Love and hearts, meet budgets and brains.
So you've found someone to spend your life with. Congrats! Now all you have to do is make it official and throw a party. As you plan a wedding, it's not unusual to watch the cost skyrocket.
Invitations, venue, caterer, DJ, photographer, dresses, flowers, cake ... it adds up. The national average cost of a wedding runs more than $35,000, according to a recent survey by The Knot.
But your wedding can be both memorable and affordable. Maddie DeGeest, a former stylist at a Spokane-area bridal boutique who works in marketing at STCU, offers some advice.
Location, location, libation.
Venue, food, and drink typically represent the biggest chunk of a couples' wedding budget.
"The venue can run between $3,500 and $6,500 to hold about 200 people, not including meals," DeGeest says. "On top of that, a lot of places will not let you bring in your own food."
With popular or premium venues, you might be required to choose from their preferred caterers, who tend to charge from $15 to $35 a plate. That's why DeGeest recommends looking for a reception spot that lets you choose your own caterer or bring in your own home-cooked food.
Other tips: Whittle down your guest list so you can use a less pricey venue and cut back on food costs. And for the best rates, book your venue on a Friday in the off-season. Or consider a nontraditional venue, such as a park shelter (check the park's booking and alcohol policies) or a relative's backyard.
“A lot of it is just coming up with creative solutions,” DeGeest says.
A wedding dress will easily run you $1,500 or more (or much more). Consider buying one off the rack rather than ordering a custom gown, DeGeest says: "You get your dream dress at a lower cost, and you can still make it your own with alterations."
Otherwise, watch for trunk shows at boutiques — typically, those are the only events where retailers can sell designer gowns at discounted prices. Tux rentals can run $200 a person. But more couples are setting ground rules — such as choosing a color or style — and letting groomsmen and bridesmaids wear less-expensive outfits of their choosing.
"If your groomsmen already have dress pants and shirts, you can have everyone wear a solid matching slack and then just rent the vest from somewhere," DeGeest says. "You'd be looking at maybe $12 per person versus a $200 tux rental. A lot of it is just coming up with creative solutions."
Keep an eye on quality.
DeGeest warns against skimping in some areas. Photography, for example. Hire an experienced professional. While your amateur photographer uncle might be delighted to snap some pictures at your wedding, owning a nice camera is not the same as knowing how to direct groups of people, stick to a timeline, or use proper lighting.
"After the day's over, photos are pretty much all you have left," DeGeest says.
And regardless of your budget, read reviews and ask others' opinions about every vendor you use. A lackluster meal can dampen an otherwise stellar wedding, and prices that seem too good to be true usually are.
With patience, healthy skepticism, and a keen eye, you can score some fabulous deals while planning a wedding you'll love.