Credit: Seth Heringer
Hey BABs! You might recognize me from the Can’t Afford It? / Get Over It! posts over here. I’m a wedding planner based in Cleveland, Ohio, with a knack for helping couples to plan EPIC weddings on a budget.
If you’re wondering why it’s my words in your eyes today and not Liz’s, well, it’s because Liz is retiring from The Broke-Ass Bride advice columns so she can dedicate more time to working in-person with awesome clients while ya know, maybe having a little time left over to spend with friends and family — not an easy decision, I’m sure, but a totally understandable one.
Liz is a fantastic writer, savvy planner, and advocate for BABs like yourselves. Her columns have always been informative as well as entertaining and sometimes sobering. We’ll miss her wit and wisdom, and wish her the best, and above all thank you so, so much for her five years of very dedicated service to The Broke-Ass Bride. If you want to keep up with her part of Wedding World, check in over at Silver Charm Events.
It’s one tall order to fill Liz’ shoes (yeah, I mix metaphors — what of it?), but I’m honored to help out the BABs! So on that note, this week’s question comes from a reader, who says:
I came across your TV show…
Guys, BAB TV SHOW. Pretty exciting stuff, right?!?! Dana posted about that very TV episode earlier this month.
…and wanted to reach out to you, and get some information on how I can get the most value for my buck. My dream is to have beach ceremony and inside reception. My theme is blue orchid and that’s about all I got in my head so far. My wedding is not until next year and we had a date but it has to change because we were unable to make the deposit by the deadline that was required. We are looking to try to keep at a 100 guest but it could go to 130. We live in Chicago and the location is nice and intimate and what I want, except no beach ceremony, I do have the option to have it in the garden patio, however the location is 40 miles outside the city. This will get a little pricey when it comes to traveling for my out of town guest and that’s 80% of my guest!!!! BROKE ASS BRIDE PLEASE HELP!!!!!
First thing’s first: deep breaths. It’s easy to feel like you’re tossing around inside a washing machine with all the moving parts involved in wedding planning, and I can tell by your message (and the accompanying exclamation points) that you are feeling pretty overwhelmed right about now. Amirite?
The easiest way out of overwhelm is to break things down into bite-sized chunks, so let’s tackle this one piece at a time, shall we?
Get some help. Find a friend or family member who is the most organized person you know, and enlist their help. Explain where you are in the planning stages and pick their brain for organization hacks to keep you on track. (There are lots of phone and web apps to help with this, too.) Fortunately you were able to keep your favorite venue by switching the date, but you’ll need to take a few steps now to make sure it doesn’t happen again. (But no worries! You’re back on track and YOU CAN DO IT!)
Budget. Next, if you haven’t already, sit down and flesh out your budget with your partner (and maybe your Most Organized Friend or a family member, if anyone else is contributing to the wedding). That budget needs to be ship-shape! Once you know your budget, as soon as you start booking vendors (or the venue), plug your payment dates into your calendar. A shared calendar is even better — two or more people can watch the date and see changes in real time. If you’re a last-minute type, in addition to the deadlines, add reminders at intervals that will give you enough time to plan and save up for the payment — say, three months and then one month before every payment due date. Have fun with this! Use highlighters, colorful markers, stickers … you get the drift.
Set aside a Wedding Fund. While we’re on the subject of money, if you haven’t done so already, start a separate account ASAP — whether it’s in an actual bank or a piggy bank — where you keep the Wedding Fund, and *only* touch that money when you’re making payments for wedding expenses — or deposits, those are cool, too. BABs gotta be extremely disciplined about our expenses! Say it with me, I am in control of my own wedding budget. No one else can make me overspend!
Guest list. A range of 100-130 guests is just under the national average, but to quote Yoda, “Do. Or do not. There is no try.” If you want (and can afford) 100 guests max, then invite no more than about 105-120 guests. (An average of around 5%-20% of wedding guests decline the invitation.) Unless someone else is paying for the wedding in full or in part (in which case you’ll need to consult with them about how the guest list and budget may be misaligned), you have complete control over the guest list. Time for more mind control tricks (humor me and visualize a swinging pendulum). Repeat after me: I am in complete control of the guest list. I will invite no more than 120 guests.
Credit: Alison Yin
Beach. Only you know whether a beach ceremony is a must-have or whether a patio ceremony will make you happy. Food for thought, though, you can still have a local waterfront wedding (weather and city permits permitting) and then an indoor reception in a different location. Or you can have a beach-themed wedding on the reception venue’s patio, using a few well-placed decor elements that incorporate a beach vibe. Italian restaurant chains are notorious for creating a rustic, Italian countryside ambiance … in the middle of midwestern suburbia … so you can totally turn an intimate restaurant setting or outdoor patio space into a beach-inspired wedding!
Travel. It’s awesome when couples think of their guests’ comfort and expenses — kudos to you for keeping it in mind. Guests traveling out of town for a wedding are accustomed to figuring out travel arrangements, though (and you could be a peach and help them out with that in your invitations by including maps and suggested lodging and travel accommodations), so 40 miles ain’t no thang — unless the alternative is to have the event at a hotel within walking (or shuttle) distance of the airport, then you could do that instead. My gut tells me you want that venue, though — enough to bump your date after a missed payment. Especially if your deposit is non-refundable, it’s your best bet to stick with the intimate venue you’ve selected.
If you’re still concerned, there might be affordable transportation options you can cover for your guests. Does the hotel have a shuttle? What are the average taxi rates between your venues, the hotels, and the airport? Offering that information will go a long way toward making your guests comfortable. Finally, you might let out-of-town guests know that their presence is their gift to you — no additional gifts required or expected. You might lose out on some registry gifts, but then your guests won’t get the double-whammy of travel expenses on top of the expense of their gifts to you.
Planning a wedding in Northeast Ohio? Here’s where you can find me for wedding planning assistance.