Cost-saving tips from RVA wedding planners

Oh, we’ve got the good stuff, courtesy of Courtney Spencer from Merriment Events and Christine Greenberg of Wood Grain and Lace.

Photo by: geckoam

If you read Amanda Gibson’s How to create a wedding budget and stick to it, you’ll have a good financial foundation under your white, lacy belt. And now, it’s time to move forward with ways to trim those budget line items so you can focus more on your priorities.

We asked for advice from very busy, very gracious Richmond wedding planners Courtney Spencer from Merriment Events and Christine Greenberg from Wood Grain and Lace. You may remember each of them from last year’s Wedding Guide (here’s Courtney and here’s Christine)–they gave valuable insight and made me at least feel like a wedding doesn’t have to be an overwhelming nightmare. Quite the opposite!

This year, they’re back to tell us how to specifically help out your budget!

Big ways

From Courtney Spencer

  • Establish a total event budget before you draft a guest list, set a date, choose a venue, or shop for a wedding gown. It’s crucial to approach big decisions (guest list and venue, especially) armed with a well-thought-out, realistic budget. If you can’t hire a planner to work with you throughout planning, inquire about hiring one to help you establish an itemized budget and select a venue. A seasoned planner can help you identify your priorities and budget accordingly; she can also point out the budgetary implications of choosing one over another.
  • Seemingly small things, like event set-up and take-down windows offered by venues, can have serious budget implications, depending on the type of party you’re hosting.
  • Opt for serving dinner at stations and offer limited seating (for about 40% of your guest list) rather than hosting a seated dinner. A seated dinner requires more rentals (tables, chairs, linens, flatware, glassware, china); more paper (escort cards, place cards, menus); and more labor, especially from a wedding planner, who will assist with seating arrangements, double-check lists, coordinate with your calligrapher, alphabetize seating cards…and all of that is before your planner even gets to the event, where she puts these plans in motion.
  • Or, just skip dinner and have an afternoon cocktail and dessert reception!

From Christine Greenberg

  • Pick three things that you want your guests to be talking about at brunch the next morning and spend your money on those things. Forget about beer koozies, party favors, expensive high heels you are going to kick off, sparklers, a five tier fancy cake, overdone centerpieces, etc. No one remembers any of that stuff. Food, booze, and a good time. Your guests are there to celebrate YOU. Not the entire wedding craft section of Michaels. Calm down and prioritize.
  • The most efficient way but usually the most challenging way to save money is to cut your guest list. My clients usually struggle with only inviting some members of their extended family or only inviting some co-workers or keeping their parents in check when they want to invite every Bill, Becky, and Suzie they’ve ever met. If an intimate celebration where you can comfortably mingle with all of your guests is your priority, put your foot down from the very beginning.
  • Hire a wedding planner. We know this market in and out, and we can not only score you discounts with reputable, trusted vendors, but we can help you save money by guiding you throughout the process on what is essential and what can be skipped.

Small ways

From Courtney Spencer

  • If you’re concerned about your flower budget, go with round or square tables, not long, rectangular tables –they’re almost always more expensive to decorate.
  • Keep your wedding party small to cut down on floral costs. Keep in mind that every bridesmaid will need a bouquet, and bouquets generally begin at $150 apiece.
  • Get married when the flower you love is in bloom. For instance, peonies are plentiful in Richmond around Mothers Day and will be more affordable in May than they will be in July, when your designer will have to import them from out of town (or out of the country).
  • I adore paper, but I think you can be smart about how you invest in your invitation suite and program (especially the latter). For example, order just one color ink, not two; or splurge on letterpress for your invitation suite, but flat print your program. Or, skip a program altogether!
  • Ask your floral designer if she has another wedding on your weekend; if she does, ask her what colors the other bride is using. It could be to your advantage to team up with the other bride–using the same color palette–because that means less time for your floral designer writing orders, tracking down product, etc.
  • Cut the favors; they’re a nice touch but not necessary.
  • Choose a venue that works with your color scheme. Likewise, love the color scheme of the venue you choose! It’s far more expensive to reinvent a space than to choose decor that complements the reception space.

From Christine Greenberg

  • Skip a plated dinner and just do heavy hors d’oeuvres. Keeping the party light and cocktail-style is an easy way to offer your guests a variety of delicious hand snacks while not blowing most of your budget on a catering bill.
  • Beer and wine only! Or just a signature cocktail. Again, this is a celebration, you don’t have a accommodate everyone’s tastes.
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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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