This post was originally titled “Real Budget Wedding Tips for Couples,” but after re-reading this the next day, I realized that the only *real* budget-saving tip that I included was in the first bullet point, about your potential wedding date. So I’ve re-titled it “Debunking Wedding Budget Myths” because the HuffPo article mentioned states these horrible ideas for “saving money.” I’ll write another post at some point about real budget tips.
Today I was directed to this article, “Cheap Brides Will Appreciate These Penny-Pinching Tips” on Huffington Post Weddings, and was immediately irritated. The author of the article, Janelle Harris (with input from Kathryn Finney) has no idea how weddings work or how to actually cut the budget in morally-right, smart ways.
There are countless handbooks, articles, and blogs dedicated to help save couples money, so I know I’m just another voice in the crowd, but for some reason I felt like speaking up, because the top 3 bullet points on this list are wrong — at least, from the photography standpoint. And since I’ve been known to give my countering opinion on other well-meaning but disruptive articles in the past, I thought I’d talk about this one. It’s a topic I’ve been wanting to broach for a while, but haven’t had the kick in the pants to do it: how to actually save money on your wedding. Not a popular post to write, especially when one works and makes money from weddings, but I’m tired of the misinformation and of being seen as a greedy villain by the general public.
Myth #1: Holiday weekends will save you money.
The truth: the biggest way to cut your budget is by holding your wedding on an off-peak date. Certain dates are going to be in high demand because of a number of factors: your city’s weather and climate trends, your guests’ ability to travel, your choice of day (of the week), and any other festivals happening the same week (which is a big issue in Austin: host of SXSW, ACL, F1, etc.) which will impact traffic and hotel availability.
The reason the date is desirable to you will also make it desirable to many others. Competition breeds demand.
Holiday weekends are actually much more expensive to book because there is more demand for them. Couples pick these holiday weekend dates to help their out-of-town guests travel in for the wedding. You know how plane tickets during the summer are more expensive than plane tickets in the beginning of the year? That’s because airlines know that people are on summer vacation and will have travel plans during the break. Plane tickets are cheap in January, after all the holidays are over, because no one is traveling. The same thought applies to some wedding venues, hotel rates, some photographers, and a myriad of other wedding vendors.
For instance, a person holding a Sunday wedding in early February in Austin is going to have a much better time negotiating with vendors than someone who is planning a Saturday wedding in October on the weekend before Columbus Day. I can tell you right now that I booked October 12, 2013 over six months ago because that is a desirable date. For the most part, in Austin, people avoid booking in the high summer (July and August) because it’s so hot, and during festival weekends because the traffic snarl and lack of hotel availability is just too much to handle.
Now, not all vendors negotiate. Our prices are our prices for a very good reason. But if a vendor were inclined to negotiate their rates, they would not talk themselves down in price to secure your business when there are dozens of other potential clients who will pay without hesitation. So if you are on a tight budget, I would recommend that you not choose a holiday weekend, or even a Saturday wedding date at all.
Myth #2: Omitting the word “wedding” will keep your quotes low.
I hate this tip. I see it everywhere, and the biggest thing you’re doing by lying about your wedding being a “party” or a “reunion” is establishing yourself as a tricksy person. Nobody wants to do business with a liar. I know a photographer who was hired by a couple for a “family session,” and when she arrived at the portrait location it was a full-blown wedding!
I’ve talked about what I bring to weddings vs. what I bring to portrait sessions, and I know other photographers are similar. I leave a good 1/3 of my gear at home when I shoot a session compared to what I use at a wedding. Weddings are beasts. From a photography standpoint, they require more physicality, gear, preparation, and organization than a simple portrait session. Light changes so much during a wedding day, from location to location. The processing work afterwards is also more time-consuming: portraits yield about 50 proofs (depending on the photographer), whereas weddings yield hundreds.
I’m all about buying items that aren’t real “wedding” items to be used in a wedding: a cocktail dress or prom dress for a wedding dress, pretty earrings that aren’t marketed as “wedding earrings” (yeah, those exist), a nice artisan book for your guestbook, dollar-store vases for centerpieces, etc., but tricking your vendors is rude… and wrong. We do not “hike” our prices just because the word “wedding” is involved. Our prices are our prices because we work a limited number of events every year and each one takes a certain amount of our attention, care, time, and service.
My advice: be truthful to your vendors, especially the ones who are going to be there when your nuptials happen. Photographers, caterers, florists, cake-makers, venue owners, DJs or bands, bartenders — it’s not worth the karma bomb you’ll hit when they arrive and discover that the short little party they were going to work is actually a wedding.
Myth #3: Crafting and DIY will help trim your budget.
This works, in theory. But as the ladies over at A Practical Wedding will tell you, DIY isn’t everything. If you’re not a crafty person to begin with, attempting to be a crafty person for your wedding can be more trouble than it’s worth. It’s time-consuming, it involves trial and error, and it can cost more than you expect if you mess up and have to buy the supplies to do it over again. Like, in theory, buying silk flowers from the crafts store and assembling your own bouquets sounds like a great idea. I know that, for me, if I had done this I would have ended up with a mess (and that is why I didn’t even attempt to try). There are professionals in every field for a reason. Just because you have the tools, doesn’t mean that you can do the same job as a pro. As we know from my experiment with my friend, who took my camera and grabbed some photos of his girlfriend for 8 minutes, then I did my thing for 8 minutes, with much different results.
There is definitely a place for DIY in weddings (and in real life!), but be sure that your expectations are in line with your ability so that you’re not upset with the outcome. I’d also recommend that, if you go the DIY route, to do a trial before the actual wedding day. (Friends who are good with makeup as your makeup artists, friends who are good with baking as your cake-person, and so on.) Sometimes it’s easier to throw money at a problem to make it go away and to not cause you stress, than to try to finagle a solution on your own.
. . .
I give kudos to the author of the article for suggesting pre-owned wedding dresses (you don’t always have to buy new, though I understand some people’s hesitations) and
suggesting going into a salon instead of having a stylist come to the wedding venue for prep (saving your stylist the time and effort to pack up and travel will surely save you from having to pay for said time, effort, pack-up, and travel), but the rest of the article, well-meaning as it was, seemed very misinformed.
Edit: My friend and wedding planner Ang makes a good point in the comments about all the things that can go wrong when people mess around at the salon, so I will defer to her expert advice. Saving money by going to your stylist’s salon on the day of your wedding can cost you in time — time, which is precious on your wedding day. The more locations you have to be in, there are more possibilities of falling further behind in your schedule…
What do you think?