bill of stratospheric proportions?
The answer is yes … to an extent. After many years in the business we might not be able to solve the extended overseas family issue but we’re confident we know where to compromise and where not – in order to ensure your event is everything and more without having to spend everything and more!
Here are 10 elements of your wedding spend in which savings can undoubtedly be made … Food, music (band or DJ) and photography are what we call The Untouchables. Great food and real musical entertainment are absolutely key to the day’s success, and fabulous images are what will provide the memories for years to come. There is no middle-ground here – you simply have to get these three aspects right, so cutting corners can prove disastrous. Despite that, even here you’ll find some room for manoeuvre.
Food is (and should be) your biggest spend and you should be as generous as you possibly can with this element of your budget. Get it right and your guests are more than half-way to having a great time; get it wrong and you’ll be hard pushed to salvage the situation. There are, however, many ways of holding back the reins without skimping on quality and quantity.
If you don’t have to have supervised, but the majority of your guests are kosher, then a caterer using kosher ingredients is a cheaper and perfectly acceptable option. By eliminating kosher meat altogether and sticking to fish and vegetarian options, you can bring the menu cost down further, while a good caterer will still be able to produce an exciting and creative menu within those parameters. If you only have a handful of strict kosher guests, and a non-kosher majority, then you could just buy in supervised kosher meals for them, while opening up more options for the majority of guests. That would almost certainly prove cheaper than the fully kosher-catered option for the entire party.
The buffet vs sit-down comparison is always worth a visit, though a buffet may not always work out cheaper. Although the staffing costs are considerably less than silver service, the preparation is usually more labour intensive.
Do investigate the options however as there will usually be a price differential as well as a more fundamental difference in relation to the style and atmosphere of your event.
Music (band or DJ)
Unlike most other events that have “sideshow” entertainment, wedding entertainment is usually fully focussed on the music. As a consequence it needs to be good. Lacklustre function bands and DJs who manage to clear the dance floor are big no-nos. While live music always has the potential to really enhance the atmosphere of an event, it isn’t a cheap option. A top tried and tested band will often come with a top tried and tested price tag. You generally get what you pay for, but there are ways of cutting your cloth to suit.
A very effective compromise is what’s called the Live DJ – a set up in which you have a DJ accompanied by 2 or 3 instrumentalists – sax and percussion usually work well. Another option is to find a couple of great singers who can sing to track. That way you’re paying fees to 2 or 3 musicians rather than a full band which could amount of 8 or 9 people plus significant production costs.
If you get the food and music right, you’ve ostensibly got an event. If you get the photographer right, you’ve got memories. If you get the partner right, you’ve got a marriage! While we can’t help you with the choice of partner, we can help with the rest. And a good photographer – who understands what you as a couple are all about – is critical. There’s a thing with wedding photos – you can’t re-take them if they’re bad !
Do your research on photographers as the price range can be enormous and don’t be tempted to buy into packages of services and products that you don’t necessarily need or want. Some will charge a lot in return for a beautiful gilt-edged coffee table book along with a DVD slideshow of your images set to schmaltzy music. If that’s what you want (perhaps as a gift for your future in-laws) then great, but if it’s not what you’re into, don’t get sucked in.
We work with several photographers, some of whom do provide the full ‘platinum service’, while others simply produce great reportage style imagery that they pass onto their clients simply edited but essentially raw, so you can do whatever you want in terms of printing. Nowadays there are plenty of internet-based photo printing companies that can produce quality prints at hugely competitive rates. The proviso of course is that the original images are professional high resolution files – so by all means take over the printing but don’t leave the actual photography to a friend even if he or she did win the Amateur Photographer of the Month competition back in May. As already mentioned, you need to be careful when tinkering with the above trio of “untouchables”. However, with the remaining elements of your budget there are plenty of ways of keeping things in check without begrudgingly having to accept an unwanted compromise option.
There will be more next time, as promised, but if you can’t wait, please conatct Mish or Kati on 020 8883 7411 www.kpevents.co.uk | www.facebook.com/kpeventslondon
Of course, weddings are an income opportunity. There are a lot of suppliers out there who know that expense is often of (virtually) no concern when it comes to arranging a perfect wedding. Their integrity may not always be of the highest. You need to watch out.
Weddings can cost as much as £20,000, depending on what you have in mind.
With thanks to www.neliprahova.com
If you use a wedding planner, they should let you know from the start what you will be getting for your money; you pay for the service, but you should get peace of mind. It’s often cheaper to do it yourself piecemeal, but then it’s rather harder to keep tabs.
Whatever you choose, it pays to keep your wits about you, and avoid being ‘done’.
Because, by its nature, a wedding is usually planned over months, deposits may have to be paid up front. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, do your homework on the supplier before parting with your cash. Do you have any evidence that they are trustworthy? It’s not unknown for companies to take the money and run. Testimonials, while not foolproof, may give you a pointer. Also, how long has the company been trading? If it’s well-established, it probably won’t drop you and run.
It does pay to read anything through before you sign (but how many of us do?!) If you’re dealing with a reputable trader, as suggested in the paragraph above, you probably won’t get ripped off. However, it’s no good claiming that you were “unaware” of deadlines, cancellation penalties etc. You must feel happy about the Ts & Cs BEFORE you sign. (If you really can’t handle it, get someone with some legal knowledge to help you be clear what you’re agreeing to.)
The wedding car
More of the same, really. You must look for a reputable company that deals with weddings as a matter of course. If you can get personal recommendations, then follow these. If not, it may pay to visit the limousine company before you make up your mind. At least, that way you’ll know they do exist and probably won’t leave you waiting at the kerb!
With thanks to www.neliprahova.com
There are myriad sites on the internet which cater for brides-to-be (and their retinue). Will you be getting quality? Is that discounted dress actually going to look so good on the day? Again, you need to try and be sure that the company is reliable and bona fide. It may be worth dealing with known retailers (even though that peace of mind could work out quite expensive).
With thanks to www.neliprahova.com
I have already dealt with this issue to some extent in other blogs, such as:
https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=763 and in Neli Prahova’s blogs for me https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=786 and https://vowsthatwow.co.uk/?p=794
However, let me summarise: you are taking a risk if you get your best friend to take the photos – for such a big event, you want a professional. Before deciding, visit them and look at examples of their work and try and get testimonials for them.
Other ‘vital’ expenses
There are a host of other items that you might decide are worth paying for. Flowers, invitations, cake, decorations, entertainment etc. are all quite normal. Prices for these can be inflated, so it is often good to shop around and compare quotes.
Sometimes, a ‘wedding’ cake will cost much more than a grand alternative that will do every bit as well. Flowers may be cheaper if they are in season at the time. Arrange a wedding in winter. Catering a morning wedding may work out considerably cheaper too. Be creative!
Obviously, what I’m suggesting here may take time to research, so don’t leave your investigations too long. However, a bit of hard work like this may well pay dividends later. Not only could you save money, but, more important, you could ensure a perfect day.
Michael Gordon can help prepare and conduct a tailor-made civil ceremony in or around London or, indeed, in Europe.
Apart from taking photographs for fun, I make no claim to be a photographer – certainly not for weddings. However, as a celebrant, I work with professional photographers, and so offer a few suggestions. Some of these may help you choose wisely, and also help the wedding photography go successfully.
Choosing a photographer
- Have a look at the photographer’s previous work. That’s pretty obvious! You might well look for photos showing relaxed couples/guests, pictures which tell a story or which are beautifully framed.
- You should meet the photographer and assess how professional they seem to be. They should have a checklist of preferred photos and be able to answer your questions. They need to convince you that they are well-organised and capable.
- You want to strike up a rapport with the photographer. If you don’t really like one, there’s no need to choose them. There are plenty of other fish in the sea.
- Don’t necessarily go by cost. Of course, you will have a budget, but the photographs are such a vital part of the event that you should give the job to the best person.
- If you are choosing another photographer (or videographer) too, it is courteous (and possibly, diplomatic!) to inform them of this fact before the ceremony. They will need to co-operate, not compete!
- You are paying the photographer, so you can request certain pictures. However, be prepared to listen to their advice – they should know best!
Tips for the actual photographs
- Allow time for the photographs. That may require up to an hour before the ceremony, and at least half an hour following the ceremony. The organisation (who will be in each photo? where will they stand/sit?) is down to the photographer, but you can help beforehand by deciding the groupings you actually want. A good Best Man will be able to organise and expedite this.
- It may be worth having somewhere indoors available for photographs, in case the weather refuses to play the game.
- If the session is likely to last long and you have invited children, it may be worth having something on tap to entertain them. A magician is always popular (with adults too!), although another item to incorporate in the budget.
Don’t underestimate the importance of wedding photography for a valuable physical record of the day (and, though people’s i-phone cameras may take some lovely shots, it’s best to depend on professionals). Hopefully, this advice will help you choose well and get the very best out of the day.
With acknowledgement to www.neliprahova.com for the picture.
Michael Gordon is a celebrant based in London.