If money were no object on our wedding days, I’m sure we’d all opt to wear an obscenely expensive designer dress or custom-made suit, rent the pricey venue of our dreams, serve our guests a decadent meal and top-notch champagne, cut into a lavish tiered cake – and then jet off to a remote tropical island for a week-long honeymoon where no expense is spared. Unless you’ve got an extra $10 million sitting around to spend on you’re wedding (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian), you’ll probably have to make some choices. Maybe you can’t serve lobster at your reception and fly to Fiji for your honeymoon, but if you spend less on the things that don’t really matter to you, you can splurge on the ones that do.
Here are my suggestions on how to save so you can splurge.
Save on the cake so you can splurge on the champagne
I think a big tiered cake with sculpted frosting and fresh flowers is beautiful, but by the time that cake gets to my plate, I wouldn’t care if it were a piece of sheet cake with butter cream icing (in fact, I might prefer that). If you can do without a photo of you and your sweet thang cutting into an elaborate wedding cake, serve a less expensive dessert and spend that money on champagne instead. I have a firmly-held belief that no celebration is really a celebration until bottles of bubbly start popping – and I’m pretty sure no piece of cake ever got anyone out onto the dance floor, if you know what I’m saying. You don’t have to break the bank on French champagne. An affordable sparkling wine will have the same effect.
Save on the band so you can splurge on the photographer
I love the idea of live bands at weddings, but the fact is that music is so readily available in other formats and for a lot less money (sorry wedding singers). If you’re on a budget, get a DJ instead. If you really want to save, you could get a decent sound system and simply queue up several specially-created playlists on your iPod. Have a trusted friend act as the emcee to kick off your first dance, introduce the wedding party and encourage people to get up and dance. Divert the funds you would have used for music to your photographer because you’ll only be listening to that music for a few hours, but you’ll be looking at your wedding photos for the rest of your life.
Sure, everyone will be snapping pics of you with their iPhones and you probably have someone on your guest list who’s handy with a camera, but these will be the most meaningful (and most viewed) photos you ever take. Bottom line: Hire a professional whose style you love and who you can trust to capture all of the important moments of your big day.
Save on the favors so you can splurge on the food
Sending guests home with a thoughtful memento to remember your wedding is lovely. In fact, I offered some ideas for interesting wedding favors in a previous column. However, if you’re working with a budget, spend your money on the food and scale back (or even eliminate) the party favors. Most people will appreciate delicious food more than a tchotchcke.
Serving a memorable meal doesn’t have to mean an elaborate and expensive sit-down dinner: Buffets or passed hors d’oeuvres are a perfectly acceptable alternative. What’s more, simple comfort foods like tacos and macaroni and cheese are making a big comeback at weddings, so consider adding them to your menu.
Save on the accessories so you can splurge on the shoes
I plan on using my wedding as an excuse to buy fabulous shoes that will probably cost much more than any pair I’ve purchased in the past. This may sound frivolous, but hear me out. You’ll never have to worry about a pair of shoes not fitting in the future because you gained weight, and if you do it right, you can get mileage out of your wedding shoes long after the big day. Consider fancy shoes your wedding present to yourself. I personally think these Tiffany blue beauties would work just as well under a big white dress as they would with a pair of jeans or a cocktail dress.
In order to free up some cash for pricy designer shoes, I say skimp on your accessories. Pearl bracelets and dainty earrings will probably be harder to work into your post-wedding wardrobe, so go for affordable costume versions. Besides, the only accessory anyone will be looking at the reception is the one on your ring finger.
Save on the honeymoon so you can splurge on the venue
I know some people will disagree with me on this one, but I think spending a little extra on the perfect venue is worth it. The days of cookie cutter weddings at boring banquet halls are over. Couples are choosing to say “I do” in all sorts of scenic spots from museums to libraries to rooftop lounges. If you choose a beautiful and unique spot for your nuptials, your guests will be entertained, your pictures will be more interesting and you’ll probably be able to save some money on decorations. You can dress up a venue like an art gallery with just some votive candles and a few vases of fresh flowers, but a banquet room will take a lot more staging to look unique.
So, I say scale down your honeymoon – or delay it until next year or even skip it all together – so you can spend that money on your wedding day itself. The way I see it, if you’re marrying the right person, you won’t need a white sand beach or a honeymoon suite in Paris to have a good time after your wedding. Not that I wouldn’t love a lavish post-nuptial getaway, but I could go to Omaha with my girlfriend and have the time of my life. If you have your mind set on a pricy honeymoon, forgo a gift registry and sign up instead for a honeymoon registry. Sites like Honeyfund.com allow your guests purchase gifts like a night at a hotel or a dinner for two at your honeymoon destination. If you go that route, you might be able to have a wedding venue you love and a honeymoon you’ll never forget – you’ll never miss the gravy boat you might have received with a traditional registry.
Where will you splurge or save? Which elements of a wedding do you think are worth the big bucks?