With the average cost of a wedding soaring over $25,000 nationally, according to The Wedding Report, brides and grooms everywhere are looking for ways to save money and still have their dream wedding. But there are a few key elements of a wedding that shouldn't be sacrificed in order to keep a wedding budget low. Cutting too deeply or cutting elements out (such as having Uncle Charlie take your wedding photos instead of hiring a professional photographer) only leads to disappointment, regrets later on and in some cases, wedding day disasters.
Here are the top five things to keep on your highest priority list, giving them a greater percentage of your wedding budget:
1) A great wedding coordinator. They know the best locations and vendors to suit your wedding style and budget, and they'll keep you on budget. Brittany Allen, owner and executive planner at Beautiful Beyond Dreams, says that if your wedding budget doesn't allow for a full wedding planner package, "A 'month of' wedding planner is more affordable and provides you with the peace of mind you deserve on your wedding day." Always book a qualified, accredited wedding coordinator for a full, partial or "day of" package so that your wedding is in good hands. It also allows you to spend your pre-wedding hours relaxing, getting beautiful, taking photos and not worrying about a thing. The national average cost of "month of" coordination is just over $1,200, but you can check your local price averages on the website Cost of Wedding.
2) The photographer. "Pictures are forever. Your memory of one of the most special days of your life should be captured by a qualified professional photographer," says Allen. Professional photographers and videographers have top-of-the-line equipment and expertise in editing and delivering priceless keepsakes that grow even more valuable over time. Great photographers also know how to get all of those post-ceremony photos done quickly, not missing any important portraits or group shots, so that you can get to, and enjoy, your cocktail party. An amateur cannot get the job done as efficiently, and they also don't have backup top-quality cameras and batteries. "We had a friend take the pictures at our wedding, and we found out after weeks of her avoiding us that our images got ruined when she tried to upload them," says recent bride Karen Stackwell. "So we have nothing but a few photos that other friends took and blurry photos from the table cameras."
3) Catering. The food makes the wedding a hit. Guests enjoy being treated to a wide range of gourmet delectables, and today's smart wedding couples are choosing dishes that are crowd pleasers. "Food stations are more in demand than ever before," says Shane McMurray of The Wedding Report, and cocktail parties feature anywhere from five to 12 different stations. Sit-down dinners offer appetizers, fabulous seafoods and steaks, and side dishes created by chefs to look magazine-cover worthy and taste sensational. Organic foods are being added to wedding menus to provide fresh, satisfying tastes as a departure from all-fried, cliched dishes found at the weddings of years past. In addition to cocktail party fare and the meal, the wedding cake is a top priority for couples who want a beautiful creation that tastes delicious. Skimping on catering for your cake would not only leave guests disappointed but would also leave you disappointed with your wedding day.
4) Entertainment. Your entertainers keep the dance floor packed, and read your crowd to adjust their playlist to the types of music that guests seem to like best. Because they interact with the audience, it's important to book entertainers with great personalities, as well as talent for live performances or DJs to mix crowd-pleasing music. If you were to simply plug in an iPod for free entertainment, your reception would be flat, with the dance floor clearing, and if your iPod were to stop working, your reception would be ruined.
5) Your venue. According to The Wedding Report's recent survey, brides and grooms are putting a lot more into booking beautiful venues for their ceremony and reception locales, with spending up 25.8 percent for ceremony venues and up 20.8 percent for reception venues since last year. Couples want their weddings held in gorgeous settings that offer extra perks, such as blooming gardens and with only one wedding taking place there at a time. For a destination wedding, it's even more important not to skimp on the locale, since guests will be staying at the resort you choose and enjoying the amenities of the hotel. MaryAnne De Matteo Diamante, director of sales and marketing for the private island resort Jumby Bay says, "An all-inclusive resort allows guests to enjoy themselves in a beautiful setting without worry and often includes snorkeling, kayaking and other water sports, as well as luxurious spa treatments, dining and shopping. It also gives guests an unforgettable experience during their stay."
Your own personal high-priority wedding details -- such as your gown or your flowers -- should never be skimped on, either. If it's important to you, invest more, and find other places to cut back your spending.