NEW YORK (MainStreet) Hollywood makes throwing a wedding look easy like a piece of cake. Weddings are a great time to let your creativity flow. However, many newly engaged couples soon have a hard dose of reality when faced with bills for this once-in-a-lifetime celebration. Tami Rekas is a wedding planner and owner of her own business Urban Lace Events, a boutique event planning and styling company based in New York City and Northern Virginia that services clients worldwide. Rekas explained the sensible ways to formulate a wedding budget and how much vendors should cost a couple.
What are the two most crucial expenses for a wedding?
Tami Rekas: The most crucial expenses for a wedding are the venue and the catering costs. Couples can anticipate spending 50% of their budget here.
When choosing a venue, consider your options. I have clients who fall in love with a particular venue, and are devastated when they find out the venue fee exceeds their budget. While Saturday weddings will run you the highest, some venues may cut their rental fees by 30 to 40% for a Friday or Sunday wedding. This year in particular, I have seen a dramatic increase in the number of Sunday weddings. In a city like New York, boozy brunches are a Sunday staple. Many brides are opting for Sunday brunch receptions complete with extravagant Bloody Mary and Mimosa bars. Venues are not the only place you will find savings if you opt for a nontraditional day of the week photographers, florists, and DJs are also more willing to negotiate their pricing.
If you are looking for ways to cut your catering costs, look no further than your guest list. Most catering companies and venues will charge per-person. If the cost is $100 per-person, a reduction of 20 people could result in savings of $2,000. To manage your list, come up with a strict policy for plus ones, an often daunting task. As a general rule of thumb, you should provide a plus one to those who are married, engaged, or living together. Whatever you decide, be sure to stick with it to prevent hurt feelings among guests.
How much should photography cost on average?
TR: The cost of photographers varies greatly from region to region. However, on average you should plan on spending between 10 to 15% of your budget on a photographer. If you are going to splurge on one area of your wedding, let it be your photographer. Your wedding day will fly by so quickly and after the vows have been said, and the cake has been cut, all you will have left are the memories and photographs. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly and ensure you receive a CD or USB of the photographs and full rights to all of the images. This will allow you to have prints made anywhere you choose. Ordering prints through your photographers website may be more expensive than taking it to your local printer. I also encourage my clients to consider hiring a second photographer to accompany the lead photographer if their budget allows. Most photographers offer packages that include a second photographer or may charge a couple hundred dollars for the additional photographer. While one photographer is shooting the bride walking down the aisle, the other can capture the look on your groom's face as he sees his beautiful bride for the first time.
What are some savings tips when approaching your venue -- e.g. can you get the cake included?
TR: When looking for venues, ask what is included in the rental fee. Some venues include tables, chairs, linens, and glassware. These items can add up quickly when rented through the caterer, so it is always a bonus when it is included in the venue rental. Also ask what their policy is on candles and beverages. Some venues, specifically historical properties, do not allow red wine or candles unless they are fully enclosed in glass. If you are a wine connoisseur and cannot imagine serving white wine with the filet mignon or are super psyched about using your grandmothers vintage candelabras, then you may want to think twice about the venue. Ask the venue about any noise ordinances that would be enforced. For outdoor venues near a residential community, they may have a strict shutdown of 10:00 p.m. or 11:00 p.m., a real buzz kill. You should also ask the venue what their policy is on hiring other wedding vendors. For instance, some venues have a set list of caterers that you are allowed to choose from and will not allow anyone outside of their list. This could be a real bummer if you had your heart set on your favorite local caterer.
Flowers can get out of hand; what is a sensible flower budget?
TR: A general guideline is to spend between 8 to 10% of your budget on flowers. This would include bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, ceremony flowers, and reception centerpieces. Pick flowers in season that have large blooms such as hydrangeas for the greatest savings. They will fill more space thus requiring fewer stems. If you have a friend or a cousin who is talented, ask if they would be willing to make arrangements out of flowers purchased from a wholesale distributor or local supermarket. Lastly, look for a way to reuse the arrangements. Take the hanging floral arrangements used on the ceremony chairs and move them to the cocktail hour tabletops.
Are there items that are not necessary? What can people cut?
TR: Another tip for saving is skipping the champagne toast. A lot of people do not like champagne or may not drink alcohol, so a large portion of the glasses sit on the table never touched. Instead, have guests toast with the cocktail or beverage they are drinking. This will also reduce your costs as you will not need to rent champagne flutes.
What is the usual price range on a wedding?
TR: In 2012, the average couple spent $26,989 on their wedding. In New York City, I would say the average is around $70,000.
Are there items on the budget worth splurging on? Why is that?
TR: Where to splurge, and where to save, is a personal decision that varies from couple to couple. When working on a budget, couples should sit down and discuss which elements are most important to them. Whether it is gourmet food that will wow your guests, the hottest band to get the party started or a designer gown to make your grand entrance, we all have areas we deem worthy of a splurge. Whatever it may be, you should allow for it in your budget and offset the splurge by cutting back in other areas that are less important to you.
--Written by Leigh Held for MainStreet