Bride on a Budget? Tips to save $

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How to make your wedding beautiful & affordable

and other tips from a wedding professional

As a wedding Photographer for 16 years and over 800 weddings I found many ways to save money on a wedding by listening to my brides and grooms.

The Day

Saturday is the biggest wedding day of the week, so of course it’s the most expensive too, for everything. All vendors charge the most for this day. So if you can select another day, such as Friday or Sunday you’ll save $. Now if you’re going to pick a Friday, you must consider the traffic hour, because you’re guests have to get off from work and still get to the wedding on time. A wedding that starts at 7pm or later would be best. For Sunday, you’ll need to do it earlier, say 2-3PM. Since most weddings are 5-6 hours, that’s great for people that have to work the next day.

Now if you want to save big $, a weekday is best. Especially, if most of your guests are coming from out of town, it won’t make a difference, since they’ve taken the time off already. You’ll be able to get good discounts from all of your vendors.

Keeping your wedding smaller, with only your closest friends and family will also save $.

The Venue

Several venues, mostly restaurants or hotels, won’t charge for the venue space itself, that is if you commit to a food and beverage minimum. In Oregon/Washington both, we have the McMenamins hotels and bars, and they are beautiful, this is their policy. But there are many others that do the same.  Also look around for a brand new venue and they might give you a discount, while they’re getting their feet on the ground.

One of the most beautiful weddings I have ever done, was at a public park, where they roped off the area. The couple spent their  $ on the catering instead of the facility and it turned out to be very elegant.

If you have a friend or family member that has a nice property, they might let you use it for the day. Keep in mind if you do this, you’ll need have plenty of bathrooms for your guests.

The Food & Wine

For my own wedding, I went to Trader Joe’s and got Champagne for $5.49/bottle, Schloss Biebrich Selt, still drink it to this day, very good. Trader Joe’s had a good variety of fine wines and beers too, all good and priced very well. They are also great for all kind of appetizers too. Costco has a great selection of party foods as well.

Cakes can be made at your local grocery too, for much lower $. Or a desert table,  people always like that. Or there are cupcakes, that way you don’t have to pay anyone to cut the cake.

Check around at your local favorite restaurants, often you can get food catered less that a hotel or fancy restaurant. Be creative. Or find a friend who loves to barbecue, pay for the meat yourself and be sure to give the cook something (unless it’s the chefs wedding gift to you). However, be sure they have cooked for a group of your size before and that you have the proper equipment.

Don’t skimp too much on food, especially if you’re drinking, food is a must. I have had some people leave out food all together, but guests expect to be feed, or they will leave early.

The Church

Again the day makes the difference. Of course churches have several days a week they can’t do weddings. However, there are churches that don’t have a congregation and you can book on any day.

Two churches in Portland are Oaks Pioneer Church in Sellwood, a charming church built in 1851 overlooking the Willamette River and The Old Church in downtown Portland, built in 1882. Both are historic churches. Also in Boring, The Bell Tower Chapel, just outside of Portland, with a lovely country setting and views of Mt. Hood, built in 1907.

Of course, there is the courthouse too for a $ savings.

The Dress

Look for sales right after the wedding season (usually late October), many want to get rid of the old styles before the new ones come in. I’ve had brides who have found a dress for as little as $100.00. Sometimes department stores, will have a dresses right off the rack that are simple, and look great. There are many seamstresses in Portland that  create a custom dress tailored look just for you and I’ve seen so many beautiful ones. Prices aren’t that high.

For the bridesmaid dresses, a simple black dress always looks good. Let them each pick the one they like.

The Invitations

Why send out the paper ones, when there are many websites that allow you to customize an e-invitation. Save a lot of paper and $ for stamps, also very green.

The Flowers

Many brides theses day, are eliminating everything but the bouquets and corsages. Especially if you have a beautiful spot. You can also find “pick your own” flower farms and make your own arrangements the night before. Kruger Farms is one of my favorite places to do that.

The Table Decorations

You can rent table decorations from many event and party rentals. Or if you or your friends are super creative, you can make your own. Martha Stewart always has some great ideas. Also many venues, will include linens, chairs and tables with their fee. So you might ask for an all inclusive deal.

The Photography

Being a photographer myself, I would say don’t skimp too much on this. A friend Photographer, might be too interested in partying with you, than taking the pictures. You really do need someone who is a Wedding Photographer, professionally. Not an Landscape Photographer, not a Animal Photographer, but a Wedding Photographer. Although it’s nice to hire someone up and coming, you need to find someone who had done at least 10-15 weddings. It’s all about the lighting. Make sure they have two SLR cameras, flashes and multiple lenses. Camera equipment does break down, and it doesn’t happen when it’s sitting the bag. To save $, you can hire them for less time, such as 2-4 hours, instead of 8. You need to capture the formal photos, the ceremony and the romantic photos. You might have a friend/family member  to do the reception. Be sure you get the hi-res disk. The album, can either wait until later, or you can make one online yourself, but it won’t be the same quality as what a photographer has. There is a lot of time to make these and the quality of the printing and covers are superior. A make it yourself album will fade over time.

The Video

How many times are you really going to watch it? Find a friend who can set up a camera on a tripod to capture the ceremony and give them $100.00 for an unedited video. That’s where the bigger $’s come in, it takes a lot of time to edit a good video.

The Music

Dj’s are probably your best bet to save $. But you can also put all of your favorites on a computer and play away, with some good speakers too. You’ll need an attendant to make sure it’s going along OK and you’ll will want both dinner and dance music. Get a referral if you decide on a DJ and make sure you like the music he/she plays.

The Favors

Who ever takes them home anyway? Most are left on the table, why do it? Unless it something that’s dear to your heart, just forget it. The most popular are a candy or a cookie bar. Of course, if you make them yourself, it’s more affordable.

The $ Savings

Stop buying that expensive coffee everyday, bring a thermos to work. You’d be surprised how much you can save. $5.00/day adds up to $1825.00/yr. Or put a $10.00 bill into a jar everytime you go shopping, you won’t miss it.

The Summary

Remember, it’s just 5-7 hours of your life, don’t go crazy about spending a ton of money, you’ll have a great time with friends and family no matter what you do and it will be a day to remember. Wouldn’t you rather have a nice down payment for a house? Good Luck!

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