Wednesday, January 29

How I cut $21,000 off my wedding budget

How I cut $21,000 off my wedding budget
| By Jane Bianchi, LearnVest

Your special day doesn't have to bankrupt you. Here's how one woman tied the knot without tying her bank account in knots.

Ever since I got engaged, planning my wedding has been a financial challenge -- especially since I’m both a sentimental and thrifty person.

On the one hand, I think: It’s a special day -- the one moment in my life when I’ll be surrounded by all of my dearest family members and friends. So why not splurge and have my wedding at a spectacular vineyard on the north fork of Long Island, New York?

But I also think: I don’t have a huge income. And my fiance and I are saving for a house, so extravagance isn’t necessary. I guess that I don’t really need to tie the knot in wine country and pay $10,000 to $15,000 just for the “location fee,” which doesn’t even include the cost of tables, chairs and linens.

Over the last year, I’ve learned the art of striking a balance between splurging on my priorities (a live band, a pretty dress) and resisting the urge to blow the bank on things that are less important to me, like fancy programs and escort cards.

But no matter what I spent money on, I always found a way to get it for less than full price—whether that meant negotiating with a vendor, waiting for a sale or using “rewards” points -- and I managed to save $21,485 in the process! For all those brides- and grooms-to-be who want in on my secrets, check out these 10 tricks that allowed me to cut corners … and still have a dream wedding.

My wedding was originally supposed to be on a Friday evening. I signed a contract with my venue coordinator, and started to spread the exciting news. The next day, when she called to tell me that she had accidentally double-booked my date, I didn’t say, “Oh, that’s OK. Mistakes happen. I totally understand.” Instead, I told her politely (but firmly) that I was disappointed—and that I might take my business elsewhere.

Sensing that I was serious, and recognizing that she was in the wrong, she offered me a Saturday evening wedding … at a Friday evening price! And that meant a savings of $50 for each of the 229 guests I was inviting. In other words, she was offering me the most desirable day and time of the week for $11,450 less than it usually costs. Although I was nervous about making the deal, since the coordinator had already broken my trust, I decided that it was too good of an offer to pass up.

Wedding vendors juggle as many as four brides per weekend -- especially between April and October -- and errors aren’t all that uncommon. So if your vendor makes a mistake, remember that you have leverage. There’s no need to throw a tantrum, but don’t be a pushover either. Hesitate before moving forward with the vendor, and gently express the fact that you’re dissatisfied. Then see if that person makes you a better offer. After all, you have nothing to lose.

Before you purchase something, think about weddings that you’ve been to recently. Is there an item that a past bride wore or used that you might be able to borrow?

For example, I always admired my sister-in-law’s veil -- it was simple, elegant and just the right length. And since a veil is one-size-fits-all, it can be easily reworn. That saved me about $50.

And when I started ring shopping, I wanted a basic band. My mom said, “If that’s what you’re after, I should show you my original ring. I have a newer one, so I don’t use it anymore.” As it turned out, her band was perfect. I spent $40 getting it resized and polished, still saving roughly $60.

After I booked the venue, my next biggest priority was hiring musicians. My fiance and I love live music, so we were willing to pay for a band instead of a less expensive DJ. I already had a band in mind that I was obsessed with—I’d seen them perform four times—but the bandleader charged a ton for a Saturday night.

I said to the bandleader, “We love you guys, but the price is steep. Is there any way you could cut it down a little?” She immediately slashed her price by $2,500. I told her that I’d think about it because it was still above our maximum. A few days later, I called back and asked, “Is that the very best price that you can give us?” She said that she could drop her price another $2,500, if we paid in cash—and she offered to throw in a cocktail hour duo for free, saving us another $800. My reply: “Deal!”

Negotiating was scary because I didn’t want to annoy the vendor and make her not want to work with me. But it was worth it, since I saved a total of $5,800. Bottom line: Never accept a vendor’s first price without trying to negotiate. More often than not, there is wiggle room.

The wedding business is filled with partnerships. Venues refer brides to certain clients, and clients refer brides to certain venues in return. So you should always ask if a venue has a list of “preferred vendors,” and if you like them, use them, because there’s a good chance you’ll get a deal. By using my venue’s preferred hair and makeup team, the total cost of the package for my bridesmaids and myself was $200 cheaper than normal.

My fiance and I were hoping for a personal ceremony, and it occurred to us that one of our closest and wittiest friends is an ordained minister who had already officiated a few weddings. He agreed to marry us at no charge. We are giving him a gift worth $250, but we likely saved $250, since officiants charge around $500.

We have two other friends who are talented singer-songwriters, and they agreed to play music for free during the ceremony, which will make it much more meaningful. We’re also giving them gifts, but we likely saved about $750 by not hiring pros.

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