Weddings 101

Planning a wedding without breaking the bank.
It's the biggest day of your life. You've got family to call, friends to invite and plenty to do. Planning a wedding can be stressful and overwhelming. Whether you're a first time bride or you have the resume of Elizabeth Taylor, there's plenty to do to ensure your day goes off with only one hitch.

Here are some tips on how to pick service providers that will help you realize your dream wedding without breaking the bank:
  • Set a realistic budget. You can enlist the help of a financial planner, but you shouldn't have to take out a second mortgage on your house to get your dream wedding. Remember to shop around before you hire wedding professionals. If you plan early, you don't have to settle for the first florist, baker or reception hall you see. Look for alternatives. Get estimates from several vendors and comparison shop.

  • Check possible wedding dates and choose them carefully. Planning a Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve wedding may sound terribly romantic, however booking around holidays will significantly increase your costs. Plus, holiday weddings will make it tough to book travel for out of town guests and arrangements for your honeymoon. Also, holidays are busy times for many reception sites that may be booking for holiday related parties or corporate events. Also, Saturday nights are usually the most sought-after nights (read more expensive) to hold receptions. Think about picking a Friday or a Sunday date if possible.

  • Don't put things off until the last minute. You may have to make several visits to the seamstress to get your dress altered, bakeries need advance notice on wedding cake orders, and hair appointments may take longer than expected. Allow yourself plenty of time to work out any minor glitches and some wiggle room for any last-minute changes. Planning well in advance will save you money plus a million headaches down the aisle.

  • Hire professionals to do your hair and makeup. This may be one area where you want to splurge a little. Nothing is worse than having your hair fried the day before your nuptials. Meet with your hairdresser and the makeup artist to explain what you want. Bring pictures. Ask to see their portfolios and style books. Test their products (especially makeup) to make sure you're not allergic. And if possible, bring a friend to take pictures as you try on dresses (because sometimes it looks good in the book, but not good on you).

  • Include a good menu. A couple of pricing notes: Caterers generally charge based on the number of people attending the reception (the smaller the less expensive). And, there is almost always a difference in price between buffet style set-ups and seated dinners (buffets are cheaper). Discuss the menu options (beef and seafood versus chicken or vegetarian meals) as well as how much extras such as liquor, wedding cake service and overtime are going to cost and factor that into your budget.

  • Don't skimp when hiring photographers & videographers. Videos and pictures are keepsakes that you will have forever, so you want them to look good. Be sure to look at examples of the photographers or videographers work before hiring them, whether that means a professional portfolio or videos of other events. Consider calling past clients for referrals and make sure you are comfortable with the photographer's style.

  • Specify your musical wishes when you hire a DJ or band to ensure each can accommodate your selections. Take time to listen to the music. Ask for a sample CD if you can't schedule an interview. Generally, DJs are less expensive than bands. Be sure to consider the venue's space as some places may not be able to accommodate large DJ or band setups and may try to charge extra.

  • Weigh your transportation options. There are choices galore for limos, buses and cars. From stretch limos to exotic cars to horse and carriage. Do you really need a stretch Hummer, or can you make due with a high-end rental car? Compare prices. Whatever you choose, make sure your driver is licensed and insured.

  • Consider a wedding or event planner if you need help with the details. Let them haggle with bakeries and reception halls and florists. It may cost you a little more upfront money to go this route, however it will save you some time and stress. Also, keep in mind that planners often can negotiate better deals with vendors than we can. That may save you some money in the end.

  • Don't forget about honeymoon details. Two words to consider: "all inclusive." Your travel agent should be able to recommend some great destinations with honeymoon package deals and discounts. You also may want to consider local options like a lakeside bed and breakfast. Wherever you go, be sure to book early, especially if you are traveling outside the U.S. Check with your agent to make sure your destination doesn't have any travel restrictions, additional insurance or visa requirements.

  • Get it in writing. Get the details on everything you pay for in a written contract. That way, you know when payments are due, what to expect and what your total expenses will run without any last-minute surprises. Do not be afraid to ask for a contract from any service provider. A reputable service provider should be able to give you a price list and an explanation of their cancellation policies.

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