Say Yes to the Dress Without Losing Your Shirt

It's the day you've grown up dreaming about and it's finally here. If you're like most Americans, you're preparing to spend a small fortune on your wedding. According to an average $28,427 was spent in 2012 on weddings at an hourly rate of $5,600. 

A wedding is a very personal moment. It's meant to be a time that we share our pledge of love and commitment with our friends and family, but how many times have you heard the brides and grooms of weddings past tell you that it went by so fast they can barely remember most of it. Most of what they remember is the work and sacrifice that went into the planning. Even the guests will tell you that their real interest in going to a wedding is the food, the party, and enjoying the moments they share with the couple.


So how can you lower the cost of your wedding and still have an amazing time? I caught up with Jessica Kuipers of Bijoux Events and asked the expert. As one of Santa Barbara's premier wedding coordinators, Jessica has been featured in such well known publications as the Los Angeles Times, Bridal Guide, and Style Me Pretty. Her answer was surprisingly the very same we give our own clients about saving money. Learn to prioritize effectively. 

She has several suggestions on ways to save that won't detract from the experience. 

"Quality over quantity" says Kuipers. Applying this principle across the board to your wedding will help you create the experience you want without the giant price tag. First, consider your guest list. "This is not the time to reconnect with people you haven't spoken to in years. Don't feel like you need to invite people to your wedding just because they had you at their's and don't include co-workers unless you have to." Jessica points out that when you thin your list from the average wedding size of 100 to 150 people down to a more intimate size of 50-75, you supercharge your savings on all your variable costs. You can look for a smaller venue, pay less per plate, and reduce your alcohol bill dramatically.

Mrs. Kuipers was quick to point out one of her golden rules for event planning. Keep your guests happy by always considering their comfort first. An outdoor venue might seem like a great idea and even inexpensive, but have you accounted for the cost of rented bathrooms? Temperature and accessibility are also key. I attended an early evening wedding in Georgia recently where the temperature was an issue to start with until we were surprised with popsicles. It was a creative, low cost way to keep everyone cool until the sun started to go down. There are some guests who move more slowly and sometimes with the aid of walkers, canes, prosthetics and wheelchairs. Your venue should offer the proper lanes and ease of mobility for these folks.

Jessica Kuipers - Bijoux Events

Jessica Kuipers - Bijoux Events

Use of a hotel should handle all your needs, but alcohol will generally have a significant markup whereas a private home, park, or lower cost setting should allow you to provide your own alcohol. Providing for a simple beer and wine offering can also keep your alcohol costs down. People who drink liquor tend to drink more. Alcohol is also consumed less during afternoon and weekday celebrations.   A private area will also require a rented kitchen to be built or setup. The alcohol savings versus the cost of the extra rentals could easily turn out to be a wash. 

Your decor should annunciate the natural surroundings. Spending money on quality lighting can go a long way to enhance the mood of your event, especially in the outdoors. Again, taking guest comfort into consideration is key. They'll be spending a great deal of time in their chairs and while covers aren't always necessary, finding good seats is a must. 

The timing of your wedding is another important factor. If you're willing to plan it for the off season, many vendors and venues will waive their minimums. Jessica recommends March as the best off season month. Lunch dining is always less expensive as well. One strategy to saving money and still having a great party is to promote a lunch reception with an after party for younger guests without children who are most interested in music and dancing.

For intimate gathering of 50 to 75, it's generally better to hold the reception at a restaurant. Consider buying out the restaurant for the night. You may be able to reduce your per person food costs to between $60 and $80. Don't forget about the gratuity though. It's often overlooked by couples until the night of their wedding and it can be a shocking number. 

To really drop the expense of food, offer your guests an appetizer and dessert menu only. You can create a very classy and light menu offering that keeps people satiated without the need for a sit down dinner and saves from the labor of setting up tables, renting dishes and glassware. 

Wedding Planner Jessica Kuipers

Wedding Planner Jessica Kuipers

There's no doubt that you'll want to preserve your day forever. Jessica explains that this is not a place to cut cost. Every wedding should have two photographers. "There's just no way one person can cover the entire event and all the special moments occurring around you." The highest expense in working with a photographer is in the albums they will offer. You can create these yourself and have fun doing it. Just be sure that you receive all the photos from the vendor to use as you wish. Make sure to complete your photo shoot before the reception so you can spend as much time with your guests as possible. 

Flowers are costly and perishable. They can accent an indoor setting but quite often, couples are led to believe they need more than they do. If your wedding is outdoors, highlight the natural beauty of the area. Using nature is free.

Nothing has a shorter life-cycle than a dress. You spend countless hours finding the right one, wear it for eight hours, hope that it dry cleans well, then preserve it in storage, never to be seen again. You're not going to wear it again. Your daughter isn't going to wear it because her tastes will be different. Seriously consider a dress rental. 

Favors are falling out of favor with couples these days. Nobody gives away favors anymore. They're tedious to make and often left behind. In short, your money is better spent elsewhere or not spent at all.

When it comes to music, DJs are normally less expensive than bands. Rehearsal dinners can be pot luck extravaganzas that you host out of a friend's home. It's considered fashion forward these days for the bridesmaids to wear whichever style dress they feel best suits their personal style. Brides merely need to send out a color palette to their entourage. 

Have a graphic designer friend? Invitations can easily and quickly be designed using sites like or MS Office software. Print them at your local printer using a heavy stock paper. 

Need help with labor? Put your friends to work barn raising style! You can accomplish nearly anything on the night of the rehearsal and the reward is the dinner afterward. 

With all these fantastic tips you might be wondering why you would ever consider working with a wedding planner. Jessica seems to have given away the farm on great advice, but she points out that your coordinator has relationships with vendors that you don't have and due to the volume of business she brings, they are able to offer discounts that you wouldn't otherwise receive. When it comes to hiring a wedding coordinator, "you get what you pay for. You'll run into young planners looking for experience and willing to discount their service, but their inexperience will be evident." Do you want someone learning how to do the job on your time? With over 300 weddings under her belt, Jessica Kuipers has the kind of experience that pays for itself in value and savings to your event.