It is a wonderful feeling to be engaged and planning your big day in a whirlwind of romance and excitement. Your mind is teeming with ideas and visions of candlelit colors, rippling fabrics, delectable cuisine, and joyful guests. Understandably, the very last thing you want to do is to come crashing back down to earth by thinking about your spending.
However, a well thought-out spending plan is not only advisable, it is an indispensable tool of creative and successful planning. Emotions can run high during the planning process, and it is important to establish your financial limit before the planning takes on a life of its own. Even with the deepest pockets, wedding spending can easily run amok. Without a set spending limit and real awareness of all your expenses, wedding costs can spiral out of control and create a financial avalanche before you have even finalized your guest list.
It is the job of a good wedding planner to clarify the spending limit with his or her clients early in the process and to help them stick to it by prioritizing and suggesting alternative ideas, if necessary. Planners and designers should also keep brides aware of the increased cost of “upgrades” (additions to the basic service offered), anticipate potential hidden costs before they arise, and be completely forthright when presenting clients with an estimate of what their dream wedding will cost. Being coddled by a planner will only create a headache in the long run, so use common sense when evaluating a planner’s estimate (and his or her communication style).
Whether you use a planner or go at it solo, here are common spending pitfalls to avoid:
1. Overspending on Stationery.
Save-the-dates and invitations are among the first wedding details (on a long to-do list) that brides tackle, and the overflowing excitement at the beginning of the process can sometimes translate into big bucks. There are many talented designers and a vast array of stunning possibilities to tempt couples, such as invitations presented in elaborately decorated boxes or printed on accessories branded with pictures or monograms. Wedding invitations are important and set the tone of the event, but indulging in Save the Dates with gifts attached, professionally bound programs, sparkling seating cards, extravagant table numbers, and detailed menus on exquisite paper can quickly add up. Keep in mind that simple is always elegant, and that you may want to save your splurging for later on.
2. Committing to a Venue Too Soon.
You and your planner should have a realistic handle on exactly what is included in the rental price of your venue and what certain upgrades will cost. Are you satisfied with the fabric and color of the linens that are offered, or will you need to order new ones? Is the wine or scotch listed on the bar proposal to everyone’s liking, or does it need to be taken up a notch? Are chefs, bartenders, and bathroom attendants provided, or will they be extra? Always do your homework before you commit, and coordinate with the caterer, florist, and entertainment to make sure their needs will be adequately met.
3. Going Overboard on Favors.
The cost of extravagant party favors or giveaways can be enormous, and favors are not always necessary for a wedding. Guests will remember the joy of the bride and groom even if they do not they leave with a monogrammed silver frame, a faceted crystal box, or a personalized tote bag filled to the brim with expensive goodies. Food items such as lollipops, cookies, brownies, or cupcakes iced or imprinted with the couple’s monogram make wonderful and affordable favors. Devil Dogs with milk in old-fashioned bottles, individual boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, or a table where guests can fill monogrammed bags with sweets of their choice are also charming options that won’t break the bank.
4. Forgetting to Factor in Lighting Costs.
The most elaborate décor will fall flat in the absence of proper lighting. Walls can be completely covered in painted scenes, ballrooms can be filled with snow mounds, icicles, and crystals, and flowers can be spilling out of every possible crevice, but without proper lighting, the look will suffer. In many spaces, pinspots or spotlights are necessary to highlight the centerpieces so they do not get lost, and unusual or dramatic architectural features will go unnoticed without strategic illumination. Do not overspend on décor and neglect to factor in lighting costs – you will find your investment will not reap the desired effect.
5. Losing Track of Numbers.
Couples sometimes run with rental, food, and beverage upgrades and forget that almost all wedding costs will escalate in direct proportion to the number of guests. Your guest list not only affects your catering needs, but everything else as well. For example, 350 guests require a large reception area, which requires a bigger band to fill the space and more than one photographer to cover all the action. From linen rentals to staffing, photographers to centerpieces, keep the size of your guest list in mind when planning each and every detail.
A wedding doesn’t have to be at Buckingham Palace, feature celebrity entertainment, and offer Harry Winston party favors to be magnificent – or to create runaway spending. Weddings are uniquely emotional events, and whether extravagant or modest, ultimately they should be about the bride and groom. If you stay focused on this theme – the celebration of your relationship – and plan wisely, your big day will be a spectacular success for all.
Opening photograph by Docuvitae