Balancing the Budget

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Let’s face it: no one likes to talk about the budget. As a bride, you’d rather spend time dreaming of stunning gowns, amazing flowers, and turning your wedding into the Pinterest pictures that have become your latest obsession. But, having the unpleasant discussion about budget early can save a couple from a lot of disappointment during the planning process. I’ve seen many couples focus solely on the wedding and not the marriage; having a lavish, over-the-top, over-the-budget wedding that impresses all of their family and friends. Afterwards, they are left starting their new lives as a married couple – which is enough of a transition – with a mountain of debt. With a little planning, and a lot of reality, you can have a beautiful wedding that is cherished by all for a lifetime; as an added bonus, you can return from your honeymoon with the security that your wedding is already paid-in-full.

Be realistic about finances:

Before you put down the first deposit on a ballroom, or place the first floral order, take a long look at your finances. Yes, it’s boring and can really kill the planning high that you’ve begun to float on, but it will save you a lot of stress later. Honestly, few things can put a strain on marriage more than financial issues, and life continues long after saying “I do”. Take the time to plan out how much you can afford to spend after your monthly expenses each month, and set your wedding budget accordingly.

Set priorities:

“If you could describe your wedding in three words, what would they be?” This is the first main question I ask a potential client. It’s actually important for both me and the bride, because it encourages the couple to focus on what is really important to them. Once you have those words, brainstorm what elements contribute to describing your wedding in those words. For example, if one word is “fun”, then an energetic DJ and a photo booth for guests might be something to consider. Or, if your word is “sexy”, you might want a ceremony filled with candles and deep red rose petals. Whatever words you choose, focus your energy and budget into creating that vision, and don’t spend the money on other elements that won’t mean as much to you down the road. If you want a “relaxed” wedding, shelling out money for a formal, seven-course, sit-down dinner might not bring you the experience you want. I encourage you and your fiancé to sit down together and set the priorities that you want to focus on for your wedding; it streamlines the planning process, and allows you to create the perfect day for YOU.

Do your research:

Allow me to clarify this. By “research”, I do not mean focusing only on posting Pinterest pictures and attending every bridal show within a hundred-mile radius. Online resources and bridal shows are a wonderful way to gather information and inspiration for your wedding; I highly recommend them. But don’t overload yourself and become overwhelmed with the task of incorporating EVERYTHING you see into your day. I would encourage you to focus at least some research on crucial elements like your venue and vendors. Take the time to visit different venues and talk with their staff. Go to tastings with different caterers, and talk to several florists to see which one might be the best fit. Utilize the expertise of a planner that has experienced how different places and vendors execute weddings. A planner also has many vendors that he/she is used to collaborating with on events; considering these vendors could ensure that you are working with companies that are professional, provide an excellent product/service, and can save you a lot of money.

Control your guest list:

This can be a touchy subject, especially when dealing with family (check out my post: Navigating Family/Friend Drama). But here is the reality: your wedding is for YOU and whoever YOU want to be there. Try not to feel pressured into inviting people that you aren’t close to (or don’t even know), if your budget does not allow for it. If you find that there are some expensive elements that you desperately want to incorporate, consider that fact that pricing for a lot of vendors is on a “per head” basis. If you have a large guest list, factor that into your budget when considering these elements. I was given a good piece of advice when I was planning my wedding: if you haven’t spoken to a person in over a year, think carefully about whether or not to invite them to the wedding. Believe me, big weddings are awesome! Intimate weddings are too. The most important thing is to consider your guest list FIRST, before the major planning begins; once it is set, try – within reason – to stick with it.

Know your limits:

Think about the kind of person you are. Think about the kind of person your fiancé is. Now, have the planning process that works best for the both of you. If you are not the DIY type, don’t attempt to make thirty centerpieces and 300 favors the week before the big day. If you have trouble making decisions, don’t wait until the last minute to look for the perfect gown. If you are very traditional, consult with a planner early to be sure that all of the important elements of your ceremony are accounted for in the timeline. If you and your fiancé are paying for your entire wedding, don’t be afraid to have a long engagement and ensure that you have the budget for the day of your dreams. Do you see my point? This is your day, and you not only have to right to make it everything that you want; but you also have the right to make the planning process as smooth and enjoyable as possible.

Upcoming Bridal Show!

It’s almost here! I will be showing at the Perfect Wedding Guide Bridal Show on Sunday, November 17, 2013, from 1:00 – 4:30 PM. The show will be located in the Empire Room of the Elm Street Center in downtown Greensboro. Brides: please contact me for free tickets!

pwg show

Important Moments to Savor on Your Wedding Day

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For a bride, it’s the one negative guarantee about the wedding day: it goes from beginning to end in the blink of an eye.  You receive all of the advice to “remember everything”, and you have every good intention to do so. But it is completely understandable to become overwhelmed; all of the time, planning and anticipation have culminated to the magical day that is FINALLY here! Before you know it, the day is over, and all you are left with are a lot of beautiful pictures and a hazy memory. While it may seem daunting to attempt to emotionally invest in every second, I do suggest a few key events that you should savor to the fullest…

The last hour before the ceremony:

It may not seem like a big deal, but relishing the last few moments before walking down the aisle is a wonderful way to prepare yourself for a beautiful ceremony and enjoying the rest of your day. I have received a lot of positive feedback from brides because, as a planner, I build an hour of down-time into the day’s itinerary before the processional begins. Many beneficial things can happen in this last hour: (1) if unforeseen circumstances cause your timeline to fall behind, you have an extra hour to catch up; (2) someone can be designated to assist with cleaning up your “prep” space, ensuring that your personal belongings are packed and there are no extra hassles after the reception; and (3) you have extra time to relax, grab a quick drink or snack, take a couple of extra candid pictures, and revel in a quiet peace that comes before saying “I do”.

Your vows:

This one kind of goes without saying; it’s the reason why we’re all here! But you’d be surprised how many couples don’t remember their ceremony. Whether you write your own vows or recite traditional ones, cherish every second. Take your time speaking, BREATHE, and squeeze your honey’s hands extra tight. This moment is sacred and just for the two of you; don’t rush and enjoy!

Post-ceremony pictures (just the two of you!):

Let me preface this one by saying that you don’t want to drag this period out forever; try not to extend post-ceremony pictures beyond the cocktail hour. But if you can, take care of the wedding party shots first; then, allow them to go ahead to the reception. Spend the rest of the hour with just your sweetheart and the photographer. Your photographer can guide you to special locations in and around the venue for beautifully posed pictures. Or he/she can remain silent in the background and take candid shots while you two reflect on the ceremony, kiss, and enjoy the brief time of privacy. It’s actually quite romantic!

Enjoying dinner:

I tell my brides “don’t forget to eat”…. Later in the reception, I still put a large bag filled with to-go boxes from the caterer in the get-away car. I know that it might be wishful thinking, but I do advise couples to take some time to sit and enjoy the dinner that took a huge chunk out of their overall budget. I do understand the tendency to get caught up in all of the excitement, or spend most of dinner speaking to all of the relatives that simply must come up to the table to hug the happy couple. Allow your planner or DJ to encourage guests to allow some time for you to eat before visiting. Once you have finished dinner, you can always make the rounds to each table to greet guests.

Your first dance:

Some couples will spend time and money on dance lessons. Some will come up with a crazy, fun duet to surprise their guests. Some will simply choose their favorite ballad to sway back and forth to, while gazing into each other’s eyes. No matter how you do it, take all of the time you need. My favorite pictures, by far, are of the first dance, and many of your guests will enjoy celebrating that special moment with you. There are many popular songs that seem to be a staple at weddings; but I encourage you to spend time talking about your ideas with your fiancé. Allow this decision to be between just the two of you, and choose a song and dance that is special and speaks to your unique story as a couple. You are sure to look back on your first dance as one of the favorite moments of your wedding day.