WILKES-BARRE (AP) - With lay-offs, salary freezes, student debt, and numerous other bills, adding wedding planning to the mix can drive anyone crazy. It certainly doesn't help that vendors tend to double their prices when they hear the word "wedding."
When my partner and I decided to get married we were determined to pay for the wedding ourselves with minimal help from our parents. About two months into the planning, we realized what an overwhelming task we'd undertaken. We have no credit cards. Our student debt is steep. Our bills are surmounting. Yet, we had to find a way to pay for our wedding (in cash, no less). That's when we started seeing how important our budget - and sticking to it - really was.
Despite the stress-inducing numbers and research, you can afford to have the wedding you want. It can also be (relatively) stress-free. Here are a few guidelines to get you started on planning your wedding in a recession:
Plan ahead, and stick to your plan. If you're in a similar position to my partner and me, loans and credit cards are not an option for you. And really, do you want to go into debt for one day of celebrations? The most important thing you can do is plan early. Before you start picking out your dream vendors, create a budget. Look at your finances and figure out how much you can save between now and your wedding date. There's no point in falling in love with a $3,000 wedding gown when you crunch the numbers and realize you can only afford $600. After you know what you and your partner can afford, talk to both of your parents. See if they want to contribute, and how much. The money talk is hard, especially if you aren't close with your future in-laws, but it's necessary early in the planning. Once you know how much you can spend, you can allocate your funds accordingly.
Prioritize the aspects of your wedding. Everyone wants their David Tutera-style wedding, with everything coordinated and matching, but few of us have a David Tutera budget. Sit down with your partner and discuss the most important aspects of your wedding. The items at the top of your list should take financial priority.
If you have a large family that you can't imagine not being at your wedding, then make sure you allocate enough of your budget to accommodate them. If you'd like to have chair covers, but they aren't essential to your vision, leave them off the list unless you have money left over. (Chair cover rentals in NEPA tend to run between $1 and $2 per chair. If you have a 150-person guest list, be prepared to spend up to $300 on chair covers alone.)
Remember that most of your expenses may seem small at first ($2 per person to upgrade from white wine to champagne toast), but once they are multiplied by the number you need or the number of guests, the cost may not be worth it to you.
Consider DIY projects. Most brides are shocked when I tell them how easy and cheap making your own wedding pieces can be. The most important part of deciding DIY projects is weighing and comparing the cost of finding a vendor to doing it yourself. Cost does not mean simply money. Take into consideration the time and effort needed to make things yourself versus the ease of using a vendor. For example, cake pop bouquet centerpieces cost approximately $15 to $25 per table.
With the right planning, making the centerpieces could cost you as little as $3 per table. However, you have to keep in mind the time to bake all the cake pops, decorate them, and put together the centerpieces yourself. Only you and your partner can determine which DIY projects are worth the energy to you, and which make more sense to purchase from a vendor.
Don't forget your friendors. Friendors are your friends who are vendors. Often times you will know someone who can provide a service to you for a discount or as a wedding gift.
Like DIY projects, you have to consider the ramifications of using friendors. Sometimes they work out fantastic and you get exactly what you wanted for a price you can afford. But other times working with a friendor can cause more stress than it's worth and put a strain on your friendship.
Again, weigh the "cost" of using a friendor versus the cost of finding an outside vendor.
Very often, the choice will come down to the dynamic of your relationship with the friendor and mutual trust.
Be honest with yourself. This advice was given to me by a fellow bridal consultant, and it couldn't be more helpful. You have to be honest with yourself and with your partner. You need to have realistic expectations for your budget.
You need to have honest expectations of your own abilities for DIY projects. You need to be aware of how much time you have and what sacrifices you will have to make (financially, personally, wedding-related) to make your budget wedding a success.