June 2011


Author: Leah McCarthy | Photographer: Katrina Wheeler

Weddings. We love attending them, but for the bride and groom, the planning can be stressful! The bride struggles to make her day different from anyone else’s. The pressure is on to find the “perfect” location, the “perfect” dress, the “dream” cake…. all while staying within a reasonable budget. Even though we have been inundated with “Platinum Weddings” on reality TV, only four percent of weddings a year have a platinum budget. The average wedding costs $25,600 (according to a recent survey of around 11,000 brides on TheKnot.com, not including the ring or the honeymoon).

So, how does a bride stay on a budget and make her day stand out from the rest? The most important first step is for the couple to communicate with each other and their parents as to what the budget is and who is paying for the wedding. Parents of the bride are no longer footing the bills. Nowadays, the rules have changed. Also, the average age of couples has risen, so more of them are paying for their own wedding. Subsequently, they are more cautious in spending money.

Even though planning and catering weddings is my livelihood, it pains me to see a couple struggle when they can’t afford to get all they dream of. Sure, it is a great day when someone calls with a high budget, but when money is tight, it is time to get priorities in order:

• Go online to find the suggested budget percentages for each part of the wedding out of the total budgeted amount. My favorite is on TheKnot.com.

• Determine what is important to you on this day. Is it a wedding cake that looks like what we see on TV, or is it lavish floral centerpieces? Ask a professional how you can get the look you want at a more affordable price.

• Spend time looking at wedding websites for ideas and inspirations. Many websites allow you to create an inspiration board where you can choose your colors and ideas to see how they all come together. WeddingWire.com lets you create a wedding binder online to store all your details.

• Read reviews of vendors on WeddingWire.com and on WeddingChannel.com. It is very important to hear what other couples are saying about the vendors you choose.

• Gather all your inspiration notes and your wedding budget, and start talking to vendors. Remember, the best vendors may not need to advertise, so you may not know they exist. Ask wedding professionals if they have a recommended list of vendors. They should only recommend the ones they know deliver amazing results.

• Once you’ve picked your date, get your venue booked. Ask what is included, (tables, chairs, etc.) so you will know if you need to rent any items. Inquire about discounts for Friday or Sunday weddings.

• If you choose an outdoor space, have a rain plan and save room in the budget for a tent should you need it.

• Keep in mind that your guests need to eat. There is nothing worse than skimping on a meal to spend more money on your dress. Guests will remember if they left your wedding hungry, not what designer you were wearing.

• Visit local bridal shows. You have an opportunity to meet many professionals face-to-face, and many times they offer “show specials” for visiting their booth.

• Budget for a day-of coordinator. You can’t afford not to. I am sure your sister or mother would love to help you plan, but on wedding day they should be able to relax and enjoy. Leave your day in the hands of an experienced planner who will make sure all details are executed.

Remember, this process should be fun and exciting! If you or your fiancé start asking if you should just elope, take a step back and relax. Ask for help. Most importantly, realize that at the end of the day, you will be married, and the real fun is about to begin!

Leah McCarthy is owner of Downtown Catering + Events (a two-time “Best of Weddings” winner by The Knot.com) and Weddings with Leah. She is also the wedding blogger for the Hilton Head Island/Bluffton Chamber of Commerce.

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