Wedding Question: How to Help a Friend Budget

One of my friends is getting married in about six months, though she just got engaged. She hasn’t booked anything yet but she keeps talking about how she wants the perfect dress, amazing flowers, and a ton of food and alcohol. And she wants to have 500 people! I just don’t get how she can do that given that she doesn’t have money and neither does her family. How can I help her budget this in a way that makes sense?

a bride shares her big moment with her close friends! photo from The Wedding Lens!

Good question! Wedding budgeting is a bit overwhelming and it’s easy to just skip that part and get on to the fun planning parts! But budgeting is key!

Explain to your friend that you really need to work out a budget for everything. Some people think this means sitting down and deciding how much they have to spend on each thing. And that’s fine! But it’s a good idea to know what may be expected. So start by checking out our guide to create a wedding budget.

Help your friend by taking a look at the average cost of weddings in the locale where she’s getting married. The average cost of a wedding in the US is probably around $30,000, but it depends on where you are. Some regions it will be higher, some lower. If you can help her see that her idealistic dream is going to cost her a pretty penny, maybe she’ll either change what she wants OR she’ll find a way to afford it all.

Get an idea of what the expenses will be and how many things there are to plan and pay for. This will also help shed some light on a realistic budget.

The most important thing that you should do is help support your friend. When she realizes that she wont be able to afford what she’s dreamed of, she’s going to be pretty upset and sad. It may sound ridiculous, but it’s not and how she feels about her wedding is real. Be sure you make her feel good about the positive things — the friends and family who will be there to love her and share in the joyful occasion.

Hope that helps! And if she’s needs some good cost-cutting tips, check out our cheap wedding tips.

Got other wedding planning questions, just ask! Email natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha

How to Plan Your Wedding: When To Do What! (Part I)

So you’re engaged… now what? That’s the beginning of the wedding planning process! A friend of The Wedding Lens recently got engaged and was asking questions about time frames. So here we go!

Because engagements take place for different lengths of time, I’m not going to specify how long before the wedding date you should do each action. But this is generally the ORDER of things. Where possible, I’ve linked to other related blog posts on the topic! (And here’s just a list of things to do for wedding planning, if you just want that) Also, be sure to check out our Cheap Wedding Tips and our Green Wedding Tips, both of which have great ideas to help you out during different stages of the planning process!

First Steps

  1. Create a budget! This means taking a list of everything that you know you’ll have to spend money on and deciding how much you can dedicate to each portion. Check out our Guide to Creating a Wedding Budget — which specifies which costs are fixed and which depend on the number of guests.
  2. Pick the wedding party. This seems early in the process right? True! But the wedding party can help you with the tasks that you’ll have to do. Pick early, they’ll help early!
  3. Divide tasks! After reading the rest of this blog post, you’ll get a full picture of everything there is to do: from marriage license to centerpieces.  Once you have that list, divide up the tasks however you see fit.

Things That Shouldn’t Wait

  1. Marriage license.  Every state has different rules on the time frame needed to apply for a license and to get married. Make sure you know what you need to do before you get too close to your wedding date!
  2. Find a venue, date, and officiant. This is sort of circular because you need the venue and the officiant to be available on the same date. But keep in mind that you may have to pick two venues — one for the ceremony and one for the reception. Just be sure they’re both available on the same date! Here’s how to pick a wedding date. Also, make sure you look at how to find a venue AND the questions you need to ask each venue. With officiants, think about whether you will have a religious officiant or a friend. Find out any state requirements if you want a friend or family member to officiate.
  3. Create the guest list. Sometimes it’s hard to limit the guest list, so consider having A lists, B lists, and C lists. Here are our tips for the guest list. Also, be sure to decide whether you want kids to attend or not.
  4. Themes/Styles/Colors. The earlier you select any themes, styles, or colors, the earlier you can get started with some of the other aspects of planning. After all those three aspects will impact the dress selections, the flowers selections, etc. Here’s some help on how to pick your color scheme.
  5. Wedding dress. The wedding dress should be purchased earlier in the planning process because it might need to be fitted several times. Depending on how long your engagement lasts, this should be done ASAP. Plus the bride will want her dress before the bridesmaids get theirs! Here’s how to choose  the right wedding dress and some ideas for colorful wedding dresses.
  6. Save the Date.  The save-the-date (or STD) should tell guests when & where you’re getting married. When should you send the save-the-dates? It depends on when you’re getting married, but generally, send them as soon as possible. If you are ordering save-the-dates that you want to look similar to your invitations, there are companies that give you package deals. Here is a timeline of when to send save-the-dates and when to send invitations. Here are some creative save the date ideas and how to address the save-the-dates.
  7. Order your online photo album from The Wedding Lens. By ordering your online photo album from The Wedding Lens early, you can start telling your guests where to upload photos AND you can include your engagement photos in the album or any other older photos to share your memories with your guests.
  8. Wedding website. Obviously put as much information on here as you can, but here’s what to include on your wedding website.
  9. Find vendors. This means finding vendors for everything you might want. Here is how to find the right vendors for you (and each category that follows links to a blog post that will help you narrow down what will be best for you in that area). Photographer (engagement photos and day of), videographer, florist (selecting flowers), caterer, DJ/band/music, bakery, wedding planner or day-of coordinator. Any other kind of vendors you might want (eg if you want to have wedding entertainment such as a photo booth, cigar bar, or silhouette artist) can usually wait a bit longer in the planning process.

Stuff That Can Wait a Little Bit

  1. Invitations! What goes inside, when to send, how to tell your guests that no kids can come, RSVP cards. Remember, there are specific rules on how to address invitations, so make sure you check those out (yes, there will be a blog post coming!)
  2. Attire: Groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen. Here’s everything related to helping you select wedding attire!
  3. Hair & makeup for the bride and bridesmaids, if you would like.
  4. Rings! Dont forget you both need to exchange rings on the day of the wedding. Here are some green tips on picking the rings.
  5. Decorating: flower arrangement (or alternatives to flower bouquets), centerpieces, plates/napkins/glassware, guestbook, favors, place cards, menu cards, cake toppers, chair rentals/chair covers, other entertainment)
  6. Guest-related: Accomodations, transportation, and out of town bags!
  7. Get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens. If you haven’t done it yet, now is the perfect time in the planning process to get your online wedding photo album from The Wedding Lens! When you share the information on accomodations & transporation with your guests, you can also share the link to the album and remind people to bring their digital cameras to your wedding. Plus people can start uploading old and new memories of you & your fiance(e)!
  8. Menu planning: buffet vs sit-down meal; alcohol – open bar, soft bar, signature drinks. Here are all things food & drink related to help guide you through this!

Final Steps

  1. RSVPs
  2. Ceremony planning: walking down the aisle, vows, readings — and whatever else you want to take place.
  3. Seating chart: who will sit where during the reception? Here’s how to create a seating chart!
  4. Music (song) selections for band or DJ, both during the ceremony and reception.
  5. Remind your guests to bring their cameras to your wedding day so they can capture memories for your online photo album.
  6. Planning the timeline: This means planning the timeline of who arrives where at what time, what order things occur, and who transports what where. It’s meant to be distributed so that everyone is on the same page about what’s going on.
  7. Programs: This lets your guests know what is going to happen & when! Here’s the information on writing your programs.

So that’s everything you have to do…. Next blog post will cover what comes up on the day of and any other last minute things and miscellaneous things you should be aware of! (Like gift registry, thank you cards, wedding insurance, things people forget, staying calm…. all coming up!) 

Good luck! Remember, if you have questions – email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com.

~ Natasha

How to Find a Wedding Venue or Location

If you’re trying to plan your own wedding, one of the first things you will think about is the venue! One thing to keep in mind is that you should try to be flexible in selecting your dates. Your ideal venue might not be available on the particular date you want, but maybe it will be free the following week. You never know!

Wedgewood Banquet Center at Crystal Springs Golf Course in Northern California, Photo from The Wedding Lens!

Though there are a lot of things to keep in mind when you’re choosing your venue, the top three concerns are: 1) cost, 2) comfort, and 3) date.

Finding the venue

The first step in finding locations for your wedding is thinking about what you want and checking your budget. Do you want a beach wedding? A wedding in the mountains? A wedding in a restaurant? Or in a hotel? Think about what you want.

Get an idea of what’s out there. Start searching the web! If you’re in California, Chicago, or Washington DC, I highly recommend checking out Here Comes the Guide which lets you search by type of location (site views, site types) and by region or locale. You’ll note that the prices aren’t included — because, as The Guide explains, there are way too many variables to give you a specific number. If you’re not in those areas, just search for your location + wedding venue. once you start looking around, you’ll gather what you like, what each venue includes, and what is out there.

Questions to ask the venue

You should keep in mind your budget and what you want from your venue – but you might not know what it is you want. Here are some questions to ask and things that venues may (or may not) include. Getting answers to these questions may prove that the location is perfect (or absolutely NOT) for you! And, of course, Here Comes the Guide has another great list of questions to ask when looking at a venue!

When reviewing this, keep in mind whether the venue is for both your ceremony and your reception. Some of these questions apply only if you’re looking for a venue for both. Other questions (like about chairs & set up) apply regardless.

  • Seating/guests
    • How many people can they seat/fit?
    • How much is the deposit/down payment? Is it refundable?
    • Does the venue provide chairs? Do you need to rent chairs?
    • Do they charge for the chairs/setting up chairs?
  • Facilities
    • Is there a dressing area for the bride & groom?
    • Are there bathrooms accessible to guests?
    • Is it wheelchair accessible?
  • Food, drinks, & catering
    • Does the venue provide food, drinks, or other catering? Do they have preferred vendors?
    • If they have food & drinks for weddings, then find out a price range, you will select your final food/drink options later. Most venues give a per person rate. (Be sure to check whether each price option includes a buffet, a seated dinner, an open bar, limited drinks, etc.)
    • Can vendors use the kitchen facilities? (Are there kitchen facilities on site?)
    • Is there a per-person cake charge?
    • Is there an additional charge for linens and utensils?
    • Is there a service charge for serving the meals?
  • Music, Dancing, Flowers & Decorations
    • Does the venue have a dance floor? Does it cost extra?
    • Does the venue permit amplified music?
    • Is there a sound system? Can an outside DJ or band use it? Is there a cost
    • Do they permit decorations/flowers? Can you bring in decorations from outside or does it have to be done through the venue? What is the charge?
  • Miscellaneous
    • Do they charge for clean up
    • Does the venue require wedding insurance? (Check out the blog post on wedding insurance if you have no idea what this is!)
    • Are there restrictions on the site? (no confetti, etc)
    • Do they have any other costs and fees? (service charges, etc)

 Remember, before you accept anything, make sure that you check out the venue in person — and see if you can look at it during the time of day you want to get married. That way you can see if there is sufficient lighting or anything else you should know.

And, before you sign ANYTHING, make sure you read the contract thoroughly! What happens if one side or the other needs to cancel at the last minute? Do you have to pay all the fees anyway?

Good luck!

~ Natasha

Wedding Roundup: All Things Food & Drink!

Plates & glasses ready to be filled! Photo from The Wedding Lens!

A lot of wedding planning stress stems from finding the “right” foods and drinks — among everything else. All of it relates to budgeting, passions, and tastebuds. In honor of Thanksgiving, I thought this would be a great time to roundup all the posts we’ve done on food!

Wedding Question: What Food and Drinks Should We Spend the Most Money On?

Picking Wedding Reception Food!

To Buffet or Not To Buffet: Food at the Wedding Reception

What To Do About Menu Cards

Choosing the Drinks!

How to Have a Dry Wedding

Do you have wedding food or drink questions? Email me! natasha@theweddinglens.com!

Til then, happy eating & drinking!

~ Natasha

Wedding Question: What Food & Drinks Should I Spend the Most Money On?

Photo from The Wedding Lens

We just received this question from a reader: I am in the process of figuring out the food and drinks for my wedding. I’m not (yet) over budget, but I’m having a hard time figuring out where I should bother to put in the extra money and where it will make no difference! What is it that people notice the most and what won’t they care about?

Great question! It’s always hard to know where the extra money on food and drinks will make the difference. Here’s my advice:

First, spend a little more on great appetizers & h’oeuvres. People remember the first bits of food they eat — because it’s usually right after the ceremony and before the alcohol kicks in!

Second, spend a little less on the main courses. You can do this by having a buffet or by selecting less expensive options with your caterer (or at the restaurant — depending on the venue). Most of the time people dont expect fabulous main courses. And by then, they’re chatting and drinking and ready to dance! Usually chicken and fish dishes are less expensive than steak, but that’s not always the case. And, of course, be sure it’s something you don’t mind eating!

Third, save some money on drinks and alcohol by sticking with beer and wine (or just wine!). Once you start getting into purchasing hard alcohol and mixers, things go downhill for the wallet. If you do decide to purchase hard alcohol, try to make purchases that mix well with the non-alcoholic beverages you’re already going to have. For example, if you’re already going to have cola, go for a rum to mix with that cola! You get the idea.

Hope that helps! Good luck!

~ Natasha

How to Create a Wedding Budget

Photo from The Wedding Lens

Photo from The Wedding Lens

A friend recently told me that she wasn’t sure how to start planning her budget. She didn’t really want to start by saying she had X thousand dollars to spend & then figure out how to spend it; she wanted to work her way up and figure out what she would need. So, how do you start planning a wedding budget?

  1. Start by doing some research about the cost of weddings in your area (or the area where you want to get married). This will give you an idea of what you can expect to spend — though, of course, careful planning can save you money!
  2. Think about which expenses are fixed and which are dependent on the number of guests. For example, food is dependent on the number of guests; attire costs are not. This will help you decide how much you will need to limit your guest list.
  3. Consider the costs. The items below give you a general idea of the expenses you’ll face. The (f) next to the item means it’s a fixed cost, independent of the number of guests.
  •  
    • Attire (f)
    • Rings (f)
    • Paper: STDs, Invitations, Program, Menu, Thank you cards, Guest book
    • Ceremony venue & officiant (f)
    • Reception venue & catering: Food, Drinks, Alcohol
    • Wedding cake
    • Photographer/videographer (f)
    • Decorations: Flowers, Centerpieces
    • Entertainment (f)
    • Transportation
    • Gifts: Wedding party, Favors (optional)
    • Tips & service charges

 4.   Think about the percentages that things cost. For example, the reception can cost between 35 – 50% of your total expenses because it includes food and drinks! Here’s a quick break down of costs…. Keep in mind, there are things that should also fall within these categories, such as hair & makeup, dress alterations, jewelry, dry cleaning. Oh, and the marriage license! 🙂

  •  
    • Attire (f) – 5%
    • Rings (f) – 15%
    • Paper: STDs, Invitations, Program, Menu, Thank you cards, Guest book (and stamps!) – 5%
    • Ceremony venue & officiant (f) – 1%
    • Reception venue & catering: Food, Drinks, Alcohol – 35%
    • Wedding cake – 3%
    • Photographer/videographer (f) – 10%
    • Decorations: Flowers, Centerpieces – 10%
    • Entertainment: DJ, band (f) – 4%
    • Transportation – 3%
    • Gifts: Wedding party, Favors (optional) – 2%
    • Other expenses: rehearsal dinner, after party (optional) – 2%
    • Tips & service charges – 5% (10-15% tips based on the charge)

5.   Decide which parts of the planning are the most important to you. You might decide that you would rather spend more on the food and drinks and less on the decorations; or you’d rather donate to a cause than give out favors. If you’re way over budget, think about what you can do without — and consider some the wedding tips that help you save money!

This should at least get you started on what you need to do to start planning your budget. Do you have any other tips or ideas? Let us know!

~ Natasha

The Bride and the Budget (Part I)

There’s no getting around it, these days the recession is on everyone’s mind. The increasing costs of gas, living, food and dramatic effects of the housing market have made cause for a new breed of bride, the money minded. Being mindful with what you spend on your wedding could mean the difference between putting a down payment on a house as opposed to scrimping rent together in your first years of marital bliss. Luckily, there are many ways to save and create a beautiful wedding without going into massive debt.

If you have just started your wedding plans, beware that gas prices aren’t the only things to have gone up. Wedding vendors are adjusting their prices to mirror the economic turmoil of the time, so be prepared right from the start.

Try these savvy saving tips:

  • Look at your financial status. No one wants to know their FICO score, credit card balances and bank accounts, but taking a look at what you have to work with is the first step. Don’t pretend that you have more money than you actually do there is always something to work with. There are lots of things you can do before you say “I do” to ensure a beautiful wedding free of money worries.
  • Stay away from the extras. Think of your wedding as a big wonderful extra where foregoing all the little extras such as mani/pedis, $4 lattes, and frivolous shopping is worth the effort.
  • Look at your wedding the right way. Be flexible with your wants to achieve a beautiful wedding as a whole. Not every part has to be totally extravagant. As much as you’ve always dreamed of having dozens of roses as the center pieces of all of your tables, be realistic and try to come up with an alternative that is equally as lovely and costs less.
  • Wedding Insurance. Take the time to cover your bases financially and invest in your wedding. Be cautious and read absolutely everything before signing.

There are lots of ways to save on your big day, and with proper planning, you will walk the aisle not just to wedded bliss, but financial security.

*Michelle Ruiz