If you live and breathe weddings like we do at The Plunge, you start to see patterns in the way people spend and save money. A handful of money-saving tips crop up across categories time and again. The most obvious example: Name brands cost extra whether you’re looking for a tux, booze or a celebrity caterer.
Below, you’ll find five strategies that work regardless of budget size, whether you’re choosing a venue, selecting flowers, picking a photographer, investing in a suit or deciding what kind of cake will be the edible star of your reception.
Location Affects All Other Prices
Everything costs more in a major city. The data shows this no matter where you go or what you want to buy (or rent). The average wedding may sound pricey at just over $33K but in Manhattan it’s $76K! Meantime, Grand Rapids and Columbus come in at just $25K each, while nearby Chicago costs twice that amount at $52K. The fee rises as venues charge more, along with florists, bartenders, flower shops, and so on. And this is not just because the market (supply and demand) drives prices, but because these businesses have to pay higher rents and deal with their own set of jacked-up costs.
The advice: Host your ceremony and reception in a nearby city and you may be able to slice your party price in half.
Keep the Products (and People) Local
Once you’ve decided on a town, use the local talent and resources. First, you save money when you don’t have to transport a florist or photographer beyond their native neighborhood (flights, cab rides, etc.). And second, you cut down on time since the travel time itself also costs (two hours in both directions is four wasted hours). If you ask the florist to use local botanicals, you’ll be using products that (once again) don’t need to be shipped and will likely be fresher.
The advice: Employ local artists/professionals, ask them to work with local flowers, ingredients, and brands, and pride yourself on boosting local businesses.
Limit Staff and Booze Time
Time, as the cliché goes, is money. Funny enough, your guests also value their time. So it’s a win-win when you can cut back on the time needed for things like the ceremony, the reception, the open bar window, and staffing.
The advice: Keep things moving, don’t assume that everyone wants or needs more time to drink, eat, toast, or do the Hava Nagila. Keep labor costs in mind whenever you hire a person or team.
Recognize that Name Brands Cost More
Ron Ben-Israel has been described by The New York Times as “the Manolo Blahnik of wedding cakes.” So if you want to eat his baked goods, you’ll likely have to pay designer prices. Here’s an idea: Do a Google search of his masterpieces and see if it gives you ideas. You can then go to local cake-makers and ask them if they can make even more custom cakes based on the details of your wedding (maybe you have a theme color or love purple or whatever) — for a lot less than a celebrity baker. You like fancy suits but not the fancy prices? Take a look at the gorgeousness of a suit by Brioni, Zegna, Emporio Armani or Tom Ford (thousands of dollars) and let your observations inform your criteria at the next rung down the ladder in price (hundreds of dollars). You might even snag a Calvin Klein or Ralph Lauren suit if you’re lucky. The same philosophy works with booze—just say no to top shelf if price is an issue and go with mid-tier brands.
The advice: An easy way to keep costs down is to avoid designer brands across the board.
Recycle When Possible
We’re not talking about using someone else’s wilted flowers, soggy cake or stained suit. We are espousing the value of strategic re-use. Specifically, you can take some of the flowers used in the ceremony and place them in vases during the reception and NO ONE WILL KNOW. Trust us. And if they do know, who cares? You paid for nice flowers. Who says you can’t use them twice in a day? They’re still nice! The approach also works with high-end wedding gowns, for which there is a large aftermarket since so many people only wear a wedding dress once. And staffers required for one function (like ushers) might be able to do double duty as bartenders or servers. Seek and ye shall find a re-use.
The advice: Think about what you’re paying for and try to see if you can give something, or someone, a second life.