Friday, April 1, 2011

The RealityCHECK Series: How Much Wedding You Can Get For $6000

My RealityCHECK Series continues this week using the lovely total of $6000.  $6k to get married?  Yes.  Follow along.............

Core Factor:  When your dollars are short, tight, meager, modest - you have to be extremely realistic about what's doable...and what isn't.  Sure, it might be nice to invite everyone you know to celebrate your marriage, but in reality - it's not possible.  I don't care what the magazines, blogs and television shows tell you...having 200 guests + a wedding budget of $6k = no bueno y not happening. {so much for my Spanish!}.

What you can have is a emphatically intimate event - surrounded by those few people who mean the most to the BOTH of you.  Love is always the common denominator, so that alone is a really huge gift.  Think small, think tailored, think unique.  Here's what I've come up with for a spending parameter of approimately $6000:

Wedding Party:
Now is NOT the time for 25 bridesmaids and groomsmen, 4 flower girls and three ringbearers (side note: I've always wondered WHY people have more than two ringbearers in the wedding - there are only TWO rings!!).  Do you have a best friend/homegirl who has supported you in this relationship? Fine - she's your maid or matron of honor.  Does he have a buddy that has traveled with him through thick and thin?  Perfect - he gets the job of best man.  

Notice - I didn't mention anyone else.  That's on purpose because honestly, you cannot afford to have a full blown "court" of belles and beaus standing up there with you.  Hey...I'm just keeping it real.

Wedding Guests:
Just like the wedding party - keep it simple.  On the low end, 15 guests.  On the higher part of the totem pole, 45-50 people.  Remember - you have to FEED these folks, so that needs to be on the front-burner as you move forward with this planning.

Venue {ceremony}:
You can opt for either a civil ceremony or a religious one.  Depending on your location, a classic civil ceremony can range from $40 - $75.  It's short and sweet - nothing more, nothing less.  If you decide to get married in a place of worship, your cost to have the ceremony in their location will vary based on the policies they have in place.  Some churches/temples allow current members in good standing to get hitched at no cost, while others assess a fee.  If you do not belong to a congregation - the work gets a little trickier, as many churches don't "rent out" their facilities to non-members.  The ones that do will charge a fee, which can be as low as $200 or as high as $3k (which is so NOT in your budget!).  Also, consider getting married at home.  Yep - at home.

Cost: Free (at your home) to $600 (rented facility/house of worship)

Venue {reception}:
If you took the civil ceremony route, consider hosting lunch or dinner at a favorite eatery - you can get a prix-fixe (price fixed) menu at a great rate which will save you considerable dollars.  Going out to celebrate can also work if you've decided to get married in a church - when the "I Do's " are said, everyone heads to their cars and over to the locale you've chosen.

Option B: Host a "receiving reception" after the ceremony {this works really well if you were married in a place of worship}.  This type of gathering is your basic "cake and punch" affair, where you and your new spouse meet and greet your guests in the facility's fellowship hall or other communal area.  Wedding cake and a sparkling punch are on the menu, the time committment is short (under 2  hours).  Or, as I mentioned previously - get married at home.

Costs: Free (at your place of residence)  - $400 (house of worship)

The Reception (Food/Beverage):
This is the one part of the budget which takes the biggest hit.  It costs money to feed folks - period.  So if you've got a tight budget - think smartly and wisely about your food components.  I'm going to put this out there because it's the truth:  YOU DON'T HAVE TO HAVE A RECEPTION.  There are no wedding police or matrimonial gods who are going to hunt you down if a reception is not in your cards.  Seriously.

A reception is truly designed to celebrate your marriage - and you can make that happen in so many ways:
1) The aforementioned "receiving reception":  Once you've said "I DO", have some cake and punch available for people to enjoy as you make your rounds - hugging everyone, getting kissed on the cheek and in general, being wished well as you embark on a new journey.  Your honor attendants (and parents, if you wish) can make toasts, you can smile and you can enjoy being surrounded by those who love you.  The cost of this reception style is very can get cake from the local bakery (or supermarket for sheet sizes), have a family friend whip up a tasty punch using juices and sodas,  purchase high quality dessert plates, forks, cups and napkins from a party store, rent a simple linen for your service table....and voila!  Reception!

2) The "lunch" or "dinner" scenario:  You'd be surprised at how reasonable group rates are at local establishments are, especially mid-week.  Many area restaurants have private or semi-private spaces available within their properties that can host you and your guests.  What a wonderful way to celebrate - you arrive, you are served a marvelous meal, you are with the people that matter most AND you don't have to clean up :)

Costs: $25 per person (lunch) to $50 per person (dinner)

In my previous post which started off this series, I mentioned that a lot of people do not include the cost of theire wedding day "finery" in the overall spending budget.  I'm going to keep that same train of thought here with a "caveat" - If you wish to buy a traditional wedding dress and make it a part of the budget, think SMART.  Check out sample sales at local bridal stores, use the Internet to score huge deals on previously worn dresses or for discontinued items that retailers are trying to get rid of, and of course - take a gander at the dresses available for $99 at David's Bridal (or similar chain store).  Smart shopping CAN net you a beautiful dress that originally cost a fortune, but now the price is just RIGHT for your pocketbook!

Costs: The range runs the gamut from "not in the budget" to $399 (for a pre-owned dress or discontinued item).  For the groom - he can wear his own classic dark dress suit or splurge and rent a tuxedo.  Count on $69 - $125 for his formal rental attire.

Wedding Rings: 
The tangible symbol or representation to the world that you are "hitched".  While some couples don't include it in their budget, others do.  Take a look at estate sales, the Internet (QVC has some great deals on jewelry), the membership warehouses like Sam's Club or Costco, and.....Walmart.  Yes...Walmart - that bastion of consumer discounts sells wedding rings and bands.  At a low cost.  And they're not too shabby either.  Look, if you're worried about what people will "think" because your ring came from a non-traditional source, I'm here to tell you - DON'T.  It's none of their business and none of their concern.  You and your soon-to-be husband or wife have a life to live after this is all over, so unless someone else is willingly forking up dollars to fund your nuptials, they have nothing to say. {rant over - thanks for listening!}

Costs: $0 - $500

While you could just "spread the word" amongst those you wish to attend, a $6000 budget will allow you to have a bit of "paper collateral" for this occasion.  If you're crafty enough and have the TIME to devote to the project - make your own.  If not - professionals can handle the job for you.  You can browse online at the myriad of stationers and companies who offer low cost invitations while also checking out local vendors who can create something simply unique for your event.

Word of caution: An invitation sets the tone of an event.  Even if you're opting for the DIY route - make sure it's clean, tasteful and nice.  Just because it's "homemade", it shouldn't look as if you had your children do the work.  And it shouldn't look cheap - shop around for the nice papers and finished envelopes.  Many of the craft retailer such as Michaels or the large office supply stores like Staples have pre-made "kits" that are super simple and pretty at the same time.

Costs: $19.99 - $200

Within this spending range - you can get a few fresh florals into the picture.   Bouquets for the bride and her honor attendant, boutionierres for the groom and his best man.  If your parents or other primary family "figures" (meaning the persons who basically reared you) will be in attendance - spring for a tailored corsage and/or boutionierre for them also.  I'm not talking about giving EVERYONE in your family a flower..just the parental "units".  They deserve it.

When it comes to flowers as decor, I'll say this much: Consider a nice centepiece for your dining table..and call it a day. 

Costs: $175 (if you hit up your local supermarket) to $350 if you utilize the services of a traditional florist

My earlier post mentioned getting a professional to come in and shoot your ceremony - I still think it's a great idea, even with a $5000 budget.  But in this case - add a little more time on..have them shoot the ceremony and your post I DO celebration.  For about 3 hours of their time and your images on a CD, you could spend anywhere from $650 to $800 - depending on where you live and the expertise of the photographer.  These are definitely "photos to remember" :)

Cost: $650 - $800 

Wedding Cake:
What's a wedding without cake?  No matter how much you have to spend (or not), this is a time-honored "tradition" that should be included at every nuptial shindig!  For a small guest count - look at doing a decorated sheet cake or talk with a local bakery about making a two tiered traditional wedding confection.

Costs: $30 (for a half sheet cake) to $200 for a two tiered traditional wedding cake

This catergory is "event location dependent" - meaning where you decide to wed will help influence your decision to have music present..or not.   If you're going the house of worship route, ask if the organist can play processional and recessional music for you...or if a musically gifted friend/relative would be able to do the honors.  If the church/temple has sound equipment available, also think about burning your selected songs to a CD and having them played.

For your reception - recorded music is a viable option.  The cake and punch reception we were talking about earlier is the right setting for some great background sounds.  If you are at a restaurant, 99% of the time, there is soft music playing in the distance for ambiance....

Costs: $0 (for family/friend tinkling the ivories or burning your own CD/IPod playlist) to $150 for church organist services  

My suggestion for this area is going to be simple:  Carry yourselves.  Save the money.

Cost: $0 

The cost will vary based on whether or not you're using a Clerk Of The Court or your own religious leader.

Cost: $50 - $150

Marriage License:
This is what makes you married - not the ceremony :)

Cost: $35 - $75

Honeymoon: (I left the "goodies" for last...on purpose)
In the first installment of this series, I extolled the virtue of a one-nighter for your honeymoon.  Guess what?  I'm going to do it again - but we'll extend it for the weekend!  Consider becoming a tourist in your own city and spend a couple of glorious days doing so.  I live in Maryland, so at our doorstep lies the splendor of the mountains to the west, the frolicking surf of the beaches to the east and extremely cool metropolitan life in our largest city, Baltimore or just 40 miles south in the nation's capitol - Washington, DC.  Many hotels and resorts offer midweek and weekend packages that can fit your budget and give you the chance to "escape" to that romantic land known as the honeymoon :)

Cost: $250 - $500 (depending on locale and property) 

When we bring out the trusty calculator and add it UP = here's what we've got:
Venue (Ceremony): $0 - $600
Venue (Reception): $0 - $400
Food Costs (Reception): $25 - $50 pp/$375 -{15 guests:low end} or $2500 -{50 guests:high end}
Attire: $0 - $399 (bride)/ $0 - $125 (groom)
Wedding Rings: $0 {out of the budget}  - $500
Invitations: $19.99 - $200
Flowers: $175 - $350
Photography: $600 - $800
Wedding Cake: $30 -$200
Music: $0 - $150
Transportation: $0
Officiant: $50 - $150
Marriage License: $35 - $75
Honeymoon: $250 - $400

On the lower end of the scale, you'll spend approximately $1234.00 - using your home for the ceremony and reception.  At the other end of the spectrum, should you want to "go" more, the cost is around $6849 {$849 beyond the original cost...see how things add up?}.  If the attire and rings aren't a part of the picture, delete $1024 and you're at $5825!!
So...there you have it.  A wedding for around $6k or less.  Now it's your turn - tell me what you think!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The RealityCHECK Series: How Much Wedding You Can Get For...$1000

I decided to start off the series with the very round figure of $1000.  And yes - you can get married for 1k..more or less.  Seriously.  Here's how:

You'll go to the courthouse, Justice Of The Peace or the pastor's study and say "I DO"

The cost: Depends on what the current rate is in your region for a civil wedding ceremony or the "love offering" your pastor may ask for.  This will be a short, simple ceremony.  Approximate time from "Dearly Beloved" to "I now pronounce you husband and wife"? 12 minutes (15 if the officiant is a bit "long-winded").  $50 to $150

Bouquet for the bride, boutionierre for the groom

The cost: $75 - $200 (lower if you get the blooms from a supermarket, higher if you go to a florist)

None.  This is a "tell everyone" kind of situation.  So you will inform those persons who need to know via conversations, phone call, text message (I'm serious about that one...know of a couple who did it!).  Here's the rub:  A ceremony of this nature is NOT going to have a guest list of 100.  Generally, it's the bride & groom..maybe their parents and maybe a couple of other "special" folks.  No one else makes the cut...

The Cost: $0

You can go fancy or simple.  I've seen full length gowns & tuxedos and I've seen street-length dresses and suits.  I've also seen sundresses and shorts (but that's another story..).  It is still your wedding day, so getting a new dress for the occasion isn't such a bad idea.

The Cost: $0 (if you're wearing someting already present in your wardrobe) to $500.....let's say that while men are easy-peasy with this, women aren't.  Wanna shoot your budget?  Clothing will do it!!

It's 12-15 minutes tops.  Think about that.

The Cost:  Time spent downloading the playlist on your IPod {if you must have something playing in the background}

Even if your budget is miniscule, you should still have images of your day.  A professional photographer can come in to shoot your ceremony..then hand over the memory card to you.  No editing, just raw footage.  It's a great way to get decent shots....and not Cousin Pookie's "shaking hand" version of your "I Do's". 

The Cost: $200 - $375 {depending on photographer's hourly rate}*
*Note:  You can always go in the other direction and just have a family friend snap a few photos.  They won't be professional in quality, but you'll have documentation of your day.  Cost? $0.

The Cost: $0.  You'll use your own................

MAKING IT OFFICIAL: {i.e. the marriage license}
Next to transportation, it's probably the least expensive thing on the list - but totally necessary in order to become Mr. & Mrs. :)

The Cost: $35 - $75 (depending on jurisdiction and domicile)

On a budget of $1000, a nice lunch or dinner at your favorite restaurant is definitely the way to go.  If it's just the two of can't be any easier (or less expensive!).  Should you want to invite a few close friends, then you need to PAY for them.  DO NOT, under any circumstances,  ask them to pick up their own tab.   Actually - that goes for any wedding event.  No matter what your spending looks like, guests are just that - GUESTS!  They should not have to come out of pocket for their food, beverages or parking.  You're the host - the expense is in your ballpark.

The Cost: This is the largest variable - $50 {lunch for two} or $300 {lunch for six}.  And I mention lunch, simply because it's the most cost effective and most civil ceremonies occur during the day..when court offices are open.

Nothing like a little something sweet to celebrate your new union!  You can get "romantic" and purchase one single, delicious slice from your favorite bakery - and later on that evening, feed each other while sipping on a bit of bubbly!  Or...if you've opted for lunch with friends, consider getting a 6" cake from a bakery to share with everyone present.

The Cost: $1.25 to $5.00 {per slice} or $15 to $50 {per 6" cake} - depending on bakery

The outward symbol of saying "I'm married now!"  I have found that no matter what the budget is, most people choose to leave the cost of their rings OUT of the mix.  Why?  I think it's because this is one area where the dollars don't matter.  For many, the ring is the ONE tangible display of their marriage, so they'll purchase what they like.

The Cost:  not included in the overall spending

Even if it's just for one night....most couples WANT to get away and have some "alone" time.  Consider booking an evening at a wonderful hotel or bed and breakfast in your area so you can bask in the "Mr. & Mrs." of it all :)  And, shop around...many hotels offer weeknight specials that include room amenities and breakfast the next day....

The Cost: $150 to $300 {based on area hotel rates}

So, when we do the overall math - here's what it looks like:

Ceremony: $50 - $150
Flowers: $75 - $200
Invitations: $0
Attire: $0 - $500
Music: $0
Photography: $0 - $375
Transportation: $0
License: $35 - $75
Reception: $50 - $300
Wedding Cake: $1.25 - $5.00 {per slice} or $15 - $50 {per 6" cake} 
Honeymoon: $150 - $300 {overnight stay at a local hotel or inn}

To sum it all up - on the low end, you'll spend approximately $375.  On the higher end....count on $1900.  Yes...I know $1900 is more than $1000.  There's the reality check of it all for you :)  Please know that depending on where you're getting hitched, these "numbers" can be higher or lower.

So...what do you think?  This is how I see it, based on my experience in the industry and simple, raw numbers as I know them to be true in my area.  Comments, insight, criticisms and witticisms are welcomed.....

The RealityCHECK Series: How Much Wedding Can You Get For $$$$?

This blog topic has been a LONG time coming. And the following dialogue is why: 

Me: "So....what have you and your fiance' discussed as far as wedding budgets/parameters/spending is concerned?"

Prospective Client:  "Um...we're looking at $10,000"

Me:  "And that's for how many guests and it will include?"

Prospective Client: "oh, 300 guests.  And we'd like to have sit-down dinner, open bar with specialty drinks, lighting, over-the-top florals, rental linen, custom cake, live band & D.J., engraved invitations and 3 limos."

Me:  **Blank Stare**

I'm not joking.  Not in the least.  I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've had couples sit in my studio and pretty much have that EXACT conversation with me..word for word.  And yes - I have given them the "blank stare".   Once I compose myself (trust me, it only takes a couple of seconds), the harsh reality of it all sets in and I take on a new role as EDUCATOR.  There's a real bottom line here:  Most people have no idea what a wedding really COSTS simply because they've never had to put one together nor do they have any concept of what market pricing looks like.  It really is that simple.

So.....I'm going to spend the next few blog posts giving you the "skinny" on costs.  I'll keep it really straightforward, no sugar coating or "lip glossing" - because that's not going to help things at all.  In order to have a wedding, well - at least one that's not at the courthouse or JOP's office, you have to shell out some dollars.  The amount of $$$$$ you cough up are highly dependent on a few factors such as:
Location (geographics)
Time of year (yes....January is less expensive than June)
Number of guests (75 guests can be easier on your wallet than 400!)
Time of day (I know - not everyone is an "early bird..but it can help you save $$$!)
Your level of "realism" (what you want vs. what you can AFFORD)

The media and the Internet have truly contributed to this phenomenon.  And I mean that honestly.  You see all of the lovely gorgeousness splashed over the pages of magazines, on websites, in blogs, on television and of course, you WANT it for your big day.  But um...there's this little thing called money which has to come into play.  With the exception of a couple of "outlets"'re not told how MUCH that eye candy costs.  So you "assume" that your dollars can cover it.  That's your first mistake

Wedding planning professionals such as myself, can and SHOULD school you really quick on what's doable and more importantly, what isn't.  Because we work so closely with other service providers in the industry, we can give you the "run down" on approximate dollar amounts because we see them every day.  And you need to listen.  Carefully.  Please.  Trust me.

What ever dollar amount is sitting in your bank account or checkbook for this occasion - well, it's what you have.  You can do a great wedding on any amount, as long as you are CLEAR about what said money is going to get you.  That goes back to the realism factor I mentioned is what it is.  If all you have is $10k..well, that means all you have is ten thousand dollars.  And it's only going to go so far.  Remember the "conversation" I had with the client?  Yeah....$10k was NOT a reasonable thought process.  And I told them so.....

Stay tuned for the rest of the series.  I welcome your comments and thoughts....this is a ripe area for discussion, not only from industry professionals, but consumers also.  The best clients (for me) are educated ones........

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Morning After.............

There's got to be a morning after
If we can hold on through the night
We have a chance to find the sunshine
Let's keep on looking for the light...

Singer Maureen McGovern released "The Morning After" in 1973 and it's always been one of my favorites {guess that tells you how old I am, right?}.  And after all of the buzz and hoopla that has commonly become known as Valentine's Day, I thought the lyrics were perfectly fitting. 

On yesterday, a bunch of people asked "Will You Marry Me" and an equal amount replied "YES!". The sheer excitement and glow of that moment is one that should be treasured and savored for a minute, simply because you won't get it again.  And since I'm a practical romantic -  I feel the need to poke my head in for a second and give you this advice:  WAIT FOR IT.

And I mean that literally - WAIT for the "edge" to come off and for your breathing to return to normal levels.  Do NOT start the wedding planning process me.  Shoot - this post I penned right after the holidays says it better.  Read it..and you'll see what I mean :)

SN {side note}:  The art of love is a 24/7, 365 kinda thing.  So learn to share it EVERY day..don't wait for February 14th to display that emotion..............   

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Requiem For A Wedding - The Real Housewives Of Atlanta: Planning

First up in my "composition": THE PLANNING.  Or lack thereof.  Let's have some "real talk" - shall we?

I am a wedding planner.  A professional one who prides herself on the skill set I possess.  One said "skill" is the fine art of actually pulling together the framework, nuts, bolts and all of the other "pieces" needed to make a wedding celebration gorgeous AND efficiently successful.  In watching the episodes over the season, Cynthia said that she had a wedding planner.  She also said she had a "stylist" on board to make sure the "look" of the wedding was fabulous.  *crickets*.  {side eye}.

Wedding planners are tasked with the job of doing the HARD work - in concert with our clients, we make sure that mailings are on time, vendors are in place, fittings are done, MARRIAGE LICENSES obtained and given to the correct parties BEFORE the know, stuff like that.  We also in many cases, create a budget and help our clients stick to it.  So if there are looming financial issues that may threaten the overall success of the event, we can be on top of things and offer creative, sound solutions.  Now...understand that television can "show" a lot of things...usually crafted to err on the side of drama versus real life.  But I'm here to tell you - producers can only EDIT what you GIVE them.  In other words, if there's "shiggety" {yes- one of my favorite colloquialisms to use!} is afoot - they're gonna catch it and film it for all of the world to see!  And that's exactly what happened here.

A wedding planner (independent - not the caterer) and a stylist are two separate and distinct individuals who can work together, but do not perform the same JOB.  I kept asking myself as the season unfolded - where is the wedding planner??  For those of us who make this our profession, we were shaking our heads, simply because we knew daggone well that much of what we saw would NOT happen on our watch.  No sir...and no ma'am!!!   And perhaps that is why a lot of the "technical difficulties" occurred in the manner they were shown..because there were "too many cooks in the kitchen" or as my Nana would say, "All chiefs - no Indians".

The wedding planner is the head honcho, the general, the commander of the "troops".  If Cynthia had hired an independent planning professional, one whose sole task was to orchestrate and carefully craft that shindig from start to finish - I can assure you that a lot of that foolery we witnessed would not have happened.  This is WHY you hire a planner.  You hire a planner so that you won't have childish chicken scratch plastered to the walls of your kitchen on your wedding day.  You hire a planner so that when your budget goes BUST, they can help you formulate a Plan B or even guide you through the postponement process. You hire a planner so that you are NOT getting a final fitting on your gown hours before you walk down the aisle.  You hire a planner to make sure that everyone has their attire and are not considering a run to Target for bridemaid's dresses.  In short - that's what we do.  We put out fires and keep an eye out for other smoldering embers so your day doesn't go up in flames.

Her team of "planners" were not on the same page - that was painfully evident.  I'll say this much - watching Cynthia & Peter's wedding unfold made me so appreciative of my colleagues in this business AND the couples who entrust their special day to us.  You cannot place a value on peace of mind, knowing that everything will go as you planned and crazy "ish {'ish is another one of my fave vernacular terms} won't pop off.  As we say in social media land - I was "SMH" {shaking my head} during the whole episode.  And judging from all of the commentary I saw on Facebook and Twitter - I wasn't the only one.  The pros who are in the trenches every day know what a trainwreck looks was a sad commentary to watch this event jump the track............

photo credit: Weekly Life & Style Magazine