Excerpt from Chapter 1
Size, Style, and Formality
Call these the Big Three. So much of what your wedding will cost depends-obviously-on how many guests you will invite, the type of wedding you'll have, and how formal it will be. When you make these decisions, you're laying the groundwork for every one of your decisions about the wedding. For instance, a formal wedding will call for a formal full-length gown, which is extremely likely to cost a few thousand dollars more than the pretty white sundress you'd wear to your informal outdoor wedding. Inviting three hundred guests to your wedding means you'll spend more than if you invited twenty-five or fifty guests.
But it's a lot more complicated than these simple formulas, as you'll soon find out. If you plan an informal wedding for twenty-five guests all accompanying you to Belize, it could still cost more than a formal wedding for one hundred back in your hometown. See how that works?
All the puzzle pieces fit together differently, with each of your big decisions working together in the way that fits your wedding dream best. Not every category has to be "the least expensive option possible." That would leave you with ten guests eating hot dogs in your backyard. Not your wedding dream, I'd imagine. So go through all of the options in each of the next few chapters, fit your puzzle pieces together, and lay the groundwork for a wedding that allows you more for your dollar in all of the remaining categories.
Your Wedding's Size
We've established that it's not an automatic guarantee that you'll save more if you have a smaller guest list, because the second half of that equation is how formal a wedding you're planning. You can spend a fortune with the most elegant, formal wedding decorated in a sea of white imported roses, the finest champagne, a designer dress, and only fifty wedding guests. Once that's established, then you're dealing with the original question of how many guests you will invite. That's where you get the price per person, and that's where your totals start adding up.
Once you have all your ducks in a row and find out, say, that your price-per-head is $55, then you can look at the number of guests you want to invite. Obviously, at this point, two hundred guests will cost you more than one hundred guests. That's where the pure math comes in. But what's important for you to realize is that you must not sacrifice the most important part of your wedding just to save money. And that most important part is the people with whom you want to share it. People are more important than money. For many brides and grooms, they'd rather have a less formal wedding than even dream of cutting certain relatives and friends from their guest list. They'd rather have their friends from college with them than buy a designer wedding gown.
Consider your guest list to be a defining factor for your wedding plans, not the other way around. At minute one, right now, you should create your desired guest list and then use the following tips to make your budget work.
1. If you're considering planning a destination wedding, it might already be in your mind that your guest list will be limited to just a few close family members and friends. Most brides and grooms limit this guest list to under twenty-five people, which obligates fewer of your loved ones to shell out for a trip to the Cayman Islands to join you (or saves you a fortune if you're offering to pay for their airfare and lodging!), and also costs you less for those per-guest catering fees at the reception site.
2. Don't forget that the wedding reception is not the only event for which you will be paying a per-guest price. With the spread of wedding weekend events, like cocktail parties, brunches, and picnics, you can wind up paying a small fortune for the other events you'll invite your guests to. So keep that added expense in mind as you decide on your total guest tally-you will be paying for more than one party for each of them.
3. Choose a smaller bridal party with fewer bridesmaids and ushers. With four bridesmaids in your party instead of eight, that's four fewer presents you'll have to buy, perhaps even four fewer gown purchases and tux rentals for the guys if you're among the couples who generously pick up their bridal parties' expenses.
4. A smaller guest list can open doors at less expensive wedding locations, like restaurant party rooms that can hold only eighty-five guests as a matter of size and safety standards. At sites like these, catering costs and wedding packages are much more likely to be lower-priced per guest than at the cavernous ballrooms that can hold your 300+ wedding guests. At some of these smaller-sized, but still equally beautiful locations, it can be as much as 45 percent less per person.
5. Leave kids off the guest list for the official reception. Hosting kids other than the flower girls and ring bearer adds up when you consider that caterers will often charge you a full guest fee for each child in attendance. Even a caterer's cut-rate children's fee is often too pricey to justify. Why pay $50 per child when that child is just going to pick on a few bites from the buffet and then run around with the other kids? Your guests' kids can be invited to other, less expensive wedding weekend events like picnics and cookouts. You can pay for a kids-only pizza party and DVD movie night with hired babysitters during the wedding celebrations for less than what it would have cost to pay for just one or two of those kids to attend the reception. It's a huge savings for you, and parents will enjoy the kid-free night.