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Bridal Tips

Where to Cut Your Wedding Budget — And Where You Shouldn’t

I am really excited to cover this topic because I know how much the stress of budgeting can affect engaged couples (Hello, been there, done that, bought the tee shirt)  and I know my SAPPY couples are no exception. Weddings are EXPENSIVE, and trying to juggle all the little details can seem really overwhelming– especially when it is time to crunch those numbers.

Before you begin cutting your budget,  I want to make sure my brides and grooms have this basic principle down– It will make tidying up your budget a whole lot easier: Know the difference between a souvenir and an heirloom– a cost and an investment.  

Essentially, you want to create a list of all of the must-haves for your wedding day (or what you currently think are must-haves), and divide them into two lists:  One side will be used for items that will be enjoyed the day of, or some short time frame afterword.

The other side will be used for elements that you expect to enjoy forever.  You can label these “Souvenirs” and “Heirlooms” if you are the sentimental type or “Costs” and “Investments” if you are more left-brained.  

Throughout this post, I will be going over a few elements, and whether I think these should be viewed as costs or investments.  Try to decide which side of your list each item will be going on as we cover it.

Remember: this list will look different for every couple, depending on the things you hold near and dear, and I am all for that.  Your wedding is an opportunity for you to tell your story.

So, without further adieu, here are some of the places where you really can cut from your budget, and where you shouldn’t.

1. The Venue

Okay, this one can really be tricky… because there are so many ways to have a free (or close to it) venue that suits all of your needs and looks absolutely stunning.  This could be your family farm, favorite state park, or home backyard.

The main point that I want to make here is that if your decision to pursue an option like this is budget-oriented— please be sure to do a full cost comparison before deciding on your venue.  

Many times, the costs associated with getting a venue wedding-ready are overlooked, and become big expenses later on… usually once the budget is set in stone.  

So, be sure to calculate expenses like tents, table and chair rentals, fans or heating/air conditioning units, restroom accommodations, linens, etc. This way you can be sure that you are really getting the most bang for your buck when comparing  options!

Ruling: Your venue sets the tone for the entire day, and whether you are deciding to save or spend on this element, finding and designing the perfect venue experience will require an investment— even if it is just your time and creativity!  If you do decide to go with a wedding-ready venue, try asking your photographer for a list of their favorites.  I am always happy to suggest options for my clients.

2. The Favors

I hate to say it, but this one was a no-brainer for me.  As great as the appeal may be to have a hundred tiny succulents perfectly potted for your guests, this is definitely an area where most of my brides are happy to SAVE! Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen that these favors often get overlooked or left behind in the grand scheme of things.  After all, your guests came for you!

These gifts are usually only enjoyed for a short time (even shorter if your guests are traveling back home with just a carry-on)  You can make your take-aways more sentimental, and save some coin, by finding a diy project that adds a storytelling element– or by opting for photo souvenirs instead!  (I may be biased here, but I always prefer the latter!)

Not only are photo-souvenirs budget savvy and long-lasting, but you can send them by mail with your thank you cards to make sure no favor is left behind!

Ruling:  I think this element, for most of my couples, should be seen as a cost.  It’s sad to say, but even the most beautiful favors won’t be savored forever.  So, try to be flexible in this area!

3. The Lighting

I’m sure I have said this before, and I will say it again.  Lighting is so important to capture every moment of your big day.  With that being said, you can save a fortune on fancy uplighting or renting additional fixtures by using daylight and candle light for your ceremony and reception.  In fact, these make for beautiful and organic feeling photos.

It is no surprise that my favorite light source for capturing my couples is daylight.  Nothing quite captures that wedding day glow like the light beaming in from a window. The best thing about daylight?  It’s free!

As your day turns to night, soft candle light and delicate twinkling lights are a beautiful and thrifty choice.  Nothing is more romantic than candle light, and a skilled photographer will still know how to light you up.

Ruling: This is an area you can definitely look at as a cost to be cut.  When shopping out your venue, make sure there is plenty of natural light, and voila! A two-for-one!

4. Hair and Makeup

Alright ladies, now we are getting to the good stuff.  This is a question so many of my brides have before their big day:  Should I do my own hair and makeup?

For my skilled, beauty-guru clients who are dead set on doing their own, I say go for it.  However, be sure to do plenty of research on your products, set aside a great deal of time, and calculate how much you will be spending on products that will work for the day.

You may find that after calculating the cost of the products, it turns out to be more affordable to hire a professional, and I couldn’t agree more.  I always try to recommend this option for its many advantages: first off, this is an opportunity to treat yourself, and really feel bridal!  How often do you get the star treatment? Splurge!

If that doesn’t convince you, keep in mind that your professional has experience in events and time management for formal looks.  This will save you lots of stress on your big day.

Your makeup artist will also have a keen understanding of what products will do well on camera– often something we don’t consider for everyday makeup.  For example, it is a little known fact that products with SPF should be avoided on your wedding day due to the light reflecting particles used to protect from UV rays.  These ingredients also reflect other light sources, resulting in major flashback when a flash is used in photography. Your photographer will be armed with a ton of information about what works on camera and what doesn’t.

Ruling: This is an investment, and I always recommend that my brides hire an expert.  If you are unsure of who to call, let your photographer know.  They will often have a list of go-to professionals who work well with their style of photography, and your budget.

5. Flowers

Okay, this is something I have been needing to get off my chest…  Flowers are NOT a place to cut your budget!  

Okay, maybe you can cut your budget, but the best way to do that is through DIY bouquets and/or skipping florals altogether in certain areas (Like your centerpieces!  You can save A TON by opting for some seeded eucalyptus runners and glowing candlelight instead of over-the-top arrangements). Budget cuts can work out alright– as long as you stay away from artificial flowers.  

I love artificial flowers at home, and in many a DIY project, don’t get me wrong… but the thing is– they just don’t photograph well.  This is something you will want to save forever, so opt for the real thing where you can.

Ruling: This is an investment, and I always recommend that my brides go with authentic flowers.  If you need to save some coin, though, check the local markets for deals, and you can craft your own centerpieces or bouquets

6. The Photographer

I am sure you have heard me say this, and I am sure it comes as no surprise: your photography not just a souvenir– it’s an heirloom!

Your photos truly are forever, and moreover– they preserve all of the day-of element forever.  For this reason, I really do believe it is crucial to invest your time and budget in your photography.  

Make sure that the person you are working with, takes not only documentarian shots, but also story-telling shots– or images that really capture the emotions of the day rather than the events. While a more documentarian approach can be beautiful to look at, the story-telling approach is an amazing way to turn a souvenir into an heirloom.   

Ruling: Absolutely invest in your photography.  This is an opportunity to turn one day into a lifetime of memories.  If you’re unsure of where to begin or need more info, don’t hesitate to reach out!  I would be happy to be your go-to guide.

Don’t forget to let me know in the comments how this method worked for your budget!

Stay SAPPY!
XOXO  Staci

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