Creating a Budget for Your Wedding

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The only rule for weddings today is that there are no rules. Today’s brides have a multitude of choices and concepts from which to draw to plan and accomplish their vision for the most important day of their lives.

The age of first marriages has been rising, as have the costs–$30,000 is the national average–so it’s no surprise that couples who may pay for their own nuptials want the day to be something that is uniquely their own.

“Instead of deferring to their mothers’ decisions, most brides have definite ideas of their own,” says Karen Petit, wedding director at The Mitchell House and Gardens in Lexington, South Carolina. Couples are more likely to have a theme that showcases their individual style. “An upcoming event at our venue will feature the traditional wedding and a masquerade reception with elaborate decorations.” However, Petit cautions, “Wedding shows have given some brides an unrealistic expectation of what they can get with their budget. A reality check can be in order for some!”

The no-rules concept also includes the guest list. “Smaller weddings with guests who have all had a role at some point in the couple’s life and have contributed to who they are today are more the norm than the exception,” says wedding and event designer Sasha Souza.“The guest list isn’t full of have-to invites; it’s 100 percent an A-list.” A big trend is in weekday weddings, says Souza. Couples are willing to marry on a weekday, “if it means that they can afford more, get the site of their dreams or have the perfect combination of dates, such as 12-13-14.”

Nevertheless, a couple’s stewardship of their resources requires making choices about cost allocations. Here are some ideas that modern brides and planners have shared that allowed them to have the day of their dreams.

Selecting the Venue
The days of the traditional church or country club wedding seem to be passing, say experts. Bride Mallory Holman, 27, knew she wanted an outdoor wedding with a vintage, country feel. After researching outdoor venues, she and husband, Chris, 30, decided on a private homestead in the Adirondacks. The couple rented a tent for dinner and cocktails, and used pretty mismatched vintage dishware that they collected at garage sales both on and offline, scoring savings on rentals. They hired a DJ who was versatile enough to play ’50s standards during cocktail hour and later switch it up with the alternative music the couple enjoys.

Destination weddings are popular, says Hector Rubio, director of catering and conference services at Four Seasons Resorts Lana’i. “People are now marrying later in life. They have traveled a bit more and want a memorable experience for everyone involved in this special moment.”

Brides are choosing invitations that are less formal and more creative, Petit says. Instead of the thick, ivory paper with black calligraphy, brides can choose from a variety of paper weaves, colors and embellishments as well as fonts. Or, handmade invitations allow brides to express their creativity and allocate resources to another segment of their budget,

The Dress
A quick look at Brides Magazine shows that brides are getting braver about color, although the dresses that aren’t white tend to be champagne, blush, mint green, silver or other soft colors. Many brides also are forgoing the long, formal dress for something “shorter and more flirty,” says Petit. Brides on a strict budget can find bargains in consignment shops, online or in better department stores, allowing them to splurge more on the caterer or cake.

Floral arrangements are one of the largest components of the wedding budget. “Metropolitan brides want bold colors,” says Alix Astir of Trellis Fine Florals. “They want compact, tight, formal arrangements that are bold jewel colors such as ruby, emerald, deep violet. We complement these with a vibrant orange orchid or a wild berry.” Other choices are to ask your florist to use local, in-season materials, or minimize flowers and accentuate other features of your venue.

The Photographer and Videographer
Hiring a great photographer and/or videographer is a must for many brides to make sure their memorable moments are recorded. Or guests can use their cell phones or disposable cameras for candid shots. Your photographer should be clear about what her role is and what she will allow during the festivities.

Taste for All Seasons
Multi-format menus are increasingly popular with guests versus a traditional plated meal, says Rubio. He suggests trying a hands-on cooking demo led by a chef for the first course, followed by an action station and then a family-style arrangement. Couples are opting for elegant–and very long–communal tables that foster “rich conversation and engagement with the entire party.” Creativity extends to cakes, which can either be anything from artfully designed cupcakes to a dessert spread.

Weddings today reflect the personalities, style, culture and dreams of each couple. With good planning, your special day can be all you want it to be! HLM

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