Advice from a Wedding Coordinator:

 

Caveat:

I am a Wedding Coordinator.
This year will close out with my 17th wedding.
These posts are not meant to be rude or condescending (pinky swear!);
I just want to share a bit of what I’ve learned along the way.

There are things that I find common sense at this point,
which aren’t to a lot of folks because, hey, most of us
only plan one wedding.

So, from Becca’s Basket of Common Sense,
“The Comin’ to Jesus” Post.

 

 

Your wedding will cost more than you think.

What number are you thinking of?
Got more than 100 guests?
 

Yeah.

Double that.
 

Now, now. It's gonna be all right.


 

See,
weddings are *like* great big parties,
except they’re not.

Weddings involve photographers,
and venues,
and large groups of people,
and the smooshing together of two (or more!) families,
and the solemnity and joy of two people pledging their lives to each other,
and the traditions and expectations of everyone you have ever known,
and the wrangling of small children,
and the feeding and drinking of all of these groups.

Are there cheaper alternatives?

Hell, yes.

There’s the county courthouse,
for example.
 

Seriously, though,
there are cheaper ways of doing things:

1) Potluck reception.
(but remember that hot food needs to be kept hot,
cold food cold–there are expenses here, too)

2) Skip the flowers.

3) No booze.

4) No dancing.
(This avoids the cost of renting a dance floor, and/or hiring a DJ)

5) Non-professional photographer.

6) Costco cake (not a bad option, actually).

7) Afternoon wedding so you don’t have to worry about lighting or heating.

8 ) Have a long engagement in order to save up for the wedding.
(If that’s not feasible, how about getting married in a civil ceremony,
and have the Big Bash later when your budget can handle it?)

9) Cake and punch only reception.

10) No reception.

11) DIY DIY DIY DIY.

12) Call in favors–do you know someone with property who can rent it at cost? How about someone who rents chairs and tables? If you *know* people, you can often get costs seriously reduced.

Getting married outside in a public park saves a ton of money–
but what about inclement weather?
If it’s an evening wedding, you’ll need to rent heaters and lights.
If it’s a day wedding, you’ll either need to have shade on site,
or you’ll need to rent a tent.
Do you want folks to hear your vows?
You’ll need extension cords, speakers, and a mic–which many cheap outdoor sites do not provide.
Does the site provide adequate bathrooms?
If not, you’ll need to rent port-a-potties.

 

 
But above all?

Shrink that guest list.
Below 100.

In California,
specifically Southern California,
I can almost guarantee that if you have a guest list of over 100,
you should expect to pay between $8,000 to $10,000 for your wedding…
IF you’re doing stuff on the cheap.

Average wedding cost for this area?

$40,000.

Everything adds up–
most couples completely forget about the costs of purchasing or renting tables, chairs, tablecloths, napkins, silverware, plates, bowls, cups…

Even if you went to Smart and Final
to purchase disposable paper plates, cups, and plastic forks,
you still have to purchase at least twice the number of your guest list.

(Unless you tell your guests up front
to hang onto their disposable plate because they can’t get another
because there *aren’t* any more. UGH.)

I did flowers for one wedding
where only crudites, cake and punch were served.
Cheap solution, yes?

Except…
There wasn’t enough cheese and crackers for
even one serving per guest.
Folks who didn’t arrive to the reception site first
didn’t get anything to eat until the cake was cut–
an hour into the reception.

A lot of people left early because of this.

My point is,
even if you’re just serving cake and punch
(and boy, please put that on the invite,
so your guests know to not come hungry),
expect it to cost more than you think it will.

Ask friends for favors,
ask them if they can use their varied talents to help you and your fiance/e.

I’ve been doing flowers and coordinating weddings
at cost for friends for seven years.

The Boyo has designed wedding invitations at cost.

One of my friends made a dozen small cakes in different flavors for
LauraJane’s nuptials.

Another friend is doing photography for The Roommate.

But?

You cannot expect your friends to cover those costs *for* you.
(If they volunteer to do so, well and good.
But please please please don’t be the person who expects this.)
Flowers still cost money (if I’m lucky, I can keep it between $500-700 for a small bridal party, and little centerpiece decor–but if you choose to get married on a holiday weekend, flower prices double and sometimes triple).
Photography is eight hours on-site, and countless hours of post–
if you want prints of *anything*, that gets hella expensive in a hurry.
The ingredients for enough cake to feed over 100 people aren’t cheap.

It’s also polite to pay transportation costs for those who are volunteering their services to you. Not required, but polite.

 

You absolutely can get married on a tight budget in California.
Absolutely.
However, you will have to give up a great deal of “extras” in order to do so.

I know this is a stomach twister,
but I am not exaggerating:

A wedding on the cheap in Southern California for over 100 guests
is going to run you around $10,000.

 

For serious.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. behnnie
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 14:20:41

    I never considered the whole mics and extension cords and speakers part of an outdoor wedding… Eep. :S

    Reply

  2. The Roommate
    Jun 30, 2011 @ 15:55:24

    I really dig this post, and I think you should keep it as a subject area. As one of your brides (I’ll admit to being “The Roommate”), you’ve been absurdly helpful so far and I think a lot of people would benefit from your advice. But then again, I also think this should be your main job. 😉

    You make a good point–getting help from friends is a difficult balance. We finally came up with the idea of giving friends the “right of first refusal.” We also set a pseudo-manifesto for the wedding–we want people to have a good time, period. If that means they have a good time by helping out, great. If that means they have a good time by showing up, also great. But I digress…

    ..the real takeaway is that you *want* Becca to do your flowers.

    Reply

  3. charlotte
    Jul 06, 2011 @ 14:32:56

    I love it! I love that you are the antithesis of that nonsensical wedding planner we always see in the movies. My wedding was super duper cheap but that’s kinda the norm for Mormons (although maybe it’s changing?) and I would have loved to have your tips, er, 12 years ago. Yeah I’m that old.

    Reply

  4. cheekypinky
    Jul 07, 2011 @ 11:19:22

    @Charlotte: If you ever renew your vows or just want to throw a big ol’ party,
    I’m your girl. 🙂

    I haven’t done a Mormon wedding–I know the temple ceremonies are off limits to those who are not in the church, but I have no idea how the receptions go. …Do Mormon weddings have separate receptions?

    Reply

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