Stripes has seen her fair share of weddings, and the number one thing she will always comment on is the obscene amount that people are willing to spend on one single day. And although Laughing Chefs tries to see every budget as a guideline and not a target, some of the budgets that we have come into contact with have been sky high.
Why? She always wants to know. Why would people spend so much on one day, just so that they can start their lives together in debt? Or with parents who have to struggle because they spent everything on the wedding. Even if you have enough money, not even endless piles can justify spending money on those things that most people are not even aware of. Never mind the mindless forking out of cash, you are also contributing to a consumption-driven culture, waste, and unachievable expectations of every budget bride out there.
Every girl (and boys – they are not excluded) dreams of her big day. She wants everything to be perfect, from the dress right down to the serviette rings. And that costs money. If you do not have a lot to go around to start with, Stripes has compiled a list of 22 things that you can leave out, without your guests even noticing. Not only will this save you money, but also countless hours of research, sourcing, making, and worrying. Although there are a lot of things she can add, she decided it was too early in the year to write a lengthy article so she decided to stick to these 22 points.
Stripes says, the rule of thumb is to decide what you want to remember from your wedding day, together with what is the most important to you. Then allocate more budget to these things, taking away budget from things that are not that important to you. But, she says, remember that food is usually the measuring stick used by guests to label a wedding as having been good or bad, and in the end, you only have your photos to remember the day by. So spend more on your food and photographer, and less on those details that most guests never pay attention to, such as;
22 Things you can trim from your wedding, without your guests noticing:
- Go paperless
Lately, there has been a shift towards digital in every plane of life, so why not extend it to your invitations? Send out your save the dates, or pre-wedding invitations, via email or a chat service such as Whatsapp or WeChat. If you really want to go the printed route, stick to simple yet elegant designs, normal paper or cardstock, and no embellishments, foil work or other details that cost an arm and leg and usually end up in the trash afterwards. You can also invite everyone digitally, and then print a few elaborate and beautiful invitations for your grandparents, and one that you can keep as a memento.
- Skip the open bar
Instead of having an open bar, with a set limit or without, rather opt for a wine bar or pre-order a select amount of drinks that are then served throughout the night. If these drinks run out, or guests would like something else, they can buy for themselves from the cash bar. A wine bar is a wonderful option – a number of bottles are placed on a table, together with glasses. Guests then help themselves. What makes this option, even more, cost-effective is because guests are pouring from one central point you don’t end up with a bunch of open, half-drunk bottles of wine that you can do nothing with.
- Use what you already have
Incorporate items that you already own into your décor. Doing this saves money, but also ensures that your stamp of individuality is on your wedding. Items that you might already own: glass jars for flowers, beautiful shawls or pashminas for tablecloths, old books, etc. Also, get a list of décor items that are included in your venue hire, or if not included get the prices. It can work out cheaper hiring in from them since you avoid transport costs.
- Get married off-season, or on a weekday
For brilliant cost savings, consider getting married in the winter months, or if you want a summer wedding, on a Friday or even a Sunday. You can also look at a mid-week wedding. Some venues offer as much as 20% off for weekday or Sunday weddings, and usually 10% off for Friday weddings. Stripes know that Laughing Chefs has nice specials for the winter months.
- Learn how to wedding plan
If you really want to be hands-on, the best cost-saving advice that Stripes can give you would be to take a course in wedding planning. There are numerous workshops and courses out there, and although usually directed at individuals who would like to make wedding planning their career, you can learn a thing or two applicable to your own wedding. Stripes says she has heard rumours of exciting things to come at Laughing Chefs but will keep you updated.
- Bulk out your bouquet with cheaper options
With flowers, the biggest expense is not the physical blooms but rather the labour involved in buying, transporting, and arranging the blooms. Pick your flowers carefully, then add elements that are cheaper but that will add flair and drama, or make the bouquet softer/dreamy/etc. For example, berries, feathers, foliage, bulbs, etc.
- Serve a signature drink
Serve a custom-designed cocktail or signature drink instead of a full bar.
- Candles instead of flowers
Using large pillar candles as your centrepiece not only increases the elegance and flair, it also decreases the costs. You can hire refillable candles at a fraction of the cost of flowers, and candlelight creates the most beautiful ambience.
- Change the serving style of the food
French service or plated is your most expensive options, followed closely by waiter service of finger foods or canapes. The most cost-effective serving style is family-style, where the waiters’ place bowls of food on the tables and guests help themselves. The misconception is that buffet is cheap, but if you do a nice buffet and you do it well, it can work out more than plated food! Be honest and upfront with your caterer to ensure you stay within budget.
- Limit your guest list
Invite only people who play a part in your life. Skip the plus-ones, and forget the guilt-invites. Decide on the number of guests that your budget will comfortably cover and stick to that number. If you have a lot of friends or even family that didn’t make the cut but with whom you still want to celebrate consider throwing an after-the-fact party and invite them all.
- Champagne is for toasts only
Get only enough bottles to allow for one glass per person. Ask the venue or caterer to pour the champagne at the bar or in the kitchen then serve to the guests. This way you ensure everyone gets, with little wastage.
- Consider a Wedding Breakfast or Brunch
Breakfasts, brunches, and afternoon teas are usually more affordable than evening receptions: They’re shorter, the fare is lighter, and guests tend to consume less alcohol early in the day.
- Go all-inclusive
Find a venue that includes a list of things in their packages. Some listed items might seem pointless to you, such as specifying that they have toilets for men and women, but once there you will be grateful. If the venue includes décor, see where you can tweak your theme to incorporate those items, even if it might mean having to change your colour palette slightly.
- Change the style of the wedding
The less formal the party, the more affordable it will be. Instead of a full, sit-down dinner, opt for a brunch reception or more laid-back cocktail-style meal. Choose a venue with a low-key vibe, like a barn or farm, which lends itself perfectly to a simpler, more relaxed celebration with fewer bells and whistles.
- Bouton-ette your bridesmaids
Instead of costly and elaborate bouquets for your bridesmaids, rather opt for a single bloom pinned to their dresses boutonniere style. Not only will you save money, but you will also allow your wedding party to make a statement.
- Elaborate decor and expensive place settings
Don’t feel guilty about skipping things like place cards, fancy aisle runners, chair covers, or little handwritten menus or signs. Guests will either not notice that you went with the plain or basic instead of the more expensive option, or they will notice but not care. Instead, choose a venue that is beautiful as it is, and lends itself well to the chosen look.
- Make cake the dessert course
Stripes has seen scary things, such as almost an entire wedding cake being thrown away because guests just never got round to eating it. They were too busy nibbling on the dessert buffet. To stop this from happening, or at least minimise your risk, serve your wedding cake either as the sole dessert course, or paired with one other dessert. This kind of forces guests to have cake, and eat it too. Just make sure your wedding cake is actually nice and edible!
- Wedding coordinator
Hire a wedding coordinator to save you time and money. Most brides think that hiring a wedding coordinator will break their budget, but it’s a little-known fact that wedding coordinators can actually save you money after you get all the discounts and perks they have arranged with partner vendors. But use caution when selecting a planner: Anyone can call herself a “wedding planner.” Look for someone who is certified or have a proven track record. Phone past clients if you want 100% peace of mind.
- Order two cakes instead of one
Cake one – the beautiful one decorated according to your theme and colour palette. Cake two – a simple sheet cake in the same flavour as the main cake, which is cut up and served from the kitchens. Guests will never know, and you save pockets of money! If you want to be adventurous or have a large guest list, you can even do a few flavours of sheet cake.
- Decrease the hours that you need a photographer for
Speed up the traditional or symbolic acts that you want to be filmed. Move the cake cutting, first dance, and bouquet toss to early in the night. Guests won’t necessarily work out why, but you will – by getting these things out of the way the photographer can leave early, thus cutting down on the per-hour costs.
- Change expensive bubbly for less expensive options
What is in a name? A few 00 after the R, that is what. The sad reality is that most wedding guests cannot tell a sparkling wine from an MCC, let alone a glass of champagne. And I can assure you, most of the time up to 80% of all guests do not drink dry bubbly. To stop them from wasting your expensive stuff, rather opt for less expensive sparkling wine, and choose the sweeter varieties instead of the dry.
- Wedding favours
While precious mason jars filled with homemade pastries and jams are now in vogue, they’re unnecessary expenses that your guests probably won’t even remember in the first place. If you want to send something home with them, get a few paper boxes and place them at the wedding cake. Guests can then take a slice home to enjoy later.
These are the 22 things that Stripes wishes she could say to almost every bride that comes through the door. Remember it is about your marriage, not your wedding. Oh, and money doesn’t grow on trees, spend it wisely.
Anything that you can add?