9 Simple Ways to Save on Food and Drinks at Your Wedding

The food and drink you serve at your wedding can easily take one of the biggest bites out of your budget (no pun intended). But it doesn’t have to. Check out the following tips to see how you can save, instead of spend, on your special day.

TO SAVE ON FOOD…

Opt for the Buffet: Choosing a buffet over a sit-down dinner can save you a bundle on your food bill. Why? Because buffets generally require lower operating costs, have fewer details to manage, and are less labor-intensive than more traditional sit-down meals. Buffets also offer a wider variety of food, increasing the chances that there will be something for everyone (think kids, picky eaters, and even guests with special dietary restrictions).

Embrace Brunch: It’s the New Dinner: Brunches are becoming increasingly popular alternatives to traditional sit-down dinners. Not only are they classy and sophisticated, they can save you as much as 40% off your total food costs. One reason for this is that breakfast foods (and even light lunch options) are less expensive. People also tend to eat and drink less around the typical brunch time (from about 10:30am – 1pm) than they do in the evening.

Get the Best of Both Worlds with a Cocktail Party Reception: A cocktail party reception gives you the variety and flexibility of a buffet with the refinement and elegance of a sit-down meal, while slashing anywhere between 15%-40% off your total food bill. Cocktail party receptions call for a generous array of appetizers, hors d’ourves and cocktails, of course! What makes this option significantly less expensive than many other types of receptions is the fact that you’ll be serving less food. Additionally, cocktail receptions last about half as long as the average dinner reception (2 hours, compared to 4 hours). While this option certainly isn’t for everyone, it’s a great compromise if you’re on a budget yet still want great food.

TO SAVE ON CAKE…

Accept that Wedding Cake doesn’t always “Take the Cake”: According to the Bridal Association of America, wedding cakes average about $550. If you’re on a budget, that figure is almost too absurd to be taken seriously. Luckily, there are many ways to lower your dessert expenses, but you must keep an open mind to those possibilities. Try not to become “set” on any given tradition or get caught up in the idea that your wedding won’t be a REAL wedding without ________. Weddings are all about being flexible, making compromises and setting priorities. With that said, consider taking an unconventional route to find an amazing dessert that you can afford.

Dare to be Different: If you’re open to the idea of forgoing a traditional wedding cake in lieu of other dessert options, you’re in luck. There are numerous alternatives that not only will cost you less (in most cases), but will provide your guests with a truly unique experience, one that they’re sure to remember. Some examples include cupcakes, donuts, pastries, candy buffets, pies, cake pops, cheesecake, chocolate fondue, truffles, funnel cake, and fruit tarts.

Piggy-Back from the Caterer: If you’re already using a caterer, consider picking a dessert straight from their menu to serve your guests. Usually they will have several elegant (and scrumptious) alternatives to choose from, and you probably won’t have to pay extra because the price per-person generally includes dessert.

TO SAVE ON ALCOHOL…

Just say “No” to the Open Bar: Hands-down, one of the simplest ways to shave money off your food bill is to forgo the open bar. Costing as much as $50 a head (not including tip and other add-on fees), an open bar is far from a necessity, especially when you can offer the basic stuff– beer, wine or champagne, and maybe a signature cocktail-at a fraction of the price. Offering two or three alcohol options should be more than enough, and everyone will still have a great time.

Time it Right: It’s your wedding, and you have the power to keep the bar “open” or “closed” at various times throughout your reception. For example, at many receptions the bar is kept open during “cocktail hour”, closed during dinner, then opened again after dinner. You can also decide to close the bar during “cocktail hour” (instead, serving just soft drinks and tea), or an hour before the reception ends. However you choose to implement this “start-stop” strategy, it’ll remain largely unnoticed by your guests (so everyone stays happy)!

Remember that More (Quantity) = Less (Money): If you’re lucky enough to pick a reception site that allows outside alcohol, you want to make sure to snag the lowest prices on spirits. Check out member-only warehouse stores like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s, which are typically less expensive and provide a wider selection of spirits. Most of them will allow you to shop in their store without a membership, but only if you have a free one-day pass (try Googling the particular store plus “free one-day pass”). Despite the benefits of bigger outlets, don’t write off your neighborhood liquor store just yet. Most liquor stores, large or small, offer quantity discounts that could save you as much as 10% off your purchase. Before you make an actual trip, start by calling around to see which stores in your area offer the best deals.

Whatever budget-friendly alternative you choose to implement for your wedding, just remember to stay true to yourself and not sweat the small stuff. At the end of it all, you’ll still have your friends, your family, and now an amazing spouse to share your life with. And that is simply priceless!

Planning a Wedding – Choosing the Wedding Photographer

After setting the date, choosing the venue, deciding on the perfect dress; the next biggest decision is to choose the photographer that will document the most important day in your life. The photographer is a visual storyteller, documenting every detail of your day to become part of your family’s history forever. I can’t overstate how important it is to hire the right photographer.

Here are some questions you should ask any photographer you are interviewing to document your wedding day!

1. When should I book my wedding photographer? Try and book your wedding photographer at least 6 months before your wedding date.

2. What style of wedding photography are you looking for? Focus on what you love, after all, these memories will be with you forever. If you are looking for a more documentary-style wedding photographer – make sure you find someone who shares your vision. Regardless of your style, you should choose a photographer that will document the complete story of your wedding day.

3. Do I need to meet with the photographer before booking them as my wedding photographer? It is strongly recommended that you meet with the photographer before you sign the contract. The wedding photographer is with you every step of the way on your wedding day so it is very important to make sure that you like your photographer’s personality. A good photographer not only takes great pictures; but has handled a multitude of wedding day situations. They can be a calming force on a very hectic day Destination weddings are certainly popular, many brides and grooms flock to the Scottsdale area for the gorgeous scenery and amazing weather. Much of their planning centers around there computer, rendering it sometimes impossible to meet the photographer until the wedding day. If you can’t meet in person, make sure you have a few detailed phone calls – make sure there are no personality clashes!

4. What should be discussed at this meeting? By looking at a photographer’s website, you have a pretty good feel for who they are and what our vision is when photographing a wedding. Meeting in person allows you to touch the work for yourself, view the quality of the finished product. By meeting in person, you can see complete weddings, including proof books and real wedding albums. By viewing these items, you will see the consistency of the photographer telling their client’s wedding stories through photographs, from wedding to wedding. By viewing these samples, you will see whether or not the photographer delivers consistent pictures of the day, the entire day! It is very important to make sure that a wedding photographer is not just showing you his greatest hits collection on their website – you want to see several complete wedding stories – from beginning to end! Make sure the sample coverage a wedding photographer shows you is what you envision for your wedding coverage.

5. What should be discussed when interviewing my wedding photographer? budget, package overviews: what is included in the different packages, album prices, album choices, upgrades, add-ons, a la carte options. You will need to know a general timeline and provide details for the photographer to provide the most accurate quote for your wedding photography needs.

6. What should be included in the contract? The contract should reflect everything agreed upon during the meeting or phone discussion, leave no ambiguity. The contract should reflect the date of the wedding, package choice, the logistics of the wedding day such as where to report, how many hours are included, description of coverage and any other details you would like included. The contract will also reflect the deposit paid, balance due and refund/cancellation policies. The photographer should also include wording in the contract regarding ownership of the images. This is usually one of the more popular questions we are asked!

7. Once I sign the contract and give a deposit, what happens between that day and the wedding day? About one month before your wedding day the photographer should contact you to go over the details of the day – it is important that everyone be on the same page. We prefer to meet in person if time allows, if not, we can certainly go over these items in a 20-30 minute phone call. The photographer should ask for you to identify the key people in attendance and comment about any special stories that may make the images more poignant to the telling of your story. We try and gain as much knowledge as possible, including scouting the wedding location (assuming that is a practical option).

8. What will happen on the wedding day? You will look beautiful, have fun, marry the person of your dreams and we will document it!

9. What happens after the wedding? When should we expect to see the proofs? This varies from photographer to photographer. But industry standard is within a few weeks to a month after the wedding you should have access to your proofs. In this digital age, the first look is usually online in a password protected gallery. Usually, an album of your edited images (proof book) will be available after the online proofs, this of course depends on what you agreed in your contract. Album delivery time is dependent upon the timeliness of image selection and design verification – total time from that point is usually several months.

The most important thing to keep in mind when hiring your wedding photographer is that the images will be part of your family’s history forever – so please choose with your heart!

Engaged Or Not, It’s Time to Plan Your Wedding!

Whether you are engaged or not, whether you are dating someone special or not, now is the time to plan your wedding day!  You may think this sounds crazy but it truly works! 

While in High School, my Home Economics teacher gave me the assignment to plan a wedding.  I had to put together a scrapbook that included photos of a wedding dress,  wedding bouquet, bridesmaid dresses, wedding rings, wedding decor, wedding flowers, wedding cake etc…  Although it was time consuming, it proved to be a very helpful activity!

One day while shopping at a mall, I saw a wedding dress that resembled one much like the one I had put in my wedding scrapbook.  I put it on layaway and was able to pay it off before I ever even met my husband!  It was one less thing to worry about when planning my actual wedding!  It also proved to be economical in budgeting for my wedding.

Here is how you make your wedding scrapbook.  You can use any binder and put card stock in it.  If you prefer, you can purchase an inexpensive scrap booking album.  (You don’t have to use acid free materials.)

WEDDING DRESS:

Look for wedding dress styles that you like.  You can start by looking through magazines or online wedding sites.  Take photos at weddings you attend, or try dresses on at your local bridal shop.    Once you find a style(s) you like, put photos of those styles in your scrapbook.  You could even journal underneath the photos the type of fabric you want to use.

Include  wedding veil photos if you plan to wear one with your wedding dress.  Your taste in style may change  before you meet that special someone and get engaged.  No worries!   Just add the new style you like to your scrapbook.  Update your pictures as often as you like.  Remember you are trying to make your wedding a day you will want to remember positively!

WEDDING COLORS:

What colors do you want your wedding to be?  Consider your wedding line and what about your wedding decor?  Put samples of fabric and samples of colors that you want to have at your wedding.  Paint chips might even come in handy here to mix and match a variety of color combinations that you are interested in using at your wedding.

WEDDING BOUQUET:

Your options are endless here!  You may want to think about using silk flowers versus fresh.  There are so many beautiful realistic flowers to choose from today.  Another plus would be that you could use your bouquet to decorate your new home and have a lasting memento from your special day!  You can find lots of photos online or again in magazines or at weddings you attend.

Don’t forget your wedding line!  Find a few ideas for corsages, boutonnieres, and parent wedding flowers while you are at it.

WEDDING DECOR:

As you attend wedding receptions, bridal showers, birthday or anniversary parties, find inspiration for table decorations and other wedding decor.  Look through magazines, online resources, and even your local garden nursery can give you ideas for creating a beautiful wedding reception setting.

WEDDING CAKE:

What kind of a statement do you want to make with your cake?  Do you want a cute cake topper?  How about fresh or silk flowers cascading in a spiral design down your cake?  Gather pictures of various cake decor and add it to your scrapbook.  You could even get an idea of prices so that you know the general price range that you want to eventually spend on your cake.  A cake topper is something you could easily purchase or make now and tuck it away until you plan your “real wedding”. 

Get creative and choose the sections you want your Wedding Planner Scrapbook to have.   Even down to the food, napkins, beverage, favors, etc… that you will serve if you like!  By planning ahead, you won’t be disappointed in how your wedding day turns out.  Every bride deserves to be treated like a queen on her wedding day so put your wedding together now and then when the opportunity comes you will have the “royal wedding” you have planned for!  Even more important, you will be able to relax and enjoy your day!

Reasons to Hire a Professional Wedding Photographer

Every couple looks for ways to cut costs when planning a wedding. One that some couples consider is to skip the professional photographer, relying on a friend or other amateur to take the event pictures. Although this can be tempting, there are many reasons why you should definitely hire a professional photographer instead.

There are some areas in your wedding where you can safely try to save money. For example, if you order your groomsmen gifts online instead of buying them at an overpriced specialty shop, that is being smart. Your groomsmen will still get great gifts, but you won’t have to spend a fortune to get them. In some instances, you can get away with doing your own wedding flowers, and you can definitely make fantastic looking invitations on your home computer.

Some elements of a wedding, though, should never be done on the cheap. If the bride’s mother attempts to make her gown, and she is not a talented seamstress, the results are likely to be regrettable. The same is true of the wedding photography. These days, everyone has a digital camera and fancies themselves an expert, but the truth is that a real photographer is an artist. Having your uncle Harry take the pictures is no substitute for having your portraits taken by, and printed by, someone who really knows what they are doing.

The wedding photos are something that you will have for the rest of your life. If the wedding cake was a little dry, or the band wasn’t quite as good as you had hoped, at least you will be able to forget about those details over time. However, if your pictures are lousy, you will be reminded of it every time that you open your wedding album. There are no do-overs.

Even a skilled amateur photographer is not as good as hiring a real wedding professional. The professional photographer will know which moments are the most important to capture, and will make a point of getting them for you. On the other hand, your uncle might miss something important because he is chatting with his brother or dancing with his wife. The relative who volunteers to take the pictures will be a guest first, and your photographer second. That is definitely not good enough when it comes to your most priceless memories.

Some couples think that they can find a middle ground by hiring a student to be their wedding photographer. While this might be better than leaving it up to a relative, the chances are that you will still end up with less than stellar results. A student who is not experienced with weddings is surely going to miss some of the key shots, and their eye for composition and beauty is unlikely to be as refined as that of the professional.

It is just too risky to try to save a few bucks by eliminating a professional photographer for your wedding. If you leave the photography up to someone else, there will be nothing you can do if the pictures are not great when you see them after the wedding. Why take a chance on something as important as the memories of your wedding?