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When we left off, I was already projecting that we would go over-budget.
But we were about to make some decisions that could potentially alter how much I had to sacrifice. We agreed that we’d have about 100 people come to the big day. That would keep it “small” but “big” and would help keep the budget in check.
The first decision we made was about alcohol.
Would we have it? Yes, yes we would. I am engaged to a German and his German family is coming from Germany. There shall be beer! But also liquor because I don’t drink beer, or wine. I estimated $500 for beer and liquor. That said, I have no idea how much a keg costs, but I do know that the company that makes Timo’s favorite local beer sells it in kegs from Total Wine and we’ll be obtaining one of those. I am OK with well-liquor. Check.
The next decision we made was about food.
I half-jokingly suggested our favorite BBQ place for our reception meal since I knew they catered and Timo said it was a good idea. He told me that he’d been to plenty of weddings where the food was obviously expensive, but it wasn’t even that good. We agreed that it wasn’t being cheap if the food was spectacular. When I checked online, for 100 people it was around $1000. $10 per person is infinitely better than $30+ per person. Check.
I narrowed our venue options down to three.
Price and availability were the sticking points for venues. In Charleston, you can spend an obscene amount for a venue that includes only the roof over your head. One of the most popular places to get married in Charleston that isn’t downtown is Magnolia Plantation. It’s so popular they have their pricing form and availability calendar on their website. They were a quick elimination when I saw that for the cheapest location (of three options) it cost $3000 in the off-season (January/February) and you can only use their preferred vendors for your catering.
I did a lot of easy eliminating via price for the venue. Since most venues in Charleston are so expensive, having limited options made making a decision easier. Our options were Destination Goldbug ($1000), Medicine Wind Farm ($1200), and Alhambra Hall ($1500). After price, the inclusion of tables/chairs was another elimination factor. Our three options offered tables and chairs, which meant that we wouldn’t have to rent them. Another requirement was that we be able to serve alcohol and use an outside caterer.
I did pretty minimal research on a wedding coordinator/day-of coordinator.
I checked out a few websites and talked to a few people over the phone, but we ended up with two recommendations for the same coordinator from a neighbor and a friend and that’s who we knew we would go with if the price was right. Originally she quoted me $1200-$1800 and I knew that was out of our budget. When she met with us and realized we’d already done most of the legwork, she came down to $600. She has a vast network of resources for cakes, hair/makeup, DJs, and rentals and anything she already owns is available for us. Done.
I’m not above winning free stuff.
I’ve entered free contests for an engagement session (which I didn’t win even though I had a 50/50 chance) and a free DJ. Also, I’m happy to trade for services. As I have mentioned, I’m kind of a nerd (with high expectations). I’m a member of two Charleston recycled bride sites because I also love a good deal and we’re on a budget.
During R&D week, I was clicking on all the vendors I saw linked on the bride Facebook pages. One DJ I clicked on had really good reviews on her Facebook page, but her actual website was lacking. There was actually a page that was in Latin as a default page that had never been changed. When I contacted her on Facebook to ask for her availability/prices (much to my disgruntlement), I mentioned that her website didn’t have any of this information on it. She was willing to give me a $50 discount just for pointing out her site was bad. When I explained that I have some technical knowledge and it wasn’t difficult to create a new website for her (depending on her needs), she asked if I would create a site for her and in exchange she’d be our DJ for our wedding. I was happy to agree to these conditions. Timo agreed that this was a good arrangement and we said yes. Check.
The final big decision was photography and it was all on my shoulders.
Timo told me that since photography was my “thing” that he trusted my decision. With all the other decisions up to that point having been relatively easy, I knew that this decision would be as complicated as I let it be.