When it comes to allocating your budget, there are about a million different ways to do it. Each client has different event goals, each venue requires different logistics, and each market is priced differently. As an experienced wedding planner, planning weddings in Richmond, Charlottesville, Northern Virginia, DC and Maryland, here are a few tips on where to save and where to splurge.
A great photographer can do a lot with a little. An inexperienced photographer will make even the most incredible design look terrible. Trust, there is nothing worse than a great design plan and a bad photographer. A photographer that is not quick, creative, and highly skilled will slow down the timeline and not capture the details necessary to capture the essence of the event.
If you need to save a bit on the photographer, front load their time on site. Have them capture the getting ready photos, the details, ceremony and reception, but head out once dancing starts. There are only so many photos you need of your friends hot and sweaty on the dance floor.
Specialty Cocktails: Save
Specialty cocktails are cute, and are a great way to incorporate personal touches. However, if you are requiring the caterer to bring in a specific liquor, or set up a specialty bar, it can add up pretty quickly. Overly complicated cocktails also slow down the bar. We usually recommend a bartender exclusively for the specialty cocktails, which of course is another cost.
This is one area I will always recommend we keep the server to guest ratio low. Far to often, there is a line at the bar, half of the room is finished eating before the other half has been served, or guests are eating cold food.
Guest experience and service is not where you cut the budget.
As a general rule of thumb you should have no less than one server for every 15 guests. For a more elevated experience, or a multi course meal, you should opt for one server for every ten guests. Of course the tighter the ratio, the better the level of service.
For bartenders, we like to see one bartender for every 50 guests, with passed wine or signature cocktails, to help slow the rush to the bar after ceremony.
Unless you can eat it immediately, it is expensive, or it is something useable and unique, skip the favors. They are a nice thought, but people leave them at the table, or never pick them up to start with.
The venue will not carry your aesthetic. The venue may be intricate, and elaborate, and beautiful, but you need to meet that with your own personal touches. If you are hoping that the venue will carry you, you may be disappointed when you get your images back. There are so many really great design elements out there that you can transform a space with and create such a great guest experience. Having detail photos of your florals, your stationery, bars, linens, the room as a whole, etc. helps to round out your images gallery and give that incredibly talented photographer you hired something to shoot.
Where to Splurge:
Chairs – This is a repeating design element. You have as many chairs as guests.
Head Table – Make a large statement with your head table and use smaller arrangements and candles on the guest tables.
Lighting – Lighting makes a major difference in atmospheric design, highlighting specific elements at the event, and creating a vibe
Bouquet/Boutonniere- This is your wedding day. You will have lots of photos of you and your fiancé. Having some intentional personal florals will go a long way.
Where to Save:
Programs – They get left in the chairs after ceremony, or never picked up to begin with
Aisle Markers – I personally love a pretty aisle, but I realize that it is an area we can save if needed
Bridesmaids Bouquets – If you have a large enough wedding party, the bouquets can be reused as bar arrangements, lounge pieces, or centerpieces. If this is your intention be sure to let your florist know so the vases they select are solid so you can’t see that it is a bouquet in the vase.