Saving Is Sometimes Counter-Intuitive

We all know that planning a wedding often runs to money. In fact, for many of us our wedding will be the largest, most complex party we ever throw.

We also all know there are ways of cutting the budget that make a lot of sense… but what about the ones that don’t seem that sensible on the surface? Every once in a while, it turns out the way that looked the most cost-effective isn’t.

Here are a couple ideas you may not think would save you money, but really can if applied thoughtfully as well as a couple cost-saving measures that may not really save you very much at all.

Don’t DIY everything. Yes, I know, I’m always talking about how great DIY is, and it is if you have the time, talent, and confidence to do it well. But it’s not always the best way to cut the budget unless you have access to really great deals.

For instance, my gown was a DIY project. I made the lace and one of my bridesmaids sewed the actual gown. It was an amazing project, a gorgeous one-of-a-kind gown, and yes, it did save me money… but only because I had access to a wholesale-to-the-public fabric source, and the woman who sold me the thread for eleven yards of pure silk bobbin lace gave me a bulk discount for buying so much thread, and the seamstress did all that work (and it was a lot!) for almost free. If that hadn’t been the case, I would have wound up spending a lot more money, or using materials that wouldn’t have made it worth my while.

So before you decide to take on a major DIY project for your wedding, take a moment to figure out whether it’s going to save you money or not, especially if that’s the primary reason you want to do the work yourself.

The cheapest source isn’t always the cheapest. If you’re looking at venues, or vendors and one gives you a much lower estimate cost than any of the others… double check that offer with extreme caution. Unless it’s your favorite uncle giving you a family discount, chances are there are some potentially nasty surprises in the fine print. And the most expensive offer may include something that makes paying the higher base price well worth it to you for longrun savings.

For instance, that higher-priced venue may include a nice perk like open bar or free centerpieces that will save you a few bucks once you look at how much they would cost to get from another source. And that really bargain basement one? Might not include the rental of tables and chairs, let alone linens and cutlery. Even if the base price includes everything, the quality of those things may be so pitiful that you’ll spend way too much to upgrade to a bare minimum.

If you have to choose between a pretty space and a cheap one, go for the pretty space. Believe it or not, this can save you a lot of money. And if it doesn’t, it still puts the buck where the bang is, which is always a good idea.

After all, if you find a space that’s cheap but ugly, you can spend a fortune on decorations and still wind up with an ugly space that’s suddenly costing an arm and a leg. If you choose a place that’s already pretty, you can cut way back on decorations, which are often surprisingly expensive, and still wind up wowing your guests.

Home is where the heart is, but it may not be budget friendly. A lot of people assume that throwing a wedding at home will save them all kinds of cash. It can… but only if the circumstances are just right.

Really consider the size of your home and garden, and how they look. Will you need to do expensive upgrades to make things work? What items will you have to rent? Do you have the capacity in your kitchen to turn out a wedding feast, or will you need a caterer anyway? Is there enough parking in your neighborhood? Or will you need to make arrangements with a valet parking service? Will you need to rent port-a-potties?

Chances are home isn’t a practical place to hold a wedding with more guests than you would invite over for a Christmas or New Year’s Eve party, and it may even be wise to invite less people than that. So if you plan to make it a really big blow out, it’s probably more practical and less expensive to just hire a hall of some sort.

Free can turn out to be surprisingly expensive. If someone offers you the opportunity to use their talents or borrow their stuff for the wedding, there are times when it’s still cheaper to turn them down.

Sure, your mother may offer you her wedding gown, but what if it isn’t something you’d be caught wearing dead in a ditch? What if your body is a completely different size and shape than hers? How much alteration is she willing to see you do to her wedding gown? Will she ever let you forget that you: cut it short/dyed it another color/added trims/removed trims/altered it to be strapless/altered it to have sleeves? And how much money will you spend on having it remade to fit your body and your style? Will it actually be less expensive – both financially and emotionally – to just go out and find a dress that’s more your style and fits your body more closely?

Yes, your cousin loves to take pictures and offers to be your official photographer… but is she any good at it? Will you wind up regretting accepting this cost-cutting measure? How important are the pictures to you?

As with so many things in life, your wedding budget is a balancing act between what you want and what you can get. Be sure to weigh the options carefully before you decide where to put your resources.

2 Responses to “Saving Is Sometimes Counter-Intuitive”

  1. Shadiah April 10, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    Couldn’t agree more! I decided to DIY my invitations, thinking they would not only be way more unique, but also way less expensive. As it turns out, they absolutely are way more beautiful and pesonalized than anything I could have paid for, BUT they did end up costing the same as producing them professionally. In hindshight, I’m not sure all the hassle was worth it.

  2. Toni April 11, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

    Having gone through *cough* two weddings, I had both successful and not-so results with DIY projects.

    The non-cost-effective: 1) Faux flowers. While the bouquets were real, the table decprations were silk in an attempt to “save money.” However, with what we ended up spending at Jo-Anns, I could have afforded the real thing, with a classier result, and less hassle of figuring out what to do with all those silk flowers after the wedding.

    2) At the second wedding, I had the bright idea to buy some georgeous clearance silk drapes with my employee discount at Pottery Barn, and use the silk as the fabric for the BM dresses. However, by the time I paid for the drapes, and we paid the seamstress, we could have afforded nice pre-made BM dresses with far less hassle and effort.

    The good: 1) For both weddings I custom made the invites, and they ended up both reasonably priced and better than something generic.

    2) The ceremony of the 2nd (smaller) wedding was held in my parent’s backyard. They have a good-sized front yard with plenty of parking, and our neighbors graciously helped provide room for overflow. We were able to borrow chairs, and my photographer neighbors had prop columns and arches they lent us to help decorate the backyard. All in all, we comfortably managed about 60 people, and it seemed so much more personal that way.