The Patriot News
ADVICE FROM THE PROS

Wedding Style Magazine 2010

by Janice Genger

Reprinted with the kind permission of The Patriot News

With today's average weddings running close to $30,000, budget-minded brides looking to save a few dollars should take heed to these pros' tips on how to get the most bang for your buck when planning your big day.

THE BRIDAL SALON
One of the best ways for brides to save money when shopping for a wedding dress, says Jill Brown, co-owner of Cocoa Couture in Hershey, is to leave most of her pals at home.

"When you bring a ton of people, there are so many opinions, and you end up buying a dress you don't love because you are trying to please everyone," she said.

If you insist on a large entourage, do some leg work. Visit the bridal store in advance with only your mother and narrow your choices to a few dresses you love that are in your price range. Often, brides take all their maids, who pull dresses with disregard to the price tag, Brown said. "It makes it difficult if you fall in love with a gown that a friend has pulled, but it's out of your budget."

More tips from Brown:
Start with trunk shows, a time when specific designers offer gowns at a discount. Cocoa Couture has trunk shows at least once a month, and many other bridal stores often have shows.

Sample sales are good for people with strict budgets. The dresses are sold wholesale or sometimes lower. If you are a size 10 or 12, you'll have the best chance at snagging a sample dress. Also, Cocoa Couture has a lot of plus-size samples because those styles tend to be discontinued more quickly, Brown said.

Don't buy off the Internet. While it's becoming quite a trend, women often hate the dress once they see it in person, Brown said. Twice as much money is then spent to purchase another dress. Most important: Buy a dress with a good foundation. Some dresses, although less expensive in the beginning, have nothing underneath, which costs more for undergarments and alterations. Buying a higher-end gown ends up being a cost saver.

THE PLANNER
When it comes to planning your wedding, not every bride and groom are excited to do it themselves. If you are thinking about hiring a wedding planner to plan the whole deal or just to help out with some details, Susan Moran of V&M Wedding Concepts said that dishing out the cash for a planner will save you some green in the end.

"Often, hiring a wedding planner, even though you are spending money, saves you money. That planner has relationships with vendors and knows how to get the best deals because it's what they do for a living."

More tips from Moran:
Be wary of planners who work solely with one or two reception locations. They might be getting a portion of the profits.

When contracting vendors, be very clear on what the contract does/does not include. Read the small print. If you are flexible with your date, have the wedding on a Friday or Sunday, but make sure all your vendors are willing to work that day.

Butler pricey hors d'oeuvres, while making the less expensive items available on a buffet.

Find a wedding location that calls for fewer flowers, such as a garden setting.

THE FLORIST
The most important cost-cutting measure when it comes to flowers, said Ronn Hackett of Blooms By Vickrey in Camp Hill, is to walk in the door with a budget.

"Share your budget with the florist right up front," he said. "We can work with that easier than if we would prepare a proposal from your ideas then have to make cuts."

Hackett also stressed that many times "less is more." A beautiful vase with just a few stems can make just as good an impression as a large arrangement. Think outside the box.

Other recommendations from Hackett:
Choose flowers that are in season or not popular. "Brides love the mango calla lilies in the fall, which puts them at a premium price. That same flower is cheaper in the summer," he said.

Don't pick from magazines. The growers often put a higher price tag on blooms that are featured in magazines because they know brides will ask for them. Shop for your own containers and supply them to the florist.

Choose interchangeable pieces such as an arrangement for the unity table that can be transferred to the bride and groom table at the reception. Or double centerpieces from the rehearsal dinner as ornaments for tables during cocktail hour at the wedding.

THE MUSIC
Many couples today are plugging in their iPods for reception music. And although Matthew Cleveland, owner of Occasions Disc Jockeys advises against it for numerous reasons, it could stand as a back-up for a way to save money.

"If you had already planned on going the iPod route, check with disc jockey's about a month before your wedding," he advised. "If they don't have a wedding for your day, they may discount the price to get a job at late notice."

Cleveland also offers this advice:
DJs will often give a discount on Friday nights or Sundays. During the week, you'll get an even deeper discount. Avoid holiday weekends such as Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc. You'll almost never see a discount during those times.

Keep in mind that most reputable disc jockeys work for a minimum of about four hours.

THE PICTURE
Kevin Hebert of Sweet Pea Photography says his best advice for the newly married is to buy the CD or DVD of high-resolution images from your wedding photographer along with the copyright release. Although costly at first, you won't have to choose which memories to keep from your wedding because you'll have them all.

"Having all of the images will allow them the right to make their own copies, if they so desire."

THE FOOD
When planning a wedding, couples should put the focus on the aspect that is most important, said Jennifer Delaye, CEO of JDK Catering.

"We have brides that are true foodies," she said. "It's all about the food and the experience, but for others, the catering may not be that important, so a simple buffet dinner will do."

Unless brides and grooms are working with an unlimited budget, everyone has a focus.

More tips from Delaye:
Do a buffet dinner but spice it up with a mashed potato bar or risotto bar. Put toppings like baby shrimp, sweet peas or goat cheese on the side. It takes regular buffet items to the next level.

Butler your hors d'oeuvres rather than stationing them. This controls costs, and you can get cool and have fun with it. Serve items like a teriyaki tenderloin sliver on Asian slaw sitting on a spoon or couscous with a single petite lamb chop. You'll spend the same money but get more value.

If you insist on a sit down dinner, it's hard to cut costs, but you can get more for your money. "If you are going to spend $50 a head for dinner, it's usually a salad, entree plate and breads and rolls," Delaye said. "But take that same $50, and go short plate style, which not only intrigues your guests butbecomes a home run for you."

A typical short plate dinner might consist of a petite plate of salad, maybe in a Parmesan cup followed by a pasta course, such as homemade gnocchi in a sage butter sauce. Next, a petite chicken breast over wild grain rice with two petite carrots. A small tenderloin would follow over Wasabi mashed potatoes with onions. Instead of a traditional bread basket, you might do gourmet breads in a cosmo glass for each guest.

This short plate style is very hot in the big cities because you seem to get so much more for the same amount of money.