A Wedding Planner’s Top Tips for Cutting Your Big Day Budget

Financial Goals

You’ve decided on a date and even found the perfect place. Now what?

If you’re overwhelmed by the seemingly endless list of costs associated with the Big Day, you’re not alone. With the U.S. economic recovery still on shaky ground, brides are spending decidedly less today than they did two years ago, according to BRIDES magazine’s 2011 American Wedding Study. On average, a wedding cost $26,501 in 2011, down more than 5 percent from 2009, the last time the survey was published. Still, that’s up $8,000 from almost a decade earlier.

How can you host the wedding of your dreams without maxing out your credit cards, or, even worse, taking on more debt? Here are my top five tips on what every bride can cut back on and still host an event to remember.

Cut the Guest List

Thinking about inviting that long-lost relative? Don’t. A wedding should be an intimate gathering of the people you love and who love you back. If your wedding comes up in conversation with someone who isn’t on the guest list, simply say, “We’re keeping our celebration small by only inviting only close family and friends. I’m excited to share our wedding photos with you.” I know it’s hard to cut the list, but brides are getting the message – the average guest count dropped about 5 percent to 141 in 2010 from the previous year, according to TheKnot.com & WeddingChannel.com 2010 Real Weddings Survey. My pick for the perfect-sized wedding? 100 people; 35 if you’re hosting a destination event.

Cue the DJ

I love a great DJ! In fact, I wish I hired a DJ instead of a swing band for my wedding almost nine years ago. I would much rather hear “Bad Romance” sung by Lady Gaga than by the best impersonator any day. Plus, a DJ costs approximately one-third of what a band does, according to the TheKnot.com & WeddingChannel.com survey. Still, resist the temptation to create a playlist on your iPod — I’ve seen that strategy work exactly once.

No One Will See Your Feet

The ultimate wedding shoe? The Gigiritz, a satin peep-toe from Stewart Weitzman. But at $298, it’s a budget buster for a one-day event. And, no matter what you tell yourself, you will never wear your wedding shoes again – even if you die them black. Instead, consider slipping into some ballet flats, or, better yet, a pair of white or gold Havaianas Slims, the stylish Brazilian flip-flop you can order online for $24. Not only will you be able to spend the money you save on something else, you won’t be tempted to kick off your shoes during the reception. And you can wear them again if your honeymoon is on the beach.

Let Them Eat…Sweets

The average wedding cake costs almost $500, according to the BRIDES survey. And, let’s face it – you can’t get away with serving only cake, no matter how good it is. Better to skip the cake altogether, and, instead, roll out a dazzling display of desserts – cupcakes, petit fours, miniature ice cream cones and truffles of all flavors. I also love the idea of displaying a variety of individually wrapped sweets, including Hershey’s Miniatures, in large glass containers and inviting guests to fill up a goody bag to take home. Want to splurge a little? A full-blown Viennese table is a showstopper.

The Rest is History

Welcome baskets. Calligraphers. Ceremony programs. Wedding favors. All are needless expenses. Eliminate them. I’ve never seen a welcome basket that contained anything more useful, or creative, than a map and a bottle of water. In lieu of hiring a pricey calligrapher, invest in several $2 Marvy calligraphy pens and address the invitations yourself. Call in friends and family if you’re not up to the task, but never use computer-generated address labels or send an Evite. Regarding ceremony programs, I can’t tell you how many of the most beautiful creations I recently scooped off the floor. And, finally, there is no favor you can give your guests that will compensate them for the time and money spent attending your wedding. Show your guests how much you appreciate them by thanking each and every one personally before stepping out onto the floor for your first dance.


Heather Bandur is a New York City-based weddings expert. A former journalist, she is the founder of Heather Bandur Events, an event planning and design company that specializes in helping busy brides create beautiful, well-orchestrated events – and stick to a budget. Connect with her by email.




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