Spend the least, get the most in a wedding: Pros supply tips for cutting costs

05/20/2014 1:35 PM

08/08/2014 10:24 AM

Can you get the wedding you want, while getting the wedding bill you want? Yes, if you learn what industry insiders know. Who besides a pastry chef knows that if you choose buttercream frosting instead of fondant, the same cake costs 30 percent less?

The average wedding costs $28,427, according to WeddingChannel.com. No matter how you slice the cake, that’s a lot of dough.

What’s important to you and your beloved? Is fabulous photography essential? Then don’t ask your cousin to do it for nothing. Will a dress that’s $4,500 make much difference on the day than a dress that’s $450? Maybe not.

“Really think about the experience you want, but remember, there’s a day after,” says Neal Frankle, a certified financial planner and founder of Wealth Resources Group in Los Angeles. “Do you want a great party, then hell on earth paying it off? Or a great party that’s affordable, followed by no stress? Think of the morning after – and the next five years.

“The more you do creative things to save, the more memorable your event,” Frankle adds “Go cheaper, make it more enjoyable.”

One way to do that is allow plenty of time. “We set the date 15 months out to give ourselves time,” says Kelsey Sprowell, who wed recently in Fort Collins, Colo. She saved money while creating the invitations, programs, decorations and favors the couple wanted.

“We interviewed caterers and florists, but when they didn’t understand our vision, we passed,” Sprowell says. Their typical caterer’s quote in Colorado for wedding cake was $7 per person. (A plated dessert in Los Angeles averages $15 a head.) Instead, the couple bought a variety of cakes from Whole Foods Market, resulting in an abundant, deluxe dessert buffet that cost $250 for 170 guests. They bought flowers in bulk there, too, making a deal that whatever flowers they didn’t use could be returned for store credit.

One industry insider recommended ordering flowers or cakes without saying they’re for a wedding, which can bump up the price. Enlist a friend or relative to make corsages and boutonnieres, and save the florist’s expensive labor just for the bride’s bouquet.

Realize you have more options than caterers, florists or photographers initially present. Ask them to provide alternatives.

Pastry chef Zoe Jordan, owner of Zoe’s Bakery, has 10 years’ experience in the hotel/resort industry in the Pacific Northwest destination wedding towns of Tofino and Ucluelet, British Columbia. Her tips:

• Decorate your cake with real flowers instead of handmade sugar flowers, which cost $5 to $25 each. Flowers fresh-picked from a friend’s garden, or purchased, make a stunning presentation for a fraction of that. Make sure they’re pesticide-free and remove before cutting.
• A buffet of several cakes, instead of a single towering one, is a fresh idea. Consider eight different kinds of cake, frosted with buttercream for a consistent look.
• Cut the dessert buffet price further by making the same cake with different fillings. Vary vanilla cakes with lemon curd, fruit or berry fillings. Change up chocolate cakes by filling one with raspberries, another with sea salt/caramel, another with chopped candy bars.
• Big wedding, lots of guests? Have one deluxe cake for presentation out front and initial cutting, with sheet cakes in the kitchen to meet demand for volume. Same cake, less money.

Kelsey Sprowell and her new husband, Andrew, aimed for a wedding that would reflect their personalities, provide the best experience for guests, and respect resources. “I fell in love with a dress – oh, that dress! – but at $2,200, it wasn’t ethical or practical. So I bought a dress with a similar feel for $200 and had it tailored. It was fine! I liked how it photographed, it was fun to dance in, and I didn’t worry when a friend spilled on me.”

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