by Robbin Montero

         Beautiful weddings don’t have to be costly. How much fun can it be to have a fabulous wedding and then worry how to pay off the debt? Anyone can have a lovely wedding within their means by setting aside some money, planning ahead and prioritizing their choices. These money-saving tips can also help you stretch your dollar, without sacrificing quality.


Professional Help:  If for no other reason than the money-saving opportunities, consider hiring a wedding planner and coordinator to expertly plan and orchestrate your wedding from beginning to end. The planner will help you develop a realistic budget. This expert has already sourced the vendors and knows the best values in the market. They can uncover hidden costs and surprises in contracts. Discounts that would not otherwise be available to the bride, groom can be passed on to the couple through the planner. Then, while you enjoy a special day, the coordinator will make sure your wedding day runs smoothly and without overtime charges.


Sites:  Book your site at least 18 months in advance to secure the better-valued locations and vendors and to avoid “panic buying”. Look for off-season, Friday or Sunday discounts. Save thousands in decorations by choosing a site with existing style and decor. Understand what’s included in the price and be wary of hidden costs. Most country clubs and hotels offer package deals that include table and chair rentals, making them an excellent deal.


Guest count: The cost of invitees accounts for approximately 40-50% of the wedding budget, depending on the location and site. For substantial savings, cut back the number of guests.


Caterers:  In some cases, buffets are usually the better value with the most variety. Double-check with caterers to see what is included with the price you are quoted. What sounds like an inexpensive price quote up-front, may not include items such as staff, china, linens or silverware.


Photographers:  Choose discounted package deals. Items such as parent albums are almost always extra.


Videographers: Again, stick with package deals. Couples who cannot afford a “storybook style” video can consider having only the ceremony videotaped for a lot less money.


Florists: Ask the florist to focus on seasonal flowers to avoid the costly imports. If you love Calla lilies, consider using one lily as the focal point and surrounding it with inexpensive filler flowers or greenery.


Gowns:  Utilize a full service bridal salon. End-of-season discounts usually run from October through January. For bridesmaid dresses, you can check local stores for end-of-season discounts.


Cakes:  The towering, exquisite cakes in the magazines are beautiful and costly. Have your cake and eat it, too. For weddings of 100-150 guests, consider displaying a smaller decorated cake for 75 on a cake table, and back it up with a sheet cake for 75 in the kitchen. Note that some bakeries will not charge less for sheet cakes, so get quotes.  Also, opt for buttercream icing instead of the higher priced fondant.


Honeymoon:  Check with your agent for off-season honeymoon locations, which can save you anywhere from 20-50%.  Keep in mind that off-season usually means fall and winter weather. 


            Always read the entire contract, including the fine print. Look for any extras that weren’t included in the initial quoted price. Make sure everything is covered to your satisfaction in writing. 


            Though you are on a budget, the old saying “You get what you pay for” certainly applies to weddings. Using family and friends can create tensions and wedding day problems. Start planning early so your budget will allow you to hire quality professionals. In the long run, doing so will save you time, money, and stress. 


“Stress Free, Leave the Details to Me,” is the tried and true philosophy of Robbin Montero, California Wine Country wedding planning expert and owner of A Dream Wedding.  Robbin is the premier wedding planner in the Northern California Wine Country, transforming any vision into the perfectly designed wedding creation. Robbin and her weddings have been featured in The Knot, Brides, Elite Magazine, Your Wedding Day and Vine Napa/Sonoma magazines, and Travel & Leisure magazine calls Robbin, “The expert wedding planner in the California Wine Country.”

Robbin Montero is a wedding coordinator and special events planner in Northern California.

©2006 Robbin Montero

This article cannot be reprinted without Robbin Montero’s expressed written permission.