Why Are Weddings So Expensive? How to Save, When to Splurge. | Elopement and Small Wedding Planning Tips

Kelly Cameron Photography

Natalie+Andrew’s wedding at The Vineyard at Florence.

You’re looking for an elegant, pretty, pinterest-infused detailed wedding, but with a far more palatable price tag, right?  Something simple, still gorgeous, with quality pictures, lovely florals and an experience that makes you less stressed.

Most brides who contact me are just like you.  They want a beautiful day with an eighth of the price tag and a twelfth of the stress associated with a traditional wedding.

So how can I help?

First off, let’s start with expectations.

Why do weddings cost so much?

 What are your greatest expenses and how do you keep them down while still having something beautiful?

Kelly Cameron Photography

Creating a wedding celebration, you are paying for:

1) A Product (flowers, food, venue, photographs, details, decor, rentals, cake)

2) A Service (Expertise and labor -often along with a product)

3) Both

You get what you pay for.  Usually, this statement is true across the board. I say usually because you always want to research your vendors, read reviews and take a long, hard look at the proof of their products/services before you pay anything.  Vendors who provide quality products and services are generally not the cheapest folks.  Quality costs -whether it’s for a big or small wedding.  You’re paying for what?  A quality product and quality service.

Whether you’ve thrown a housewarming, baby shower, graduation party or get together with friends -you know that parties aren’t cheap.  A detail-filled, pinterest-style wedding (no matter how small) is going to cost you.  But it can be cheaper if done smartly.

Why do flowers cost so much?  You’re paying for both a product and the expert service of a florist to put them together.  For those of you unfamiliar with the floral industry, there’s a lot involved behind the scenes.  First, assisting in selecting the kind of flowers you want in your wedding.  Then the florist has to price what it would be to order everything that goes into the arrangements, bouquets, etc.  Then they provide you a detailed quote (trust me, that takes a lot of time.) Then there are whatever tweaks you want done based on the quote.  Then they order the flowers.  They make sure they have all the vases, etc. (included in the price as a rental fee.) When the flowers come, it’s HOURS and HOURS of skillfully assembling arrangements, centerpieces, bouquets, boutonnieres, etc.   Florals take a lot of time, and flowers themselves are not cheap.  If you decide to DIY your florals, -depending on the amount of arrangements, etc- plan on allocating at least 6 hours to their construction right before the wedding and having a cool place to store them. And plan on still spending a good chunk of change on the flowers themselves.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Why does catering cost so much?  If you’ve ever hosted a party, you’ll know you usually spend more on food and beverages than you anticipated.  You also know that it takes a heck of a lot of prep time to get everything ready, nicely set out, not to mention cooked up.  When you request catering, you’re hiring a crew of people to assist not just in feeding your guests, but in doing all the things a good hostess does -cooking, set up, arrangement, clean up, tear down, providing utensils, plates, etc.  That’s a big job, even if it’s only for a few guests.  For a small, light reception the food may only cost $500, but all the other pieces and parts required to make it useable and attractive are a significant addition.  If you’re planning on DIYing your reception, make sure you have designated people to do ALL of those jobs associated with catering, not just bringing in the trays from wherever you ordered the food.

Why are venues so expensive?  Well, for one thing, larger wedding venues are expensive because that’s what they were created for: large gatherings where people want a certain quality of environment and service.  Many venues provide certain things in their packages, such as tables, chairs, basic clean up.  They also have a large mortgage to pay because, heck, they’re on a sizable piece of property in a nice building, they’ve got to pay the bills somehow.  This is why I suggest elopements and small weddings during the week (Monday-Thursday) when venues offer a discount, or at non-traditional venues such as bed and breakfasts, restaurants/bars, gardens/parks, large property owned by a friend, etc.

“Really, do I need a coordinator?  Isn’t that just throwing money away?”  Darling, no matter how simple your wedding seems, there are so many elements involved that you DON’T want to be dealing with while you’re trying to get yourself ready, enjoying the moments, etc. during your wedding day.  You really want to be figuring out where the cake cutting stuff is in which box 20 min. before the ceremony?  Or trying to cue your friend to start music on their iphone to start your processional?  Or making sure the cake got delivered, the food is set up, your parents know where to be, the officiant has everything they need?  THAT is why you hire a coordinator.  Someone to take charge of the day so you don’t have to micro manage each moment that you truly want to be enjoying.  A good coordinator is WORTH IT.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Wedding Photography -that’s just someone with a good camera, right?  Would you trust your 12 year old nephew to document your day beautifully?  Make sure formal group photos get taken (in less than 1 hour) while coordinating all the various groupings? Be sure you have wall-display-worthy photos?  Um…no.  A good wedding photographer KNOWS WEDDINGS.  It’s a high-speed, no second chances kind of shooting that requires creativity, good people skills and technical know-how in order to ensure you have your beautiful moments captured -AND have lovely portraits you’ll proudly want to display in your house and show grandbabies in years to come.  Since this is my speciality -wedding photography- I can attest to the importance of getting the “full package” of quality product+service.  You have to hire someone with the proven skills for the end result you’re looking for -don’t trust an amateur to do a professional’s job, and don’t trust a professional who doesn’t have what it takes to back up the proof of their quality of product+service, no matter how appealing the price tag is.  Fabulous photos -and a pleasant experience- ARE WORTH IT.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Splurge or Save?

It depends on what you’re wanting.  If it’s a simple elopement with no reception, no guests, no cake cutting -just the short ceremony with a few beautiful pictures afterwards, then you can truly keep things very inexpensive.

If you’re wanting the quality of a $50,000 wedding but with 12 instead of 300 guests, you’re still going to be paying a significant amount of money to create the look.  You’ll be saving on the catering and alcohol, the number of rentals/linens, etc, the amount of florals, a smaller cake, number of hours of photography, but you’ll still need professionals to create the look you want and provide those combinations of services+products.

I recommend saving on:

-catering by sticking with a cake/dessert and champagne toast reception.

-florals by only splurging on personal florals (bouquet, boutonniere, etc.) and keeping display florals to a minimum.

-details by DIYing them yourself and having ALL projects completed 1 month before the wedding so you don’t stress.  (Details: hand painted signage, hand made invitations, decor items, centerpieces non-floral related, gift bags, etc.)

-venue by having your small wedding or elopement on a weekday (Monday-Thursday) or at a non-traditional venue.

Plan to splurge on:

-Personal florals

-Professional hair styling and make up application

-Photography (it’s all you’ve have to preserve your memories and to share with generations to come)

-Decor including styling, set up, rentals, etc.  If you want that $50,000 look, it’s going to cost you.

-A skilled coordinator to take the stress out of the planning process and your day.

The rest is personal choice and preference.  Just remember, big ticket items are that way for a reason.  Just because you want to go smaller, doesn’t mean you’re going to save a ton on it.  Realistic expectations and good planning will help you create the BEST day ever, at the price point you’re comfortable with.

Kelly Cameron Photography

Venue: The Vineyard at Florence

Florals: Groom’s design company, family and friends of the couple

Catering: Catering With A Twist

Photography: Kelly Cameron Photography

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