Save money without your guests noticing
Wedding planners help you spend money, but good ones also help you save. Couples want the most for their money, whatever the budget, and a savvy consultant who knows the Island wedding business can show them how to get it.
Unless you are Will and Kate, there’s probably no need to invite 2,200 people. Doris Clark of Event Day Coordination said, “The first, no-brainer way to cut the budget is to cut the guest list! Most of my brides are trying to keep it to 100 or less.”
She recommends that couples make the most out of whatever venue they choose. “Have everything in one location,” she said. Since tent companies deliver at least the day before the wedding and sometimes earlier, the tent can be used for the rehearsal dinner as well as the wedding and a Sunday brunch. “Also, guests won’t notice if you choose the white folding chairs instead of the Chiavari chairs,” Ms. Clark said.
Zoé Barbey Ross of ZBR Events said, “I always advise brides to save on silverware and china. No one will remember if she spent an extra $700 to get the more ornate silverware.” She loves candles for the tables. “They can brighten up a table with a smaller centerpiece and they are so cheap!” Not all couples hire a live band. “Get a deejay; it saves so much over a band,” Ms. Ross said. “A stage for the band alone can raise the cost thousands of dollars.”
One of Ms. Clark’s weddings this year is for a couple from France who love the farm-to-table concept; their meal will be served family style on farm tables without table linen. She thinks brides can save on the wedding cake by using it for the dessert. “Have a small decorated cake for show and sheet cakes to serve.”
And there are ways to save on the bar bill. “Use wine and champagne that is one tier down from those you may drink on a regular basis,” Ms. Clark said. “Wine and beer only and no hard liquor will save money as well.”
Ms. Ross says signature cocktails are a great way to save — it avoids having to stock a full bar. “Gruet is one of my favorite well-kept secrets,” she said. “It’s a traditional champagne (also available as a rosé) made in New Mexico. It’s delicious and incredibly affordable.”
Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin of Weddings on the Vineyard says some couples think they can save money by bringing liquor from off-Island. But, she says, “All the liquor stores here will special order anything you want and will take back what you don’t use.” Since they also deliver and pick up, that’s one less job for the couple to manage.
Choosing from flowers in bloom on the Vineyard the month of the wedding, instead of importing exotic ones, keeps the florist’s costs down. Many brides are breaking away from traditional bouquets to use more natural, Island-grown plants.
Floral designer Mariko Kawaguchi at Flowers by Donaroma’s found a way to make a table centerpiece into an exit gift; she wraps ruffled, silk taffeta scarves that look like lettuce around pots full of flowers. The scarves come from Kati Johnsen, of Edgartown who has them made in Peru by a women’s cooperative.
One way to decide how to save is to agree on what not to cut. “I always suggest that the bride not skimp on the item that means the most to her,” Doris Clark said. “I have one bride that is a fashion editor for a major magazine. Her not-to-skimp item is the photography.”
Ms. Buckmaster-Irwin echoes that thought. “The last place to save money is on photography; everything else comes and goes but that’s what lasts — your photographs are forever.” She tells her brides to make the investment in photography their first priority and then to book other elements of the wedding.
While it’s fine to ask a relative or friend to take some candid photos, she points out that you get what you pay for. “The photographer has to be there for all the special moments all the time, and know where to stand,” she said.
Making a list of all the must-have shots and then assigning a friend to help the photographer find the people is the best use of a volunteer, she said, but rely on a professional for the photographs. “Thirty, forty, fifty years from now, it’s your memory of that day.”
[Originally published in the May 13, 2011 issue of the Vineyard Gazette's Wedding Planner; reviewed for updates in 2012.]