The Q:“I’m finding wedding planning so frustrating. I felt like I had a healthy budget (even by New York City standards) and yet it seems that everything that I’m looking at is a blowout cost and this wedding feels like it’s ballooning out of hand. Is it possible to have a dream wedding and stick to a budget (here in New York)?
The A: Yes… and no. It’s totally possible, but it involves 3 disciplines, Compromise, Restraint and Resolve.
As a planner, I often hear brides say that they really want to stay on budget, but often, when push comes to shove what they can afford at their budget isn’t necessarily what they would like. This is where Compromise fits in.
If you know that budget it important, it’s important for you to accept compromise as a part of your wedding planning process from the outset. Do I mean settle for less when it comes to your dream day? No. But I do mean identifying areas that are of the UTMOST importance to you, prioritizing those and maybe deciding where you can go “Loehmann’s” in other areas.
“Loehmann’s” wedding planning means that you don’t need to go highest end, most well known vendor and pay retail price for every single service. You should find areas where you can find “designer discounts”. For instance, let’s say you know for a fact that you want So and So Photographer. He is 12,000. (don’t gasp, its possible here in NYC) This is the most important thing for you. You also love the work of Such and Such graphic designer and stationer. They do the most interesting things and you are just in love with their designs. However, you realize that the Photographer is the MOST IMPORTANT thing and this is less so, and you have a strong sense of what you like and what you don’t. So instead, perhaps you visit a couple of stationers and look at some ready to order lines of invites or you shop around online for a line or designer out of the city that has more reasonable rates, but isn’t short on style. That is a Loehmann’s approach to wedding planning. It isn’t less fashionable, but it is less expensive and you pick and choose your “splurges”.
So, in addition to compromise of expectation, I think the other tip is to CONTROL your guestlist. If you can do this, you can splurge on what happens with each guest versus simply paying to get people to the table. This will involve some restraint. But if your dream day involves a 4 star meal and a fine wines and the best band ever, then you MUST control the number of people if you are on a budget. However, if your dream involves everyone the two of you have ever known being there, then you should re-think the need to have everything be really high end. In today’s tough love lesson, if you realize that you can’t afford to have (or don’t want to spend to have) everything that you want, it’s not a reason to be angry. You wouldn’t be angry if you wanted to wear Prada every day but instead recognize you may have to make do with some DVF sample sale dresses, would you? So don’t be upset if you can’t afford every single thing that you might want for your wedding, it doesn’t mean it won’t still be glorious.
And that really brings us to the final idea, which is Resolve. When on a budget, your worst enemy is indeciscion and uncertainty. If you don’t know what you like or what you want or what style of wedding you want, you will have NO guidelines with which to direct your budget. If you don’t know if you want a black tie, sit down dinner or a casual buffet, how will you set a catering budget and how will you know if you can afford 75 people or 175 people? How will you decide? You must decide the kind of atmopshere and style of wedding you want in order to make your life easier. For instance, if you are the couple I referenced above who wants everyone on the planet at your wedding reception and you look at your budget, you might realize “OK, I think that necessity is going to dictate buffet, so let me wrap my head around WHY I wanted everyone there- is my real dream to be dancing and partying with all these people that we loved? If so, then let me not stress out that we’re having buffet (because that’s totally acceptable) and let me focus on the entertainment and the drinks and making the large celebration the focus of the party.
So, yes, you can have an amazing wedding, but I think the real advice is to adjust your “dream” wedding around the things that are most priority to you and it will be much easier to find satisfaction in your wedding planning process.