Sticking to Your Wedding Budget

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

Make the most of your wedding budget,no matter how big or small it is.

Your wedding is likely to be the most expensive single day of your life, so knowing where you can skimp and where you absolutely shouldn't is paramount to making your big day a success.

"Couples often budget for $25,000, but end up a little higher," says Jamie Rapavy, wedding specialist with Columbus Bride & Groom. "We try to find out what's important to the couple before we tell them how to allocate their money."

For example, some couples may not care about the cake, but want the wedding invitations to look spectacular. For others, it's all about the attire or photographer. "It's different for everybody," Rapavy says. "But budgets are important-no matter how much or how little money you have."

While prioritizing spending is important, you should plan on the biggest expense of your wedding-roughly half the budget-to be the reception. "Essentially you are taking 175 to 200-plus people out to a really nice dinner with appetizers, dinner and drinks," says Lauren Lawson, owner of VIP Wedding & Event Planning and sales coordinator at the Renaissance Columbus Downtown Hotel. "It adds up quickly."

There are ways to cut corners without cheapening the look or feel of a reception, however. "You can close the bar during dinner or do a wine pour," Rapavy says. "You can do a signature drink for the first hour or fun flavored waters or just champagne. Any of those are going to be cheaper than a full open bar for an hour. And you can close the bar an hour before ending and go to a cash bar. That's OK."

But she strongly advises against having a cash bar the entire night. "You're inviting these guests to an event, like you're inviting them to your home," she says. "You wouldn't start charging guests for drinks at your house."

Similarly, Lawson advises against selecting the cheapest dinner entree or choosing a cut-rate DJ or band. "Do not skimp on food and entertainment," she says. "Those are the two things that people will remember." Instead, both planners suggest scaling back at the ceremony. "Make it sweet and simple," Lawson says. "It is 30 minutes of focused energy."

Skip the ceremony programs, Rapavy adds. "They just get thrown away. I've seen it done really cute where they put the bridal party's names on a chalkboard or a door." Flowers can also be made less expensive if couples stick with what's in season.

"The pictures are very important," Rapavy notes, so don't bargain shop there. "Don't have your friends take the photos and post them on social media. Definitely hire a professional."

Above all else, both planners agree that couples should keep a healthy perspective so that, as Lawson says, "the end result is that you are married to the love of your life and not in debt."