Category Archives: Budget Weddings

The Low Wedding Budget: Just Say No

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Business Consulting, Business Development, Wedding Budget, Wedding Consultant, Wedding Cost, Wedding Decor | No Comments

I’m sure this title is controversial – and I’m sure it’ll anger some brides and grooms reading this. And trust me, I get very miffed when I see just how much it costs to have a wedding. But I also know how much it costs to run a business, pay for labor, and provide goods and services (at least, in dense, pricey cities like my home of L.A.).  Couples see a lot of DIY blogs online and think they can beat the system – and sometimes, a lower wedding budget can work, if thoughtful, methodical choices are made (I.e. food truck instead of 4 course dinner; rent a city park versus a luxury hotel). But I have ran into potential clients that want to pay an unrealistically low amount for a super lavish wedding; and the dots just don’t connect.

And when you as a wedding vendor sit down with a potential client and they want to have a bargain basement budget, it’s best to politely decline if the following occur:

An avoidance of reality: “I can make my wedding budget work – even if you say I can’t!”

Some clients listen, and agree that they need to re-calibrate their budgets. Others refuse to listen to reality. “But my cousin can provide the tequila and our best friend can bartend!” If there’s an insistence a first class wedding can happen on a bargain basement budget, you will never be able to convince them otherwise, and there will be too much time taken out of your schedule to try to convince them.

Smogshoppe wedding decor flamingo decor runners table wedding budget

Choosing a venue that has a unique look, like SmogShoppe here, can reduce the need for significant amount of decor. Photo by Jenna Rose Photography.

Cutting YOUR corners.

“You can use our extra speakers!” No, a DJ should use his/her own. “My housekeeper can wash your dishes!” No, a caterer should bring enough staff to do EVERYTHING.  “Our groomsmen can set up the decor for you!” No, a planner should always have their own staff.  A client that wants you to understaff or under-prepare beyond best and standard practices, so they can cut their budget, is penny wise, pound foolish.  Just say no.

In summary…

Being honest and kind in your discussion with couples is valuable in that you can bow out gracefully, and also help guide them to a successful event, regardless if you are involved.  Just remember that when you cut corners just to book that next job, it may cost you more mentally, and even financially, than it’s worth.

Questions? Email me anytime at dee@noworriesep.com, and meantime, happy planning!

How much will my wedding cost?

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Wedding Budget, Wedding Cost, Wedding Planner | No Comments

By Dee Gaubert | Owner, No Worries

It’s nearly everyone’s first question when they start planning a wedding: How much is this bad boy going to cost me?  The idea of sinking many thousands of dollars in one evening is soul-sucking, and I totally understand this.   I tried to charge as little as possible when I first started and quickly realized there was a bottom line I had to meet, fee-wise or I essentially couldn’t run a business. Like, as in, keep the lights on, pay my taxes, feed my family.

And that’s what all other vendors and venues find too when they research initial pricing structures.  Their insurance, taxes, labor (that’s a big one), cost of raw materials, etc – it all gets passed to you, the consumer.  Meantime, a good middle class income means low buying power these days, due to all sorts of shifts in our economy, so you can work hard, save your money, and still barely be able to afford a wedding.  But, don’t get too depressed- let’s work through some hard facts about budget, so you can be an informed consumer, and take control over the process.

Statistics: Read between the lines

The average wedding according to many statistics is about $26k – 30k.  But, in major metropolitan areas, you’re looking at $35-45k to start, and towards $70-80k in cities such as New York City.  Guest count, type of food service, venue, and all sorts of other elements affect your total costs.  My advice is, ignore the statistics – the only way you’ll know how much your wedding costs is to start researching.

LA River Center LARC State Park weddings

In concert with other agencies, the Santa Monica Mountain Conservancy runs the LA River Center, which provides a reasonably priced space for weddings. Photo by David Crane.

Add it up: Tally total wedding cost first

Start researching venues, DJs, florists, etc., and collect pricing and quotes.  Don’t do one at a time, i.e. research and price out venues, book the venue; and THEN price out caterers – you need a holistic, macro view of how all the costs add up before booking any single vendor or venue for the event.  Otherwise you’ll book one element, and realize it takes up more of your budget than you thought, and severely crunches the rest of your budget.  Or perhaps trigger other costs that you didn’t anticipate (like a venue that requires a generator at great additional expense, for example).

Consider unique alternatives

Food trucks, BBQ take out (nicely served and presented), cupcakes (instead of cakes) – these are all ways to save money on food by going an unconventional route.  Venue-wise, find a venue that’s run by a local civic agency, or one that’s fresh on the market that may be willing to rent to you for an introductory fee. It’s important to make sure the venue has proper rules and regulations and insurance, and to know of any specific additional expenses that come with out-of-the-box venues.

Rancho Del Cielo, rustic wedding, floral decor wedding

Finding a venue with lush grounds saves money on decor – with such beautiufl surroundings, only a few floral flourishes are needed. Venue: Rancho Del Cielo. Photographer: Katie Geiberger

Hire the right pros

A caterer that specializes in small luncheons won’t be ideal for your 200 person wedding.  A novice florist may not be able to construct that custom arch you saw on Instagram.  A planner who lists as her major experience waiting tables in college and planning her sister’s wedding won’t know off the top of her head how much a family style meal will cost.  Whether you invest a small hourly consulting package for a coordinator to assist in a venue search or order a drop off type service from a high end caterer, there are ways to hire top-of-their-class vendors without breaking your bank.

For more tips, check out our other blog posts, and feel free to call or email us;  310-562-3306 and dee@noworriesep.com.  Happy planning!

Hiring the Best Wedding Vendors

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Event Planner, Facebook, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Wedding Planning Checklist, Wedding Vendor Negotiation | No Comments

By Dee Gaubert | Owner, No Worries

Every year as the holidays roll around, the wedding industry clamors about “engagement season”- and yeah, this is the time, from December through January, where we get super busy taking incoming inquiries and generally book up to 60% of our dates for the coming year.  It’s appropos then to share some insight about booking wedding vendors.

Remember, there is no real barrier to entry for most wedding vendors.

A DJ has to have specific technical skills, sure, but has he or she practiced mc’g in front of large crowds?  A florist doesn’t necessarily need to be formally trained to start his or her own business. And wedding planners and coordinators need really NO technical training, nor does there seem to be any formal qualifications and standards set by a leading organization to follow. (Corporate planners can get their certified meeting planner designation, which is respected as definitive by the industry, but in the wedding world there are a variety of certification programs by competing organizations for weddings and none of them are considered “the” one to get.)

So when you interview a prospective vendor, it’s good to see how they are viewed in the industry. Do numerous venues sing their praises?  Is their Yelp page full of 100s of reviews? (Remember, Yelp isn’t the end-all be-all of legitimacy, but it is a good indicator that a business has been around for a bit.)  They don’t need to have graduated from “DJ School,” but they should have a solid level of experience and savvy in what they do.

Tray passed appetizers wedding vendors Los Angeles Wedding Jenna Janelle Rose Wedding photography cost of wedding catering

Your wedding: Not the time to go cheap on food. Tray passed appetizers here are by Huntington Catering Company, Photo by Jenna Rose (JennaJanelleRose.Com)

Benchmark prices carefully.

I know weddings aren’t cheap these days, and it’s a struggle couples go through. But if you go cheap on a vendor, you’ll pay a price.  I’ve had weddings where, to the person, the vendors that were charging below-market price were the ones with which we had significant issues – including a florist that was sloppy and left damage at a venue that would have cost the client hundreds to thousands in their security deposit. (The florist came back later and managed to fix the damage.)

First, put together a solid, cohesive budget.  Then, carefully compare prices from competitors in a variety of categories.  If there is a vendor that is significantly less expensive, there are a few reasons why:  1.  They may have another job, which isn’t a deal breaker, but it’s important to make sure they will uphold reasonable work ethic and response times, which is easy to check by calling a few references; 2.  They may be just starting out – so it’s important to see what prior experience they have, since anyone can pretty much get a business license for performing work in the wedding industry; and/or 3. They do a very high volume of work for very low prices.  I speak from experience when I say this means you will get a longer response time and less of a personal touch from these vendors, nearly every single time. For a wedding cake, maybe (maybe) this is no problem. For a photographer or DJ, you will want a more intensive flow of communication.

Norris photo los angeles church wedding vendor

A church wedding ceremony can be cost effective, support the community, and provide a gorgeous setting for your wedding. Photo by Don Norris (Norrisphoto.com)

 

A good wedding vendor sets boundaries.

My life changed a few years ago, when I added office hours to my contract.  A good vendor has good boundaries, and ultimately they help the client.  It’s important to know when wedding vendors are usually available (this blog post is helpful as to what is typical in the industry), and to understand that if a vendor can compartmentalize when and how they work for you, they can manage your event better because they are focused on pre-set, efficient work hours and deadlines and can be super productive in the times they devote to your project.

Does that mean I haven’t squealed with delight and texted right back to a client who shot me a photo of her dream dress at 7pm on a Monday night?  Or that I haven’t suggested a Skype at 8pm with an out-of-state client that works 60 hour weeks, or a weekend walkthrough of a venue? Of course, I am flexible and meet clients halfway whenever possible with my time. But be aware, and respectful, of wedding vendors, and ask ahead about when they usually take appointments and correspond with clients.

For more solid, realistic advice, my guide the Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths will steer you well; and hang around our Facebook page to learn when we’ve posted a new article on the blog.  Happy Planning!

Smart Ways to Stay On Budget for Your Wedding

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, DIY, How Much Do L.A. Weddings Cost, Los Angeles Wedding Coordinator, Realistic Wedding Budget, Wedding Planner | No Comments

It’s every bride and groom’s biggest concern:  Budget.  Many couples get a sense of sticker shock when they find out how much weddings cost, and justifiably so.  While the end result is a beautiful day and celebration that in some ways is priceless, there’s no getting around the fact that spending a certain sum on ‘one day’ can be uncomfortable.

When thinking about saving money but preserving the vibe of your event, keep these things in mind:

1.  The extras.  You don’t always need that something ‘extra’. For example, gold leaf on your cake can be pricey; buying a roll of exquisite satin gold ribbon instead can save a significant amount of money.  Letterpress invites are lovely; but not necessary. Flat printed invitations look beautiful and are elegant enough without the additional charges.

We created this sweet centerpiece with inexpensive greenery and sunflowers, using a pitcher that we sourced from the rental company for that evening's event. Photo by Lorenzo Hodges.

We created this sweet centerpiece with inexpensive greenery and sunflowers, using a pitcher that we sourced from the rental company for that evening’s event. Photo by Lorenzo Hodges.

2.  Food!  Food is one of your biggest costs, as is venue (particularly if the venue is lumped in with food, such as when hosting an event at a hotel).  If working an out of the box space where you can provide your own food server, be careful about using a food truck or taco cart. These are great options for saving money, but you need additional staff to properly serve at the bar and clean up at the end of the night.

A space like the Millwick in downtown LA (http://marvimon.com/Millwick) already has some kitchen infrastructure, lighting, and dining tables and chairs, allowing for savings on outside rentals. Food trucks are also doable at this space.

A space like the Millwick in downtown LA (http://marvimon.com/Millwick) already has some kitchen infrastructure, lighting, and dining tables and chairs, allowing for savings on outside rentals. Food trucks are also doable at this space.

3. Decor.  Beware DIY tips online – there are some awesome tutorials out there, but when you see a photo of a stunning decor idea that is labeled cost effective or DIY, ask yourself, ‘how much would the labor cost?’ Hanging lights, large floral pieces, etc – all those projects cost in labor, and anything that requires going up a ladder means serious liability risks.  So be sure to factor the labor in to any supposedly ‘easy’, ‘inexpensive’ DIY project.

A professional event planner’s goal should always be to create a gorgeous and lovely day without sinking a client’s budget.  It takes innovation, experience, and familiarity with cost controlling procedures.  Typically working with an event planner can save you money and keep you at budget.  (Some statistics say the average couple otherwise goes over budget by 30%.)  There are also all sorts of wacky fees (“administrative charge,” “AV liaison fee,” etc) that can rear their ugly heads when clients least expect it, whereas event planners frequently see them coming long before they are an issue. I often recommend to a couple on a tight budget to hire a planner just to do a budget consultation.  That way, they have a good idea of all those scary unknowns, and have the most accurate information on realistic pricing.  This consultation also gives them solid strategies for progressing along their planning process with extensive wisdom based on a pro’s experience.  Then the planner can become involved again a couple months out and serve as day of coordinator to bookend the entire process.

Once your goals for each wedding expense are locked in, you can proceed with authority and way less stress. For more about budgets, check out our past blog posts here and here. Happy planning!

 

The Five Biggest Wedding Planning Myths: Myth #5 – “I can DIY my entire wedding!”

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Weddings, DIY, Jackie Combs Lotus and Lily, Katie Robertson Photography, Los Angeles Wedding Coordinator, Los Angeles Wedding Planner, Wedding Budget, Wedding Coordinator | No Comments

Over the past few days, we’ve been breaking down the 5 biggest wedding myths. Today we’re tackling Myth 5: DIY/”Friend-or” weddings.

The DIY movement enpowers brides and grooms to add personal elements to their event, and fold in their buddies to the big day, as well.  We’ve had friends play guitar for the ceremony, or brides bake a grooms cake – small contributions make up for big, heartfelt gestures. But totally replacing a major vendor with a friend or your own DIY efforts? That’s flirting with – or hurtling headlong into – disaster.

One of the best examples of this myth is the “FRIEND DJ.” (Settle in kids – I’ve got a few fun stories for ya.)

Here’s the thing: music is inescapable. If the music is suddenly off, the WHOLE crowd notices. It’s also the international sign for, “Show’s over, Folks! Time to leave!” Unlike a drink that is a little too strong for one particular guest, or one centerpiece that is a bit wilty on a table of twelve, the music is everywhere and affects everyone, not just a handful of guests. Thus, your wedding tunes have a huge impact on the success of your event. At the end of the day, how much are you really saving?

A bride wisely provided her own lovely and easy to assemble candle centerpieces, but hired a professional florist (Lotus and Lily) for the more complex bouquets.

A bride wisely provided her own lovely and easy to assemble candle centerpieces, but hired a professional florist (Lotus and Lily) for the more complex bouquets. Photo by Katie Robertson Photography.

We no longer work events where a “friend is managing an Ipod,” and per our contract, all non-professional vendors are SOLELY responsible for the integrity of their work. For example, we’ve had a “friend-DJ” space out and not immediately turn the music back on after the bouquet toss, causing confusion and guests to start leaving. After our urging to get the music on, he panicked and had a hard time finding the next song – and by then, in just that minute or two that passed, we lost a dozen guests at a wedding that already had a low guest count. The wedding died out shortly thereafter.

At another event, a “friend DJ” did not know at all how to work the rental equipment, and had to use the one speaker on the venue’s property. This speaker was a low-quality piece of equipment that was typically used for the less complicated ceremony sound. So, it sounded muffled – like it was underwater: in a word, terrible. Even worse, this DJ started using an online song source ON HIS PHONE. The music stopped every time his phone buffered!

I mean it: Get a professional DJ, florist, officiant, – the whole nine yards. Also, most venues now require every vendor to have insurance, so right off the bat that takes away the option to involve an amateur.  Reserve friends’ talents for small touches, like providing the ingredients and recipe for their special signature cocktail, or to craft a lovely gift card box for you. Otherwise, let the pros safeguard your beautiful day with their savvy services.

Apply your talents to DIY touches you can do well before the event – like namecards, table numbers, or other printed goods.  Definitely don’t try florals – honestly, that’s a whole other blog post – unless you’re pre-building tissue or paper florals.

Make sure your vendors know your tastes and preferences so that the day is still all about you and your fiance’s personality – and then you, and your friends, can just relax and enjoy the day.  Happy planning!

5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths: Myth # 3 – The Web Has All The Answers

By | 5 Biggest Wedding Planning Myths, Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, Wedding Budget, Wedding Coordinator, Wedding Planner | No Comments

In this blog series, we’re tackling some of the misinformation and misconceptions out there about wedding planning. Today’s myth:  “Want to save money/time/stress? Just ask the Web!”

Like a lot of brides, we loooooovvee looking at wedding blogs, viewing the latest in advice and planning strategies, and absorbing all the great information out there.

While the web can help with wedding planning, it doesn’t have all the answers.  Each wedding is like a snowflake: No two are the same.

For example, Google ” save money on wedding” and you can find such dream-shattering advice as “Slash your guest list” or “have a cocktail reception instead of a sit down dinner.” Picture 30 guests at a bunch of cocktail tables – that’s a happy hour, not a wedding!

No matter how stressful or overwhelmed you may get, this is the moment that's most important:  The walk down the aisle. Photo by Shani Barel.

No matter how stressful or overwhelmed you may get, this is the moment that’s most important: The walk down the aisle. Photo by Shani Barel.

Other budget tips simply don’t add up to much savings: “Have a backyard wedding!” (cue the restroom rentals, kitchen equipment rentals, etc. – before you know it, you’re way over budget). “Use bigger tables to save on centerpieces” – that’s a nominal savings – maybe $150 or so per table.

You get the idea – there are good strategies out there, but interpreting them for your particular event is the challenge.

That said, the web CAN be helpful, Just read between the lines. While the Internet is a huge source of inspiration, the reality behind the façade can best be found on uber-honest forums for brides. Try to hone in on regional forums geared towards brides in you area for the most accurate information.  Double check bids from vendors for accuracy and question any fees you do not understand.

We have knowledge that only comes from road-testing our expertise on over 100 events.  Call or email us anytime for a consultation:  310-562-3306 or dee@noworriesep.com. Happy planning!

Reality Check: Building a Budget for a Wedding in L.A.

By | Budget Los Angeles Wedding, Budget Weddings, How Much Do L.A. Weddings Cost, Realistic Wedding Budget | No Comments

Often, we meet couples who have an extremely low budget planned for the wedding.  The unfortunate issue is that the mainstream media does not filter the statistics for each metropolitan area or region, so brides and grooms reference to information that may apply in the Midwest, say, but not here.

Here are some tips to get you started with a realistic budget:

1. Determine Your Venue – Space Only vs. All Inclusive: Your budget will be different based on your venue.  While you have more control with a venue where you can ‘bring everything in,’ such as rentals (tables, chairs, glassware, etc), the costs can pile up exorbitantly.  Some spaces require generators, lots of lighting, etc.  A thorough examination of all that is needed is essential.  Your caterer, DJ, and other vendors will also need to weigh in to make sure everything you need is covered, from stoves to spoons to water pitchers.

2.  Examine Your Design Needs Carefully:  The sky’s the limit – or, at least, your pocketbook, when it comes to design.  You could fill the smallest of rooms with thousands of dollars of flowers, or reduce your flower costs in a huge ballroom by investing more in lighting.  Having a consult with a florist and discussing your options and what budget is realistic is key in determining how much you need to spend to get the look you want.  Letting the florist know you are still researching is a courtesy to observe if you are on a fact finding mission, as opposed to being ready to book right away.

3.  Hire a Consultant. A good wedding consultant, with a wide spectrum of experience and knowhow, from hotel ballroom weddings to out-of-the-box loft/estate events, can advise on everything from power, lighting, and restrooms to florals and linens.  We have up to the minute pricing info and outstanding relationships, and we an advise on last minute expenses and ‘hidden’ fees and costs.  Many consultants offer “a la carte” budget services if you cannot afford a full wedding planning package; this service can save you significant money, and at the least, allow you to feel you’ve done your due diligence and will avoid cost overruns or surprise expenses.

Happy planning!

Can You Afford a Wedding? Part 2: DIY’ers, Beware

By | Budget Weddings, Planning, Time Management | No Comments

The explosion of wedding blogs and magazines have promoted the idea that you, the bride (and/or groom), can, with your own hands and perhaps a few bridesmaids’ help, create the perfect wedding on a tiny budget.  I love these blogs. The inspiration is endless. Martha Stewart, she’s like a goddess to me.  And there’s something fabulous about having your own ideas and handiwork reflected in your event.

But women, being the perfectionists that we are, sometimes put too much pressure on ourselves to create the perfect wedding. And on top of that, there’s a myth that DIY’g is the easy way to have an inexpensive wedding.  Before you commit to any large DIY project, inform yourself.

Keep these ideas in mind:

1.  Start early! Plan to have all your favors, decor, everything you are creating yourself, done 4-6 weeks prior to the event.  You’ll shoot for this, and if you don’t quite make this deadline, you still have a whole month left.  The tradeoff with not paying someone is that you have to make time to do these things by yourself, but your full time job isn’t doing the flowers, or decor, or favors – you already have a job. So, you need more time. Simple as that.

2.  Beware asking friends for help.  Most of them will do a lovely job, but give them time too, and a precise and un-overwhelming to-do list with deadlines. Make it fun:  If you need help assembling favors, have a party – with wine and cheese and girly movies, whole nine yards.

Asking friends who are wedding pros to perform their job at your wedding is also dicey; if they are someone you would already considering inviting, let them know you understand if they’d rather not work your wedding and would prefer to sit back and enjoy.  Pay them – either for their supplies, a performance fee, or both.  If they consider it their gift to you, give them a heartfelt token of your appreciation – give the photographer a point-and-shoot digital camera for test shoots, buy the florist a luxurious bottle of high-end champagne.

3.  DIYers need a coordinator as much as – or more! – than non DIYers. Yes, it’s true. The whole point is you’re trying to save money, right? I totally get it (I shopped my candle centerpieces from thrift stores myself, and had pals in production and art production set them up on the tables – I’ve been there!).  But, when your mom is providing the alcohol and your cousin is doing the flowers and your dad is bringing the favors, you  need someone to tie it all together.

For example, these flowers for this September wedding were done by the bride’s aunt and mother, two talented “on the side” florists who are doing more and more professional jobs as they perfect their skills.  Their centerpieces were a lovely gift to the bride and groom.

When I first booked the client, she asked if I could help transport the flowers. I said I could probably help, but then we discussed further, and there were going to be at least 20 arrangements with as many vases; four pillars; and other accessories, too much to fit in my crossover SUV.  6 weeks prior to their wedding date, I created a schedule that allowed for morning load in at two different locations (ceremony and reception), and load out as well, and shared with all family members.  They ended up borrowing a truck and using the help of wonderful friends who donated their time.

Also, a coordinator calls all the involved DIY’er parties and lets them know when their work is needed, when.  They ensure the family-friend DJ has the names of the grand entrance participants, and how to say them phonetically; they make sure the buddy playing the ipod during the reception does a sound check prior – that kind of thing.  We pick up stuff that slips through the cracks, so you don’t have to.

Just this past weekend, I coordinated a wedding in which the brides’ family donated the alcohol.  I was there bright and cheery at load in, ensured they had the right amounts of liquor and mixers chilling all morning, hung the bar menu on the wall, and was able to show the bartenders around when they arrived while the family members were at the ceremony.  I coordinated with the owner of the banquet hall their exact arrival time (which changed three times), so the bride didn’t have to keep on top of it.  I saw that the women wisely overbought, and left one huge bag unpacked which allowed for a easier load out. Oh – and I went out and bought ice throughout to keep up the supply.

4.  Think twice before doing your own flowers. So many brides see the beautiful colors at the flower mart and go, “I want to do my own flowers!” Trust me – I’m a flower arranging fanatic.  But your wedding is not the time to do it, UNLESS, you keep it simple.

For example – and pardon the crappy photo, haven’t received the pro photos yet – the clients at this wedding took irises, bought vases, rooted the irises in clear marbles, added some water – boom, they had a lovely, simple centerpiece.  They were able to make them two days ahead of time, making sure they had a cool space to keep the flowers so they wouldn’t wilt.

Making bouquets and boutonnieres is a whole other art, and taking a class or practicing many months prior to the event is widely recommended.

And remember, you can’t really do flowers ahead of time – 48 hours is about the cutoff. (Some florists do arrangements further in advance depending on the flower and how important it is for the blooms to open, but they have ideal temp-controlled spaces to store the flowers for optimum freshness).  So many things happen just before wedding – certainly, ‘planning fatigue’ sets in – and many brides realize they got themselves in over their head, unless a gaggle of friends and family are committed to a flower party just two days before the big event.

5.  Sometimes, paying for a service is cheaper than DIY. Cheaper not only financially, but sanity/time wise, as well.

This bride paid for the beautiful design of her table numbers and escort cards, ordered flower arrangements, but bought the tri-level candle holders herself.  She split the cost 50/50 and got to keep the candle holders, also – a good compromise.  Printing out her own escort cards and table numbers would likely cost her as much in paper and ink (especially because mistakes happen on home printers all the time), and would take up a good amount of time as well.

In summary, DIY is a great thing, but be careful to filter your inspiration through the lens of reality. Give yourself plenty of time, ask for help, and pick your battles wisely.

Can You Afford a Wedding? Part 1: From a Vendor’s Point of View

By | Budget Weddings | No Comments

Budgets have never been trickier.  The cost of a wedding may have risen by about 20% over the past year, but it’s still a nutty time out there in the wedding industry. Some people are getting the deals of a lifetime, others are choosing to elope, still others are able to afford a hot venue on a Saturday night.

What has changed is that brides are more willing to bargain.  A few years ago, when I got married, venues and vendors turned their noses when I politely asked for a break here or there. I did secure some savings by asking the right questions, but they had to be with the right vendor.  That’s the key.

The client rented these beautiful pedestals from a floral supply company in downtown L.A..

If you want a Ritz Carlton wedding with 200 guests for $70 a person, well…that’s at toughie. But what if you made it an intimate cocktail party with 30 guests?  Or head to a banquet hall, which are very affordable and often allow you to provide your own alcohol?  What’s more important to you – if it’s inviting everyone and their mother, then go somewhere less expensive. If it’s high-end lavish surroundings, slash the guest list.  You can’t have the sun AND the moon, but you can certainly have the stars!

And though there are deals to be had, good, solid vendors and wedding professionals have to hold their fees to a certain level. Yes, the recession has depressed prices all around, but it hasn’t necessarily made it cheaper to be a business person, especially in the L.A. Metro area. Here’s some notes that give you an idea of what’s built into the price of each vendor’s proposed fee:

  • Self employed vendors have to send about 40% of their check to Uncle Sam until they get their tax refund (hopefully) back after April 15th.  In addition, gas still hovers at $3.00/gallon (I sometimes put 200 miles on my car in one day), L.A. is not cheap when it comes to sales tax; and the city of L.A. charges a separate tax/fee for everyone with a business license that depends on how much they’ve earned per year.
  • Labor is a big part of what you’re paying for, especially with bakers and florists.  Bakers need to often travel to a rented catering kitchen with large, heavy quantities of ingredients, and carefully pack and transport the cake back and forth.  And special ingredients, like sugar flowers and fondant, take a lot of skill and time to create.  Florists need to pick up the flowers; trim every single stem (including de-thorning roses – I’ve done it, people, it takes forever!), throw out up to 20% of their blooms that aren’t in perfect condition, and build each arrangement from scratch, by hand.  Boutonnieres consist of individually wired and taped stems – and that’s a tedious operation in and of itself.
  • Vendors also have expertise and skill garnered from years of experience.  Yes, the blogs and magazines make it sound like everyone can be Martha Stewart and throw their perfect wedding – but once you start spending $1,000 or so, your event becomes a professional-level shindig.  As in, at a certain budget, the moving parts and aspects of your event are now no longer a casual house party, but a ‘to do,” and stuff happens at ‘to-dos.”  Experts like good DJs, coordinators/planners, caterers, etc., will not only foresee the problems you know of, but the ones you DON’T know, and can guide your planning and event with polish and precision.  That’s worth its weight in gold.

The bride's parents delivered and assembled the arch to save on delivery and set up fees. They followed a careful schedule to allow for plenty of time.

One thing I often tell clients as well is, this is the last time you’re going to throw yourself a big party. This is IT, people.  Maybe for your 30th or 50th you’ll get to relive it, but who knows – so, no, don’t blow your entire budget; spend thoughtfully; do what makes sense to you.  But you are investing in an experience, so it’s not money thrown down the drain.  Your goal:  To create a night to remember, without bills you’d rather forget.

Recommended reading: The Bargaining Bride