Angie's List: Weddings on a Budget

By Lauren Maloney

Published 04/25 2014 08:25PM

Updated 04/28 2014 05:59AM

The dress, cake, flowers, and invitations…

When you add it all up - including the honeymoon, the average wedding costs almost $30,000!

In your Angie’s List report, how to pull off your big day without breaking the bank.

Brian Blume and Jill Zook will walk down the aisle and say ‘I do’ this November.

“I’ve been to enough weddings and seen enough of brides literally running around in their wedding dress freaking out directing traffic an hour before their wedding and I didn’t want that,” they said.

So the couple enlisted the help of a wedding planner to sweat the small stuff and help them stay on budget.

“We’ve got a mortgage; we have student loans, so staying on budget is very important to us. We have had to get creative on how to do that, but we are making it work,” Jill said.

“While we want a nice wedding, we also want a nice life, so finding that middle ground,” Brian said.

Wedding planners can cater to couples on all budgets in needs of various services – most starting around $1,000.

A wedding planner can help find vendors to meet your price point, negotiate discounts, and provide money-saving advice.

“The ways they can save money is basically using a Friday or a Sunday as their wedding day. The venues typically charge less on those particular days. They can cut back on their guest list. Each guest that they invite is going to have a dollar amount associated with them so if they can cut back on that, that’s a big help. And then sometimes just having a smaller bridal party that can help them also,” Wedding Planner Marie Frey said.

Because there are so many players involved when planning a wedding, Angie’s List says you should never ignore the fine print when it comes to contracts.

“When planning a wedding it can be a highly emotional process so make sure you are reading all of your contracts start to finish so you understand how they are going to work,” Founder Angie Hicks said.

“We’ve heard instances of consumers being asked to give up their right to talk about their experience when signing vendor contracts. If you see a request like that in a contract walk away from that vendor. It really calls into question how much you can trust them,” Hicks said.

“You are trusting someone with one of the biggest days of your life and to know we can trust her, it’s a good feeling,” according the couple.

Angie’s List: Budget-friendly wedding tips

·         Guest list: If you haven’t seen someone, even a relative, in more than a year, consider whether you must extend an invitation. At $100 a person, taking 10 guests off the list saves $1,000.

·         Wedding date: Pick a day other than Saturday. For example, Friday or Sunday food and beverage minimums are considerably less. If planning a destination wedding, consider marrying on a Wednesday or Thursday.

·         Venue: Have the wedding at a location that has a caterer, chairs, tables, silverware, glassware and table linens. If you rent a space and have to bring in everything, it can add up quickly.

·         Wedding dress: Consignment boutiques and department stores may offer deeply discounted dresses. Don’t be afraid to ask to see samples that have been in inventory for a long time. If you find one you like, ask for the best price.

·         Men’s outfits:  Forgo tuxedos in favor of similarly colored suits or themed outfits.

·         Favors: They’re not necessary, and in most cases are tossed out at the end of the night.

·         Flowers:  Pick flowers that are in season with your wedding. Choose blooms that are open and fuller; this will cut down on the amount needed. Re-use ceremony flowers at the reception. Large dramatic centerpieces can cost $500 or more; consider varying centerpieces, such as florals for a third of the tables, candles for another third and a smaller combination of flowers and candles for those remaining.

·         Cake. Wedding cakes can range from multi-tiered fantasy confections to iced Styrofoam imposters that look great but save money when guests are served less-pricier slices out of the reception hall kitchen. Cupcakes are a popular option, as well, and can be arranged in towers.

·         Food & drink: Provide one main entrée rather than multiple choices. Offer two or three hors d’oeuvres, rather than five or seven. Offer a plated meal rather than a buffet, which can cost more per person because the caterer may fear running out of food. Provide beer kegs rather than individual bottles. A $350 keg provides about 160 glasses, compared to $815 for 160 bottles.

·         Go with a pro. Consider hiring a professional wedding planner. They typically know the best professionals for the budget and will negotiate discounts or complimentary upgrades.

Here are four reasons why engaging a pro might be a good idea:

1.      Experience. There are many details to iron out before you walk down the aisle, from picking a venue to getting a marriage license. A wedding planner has been through the process and can guide you, step by step, so your big day is the one you've always imagined.

2.      Staying on budget. After an initial consultation with your wedding planner, he or she will map out a plan to keep the event at the price you set. The planner will find vendors to meet your price point and help with negotiating.

3.      Vendor relationships. Good wedding planners typically have a lineup of quality, reliable vendors they use regularly. Considering these vendors, along with checking reviews on Angie's List, will give you peace of mind.

4.      Stress reduction. Taking the leap into matrimony is a life-changing event in itself. A good wedding planner will confirm that all vendors are ready for the day, and will handle any surprises, so you can focus on the big day.

Angie’s List Tips: How to hire a wedding planner

Whether a wedding is planned to be a modest ceremony or a big-budget blow-out, a professional planner’s main job is to sweat the small stuff so you and your family don't have to.

·         How soon? Consider hiring a wedding planner at least nine months to a year before the big day.

·         How much? There are planners who cater to couples on all budgets in needs of various services. Most prices start around $1,000. Be aware that fees can vary greatly, from a percentage of the total wedding cost, to an hourly rate, to “day-of” or “month-of” fees. Also, expect that after your first planning session, you’ll be asked to meet again at crucial points, such as for purchase and approval times, the rehearsal and, of course, the wedding day.

·         Do your homework: Be sure the person you hire is a good communicator and has a personality and style that match with yours. Be honest about what you can spend, and set realistic goals.

·         Read the contract: Have a contract that covers all details so there’s no room for misunderstandings. Read all of your wedding vendor contracts carefully. Angie’s List is hearing about contract provisions that prohibit consumer from posting online reviews unless they’re positive. All any service company has to do to avoid bad reviews is deliver good service. If you find this kind of gag order language in a contract, just end the relationship right then. No one has the right to take away your right to free expression.

If you or someone you know is planning a wedding, but you don’t know where to start or what to focus on first, be sure to check out the Angie’s List wedding checklist, by clicking here.

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