5 Wedding Planning Mistakes That Can Make You Go Over Budget (and how to fix them)

By Planning No Comments

A flawless wedding demands attention to detail, and we’re not talking about the details you lovingly curated from Pinterest or your own personal style. The details we’re talking about are not always fun. But these are the details that can make or break yours and your guests’ experience. They can also make or break your budget. 

When you are not aware of the most important details to keep an eye on, you can and most likely will make mistakes that can lead to you going over budget or not having the stress free wedding day you anticipated. After all, that’s why we professionals exist.

Today’s your lucky day though, cause we’re sharing these 5 mistakes and how to fix them with you.

1. Finalize your guest count before venue shopping so you don’t have to start all over once you realize your guest list is too big or too small for your dream space.



It’s easy to get excited about your new engagement and wedding planning. And one of the first things you’ll keep hearing you should book is  your venue.  And yes, while booking your venue should be at the top of your checklist, there is one step that should come beforehand. Establishing and finalizing your guest list.

When you skip the crucial step of creating an accurate guest list, you can end up booking a venue that doesn’t fit all your guests and have to cut your guest list or worse, lose your deposit as you now will have to book a bigger venue.

We often see blogs and planners quote that 10-20% of your guests will send their regrets. This is in fact not true, you cannot count on this when planning a wedding.

Before budgeting and venue shopping, talk to all parties who will be contributing to your guest list and ask them for their final lists. This way you know what your max capacity could potentially be and book your venue accordingly without losing money or sleep on how to make everyone fit.

2. Not budgeting for all the small wedding items that can add up quickly.



Most couples go straight to the big ticket items when creating their wedding day budget: wedding dress, venue, food, flowers, photographer, entertainment, etc. And while these big costs do take up a large chunk of your budget, it’s the many smaller costs that can sneak up on you and send you over budget by hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Here’s a list of commonly overlooked budget items:

  • Postage for invitations
  • Thank you notes
  • Wedding rings
  • Hair and Makeup
  • Wedding Dress Alterations
  • Cake topper
  • Shoes
  • Marriage License
  • Printed items (menus, table numbers, programs, bar signage)
  • Vendor Meals
  • Wedding Party getting ready food
  • Post Wedding dress cleaning / preservation
  • And venue required permits
  • Accessories
  • Vendor Gratuities
  • Pre or post wedding hotel room

To avoid this, take a closer look at your budget to make sure you’re including everything from the big ticket items to the overlooked smaller budget items on the list above. If you’re missing anything, add it on now so there are no budgeting surprises.

3. Waiting until the last minute to buy your wedding dress can result in additional costs that quickly add up.



Wedding gown shopping is a very different experience from running to the mall and picking up a new cocktail dress. Not only is dress shopping a special one-of-a-kind experience, but it’s one that can take time.

Yes, some brides ‘say yes’ to the first dress, but most ladies visit multiple salons before finding their dress.  

And once you’ve found the dress, depending on if you’re buying ready made or from a salon, it can take 6-8 months for some dresses to be made. And remember there’s still time needed for alterations after receiving your physical dress.

When you wait until the last minute to choose a dress, rush fees of an additional 10-15% just for production of the dress, plus additional rush alteration fees can  add up quickly putting your dream dress now over budget.

To avoid extra costs, give yourself plenty of time to dress shop and find your wedding day gown. If you have a short timeline, consider a ready made, off the rack or online dress that requires less alterations and doesn’t require rush fees to be made. 

4. Take the time to thoroughly review all vendor contracts and quotes so you don’t miss any hidden fees or worse sign off on the wrong date.

 

Wedding vendors are often working and quoting multiple clients at any given time and details can get lost. Some vendors excel at being organized and tracking the details, while others are artists and a bit less tidy with the details. When important details like rates, dates and more are overlooked, it can result in unanticipated additional costs and extra time.

For instance, what if you sign your contract for the wrong date with a photographer and on your actual wedding date they’re already booked? You now either have to have every other vendor change date or spend time looking for a new wedding photographer.

This is why it’s important to always closely review any vendor contracts and quotes you receive. Check that all names, dates and locations are correct as well as hours of service. Reconfirm that hours of service match your wedding day timeline so you don’t incur any overtime on your wedding day.

5. Forgetting to Ask Your Venue About Hidden Fees


Hidden fees are one of the planning details that most planners are super familiar with, but couples can struggle to understand and account for. Things like service charge, tax, gratuity, overtime and more can quickly add up to thousands of dollars and throw your well planned budget off whack.

To avoid this common mistake, ask your venue the following questions so you can rework your budget as needed before signing on the dotted line.

    1. Ask for estimates with all fees included. Does your estimate include all additional charges like service charge, tax and gratuity?
    2. Is gratuity optional or required? If optional, what is your suggested gratuity amount for your staff?
    3. Additional Overtime Fees. Are there any additional fees for staff for overtime if we go over a certain number of hours?
    4. Ask about additional logistical charges. Are there any additional charges for logistical items? Parking permits, valet, lighting, sound etc?

TL;DR

 

  • Establish your guest list first. Wait on venue shopping and budget building until you know exactly how many guests could be attending your wedding. The gust list directly impacts both venue and budget decisions.
  • Remember to budget for the small stuff.  Items that may sound small and insignificant to your budget can quickly add up to a significant amount. Make sure to include commonly overlooked items from our list above to keep from going over budget.
  • Don’t wait to go to dress shopping. Depending on the dress you fall in love with, it can take time to be ordered and made. And this doesn’t even account for alteration time needed too. Nobody likes to pay rush fees when they didn’t have to, so start dress shopping early.
  • Thoroughly review vendor quotes and contracts. Vendors are people and people make mistakes, so take the extra time to make sure all quotes and contracts match up as well as important information like date, location, hours of service and your names.
  • Finally – Ask about hidden fees. Extra fees from venues and caterers can quickly add up and put you over budget. To avoid this from happening, ask that all potential additional fees are included in your estimates whether they’re optional or not so you can budget accordingly.

Get the Look: How to DIY a Beautiful Chinoiserie Table on A Budget

By Food No Comments

You may have read this blog title and thought to yourself, ‘What is Chinoiserie?’  If you went to Google, you’d find that Chinoiserie is the imitation or evocation of Chinese motifs and techniques in Western art, furniture, and architecture. 

However, when it comes to weddings, Chinoiserie can be found in beautiful blue and white vases mixed with blue and/or white florals and other decor touches in this same palette.

DIY HINT:

When your DIY table centerpiece is not done right, it can end up looking sparse and like it was thrown together last minute. Having a strong DIY tablescape plan and knowing the tips and tricks from this post will help you to create a look that will leave your guests oohing and ahhing over your tables for years to come. They won’t believe it when you tell them you did it yourself!

Follow along for a comprehensive to do list on how to Get the Look: A Chinoiserie Tablescape.

First Step: Creating a Plan

There’s no need to jump in and buy vases left and right. First, you’ll want to start with a solid plan.  What’s your final look for each table? Knowing this will help determine the quantity of vases you’ll need and how to achieve the look no matter table size.

Where to Start – Know Your Table Counts and Sizes

How many tables do you have? This will dictate how many vases you should purchase. 

Since this is probably something new to you, you’ll want to do a mock-up well ahead of your wedding to make sure the quantities below give the look you are trying to achieve. It’s better to know well ahead of time if you need to add or subtract.

When putting together your mock-up table, you will want to set the table with your desired linen, charger, flatware and glassware to ensure there is enough space on the table for your beauty and function.

Rectangular Tables Expect 6-8 Vases

The wider the table, the better. A standard rectangular table is 30” wide, but preference is always 40” or 48”. This gives more space for all our pretty flowers.

When buying vases for your rectangular table, you’ll want to start with 6-8 large vases. If you want more look, you can add in some medium and small too.

Round Tables Expect 4-7 Vases

With a typical 60” or 66” round, 4-7 vases in a variety of sizes is a good start. On a round table, your centerpieces tend to be less spread out and closer together making a bigger impact.

Again, you can play with the sizes of your vases to create your desired look. Don’t forget to add in candles for warm romantic lighting too. 

Second Step: Plan Where to Buy Your Vessels

Start this process super early! As soon as you’ve decided this is your look, start keeping an eye out for vases wherever you go. In Los Angeles, we start with Michaels, Home Goods, Target and plan weekly or twice a month visits to start collecting for a wedding that’s about a year away. Some of these big box stores are great options because they constantly have coupons or special offers.

If you’re having a problem finding chinoiserie vases at your local retailers, search online as you may find an affordable vendor who will ship to your home. 

We also like to always work with local vendors when possible, so if you have a local flower market or floral shop, you can speak with them about buying in bulk and securing a special price.

If all else fails, there’s always Amazon.

Keep your receipts in case you need to make any returns and always make sure the vases are wrapped up well so they don’t break when you are transporting them home!

Choose Your Colors to Compliment Your Vessels

Color is always complimentary to a chinoiserie tables cape. Although, most times you’ll find this look paired with blue and white flowers for a clean, modern and monochromatic feel.

But, if color speaks to you, go ahead and use flowers in every palette, pink, white, purple or anything that calls out. It’s important to play around and look at photos to understand the look you’d like to achieve with these vessels.

Types of Flowers of Flower Matters for Affordability

To achieve this look in an affordable way, use big, fluffy flowers such as hydrangea. Hydrangea is an amazing  wedding flower because it’s everywhere, affordable and doesn’t take many to fill a vase. They leave your tables looking pretty and polished!  

However, when using hydrangea make sure to keep them thoroughly hydrated and in a cool place.  Direct sunlight on a hot day will quickly wilt these beauties.  

Hydrangea may be your most affordable DIY centerpiece flower, but just about any flower works. Keep in mind, the bigger and fluffier the better as it  keeps the cost down too! Some other varieties to consider:  dahlias, sunflowers, garden roses, anemone or even peonies.  If you go the peony route, keep in mind they are more expensive and seasonal which can quickly cancel out any cost savings from DIYing your centerpieces. 

LOGISTICS:


Transporting Container Safely and Have a Plan

When driving vases to and from a venue, they can easily break. Use bubble wrap, newspaper or even old towels to protect them! To add even more protection, wrap and pack the vases tightly in big tubs. The last thing you’ll want is the inconvenience of breakage and having to replace vases right before your event. 

Ask Help From a Friend

Don’t tackle this yourself, especially on your wedding day! Have a friend, trusted neighbor or family member involved in the process. From the mock-up to putting together your transportation plan, make them a part of the entire process so it’s off your plate. Even if they’re part of the process, sketch out the table and give them an inspiration photo so they have a guide to follow.

Setting Up The Table, Then Add Water

First fill the vases with the water and flowers. Then, the vases should be the first thing placed on the tables after the linens are laid down. This will save you from having to reach over any glassware or dinnerware and prevent spills and accidents. Set-up becomes even easier when the chairs are out of the way too, this way you can easily reach the middle of the table.  

Most times, we recommend our couples to try and avoid DIYing too many things on their wedding day as this instruction keeps them free to enjoy their day. However, if you are looking to DIY tables for your reception, rehearsal or brunch and love this look, you now know how to achieve it.

Having a solid plan ahead of time will enable you to just enjoy the beauty of your wedding day. Be sure you want a Chinoiserie look and feel, know your table sizes and give yourself plenty of time to shop the look.

And most importantly, create a sample table. Whether it’s in your yard, garage or dining room table, you’ll want to test out the look and play. This way you know exactly how many vases and flowers to buy to achieve your look. Oh and always get extra, you never know when that extra vase or stem of flowers could come in handy!

Compare Your Top Wedding Venues Accurately

By Planning, Vendors, Venue No Comments

We tell our couples to think of their wedding venue as an extension of their home. Choosing a venue that fits you and your style is an important part of feeling good on your wedding day. 

Oftentimes, we hear from couples that they have wedding venue fatigue. And what they mean by fatigue is:

  1. They find there are almost too many venue options in their area.
  2. They are tired trying to figure out how to compare venues equally in order to make the right decision for them and their budget.

Your venue is a big deal

Your venue is typically one of the bigger ticket items on your wedding budget. If you’re hosting a hotel wedding or a wedding at a venue that also provides the food and bar, then it will most definitely be your biggest wedding day expense. 

This is why it’s so important to know how to compare all the venues you visit and see on an equal playing field.

In this post, you’ll find the questions to ask and items to look out for as you’re determining which wedding venue is right for you.

Location Location Location

Many times couples skip over considering the venue’s location and go straight to budget, but the venue’s location not only affects your budget, but guest arrival and departure experience as well.

Central location matters

This is something you’ll want to consider if you have a guest list full of out-of-towners. Choosing an easy to get to and centrally located venue creates ease in the minds of your guests before they’ve even arrived to your wedding.

As you compare venue locations check for the following:

  • How easy is it for your guests to get there.
  • What is the parking situation? Is there on site parking, valet or nearby parking available? One of the most frustrating guest arrival experiences is arriving at a wedding only to find out that there is no parking available on site or nearby and so they end up arriving late.
  • If the venue is in a remote location, what are the transportation options available? Can you book a shuttle for guests or is there plenty of on site parking? Can Uber or Lyft get there easily?

As arrival and departure are the first and last memories of your wedding night, you’ll want it to be a breeze for your guests to come and go so their focus can be on how spectacular your wedding was.

Venue location affects your budget.

There are a few ways that your venue’s location can affect your budget and you’ll want to keep this in mind as you’re comparing your top choices.

  1. Do you have to provide transportation to/from your venue for your wedding party and guests? If so, this can quickly add up depending on the number of people you need to shuttle around.
  2. If your venue is farther away or less centrally located, you may incur higher delivery costs on rentals and possible travel expenses for your vendors.

Choosing a venue for it’s location does matter for both your budget and your guests.

The Numbers

As you continue your venue shopping you may notice that each venue quotes their rates in a different way. Some quote based on package prices, some quote based on food & beverage minimums while others, may do something else entirely different.

What’s important isn’t how they quote, but knowing how to put the numbers they give you into a spreadsheet or format where you can compare their fees and pricing side by side. By fully understanding each venue’s pricing structure and how it fits into your budget, you’ll be able to sign on the dotted line with confidence.

Breaking down pricing.

  1. Choose how you want to compare venue pricing:
    1. Per person pricing
    2. Overall food & beverage cost
  2. Once you’ve established how you want to standardize each venue’s quotes, it’s now time to start doing some math and plugging in the numbers.

Per Person Pricing

Here’s an example of how to standardize quotes into per person pricing for budget comparison purposes. This is based on a guest count of 100 to keep the math simple.

Venue 1 – Has given us a price of $15,000 minimum food & beverage spend
Venue 2 – Has given us a price of $95 per person for food & beverage
Venue 3 – Has given us a price of $75 per person, but a minimum spend of $10,000

Location

Notes

# of Guests

Cost PP

Total

Venue 1

Take $15,000 and divide by guest count of 100

100

$150

$15,000

Venue 2

Take guest count and multiply by $95

100

$95

$9,500

Venue 3

Take guest count and multiply by $75

100

$75

$7,500*

*In the case of Venue 3, based on your guest count, you do not meet the minimum spend so will need to add on additional food & beverage to meet $10,000. So really with 100 person guest count, your per person spend will be $100 to meet the minimum.

Overall Food & Beverage Cost

To compare your estimates based on food & beverage spend, use the same chart above to multiply or divide quotes using your guest count so you can see your total cost line by line for each venue.

IMPORTANT Taxes, Service Charge and Gratuity Warning

Keep in mind as you’re calculating that some venues include all their tax, gratuity and service charge rates while others do not. When comparing pricing, it’s important to know what these rates are as they can easily add up to or surpass 10-20% in additional costs and sometimes make what seemed like a cheaper venue be more expensive or equal to another.

Building on the chart above, here’s what should come next. Add a column to estimate additional tax, gratuity and service charges and ask your venue contact what those percentages are. Bundle them together for the sake of your initial estimate. 

Here’s a sample below to illustrate this step:

Location

# of Guests

Cost PP

Subtotal

Tax, Gratuity, Service

Total

Venue 1

100

$150

$15,000

20%

$18,000

Venue 2

100

$95

$9,500

30%

$12,350

Venue 3

100

$100

$10,000*

25%

$12,500

Knowing What’s Included

Comparing the food, beverage and additional service percentages are fine and all, but you’ll also want to consider what each venue includes. If you’re leaning towards a venue with a lower food & beverage total, you’ll want to follow-up by asking what they provide.

Forgetting to ask this can result in thousands of dollars of additional and perhaps unplanned rentals and costs.

Ask:

  • Is all the serving ware provided by your venue for this price?
  • Are tables and chairs provided complimentary or are they an additional cost?
  • Ask about napkins and linens as well. What do they look like and are they provided?
  • Is there anything I will likely want or need that is not included in the price you’ve quoted me? (ie lighting, staging, etc)

Beware of Hidden Extras

In addition to asking what’s included, you’ll want to finish things off with inquiring if there are any additional fees that have not been mentioned. 

Some of the most common additional fees are:

  • Ceremony or location rental fees
  • Fees for all day set-up or next day load-out
  • Staff overtime fees
  • Parking fees
  • Cleaning fees
  • An on-site coordinator fee and overtime for them

Once you’ve covered all the information above with your venue contact, add additional columns to your comparison so you can tabulate everything and truly compare your top venue’s cost side by side.

Conclusion

After reviewing this post, you should be able to compare your top venue estimates apples to apples. When you can make a fair comparison, you should be able to make an educated decision on not only which venue is right for your budget, but for your guests’ experience as well. 

As you start researching and comparing your venues, remember to refer back to this blog post if you forget what you should be asking or the information you need to gather in order to make an informed decision.

Get the Look: How to DIY Your Wedding Day Candy Bar Like a Pro Without Breaking The Bank

By Food No Comments

Are you looking to create the candy dessert station of your Pinterest dreams, but don’t know where to start? As you start Googling candy stations: How to make them, what to buy and so on, you may find there’s a lot of incomplete information out there. The photos you see online look beautiful, but what you’re seeing are picture perfect stations before your guests descend and start munching. 

The real trick is creating a dessert station that isn’t only a special treat for your guests, but one that brings out personal memories (as candy can do), is an eye-catching decor piece and is fully stocked all night long. There’s nothing worse than seeing a sad looking candy bar or one that’s run out after only being open for 10 minutes.

There is a strategy and concrete steps that go into creating a beautiful and memorable candy station for any event. Outlined below is every step for you to follow to create a memorable and yummy candy bar for you and your guests.

First Step: Choose Your Look & Theme

1. Do you want to color coordinate?  

  • Example: Is your wedding a blush pink palette? If so, create a table full of pink M&M’s, wrapped chocolate hearts, pink jelly beans, white chocolate covered oreos, prosecco gummy bears, marshmallows, strawberry & cherry taffy, sour patch watermelon, cinnamon bears, swedish fish and more to complete the palette.

2. Or maybe your theme is to choose your favorites from childhood candies? 

  • Laffy Taffy
  • Snickers 
  • Reese’s
  • Red Vines
  • Starburst
  • Ring Pops
  • AirHeads
  • Pez
  • Candy Necklaces

3. Or don’t have a theme, simply create a fun dessert station for all your guests to enjoy! 

Some popular choices:

    • Snickers
    • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
    • Gummies of all kinds
    • Swedish Fish
    • M&M’s 
    • Kit Kats
    • Twix
    • Skittles
    • Hershey’s Kisses
    • Chocolate Covered Pretzels
    • Starburst
    • Sour Patch Kids
    • Whoppers
    • Local or regional candies can be a unique touch too

Second Step: Decide How Guests Will Take Home Their Treats

  • Cellophane baggies
  • Mini Chinese take-out box
  • Round cylinders with a fitted top…
  • Paper baggies

Start your search online and choose what you like.  Don’t make your container too big because guests will fill them up and make you run out faster.

Once you’ve decided on a container for guests to fill, personalize it! Stickers are an easy, affordable and DIY option.

Some popular sayings for your stickers: 

  • “So Sweet of You to Come” 
  •  “Sweet Dreams xo, Laura and Joey” 
  • Or keep it simple with your monogram and the date.

How To Buy The Candy

Make Sure to Choose a Variety

To take care of all your guests by choosing a variety of chocolate and fruity candy. This way, even your guests who do not love chocolate are well taken care of and leave with a satisfied sweet tooth.

There is a Minimum You Need to Purchase

You will want to buy a minimum of 6 – 8 different candy choices at least. You can always purchase more if you have the budget, but it’s important to know the minimum so you can create the biggest impact with this station.  

Overall the amount of candy you buy should roughly add up to ½ pound of candy per person This may sound like a lot, but remember this is a statement piece and as mentioned at the beginning, you wouldn’t want to run out 5 minutes into opening the station.  If you have leftover candy at the end, share it with your night breakdown crew, family and friends!  Who doesn’t love Milk Duds after breakfast!! 🙂

How to Find Your Candies

Check your local area for a candy wholesaler that is open to the public as they sell candies at a lower price.  You’ll want to make sure they sell to the general public before showing up. Ask their payment requirements too as this may impact your decision.   

If you’ve chosen specialty items that have to be purchased online, give yourself plenty of time to place the order and have them delivered. Companies like M&Ms  can be personalized by color and with your names or words! As you start the buying process, you’ll find many choices to customize candies as some discount candy websites too.

And if online shopping isn’t for you, remember there’s always Smart & Final, Costco, Target or your local grocery store too!

 

It’s Important to plan ahead for your CONTAINERS

Glass Jars Are Best 

Glass jars or see through containers in a variety of shapes and sizes are the best as they make your candy pretty for all to see. 

First, see if you have any containers hiding in your house.  If you have a friend who throws lots of parties they may have jars too!  It never hurts to start by asking around.  

Next, search your local stores: Michaels Craft Store (they always have coupons online), Home Goods, Target or a floral wholesaler.  

If you have a great relationship with your florist, they may have containers you can borrow or rent! Always ask. 

The Size Matters

The jars shouldn’t all be the same shape and size. A mix adds to the design of the display. You’ll want to make sure they aren’t too tall though, so your shorter guests or kids have no problem reaching inside.

Transport Containers Safely

If you are driving glass containers to and from a venue they can easily break.  Use bubble wrap, newspaper, even old towels to protect them!  You can also wrap and pack them in big tubs tightly together for extra protection.  The last thing you’ll want is the inconvenience or breakage and having to replace containers right before your wedding day! 

Ask Help From a Friend

Part of creating this guest experience is ensuring you have a safe and clean way to serve the candy! Ask a friend, caterer, event planner or family member to attend the candy station. This means refilling jars and/or replacing serving scoops! This creates a safe, sanitary environment that everyone is ready to come back to for more. 

Knowing When to Open and Close the Candy Bar

When do you want your candy station to open? At the end of the night as a favor while guests are leaving, or during dessert time?   

Departure Candy Station Notes

If you want to open your candy station for guest departure, you will want to ensure it’s in a place your guests will see it as they exit. And if it is not out all night, who will be tasked with setting it up and at what time? Have a plan in place and built into your timeline on when it will be set-up, open and who will be doing so. Meet ahead of time to talk through where all the station items will be stored and can be found.

Setting Up the Station on a Sturdy Surface

Your station can be set on any surface, a round table, a rectangular table, bar or built in counter space.  Take into consideration the number of jars you have, the accessibility of the table and how many people will be enjoying it.  Talk to your caterer or event specialist and they may have an idea based on your room layout and timeline.

Ask your florist for any extra flower centerpieces from the ceremony or cocktail hour to dress up the table even more!  You can also rent a special linen to complete the look too. 

Your Guests Need Scoops for Scooping!

Don’t forget the scoops! Your guests will need scoops or thongs to get the candy out of the jars. Scoops can be silver or lucite, but most important is that they are functional and can scoop up the candy. For an extra something special you can tie a ribbon or bedazzle the handle to match the rest of the table.   

Signage Always Adds Information and Something Special

It’s always important to label everything and a thoughtful detail for your guests, especially those that may have a nut allergy.

Personal signage that compliments your wedding decor always adds the finishing touch to any station. When making your signage, indicate the Bride’s favorites and Groom’s favorites as this is sure to spark conversation and memories for all guests!

You now have every single step and detail at your fingertips for creating not only a functional candy station like a pro, but a beautiful one too. Your guests will delight in your thoughtful variety and fun decor pieces as they satisfy their late night sweet tooth. 

It’s Time for you to Design:

  • Decide on your candy bar theme and look
  • Choose a candy takeaway holder for your guests
  • Start planning the details to make your memorable dessert display
    • How much candy
    • Where to buy
    • Containers
    • Transportation
    • Set-up & Ask a Friend
    • Scoops & Signage

#wewillalwayslovecandystations

How Much Time Do You Really Need to Plan A Memorable Wedding?

By DIY Wedding Tips, Planning, Vendors No Comments

Some couples prefer a long engagement, while others opt to say “I Do” quickly within a few months or less than a year being engaged. And as you scour the internet for timelines to help whiz you through a condensed planning process, you may find it difficult to discern which tasks will provide the best ROI for your time and resources.

Yes, you can efficiently plan your special day in a short period of time and on a budget, but the secret is spending your limited time to really review the key decisions that will most affect your overall wedding day, budget and guest experience. Everything else is as they say, fluff.

In fact, many professionals often plan 300+ guest weddings in 3 months or less. The only difference is that they already know how to navigate the lengthy and detailed planning process. 

No longer are the steps Wedding Pros take a mystery. Below you’ll find your cheat sheet for making key wedding planning decisions. This will speed up your overall planning process and is ideal if you’re hoping to plan your wedding in 6-9 months.

What you’ll learn:

  • Most important tasks to tackle
  • Biggest budget impacts
  • Creating lasting memories for you and your guests
newly engaged

Most Important Tasks to Tackle First: (As soon as you’re engaged/6-9 months)

Wedding planning on a tight schedule is possible, but keep in mind that you may be limited on some of your options and have to make faster decisions. In a previous blog post, ‘Where People go Over Budget by Vendor’ you’ll find the questions to ask to vet your vendors. This will be extremely helpful for you to cut to the chase in your planning and be able to hire the right vendor team quickly.

You’ve said yes! Now it’s time to start meeting and speaking with the vendors below These are the ones who can book up fast, so it’s important to ensure they’re all available on the same date.

wedding venue

Start With Finding Your Venue

  • Check dates, availability and pricing right away. You’ll want to have what’s available on hand as you talk to your other important vendors below. 
  • Ask how many dates you can hold without a commitment, then place the most desirable dates on hold.
  • Compare against your budget, then start negotiations.
  • Before signing, make sure your desired date works with your other top vendors.
finding your wedding photographer

Choosing Your Photographer & Videographer Comes Next

Couples hire their wedding photographer and videographer based on their look and style. These vendors often only shoot one wedding on any given day. If you have your heart set on a particular vendor, you’ll want to reach out right away to check availability as it may affect your venue and more.

Hiring Music/Entertainment should be Your Next Vendor Hire

Again, DJs and Bands play one gig an evening. As your date closes in, there may be limited availability with entertainment options, so you’ll want to start finding your DJ or band right away.

Saying Yes to the Dress Takes Time – Plan Ahead

If you’re not ordering ‘off the rack’ or ready made, a wedding dress can sometimes take months to be ordered and made. And this doesn’t even include the time it takes to search and try on your dress. On top of all this, you’ll need enough time to schedule 2-3 fittings prior to your wedding so your dress will look as if it was made for you. So add dress shopping to the top of your wedding planning punch list.

What Comes Next (3-6 months prior to your wedding)

Most of the vendors below can easily service multiple events in a day or are items with more leeway. If you’re hosting your wedding in a remote destination, then tackle the list below as soon as possible too.

  • Florist
  • Invites – perhaps consider an e Save the Date
  • Wedding Cake
  • Caterer
  • Rentals
  • Linens
  • Groom’s Attire

Keep in Mind These Biggest Budget Impacts:

Once again check out the blog post ‘Where People go Over Budget by Vendor’ to see how each vendor estimate can affect your budget. Since you have to make quicker decisions to get things done in time, it’s important to keep track of some of your biggest ticket items to stay within budget.

  • Venue and Catering – This tends to make up 40% or more of your budget, so don’t rush this decision and make sure the numbers work.
  • Vendor Meals – Depending on how many people are working your wedding day, this can increase your food & beverage tab and affect your budget.
  • Food & Beverage ++ – This is tax, service charge and/or gratuity which quickly adds up to 20-30% on top of your quoted estimates. Make sure this is included in any estimates you receive from your food & beverage vendors.
  • Photographer & Videographer Hours – Sometimes these vendors don’t quote you enough hours to capture your wedding day and overtime can quickly add up. 8-10 hours is the suggested amount.

Remembering Special Touches for Lasting Memories:

You may be planning your wedding on a condensed timeline, but that’s no reason to miss out on creating a memorable day for not only you, but your guests as well. Download our free guide 5 Things Your Guests Will Remember About Your Wedding to include these affordable special touches.

A couple of our favorites from The Guide:

  1. Ceremony Beverage Station – Your guest’s first impression as they arrive at your wedding.
  2. Desserts – Because there is no better way to celebrate than with cake and desserts!
  3. And there’s 3 more in The Guide with affordability tips, expert questions, worksheets and more.

Now you know the secret to planning on a tight timeline like a pro. What’s most important is knowing what to tackle first so you can make the most of your short planning time frame. Most couples run straight to the flowers or other items that actually are not the priority in planning a wedding in less than a year or even 3 months.

Once you have the important pieces in place, so you can start finding your secondary vendors and finishing your planning.

Keep in mind at all times, even though you are making your decisions quickly, it’s still important to vet your vendors and know that you are making these quick decisions within your budget. There’s always time to slow down to double check numbers and details.

And lastly, quick wedding planning does not mean a less memorable wedding. Even with your condescended timeline in place, there are still so many ways to pepper in memorable guest experiences.

Now off you go, start tackling the key planning items!

Where People Go Over Budget by Vendor

By Food No Comments

As you start searching for your wedding planning A-team, you’ll likely find thousands of wedding vendors servicing your area. Some ‘do it all’ while others have a specific expertise. The hard part isn’t finding vendors, it’s choosing the right vendors for you. 

  • Which ones are trustworthy? 
  • Who can deliver on your vision without going over budget? 
  • Will they show up on your wedding day ready to give 110%?
You can do all the planning and organizing in the world, but without the right vendor team by your side, your wedding day can become a mess. 
  • What if a vendor brings the wrong stuff?
  • What if a vendor shows up late?
  • What if a vendor doesn’t show up, at all!?

These things happen more than they should. That’s why it’s so important to vet your vendors correctly, ensuring you hire the most professional vendors within your budget. When you hire good vendors, you know they’ll show up, and they’ll have contingency plans in place to make things right if something unexpected happens or they make a mistake.

Below are our expert tips for finding qualified vendors who are professional, great to work with and deliver on their promises. Get ready to reduce your wedding planning stress and set yourself up for a carefree wedding day.

Vetting vendors boils down to two things:

  1. Asking the right questions.
  2. Paying attention to the details that blow away budgets

Ask the Right Questions 

The right questions make all of the difference in vetting your perfect vendor team. Questions to ask include:.

Question: How long have you been in the wedding industry in BLANK city? (we add in the city as weddings can vary across the country, so you want to make sure your vendor isn’t a newbie to your city and knows the area)
Reply Tips: You’ll want to hear your vendor has been working in the industry for at least 2-5+ years and in your city at least 2+ years.
Question: Do you have testimonials or references I can review and contact?
Reply Tips: The testimonials don’t have to be official or fancy as long as they’re real. A couple emails from past clients or social media shoutout posts should suffice.
Question: What are some venues you’ve worked at before in the area? Have you worked at my venue?
Reply Tips: It’s okay if they haven’t worked at your venue before, but always reassuring if they’ve worked at other venues in the area that are similar to yours.
Question: If your vendor has worked at your venue - reach out to your venue contact and ask how they were to work with? Any strengths/weaknesses? This also applies if you are vetting a vendor and know they’ve worked with another vendor you’re planning to hire, you can ask the same question.
Reply Tips: Sometimes professional colleagues in the industry can give you the best feedback. A glowing review from a venue or industry colleague is always a good sign. If you don’t receive a glowing review, ask what their concerns were and see if they relate to your wedding day.
Question: Are you insured? Being insured shows a level of professionalism in the industry that you want as part of your wedding day.
Reply Tips: We advise all our clients to only work with insured vendors, no matter the level of your event. This shows that they vendor is serious in how they conduct their business and being a wedding vendor isn’t just a hobby.
Question: What are your requirements to hold our date and book? Signed contract? Deposit?
Reply Tips: As you’re budget planning, you’ll want to know any commitments ahead of time. If they’ll hold a date great, for how long? We always like when our couples can breakdown their payments into multiple ones, but keep in mind that most final payments will be due prior to your wedding date.

Mind Your Budget

Yes, every vendor has their own creative style, but they also have their own style when it comes to contracts and sales. Some may try to upsell you when you don’t need more. Others may include fees hidden in the contract or leave important information out of the sales call. Perhaps not intentionally, but either way the more educated you are on the process, the more prepared you are to tackle your wedding planning within budget and enjoy your wedding day.

After all, it’s no fun to discover that you went over budget on your wedding night because you didn’t account for fees that were only disclosed in the contract and not on the sales call. 

Now, before you sign on that dotted line and hand over a deposit, you can make sure you’ve addressed all the vendor related details that will affect your budget and guest experience on the wedding day. The list below, categorized by vendor, outlines where we often see couples miss hidden fees or go over budget.

Catering Plus, Plus ++

As one of the biggest line items in your entire wedding planning budget, it’s important to account for all costs when making your estimates. One of the most missed details are tax, gratuity and service charge, also known as “plus, plus ++” in the event industry. These items can quickly add up to a hefty amount of your budget, so it’s very important to ask what these percentages are and account for them in your estimates.

Feeding the DJ/Band

Each and every vendor on your wedding day needs to eat. If you have a band, that’s quite a few more mouths to feed as compared to a DJ. So ask ahead of time how many band members/techs need meals so you can build this into your initial budget.

Also, keep in mind that some venues charge you to patch into their sound system. If your band or DJ is planning to use the house sound, you’ll want to know any extra or ‘hidden fees’ associated with doing this.

Asking about Flower Substitutes 

Many couples already have a vision when it comes to wedding day flowers. But flowers can widely vary in their price based on season and geographical location.

For example If you’ve always wanted peonies everywhere on your wedding day, but have a limited budget, you may want to think twice. Not only are peonies expensive, they also have a limited season. While you could have them shipped in from elsewhere, this cost will quickly cause budgets to balloon. 

Talk about alternative flower choices with your florist, even if your first choices are within your budget. There are plenty of beautiful varieties available to offer the same look and feel without splurging on a bloom your guests will hardly notice.  Save your favorite flowers for your bridal bouquet. This will cut costs without impacting your guests’ experience. We promise, they won’t notice this budget cut and a great florist will always have creative ways to make an impact with your budget. 

What Does the Photographer Include? 

While the way photographers price their services can seem confusing at first, most are either based on a flat rate that includes specific services or a custom package you can create with the photographer based on your specific needs. No matter how your photographer quotes, there are a few things you want to consider to avoid going over budget.

  1. How many hours do they provide on your wedding day? We recommend 8-10 hours if you want to capture everything from getting ready to cake cutting.
  2. Is an engagement shoot included? 
  3. Is an album included? If I opt to add on an album later, will it cost more? 
  4. How many shooters do you need to provide vendor meals for?

Check Your Rental Delivery Fees 

Your rental order may be a small or large part of your wedding day, but along with any rental costs, there are always delivery and pick-up fees. Rental companies are not like Amazon, there’s no free delivery. 

There’s often a rental delivery and pick-up fee to account for trucking, labor and maintenance costs. These fees can get hefty based on delivery distance and timing. If you have to have your items delivered at a specific time, the price goes up. Same for Sunday pick-ups and deliveries. 

Work with your venue when possible to arrange for the most cost-effective rental delivery and pick-up times for your budget. Also, try to rent multiple things from one company so you don’t end up paying multiple delivery and pick-up fees. These can add up quickly.

Videographer Extras 

Just like photographers, you’ll probably find that most videographers price their services in a similar way. Either a set package price or an a la carte customized to your needs. Make sure a few key items are included in the rates they quote you so you don’t go over budget adding time or last minute vendor meals on your wedding day.

  1. Again, check that they’re providing their filming services for 8-10 hours on your wedding day.
  2. What are they including? A trailer as well as a full length video?
  3. Are drones available or is this an up charge?
  4. How many people will be shooting my wedding? This will affect your vendor meal count. We know we’re always talking about food & beverage cost, but trust us everyone deserves a hot meal on your wedding day.

Making Sense of Venue Minimums and Hidden Fees

Depending on your venue, you will find a wide variety of pricing out there. Most Hotels offer a package price or a food & beverage minimum. A venue that is only providing the space, may only charge a rental fee as the caterer is separate.

Either way, hotels/venues are typically large-ticket items that can add up quickly. If you haven’t accounted for all costs necessary, you can find yourself going over budget fast. To avoid this, understand your costs and talk to your sales contact about them so you can budget accurately. You wouldn’t want to have to cut back on your cake, decor, or something else later because you weren’t fully informed. Or worse, realize at the end of the night you owe more than you thought because of hidden fees and extras. 

What to Ask About For Your Estimates:
  • Ask for all tax, service and gratuity fees (especially for hotels)
  • For venues, ask if there is an onsite representative required when you book and is this included in the rental fee or additional. And do they charge overtime?
  • Ask what their load-in and load-out times are. If you need to load-in or breakdown outside their standard load-in/out windows, are there additional costs associated with this?
  • Are there any hidden fees? Permits, extra sound fees, wifi, valet etc
  • What do venue rental fees include and exclude? Chairs, tables, linens, napkins, glassware, sound system and so on. You want to know everything they provide so you can budget accordingly on what you will need to supplement.

Now you know the ins and outs of common vendor fees and the right questions to ask. It’s time to start putting together your own team for your wedding day. 

Take Action!

Vet those vendors with smart questions

First, vet your top few vendor choices by asking the right question. You’ll get valuable feedback on their experience as well as insight into their reputation with  their peers. 

Look for budgetary pitfalls

Once you’ve narrowed a vendor category down to your top two, review our list outlining where most couples forget to dig in deeper and end up going over budget. Use these items to really understand how your vendors quoted you and how they work. Have open conversations with them about your budget and wedding day needs to make sure you are all on the same page.

Start Planning with your A-Team 

Now that you have the right team in place, you can start planning with them. We promise it will feel so good having the best team possible to make your wedding a memorable one for you and all who attend.

4 Ways to Reduce Food & Beverage Cost Without Compromising Guest Experience

By Food No Comments

Food & Beverage is Always the Biggest Part of Your Wedding Budget – Here are 4 Ways to Reduce This Cost Without Compromising Guest Experience

No matter how you spin it or play with the numbers, food and beverage will be the biggest item on your wedding budget. Typically, this accounts for about 40% of your entire budget; that’s nearly half!

With food & beverage taking up such a large chunk, it’s important to make sure you’re not overspending on this big ticket item. After all, money saved here can be used for other wedding day priorities, like upgrading your florals, or splurging on a videographer. 

You also want to make sure that you’re not just doing the minimum to meet a venue or caterer’s requirement and end up compromising guest experience. We’re all about making sure your wedding is the best night possible. That means being true to your vision and creating lasting memories for you and your guests, without going over budget.

Here are a few easy ways to reduce or eliminate food & beverage costs so you can splurge in other areas.

Ditch the Mandatory Champagne Toast

We do love a glass of champagne, but gone are the days of pouring champagne at every place setting. Guests can easily toast with whatever drink they have in hand from the bar. And oftentimes, you’ll find that many of your guests don’t even enjoy champagne so never even touch the glass.

However, if champagne is important to you, opt for half pours from your venue or caterer. This will save you money as you’ll be able to pour more glasses per bottle.

Rethink Cocktail Hour Food

If you signed up for our download, you know we advise against  couples cutting back on cocktail hour food to save money. While we always advise against this, we also have a few tips and tricks for reducing cocktail hour costs without sacrificing guest experience.

One way to reduce your cocktail hour costs is to reduce cocktail hour time. Most couples have a standard 1 hour for cocktails in mind, but you can shave off 15-minutes and offer cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres for 45 minutes without affecting guest experience. We promise, they won’t even notice. 

With a 45 minutes cocktail time, the bar will be open for less time (those 15 minutes help!) and you can get away with 4-5 passed hors d’oeuvres and not the standard 5-6 we recommend. If you add a station or two (hearty ones) you can even go down to 3 passed hors d’oeuvres.

Time Your Bar Package Right

While it may seem more expensive at first, opting for a bar package is a smart move. We’ve seen the couples who haven’t followed this advice shocked when their bar bill comes in at the end of the night. After all, this isn’t only a celebration for you, the couple. It’s also an opportunity for your friends and family to let loose too, and they do. They eat, drink and dance in celebration of you!

Before you start negotiating your bar package price, look at your timeline for the day to avoid keeping the bar open longer than it needs to be. 

Make sure your package is closed:
  • During Ceremony – If you want alcohol served, have it passed so you can be charged on consumption. This trick also limits the amount of alcohol served and the time it’s served.
  • When guests are in transition. Whether they’re transitioning from ceremony to cocktail hour or cocktails to reception, ask that the bar remain closed. 
  • Save even more and help your guests get into your reception by closing the bar when guests enter your reception. Then wait until after your grand entrance, first dance set and welcome speeches to reopen.

Choose Entrees Wisely

Entree selection can make a difference in your food price. It all comes down to the meat. Not all proteins are valued the same. When it comes to entree options, the most expensive is red meat.  Fancy seafood like sea bass and scallops typically fall somewhere in the middle while chicken tends to be the most cost effective.

When we worked in 5-star hotels and couples wanted to host their wedding with us, but needed to cut back a bit on food & beverage in order to afford the venue fees, we always suggested having a chicken entree. A good chef can make eating chicken a delight and guests will be happy to have a wonderful meal (that they didn’t have to prepare) either way.

One last pro tip: Surprisingly, when guests pre-select their entree, you can save big. This means your guests will mark their entree selection on an RSVP card if you would like to give them a choice. This helps your hotel/caterer order ahead and results in less waste and more savings to you.

TL;DR:

These are the top things to review on your proposal, so you can spend your money in other fun areas, like dessert!

  • Make a decision on serving champagne at your dinner tables.
  • Don’t skimp on cocktail hour food, but be efficient and find a balance between time and amount of food served.
  • Check your wedding day timeline to make sure you don’t have the bar open any longer than needed.
  • Review your proposed entrees one more time.

As wedding and event pros, we know taking care of your guests is a top priority. With the handful of tips outlined above, you have the skills to review any menu proposal or paperwork from your food & beverage vendor and know exactly where to reduce costs.