Wedding Plans: When to Say I Do and I Don’t
Before you go and call me a cynic, which you may by the end of this column, I want the record to reflect that I believe in celebrating life’s milestones. I believe that special occasions such as births, graduations and weddings should be elevated well above the string of ordinary days that tie them together.
What I don’t believe in is the rampant commercialism that surrounds these events, the businesses that turn momentous moments into money grabs by preying on the anxiety and social pressure of those in their midst.
New parents, new grads and the about-to-be married get bombarded by propaganda coaxing them to dole out dough for products and services ranging from the unnecessary to the inane.
Babies, for instance, have been coming along since, well, the beginning of humanity exactly, and have managed just fine without singing rattles that transform into crib mobiles, and strollers that can change their diapers. Yet an entire industry would have new parents convinced that if they don’t have the latest gadgets, they can expect a call from the department of children’s services.
The same is true for brides. I know because I am about to be one.
When DC and I first started planning our wedding, which is in a few weeks, we agreed on small but lovely. I soon added one more criterion: Not preposterously priced.
We have both been to this rodeo before, and this time around – I will speak for myself — I am more jaded.
I bristle when I suspect a wedding professional (and this isn’t true of all of them) see brides to be as targets in tiaras, and make them feel that if they don’t spend as much as a college education on their nuptials, their love and commitment are suspect.
My stomach roils when I hear wedding experts capitalize on bridal insecurity by saying, “well, most couples…” then finish the thought with something like “get the Rolls Royce limousine service and the horse-drawn carriage.”
And I sprout porcupine quills when I mention the word “wedding” to a florist, baker or photographer and the estimate triples. My budget for flowers and photos was in the three-digit range for each, but the estimates were four digits.
After DC and I walked out of one florist meeting, I could barely speak. When I did, I said, “That’s not happening. I’ll just put daisies in mason jars.”
“I wasn’t going to say anything,” he said, holding my hand a little tighter, “but I’m glad you think so, too.”
And then we got the pricey estimate from the baker – who I understand is wonderful — who adds real gold to her frosting to gild the wedding cake’s edges. Lovely, but that’s not me. I don’t even eat cake.
All this was making me cranky, until I – not the wedding experts – took control of my event, and started saying no, thank you. If I’ve learned anything in my 13 years as a design columnist, it’s that good taste does not have to come at a high price, and often doesn’t.
I then did what I have done with every house I have decorated — looked for creative ways to get the look I wanted for less.
Here’s how to cut wedding or special event costs in ways no one will notice:
Keep the guest list tight. A smaller wedding not only helps you cut costs and boost quality, but it also lets you spend time with those who mean the most to you. For us, that includes family and friends coming from out of state. We only invited guests we really, honestly wanted there. One wedding estimator calculated that one guest could add between $180 and $220 to the overall cost of your wedding.
Splurge selectively. Figure out what aspects of the occasion matter most to you, and spend your money there. Skip or skimp on what doesn’t matter. For me place matters, so we splurged on the venue – a beautiful historic home that sits on museum property on a lake. Because I prefer soft music and conversation to loud music and dancing, we skipped hiring a band or DJ, though someone else might put a high price on that.
Don’t fall victim to the shoulds. I am skipping the party favors. Your guests aren’t there for the giveaways, and I am morally opposed to sending guests home with trinkets that will clutter their houses.
Ban the bar. Unless it’s important to you, don’t host a full bar. Offer champagne, nice red and white wine, and a signature cocktail instead.
Go frugal on florals. A few years ago, I spent a day in a florist’s shop in Los Angeles that catered to an A-List celebrity clientele. The owner shared her personal favorite look: monobotanical and monochromatic: one type of flower in the same color. I have not bought a mixed bouquet since. One or two kinds of flowers in the same color is simpler, often less expensive, and more elegant than a varied-color mix.
Manage the mania. Don’t fall victim to the line: “This is your day so pull out all the stops.” The more moving parts you have, the more stressful your day will be. The more of a production you create, the more contrived it will seem. Simple is divine. Elegance is restrained.
Join me next week as I share 10 more ways to manage wedding madness and costs.