If you want, you can work hard to save every nickel. Also, if you want, you can shoot yourself in the head. Save money without becoming groomzilla.
You picked a good year to plan a wedding. No, really. With plummeting stock prices and soaring unemployment, this is the best time in a century--literally--for you to play the We-Can't-Afford-It card, allowing you to wiggle out of extravagant decor, gratuitous venues, and croquembouche wedding cakes.
But don't overdue it. It's unacceptable for you to check out, doze off, and let your fiancée do all the heavy lifting...only for you to swoop in and grumble about wasting money. Pick your battles. Remain positive. Offer something constructive. And employ the 80/20 rule.
You know the 80/20 rule, right? A few examples. For just about every business, 80% of the profits come from 20% of the customers. At your job, 80% of your output comes from 20% of your time. For strippers, 80% of her tips come from 20% of her anatomy. And as for cutting costs at your wedding? 80% of the savings come from 20% of the planning.
Embrace this 20% of planning. Focus on it. In this economy, the 20% is what will truly dent the costs. And don't get sucked into the other 80% of vendors, invoices, and a "save every nickel" mentality that turns you into Groomzilla who prides himself on saving $1.37 on boutonnières.
Stick with the big picture. Cut and trim where it matters, then ignore the stuff that doesn't.
Cut and trim: The Guest list
The biggie. Your guest list will drive every other cost—booze , grub, invitations, you name it. In fact, if you do only one damn thing in the entire wedding planning process, squeeze and scrub the guest list. Make the tough choices. Your co-workers Dwight, Michael, Jim and Pam? Cut ‘em. If you need to get more ruthless, throw down the hammer on children, snub your third-cousins, and limit the plus-ones. For much more on how to handle the guest list (including ready-to-use white lies, how to prioritize, and how to negotiate the family politics), click here.
Let it slide: Flowers
Can you save money by picking tulips instead of long-stemmed roses? Yep. Should you ever in your life—ever—spend another second thinking about tulips or long-stemmed roses? Nope. Only one exception: your fiancée whispers the words “Preston Bailey.” This is like her saying the words, “AMEX Black Card” or “Tiffany’s Shopping Spree.” You are looking at a flower bill that will cost more than a Mercedes. Get involved and get involved now.
Cut and trim: The date
Weddings, like everything else, are bound by the economic laws of supply and demand. When demand is highest—late summer, early fall—the costs are at their peak. If you have some flexibility in your timing, pick a date before June (just avoid the Super Bowl and other sporting events—click here) or after September. Ditto for Saturdays. You’ll save across the board if you get married on a Friday, Sunday, or even Thursday. The tradeoff to Thursday? Your guests will hate you. Only choose a Thursday wedding if you’re really poor or really a dick.
Let it slide: Music
By now, faithful readers of The Plunge will know that music is no place to cut corners. It’s the lifeblood of your party. Being stingy with the music is like a hospital firing the doctors and nurses for “budgetary reasons,” then leaving all the dying patients in the caring, watchful hands of the janitors. Click here for more on bands and DJs.
Cut and trim: Invitations
Careful. We’re awfully close to “don’t-give-a-damn” territory. In fact, The Plunge is internally divided over whether this issue even deserves your time. It’s not a monster cost factor (typically 3% of the budget) and you have better things to do than squint at tissue paper. That said, if money’s tight, there’s something deeply disturbing about blowing hundreds of dollars on programs, feathery leaflets, and matte RSVPs when all the secondary details (hotel info, reception address, etc.) can be done online. All you need is a simple announcement and reply card.
Let it slide: Alcohol
Quick. Think back to the last good party that didn’t have alcohol. Remember it? You were 12 years old. After the wedding rings, officiant, and marriage license, the open bar is the absolute last thing you should cut. It’s not complicated: drunk guests are happy guests. Stand up for this. Fight for it.
Cut and trim: The Location
Aside from the whole “getting married” thing you’re a smart guy, so we won’t belabor the obvious. But if you live in New York and she’s from Alabama, guess which one’s cheaper. Remember this ratio: the cost of weddings is inversely proportional to the neighborhood’s percentage of trailer-homes. Click here for more.
Let it slide: The dress
Can you save good money here? Is it a common category of waste? Are there savvy, effective ways to pocket $2,000 without any guest noticing? Yes, yes, and yes. It doesn’t matter. Your input here is unwelcome. Three lessons from history—never invade Russia in the winter, always accept any trade offered by Isiah Thomas, and never come between a bride and her dress.
Cut and trim: Go away
Shocking but true. A blow-out, pina-colada wedding in the Bahamas could actually cost less than your neighborhood church. Destination weddings are an under-utilized way to save gobs of money. And they’re actually easier to plan. Click here for more.
Let it slide: Table decorations
Cut and trim: The cake
You don’t need your trophy cake to feed all 200 greedy mouths. Use a small cake for the photographs, sheet cakes for your guests.
Judgment Call: Soups and Appetizers
This can go either way. We’re loathe to trim the food for two reasons: 1) it falls into the “good music + good booze + good food = good party” equation; and 2) you could get lassoed into the hell that is caterers, tastings, and detail-oriented menu selections. It’s a slippery slope. That said, no wedding needs more than two courses and almost every caterer will suggest more food than you actually need. Slash two items and no one will blink.
Next up: when to schedule the damn thing...
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