When I tell people that I'm a wedding planner, they always have a story to tell about a wedding that needed a planner. Recently, a woman even said that after being in her close friend's wedding they are no longer friends, and when I suggested that maybe they'll get past it, she said, "I don't think so." I asked her what could have been so bad that she would lose a friendship over it, and she shared and shared and shared. She was so upset, and I think that she needed to talk about it. When I gave her the platform, she let the flood gates open and a tsunami of regrets came flowing out. I took those and created a list of the three things that you should definitely not cut corners on when planning a wedding on a tight budget.
1. Don't Stick Your Wedding Party with a Huge Rehearsal Dinner Check
I plan gay weddings, so I understand that sometimes parents may choose not to fund things like with a traditional wedding. I also understand that rehearsal dinners can be expensive. However, there are alternatives that can help you cut costs without sticking the party with a check and making them feel duped.
I put this one on the list because it's important to consider your wedding party's budget. The woman I was talking to said that she was making a huge career transition, so she was on a tight budget herself. Her friend knew this. She's already spent $500 on her outfit, so she was looking forward to a little retribution from the rehearsal dinner, especially because it was at a really upscale (and expensive) restaurant. She said that when she was handed her bill, she was appalled. She had no warning, and this put her in a financial bind. Although your wedding is about you, you still want to consider your friends. Otherwise, you may not have any after it's all said and done.
Have a Rehearsal Brunch. This can save time and money. Brunch is much less expensive than dinner, and it's a good way to get everyone in the same place in plenty of time on the big day. Be sure to give yourself enough time to still get everything done afterwards. If you're traditional and don't want to see your partner on the day of, a good coordinator can make it happen without tripping any bad luck.
Have a Rehearsal BBQ. Instead of going to some fancy restaurant, have someone host a nice little backyard shindig. I'm sure that you have someone who would love to be a part of your festivities and loves to throw a good party. Sometimes you have to make choices to exclude some people from your party. To avoid having hurt feelings, you can suggest that you know this person throws great parties, so you were hoping they would host the rehearsal dinner. If you don't have that person, do it in a park or somewhere free.
Have a Food Truck. These guys love the business, and, you can make your party aware so that they can plan accordingly. It's still cheaper than a pricey restaurant.
2. Don't Stick Your Guests with a Cash Bar
I know, I know, a lot of blogs will tell you that this is okay, but they lie!!! People think that a cash bar is tacky. And, if you've asked a lot of your wedding party, they should at least get rewarded with an open bar. Also, I've planned weddings on tight budgets that manage to squeeze out an open bar pretty reasonably. You have to think about the balance. Some people may drink a lot, but there will be some that will not drink at all.
Have a Stock the Bar Party. This can be combined with a bachelor/bachelorette party or a shower. The key is to make sure that your vendor allows BYOB. Sometimes vendors will charge a cork fee or something of the like. The easiest way to get around this is to have the reception at a venue that allows BYOB.
Have a Limited Bar Menu. Signature cocktails are so much fun, and you can limit the liquor to that and serve beer/wine/champagne, which is much less expensive than liquor, whiskey, and mixers. Guests would rather have a little something for free than a lot of something that they have to pay for.
Have a Drink Limit with Tickets. Although it's not as good as having a complete open bar, some couples opt to cover a certain amount of drinks for their guests and then have a cash bar available. You can take the opportunity to create a cute ticket pattern with your theme too.
3. Don't Forget the Appreciation
It may seem like, "whoa, didn't you say this is all about me?" at this point, but if you have a wedding party, it's important to show them that you appreciate them taking time out of their busy lives, spending money on attire, and throwing you a kick-ass party. You may not have the budget for expensive gifts, but there are still ways to say thanks.
Have an Experience. Experiences are in this year. Many people prefer experiences over gifts. You could do something fun like have a fortune-teller read their fortunes or go on a day cruise. Depending on the size of your party, an experience can save you money, and you get to enjoy time with your pals.
Have Gifts Made. You know a seamstress or a crafter whether you know it or not. Someone that you know would probably love to make things for your wedding party.
Have an Artist Make Them. Local artists, especially new ones, are just waiting for an opportunity to showcase their talents. If you contact them, they will very likely give you a bargain on unique, personalized gifts.
Of course, a new trend that can save a lot of stress and money is to forego the wedding party altogether. Couples are opting to have a private ceremony and focus on celebrating afterwards with their friends and family. This doesn't have to be a courthouse wedding. It can be a beautiful beach ceremony, or a park, or a garden, with just the officiate and whoever else is wanted. Then more of the budget can go into other things and there is no pressure to please as many people.
Weddings are about you, but you want to have people to help you celebrate. The good thing is that weddings have come a long way and can be personalized to however you want them to be.
The key to any successful wedding is to have a clear focus from the beginning. I created a must-have pre-planning checklist to help with that focus. You can get it here: https://mailchi.mp/1372f0c370a7/weddingchecklist