Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dear Vera: Is it possible?

Yesterday, I got a question from a lovely reader, Cheyenne, and it's one that's probably on all our minds: is a budget wedding possible? Thank you, Cheyenne, for letting me post your questions -- followed by my replies.

From Cheyenne:

Hi! I read your blog and I was wondering how you are doing so far with your goal budget? Right now, I am very discouraged. I have already found my dress ($500 off the rack!) but the venue search is making me want to elope. I may have found a great venue that charges $1,500 room fee but they make me use their own caterer and bar which will make my food/bar bill pretty high considering I anticipate 140 guests. In this situation, what is the best way to cut down on costs in other areas?

Thanks for your blog. I don't know what I would do without bloggers like you!


My reply:

Hi Cheyenne,

Thanks for reaching out to me. We are just under our goal budget and I'm re-evaluating where we can save money, especially in terms of flowers, cake, music and gifts.

The venue, catering and photography are indeed the biggest chunks of our budget. We were fortunate enough to win an all-out wedding photography package by Davina + Daniel (normally charge $5,000+). If we hadn't, we found a super photographer who was just starting out and was going to charge us $700 (after discount) for 6 hours.

I was very particular about choosing a venue that would accommodate a bring-your-own caterer option because we are friends with a chef who offered to cook at cost ($10/pp for apps and family style meal with 4 courses of locally sourced, gourmet food). We have 120 guests and limiting drinks to only beer, wine, and a signature drink for about $260, plus a bartender at $35/hr. My total catering budget with food plus servers is about $2,500. 

Where do you live? If you're in a city with a culinary school, you may luck out and find a student who would be eager to cook for you for less -- but you definitely want to do a tasting!

P.S. Would you mind if I shared your question on my blog? I've gotten a couple questions like these and I bet other brides would find this helpful.


And more from Cheyenne:


Yes, of course you can use my question. I know I'm not the only one who wonders!

I live just outside of Dallas but I have been looking all over the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex for venues. Unfortunately I have not found any venues that will allow me to bring my own bar/caterer. Originally that was what I had intended, especially because I wanted to splurge on the photos, but evidently I am out of luck. So I am trying to find a way to feed my guests nicely but cheaply and we are limiting our bar to beer and wine, much to the angst of my Scotch-loving fiance.

I have always intended to do my own invitations, save-the-dates (if any), flowers and decorations. I know this will save me some money, but how much, I don't know. And then, of course there's the issue of the ceremony which is an expense I wasn't expecting. I wanted to get married in the local botanical gardens, but I probably can't now that my (probable) reception venue is so far away. A beautiful church near the reception site is offering me their member rates at $800 because my mom works for another church in their region and pulled some strings. Non-member rates are $1,600!! Can you believe that?

I envy your venue--it's amazing! That's what I would have chosen if I were in Cali. Silly Texans. Why can't we have pretty venues like that?

Thanks for letting me vent. I am so frustrated and I am finding that no one really understands besides other brides-to-be!


And finally, my latest reply (if you live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area and know of a place Cheyenne should check out, please post a comment below!):

Hi Cheyenne,

Have you considered an offbeat venue like the local zoo or university? They might have a garden/botanical area. For example, I helped a bride client of mine choose our local zoo because it offered a beautiful arts n' crafts reception hall and outdoor patio with trees; an independent catering company that works exclusively with SF Zoo charges $15/pp for a BBQ picnic, which is casual but can be dressed up with the proper details.

Have you considered having the ceremony and reception in one place vs. two? We lucked out in that the church we are getting married at has a garden and reception hall across the street. Could there possibly be a church in your area that offers these and for less than $3,500? ($1,600 IS steep for non-members to pay to use the church; ours is also about the same price and would've been free if we were members of the parish.)

As for DIY flowers: I was going to go that route but decided to hire a professional for the bouquets and boutonnieres. To cut costs, I am doing my own centerpieces, especially since they're simple (hydrangeas with ranunculus). I would suggest looking on your local Craigslist or Yelp for up-and-coming floral designers. If they've been doing floral arrangements for under 2 years, they're more likely to offer lower prices than more established vendors. You do run the risk of not having the exquisite beauty of a saipua bouquet but vendors just getting started are more apt to please you and meet your requests -- just make them do a mock-up for you and if you're lucky, they will do it for free. If you still want to do it on your own and if you have a flower mart, where local florists buy their flowers, you might want to consider going there in the afternoon when wholesalers are more eager to bargain with regular consumers. As for the save-the-dates, if we hadn't won them, we would have sent postcards directing our guests to our wedding website to RSVP online. And decorations -- I am fortunate to have friends and family who like to collect vintage, so I'm using their stockpiles of white milk glass and linens. However, I did take advantage of store closing sales and post-Christmas sales when a lot of things were 75% off. I still kind of went overboard with the decor!

I hope I gave you a few ideas, or else reinforced what you may have already been thinking. Feel free to vent and thank you again for reaching out. We're here for each other, right?! :)


6 love notes:

Vera D. said...

I forgot to mention to Cheyenne about whether she checked out the municipal venues/parks and recreation halls/parks/gardens. They often have much lower hourly rates if you are a resident (and still great deals even if you're not) and some have preferred vendors, but some may let you bring in your own caterer. The city of Berkeley's Brazilian Room is very very inexpensive and is often booked a year in advance for this reason!

Emilia Jane said...

How are spending $260 on booze for 120? We are only doing beer, wine, signature drinks but I doubt we could get it that cheap.

Cupcake Wedding said...

Awesome advice. Thanks for sharing. We keep telling caterers we won't do more than $16 a person and then look at us like we are crazy. It CAN be done.

Jaryce21 said...

OMG! I didn't know you had a blog! I love it. Thanks for sharing your insight on your money saving tips. I definitely need to exercise these! Consider me a follower!! =)

Anonymous said...

Cheyenne, have you considered having a brunch, lunch, or desserts reception? If you time your ceremony properly, this can be a very cost effective decision. Also, non-Saturday weddings can save you a lot of money with vendors.
We had an elegant dessert reception on a Friday evening and saved so much money. Just an idea!

Vera, it sounds like you are doing a great job with your budget. Love your budget-minded blog.

Julianne said...

Cheyenne, I am also in DFW and we are going with the YWCA in Fort Worth. It's super affordable (and GORGEOUS!) for the ceremony and reception ($2000 for both, including tables/chairs). We are also using Black Eyed Pea for our catering and bar. Our quote for 75 guests is $900!

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