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Budgets | Manolo for the Brides - Part 4
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What Aren’t You Paying For?

When bridal budgets are brought up, every vendor can tell you precisely why their service is the single one that should never be considered for slashing. Caterers, bakers, dressmakers, photographers, gown salons, beauty salons, tanning salons, hairdressers, musicians, florists, limo rental companies, jewelers, linen rentals, favor manufacturers… every single one can tell you why failure to pay top dollar for their service will ruin your wedding.

Chances are you agree utterly with at least one of these service providers. You may even agree with most of them.

But the cold, hard fact is that chances are you can’t pay for every single one of them. That’s where priorities come in. And I’m curious as to what your individual priorities are.

So what are you utterly ignoring? What are you cutting out? Have you decided get a $50 eBay dress? Are you saving money by putting all the music on your iPod and borrowing speakers? Nixing champagne from the reception? Cutting the invitation list to the bone? Showing up to the ceremony in your own compact car? Serving homemade chocolate chip cookies instead of a four-tier, fondant-covered cake?

I want to know what real world brides in 2010 are doing to save a bit of cash. What are your economies?

Hidden Costs to Plan For

Look, it’s no secret that weddings can cost a bundle. With the average wedding hovering in the $20,000 range, that’s pretty much yesterday’s news.

We also talk a lot on this blog about how to bring your wedding costs under control through careful planning and being open to creative alternatives. After all, we don’t want you to go broke and we do want you to get the most bang for your buck.

But one thing we don’t often discuss is all the hidden fees that can blow your budget if you don’t realize they’re looming on the horizon. What fees? These fees.
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How Low Can They Go?

Wedding reality shows, that is.

Last night I was watching an episode of Battle of the Wedding Designers over on TLC. For those of you lucky enough to be unfamiliar, this is a show where a couple gives an idea of how much money they have, how many guests they expect, and their general preferences for a wedding. Three wedding planners are then given said budget, size, and taste restraints. Each planner comes up with a plan for how to spend that money and presents said plan to the couple. The couple then pick one planner’s dream and hand over the bucks. The audience gets to see how it all turns out.

Fair enough.

Last night’s couple, Xenia and Ezra, had a serious budget crunch. Xenia lost her job right after Ezra proposed and hasn’t been able to find another yet. They’d managed to scrape up $5,000 and hoped to have a tropical themed wedding with 75 guests.

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Who Pays for What? The Next Generation

If you look in glossy bridal magazines or in handy books on planning weddings, you’ll quickly find a breakdown of who traditionally pays for what at the wedding. In that breakdown, you’ll find that the bride’s parents pay for nearly pretty much all the big ticket items, that the groom pays for the bride’s bouquet, and lots of other handy hints.

The thing is, that’s pretty much an archaic set of rules. Who orders their flowers for the ceremony and the reception, and then expects the groom to go in at another time and choose the bride’s bouquet? Nobody, that’s who. Even the books and magazines will tell you that the rules have changed and this is just a starting place for figuring out what works for you and yours.

These days just about anyone can choose to pay for specific items or donate a wad of cash to a general budget for the happy couple to spend as they see fit. The rules for who pays went almost entirely out the window at least forty years ago. No new hard and fast set of rules has replaced the old ones.

So why do we continue to see these lists of ‘rules’ that were last likely to be followed when Donna Reed was America’s favorite TV mom? Do we even need the list as anything other than a quaint reminder of how it all used to work?

I have a radical notion: let’s ditch the list save as an historical oddity. Instead, let’s start giving real world practical advice on budgeting for a wedding. Let’s encourage happy couples to be pleasantly surprised when someone offers a donation to the funds rather than to imagine that Daddy will pay for everything because it’s his job.

If he wants to finance the whole shebang or give a gift of paying for the flowers or the reception hall or a band, that’s lovely. Accept or reject the offer based on your individual relationship and situation. Just don’t assume it’s coming until it’s offered.

There. I said it. I firmly believe that couples should expect to finance their own weddings out of their own pockets until someone else (ie:the potential donor) chooses to make the suggestion. And when that person holds out money, it is still up to the couple whether or not they choose to take it.

When Mr. Twistie and I were married, we paid for everything ourselves. We never asked for a dime. My father and his mother both donated food to the reception, but they chose to do so. In fact, my mother-in-law’s tray of home rolled sushi was a delightful wedding day surprise.

Was the budget ridiculously tight? Yes it was. Did we have to consider every penny spent carefully? Yes we did.

Would we have done it any other way? No we wouldn’t.

7 Quick Ways to Save on Your Wedding

Weddings are usually expensive things. It’s true that you can get married for the price of a marriage license and the fee for the officiant, but most people want to have a party, too. Most of us want to have pretty dresses, flowers, good food, photographs, music, rings, and all the other trappings that go with getting married in modern society.

The thing is, trappings cost money. It can be amazing how much money these trappings cost once you start looking at price tags. You may be lucky enough to have plenty of cash to cover all your dreams. If so, fantastic! Enjoy! On the other hand, you may discover that getting everything you would like will leave you hugely in debt.

So what to do? Look for the most painless ways to cut costs possible.

See, the thing about weddings is that vendors all think their product is the single most important part of the experience, and most of us have so little experience with organizing weddings that we don’t know our priorities going in. We assume that bigger floral arrangements, bigger diamonds, designer labels, and more elaborate transportation will automatically make the day better or that people will think less of us if we don’t have all the trimmings.

The fact is, though, that most of the trimmings are just that: trimmings. They’re optional. They’re possibilities rather than marching orders. If you keep that in mind, it’s easier to figure out what is extraneous in your world.

Here are a few suggestions for things that can be drastically cut or entirely eradicated without dimming the excitement of the day or inconveniencing your guests.
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Brides and Grooms Are Spending Less? Sort Of.

Cost of Wedding Down

While the economy is looking up these days, the supposedly watertight wedding industry didn’t make it through the downturn unscathed. The average cost of a wedding in 2009 dropped 10.2% over the 2008 totals, according to The Wedding Report, and that means bride and grooms (and their parents) were spending about $6,000 less per affair. Cost of Wedding had this to say:

On average, US couples spend $20,398 for their wedding. However, the majority of couples spend between $15,299 and $25,498 while their wedding budget is typically 50% less than the amount spent. This does not include cost for a honeymoon or engagement ring.

So where did those couples cut back? The wedding guest list was one area that got a little trim, with the average number of guests totaling 145 in 2008 versus 128 in 2009. Even as wedding stationery gets more and more beautiful, it wasn’t exempt from the squeeze. Reception menus in particular were downsized, with brides and grooms spending about 36% less on them. Other areas that suffered include gifts for the parents of the happy couple and… anklets. (Quelle horreur!)

And yet, as articles shout that wedding vendors are suffering in this weak economy, there are some area of the wedding budget that have seen definite increases. The Wedding Report found that brides and grooms spent about 23% more on musicians for their ceremonies and receptions, 16% more on their wedding photographers, and 13% on the wedding dress.

You’ll hear no judgments from me in either direction. People will spend what they want to spend on their weddings, and I’ve been to backyard weddings and huge elaborate multi-event weddings that were equally awesome. What I will say, though, is that brides and grooms who are cutting back because they have to shouldn’t feel like they’re the only ones doing so! The stats show that plenty of couples are keeping a tighter reign on those wedding budgets so you’re in good company.

Need a bit of help in that regard? I recommend How to Have an Elegant Wedding for $5000 or Less, Celebrate Simply, How to Plan Your Wedding and Save Thousands, and of course, iDo by yours truly!

(Photo via Art Vision Studio)

Don’t Want a Huge Wedding? You’re Not Alone!

I think my lovely colleague and I have done our parts to convey the sentiment that every wedding is a good wedding. As long as no one got seriously hurt, no one was arrested or assaulted, and the bride(s) and/or groom(s) were legally wed by the officiant of their choosing, the wedding was a success. Maybe things went a little wrong here and there… the baker never showed so gram had to go down to Publix for six sheet cakes in the pouring rain, but you said your “I dos” and no one went without cake.

Why am I bringing this up for the umpteenth time? Because it comes to my attention every now again that there are plenty of people who think there is a definite right way to get married, and if you’re not getting married the right way, your marriage is doooooooomed. The right way usually involves white dresses, high heels, bridal veils, bridesmaids, groomsmen, big churches, solemnity, being escorted down the aisle by daddy, traditional music, limos, a tiered cake, father-daughter dances, circulated nibbles, an open bar, and at least 100 of your closest relatives and friends, if not a great many more.

small weddings

The fact is, however, that some brides and grooms don’t want wedding attendants or butlered hors d’oeuvres or a gaggle of attendants or any of the other pomp and circumstance that frequently surrounds the modern wedding. Some couples don’t even particularly want guests other than a handful of witnesses, and where it’s a legal possibility, there are people who choose to have their officiant and a wedding photographer provide for the legal necessities. And sadly, sometimes these brides and grooms feel guilty about wanting small weddings, if a question posted to Metafilter is any indication.

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