Friday, June 28, 2013

Budget Wedding Finale- Music!

Last but not least, I want to cover some different options for saving money on the music at your ceremony.  There are really two routes to go depending on your budget and how formal you plan for the ceremony to be.  The first route, which I would recommend for a ceremony music budget of a few hundred dollars, would be to contact the music department of any nearby colleges or universities and see if any students would be interested in playing at your wedding for a small fee.  By hiring music students, you can be assured that they will be competent and professional, because I think nearly every (if not ALL) college music programs require auditions and several performances each semester.

Many music programs even have requisite small groups that perform together all semester and you could possibly hire the entire group if it was in your budget.   As long as your wedding doesn't fall on the same day as any university performances, it should be fairly easy to find a music student to hire. I mean, really, what college student isn't looking to make extra money?  You could hire a student of virtually whatever instrument or vocal range you desired  It would most likely be cheaper to hire soloists, though, because I would assume that most students want to be paid individually instead of splitting a lump sum; because of this I think it would be best to hire a pianist or cellist or violinist instead of say, a trumpet player. After asking a few of my friends who were music performance majors in college, I came to the general conclusion that most would be happy being paid anywhere from $50-$150 per person to play at your ceremony.  I paid over $500 for a professional pianist, so you can see that hiring a student is significantly less expensive.

There are, of course, a few drawbacks to hiring a student musician. First of all, college students aren't always 100% the most dependable people so make sure that you thoroughly and completely explain all of your expectations about their responsibilities. Remember, besides the ceremony, most musicians need to be at the rehearsal as well. Have a legal contract drawn up if you have any doubts whatsoever about your musician.  Secondly, a student musician may have a more limited repertoire than a seasoned professional.  They should be able to handle any wedding standards and several classical pieces as long as you let them know many months in advance what pieces you want played, but don't expect them to be able to transpose and arrange a Ke$ha song.   Also remember that these young musicians are working very hard to succeed in their field, so please treat them with courtesy and respect. Don't be too much of a cheapskate when deciding on a price with them, because it does take a lot of time and effort to prepare for a performance, even if it is only a handful of pieces for a wedding ceremony.  And PLEASE don't forget to tip them if they go above and beyond everything you expected!

The second option, which is definitely the cheapest and what I would recommend for a less formal wedding, is to play recorded music from a cd or mp3 player. You can find a good wedding cd online for less than
The Knot Collection of Wedding Music
$20, and it will sound perfect every time (as long as you have a good working sound system).  Another advantage to this option is that you usually have greater variety and individuality than with hiring a musician.  You can literally find a string or piano version of every popular wedding song.  If you want Taylor Swift performed by a string quartet, you can find that! You can also mix up the instrumentation of your ceremony if you want to.  Personally, I think the flow is better if the instrumentation is the same all the way through, but if you want to go from piano to string quartet to guitar, you can do that.  Also, thanks to the wonderful internet age and mp3 downloads, you can pick exactly what songs you want and in what order you want them played instead of being stuck to the track listing on a cd.
VSQ Modern Wedding Vol. II

Classical Wedding Music on
Now, the drawbacks to using recorded music are pretty straightforward. You have to make sure your venue has a compatible sound system, and that you will be allowed to use it.  Most churches and indoor event spaces have sound systems that you can play a cd through or hook up to an mp3 player, so this shouldn't be a problem if you're having an indoor wedding.  However, if your wedding is outdoors you may have to rent a sound system, and that could end up costing more than it would to hire live musicians.  Of course, if your wedding ceremony is in the same space as your reception and you hired a DJ for the reception, they may be
able to handle the ceremony for an additional small fee. That brings me to another possible problem with using recorded music: you need to have someone you trust to play the right piece at the right time and who is technologically competent enough to work the sound system.  Also, it wouldn't hurt to have an emergency back-up sound system or other plan in case the one you are using fails (as technology and electronics frequently do).

One last thing: the reception music. I know some people try to save money by just hooking up an ipod to the venue's speakers, but that is really quite tacky and should only be done if you have an absolute shoestring budget and literally can't find the money anywhere to hire a DJ or band.  Of course, if you are going for a casual party feel for your reception, this may be acceptable, but I do recommend at least attempting to find a low cost DJ to hire.  And... if your wedding is in or close to a city/town with a college or university (notice a theme here?) you may be lucky enough to find a talented student DJ who will work for much less than a professional DJ company.  I know I went to a mid-size university (~16000 undergrad) and there were several well known student DJs who often played the local dance clubs.

This post brings me to the end of my planned series of tips, but soon I will be starting a weekly wedding series where I plan a new and unique mock wedding each week and post my ideas and rough estimate of prices!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Budget Wedding Photography

 I have to say that photography is pretty essential to wedding planning because you are going to want to have amazing pictures to capture your big day and remember it for years to come.

Since photography is so important, I'll start with some tips to to help you find an amazing photographer at a great price.  This is one area that you really don't want to skimp on and just have a family member or friend do (unless they are a professional photographer).  I'm not saying you can't get good photos done by a hobbyist or amateur, but for your wedding you really don't want to take any chances with the quality of your photography.  If you are lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area or somewhere with a local university, my first recommendation is to try and find a "young professional" photographer.  This is going to be someone that is either still a student, or very new in the field, but still has had proper training and education in photography.  You can usually get a good price from these young professionals because they don't have years of experience and are often are still trying to build their portfolios. Try using social media or online advertising to search for photographers, or post a notice in the art building of your local university.

"Experienced" professional photographers often charge $1000+ for wedding packages, but if you go with a young professional you will probably pay around half that depending on how many hours they will be photographing.  Similarly, you can use social media or other platforms to find an experienced "hobbyist" to act as photographer.  Ideally, this person will have been photographing weddings and events as a hobby for many years, but usually doesn't have the classroom training of a professional.  If you choose either a young professional or an experienced hobbyist, make sure you check out their portfolio and previous work to ensure that you will be getting a good end product.  Also, talk to them at length to get a good idea of their style and what ideas they have/will they work with your ideas.  You might find a good, low cost photographer who has a lot of technical skill but can only shoot dated and cliched poses.

For some examples of what to look for in a good young professional, check out the following links:
Elysian Fields Photography- NW OHIO
Polyrhythm Photography- Dayton/Cinci Area

Additionally, you may want to look into hiring a videographer to cover the ceremony and/or the early parts of the reception, ie: first dance, cake cutting, father daughter dance, bouquet toss, etc...
I only suggest this because I do regret not hiring a videographer because honestly, I don't remember a lot of my wedding day.  I was nervous and the whole day went by so fast that it is a blur in my mind.

Sorry for the lack of pictures in this post, but check out the links for some awesome wedding photography and ideas. I promise I'll post more in my next posts!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Devil in the Details- Budget Wedding Stationary

I think I'll wrap up this series of budget wedding idea posts with some tips to save money on all the little things.  The small details of a wedding can quickly add up, especially if you are inviting a large number of guests or want to add  personal touches to a lot of things.  As with everything before, I can't stress flexibility enough.  If you have your heart set on some exact, particular detail, you will probably end up paying more than if you keep a general idea of what you want and find the best deals on whatever goes with your idea.  Also, if you have a lot of time to plan and work on things yourself, you will definitely save a TON of money.

Since invitations are pretty vital to every wedding, I'll start with some ideas to save money on stationary.  Many people choose to send save-the-dates ahead of actual invitations, but this really isn't necessary.  You can cut down on costs by skipping this step and relying on word of mouth to let your friends and family keep their calendars open for your wedding day.  I haven't really found save the date cards for any cheaper than $0.80 per card, plus tax and the additional cost of envelopes and stamps.  I really do think that you will be fine with just sending invitations, but if you absolutely have to send save-the-dates, keep them small and simple to save on mailing costs, or DIY.
Michaels Elegant Swirls Invitations

As for the invitations themselves, DIY is going to be your best bet if you are looking for classy and elegant stationary at a budget price.  I used a BRIDES® invitation kit from Michaels, printed and assembled them myself, and they turned out absolutely gorgeous! If you pay extra, you could also order your invitations from, but I preferred the DIY method because it allowed me more control over exactly how my invitations looked.
When you buy the kit in a store, the packaging will have a website from which you can download the proper format for the invitations to use in your word processing program.  This is a good starting place to ensure that the wording on your invitations is formatted and spaced properly on the paper.

Glue pad for rubber stamps
If the tone of your wedding is more casual, you could also just buy some nice cardstock and ribbon to design and print your own invitations.  If you are good at arts and crafts and have ample time, you could dress up your plain cardstock invitations with a pretty stamped design; all you would need are stamps and a quality ink.  Most arts and crafts stores also carry clear glue "ink" that can be covered with glitter after being stamped on paper.  Another good way to dress up simpler invitations is to add a raised monogram using a custom embosser.  Most of these handy little stamping tools cost around $50-$75 and can be used on ALL of your wedding stationary (invitations, envelopes, response cards, thank you's, etc) as well as on paper favor bags and even napkins! Spring Monogram

Wedding programs are also rather important, but the same money-saving ideas from your invitations can also be applied to your programs.  Most stores like Michaels, JoAnn Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, etc..., carry DIY program kits. These are usually plain and simple but can be embellished with ribbons and charms, glitter, scalloped edges, and fancy fonts.  Again, you can start from scratch and DIY using all of your own supplies, but please please please at the very least use a good ivory or white cardstock and NOT plain computer paper (that just looks tacky and cheap).
Hopefully these ideas help you; please comment with any questions you have or if you have another good idea to save money on wedding stationary! Next up, music and photography ideas, then possibly some sample/mock budget weddings! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Budget Weddings: The DRESS!!

When I got engaged, the first thing I started thinking about was my wedding dress. I think I went dress shopping a week after he popped the question, ha!.  Clearly, finding a beautiful dress is super important when planning your big day. Dress shopping can be an amazingly fun time, or it can be a stressful nightmare (or a little bit of both :p ).  Luckily, I knew what general style and material I wanted so I wasn't completely overwhelmed when I got to the dress store.  I was still nervous however, especially because television shows like TLC's "Say Yes to the Dress" and "I Found the Gown"  love to show overly dramatic and demanding brides-to-be and their opinionated families.  I was working on a limited, just-graduated-college budget so I was also worried about finding THE DRESS within my price range.

My David's Bridal dress! ©Polyrhythm Photography

Taffeta Ball Gown from David's Bridal
My budget was a big factor in determining where I shopped for my dress.  I was afraid of visiting a big city bridal boutique because I didn't think I would find anything that would fit my budget. It's great if you have the budget to buy a $1500+ dress, but frankly I think that if is really ridiculous and wasteful to spend more than that on a dress you'll only wear once or twice (the wedding and possibly formal portaits).  That being said, I'm still a little bit embarrassed to admit that I bought my dress at David's Bridal.  I had went in with the preconceived notion that David's Bridal dresses were tacky, cheaply made, and looked "budget".  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with what I found! Yes, there were the ubiquitous cheap $99 satin dresses that I had imagined, but there were also some incredibly gorgeous gowns (including Vera Wang and other designers!)  The sales people were also helpful and offered tons of suggestions based on what I told them I had in mind.  Really, the only problem I had from start to finish was that they didn't take my measurements before ordering the dress and only went on how the sample fit, so I had to order a bigger size once my dress came in and I realized it was too tight in the bust.  So, ladies, if you buy your gown from DB, insist that they take your measurements!  I should also mention that my gorgeous lace gown (above) only cost about $850 total with the alterations I had done (taking in the waist and adding a bustle.)
David's Bridal One Shoulder Tulle

A few of my friends are planning their weddings, and I definitely recommended that they at least look at DB before they make any decisions.  It really is a good, quality budget bridal store.

Of course, there are a lot of other options for finding a great wedding dress.  I had no idea, but some department stores have a bridal selection! Depending on the store, you might be able to find your dress for a lower price than at a bridal boutique or DB (some also have more expensive dresses, though.)  For example, did you know that JC Penney (JCP) offers wedding dresses!?  Their selection isn't very large, but you still might be able to find the perfect dress for you or your bridesmaids there and manage to stay within your budget.  

JCP Strapless Beaded Wedding Gown
Another really budget friendly option is to buy your dress from a consignment store or thrift store.  It may take a lot more time and effort, but this is almost always going to be your least expensive option.  Bonus: You are also being eco-friendly by reusing a dress instead of buying new! 

Flaunt by Mori Lee - Prom
I have also heard a few people mention buying a white prom dress to wear as a wedding dress because they usually cost less than a "real" wedding gown, but I really don't know if I like this idea for the simple fact that most prom dresses look juvenile because that's how they are SUPPOSED to look. They are designed for high school girls and usually don't look elegant or classy enough to wear as a wedding dress.  
One last word of advice, whatever you do, please don't order your dress from the internet! I'll admit that you can get designer style dresses for incredibly cheap, but you are taking a HUGE gamble by ordering from a (usually) foreign company online.  You have no idea if the dress will arrive as described or what its condition, quality, or fit will be.  My cousin ordered her dress online at the last minute and when she received it, it was GRAY/SILVER and not white!! Talk about panic... just do yourselves a favor and save a little bit of stress by buying from a reputable store and trying on the dress in person.  Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.