When planning your wedding day, if you’re like most people, you must plan the event with a budget in mind. Weddings do not necessarily have to have an expensive price tag attached to them, and with careful planning and taking heed to a few tips from people familiar with how to plan for a wedding, costly mistakes can be avoided that will result in considerable savings.
Finding an Inexpensive Wedding Location
One of the first and probably the most costly item to plan for is the wedding location where you would like to have your ceremony held. There is an abundance of ceremonial venues available no doubt, but as you know, hundreds or even thousands of dollars can be spent on an ideal location. However, if you’ve considered having an outdoor ceremony, there are many suitable public areas such as state parks or recreational areas that allow marriages to take place free of charge.
For example, referring to the Lake Tahoe area in Northern California, an area of which I’m very familiar with, weddings take place daily in at least a half dozen locations on the south shore without charge. City and state parks are used and there is no compromise in the beauty of any of the settings just because it is free. These areas are picturesque and most suitable for a ceremonial event. The well-known truth “you get what you pay for” does not apply in this case.
Keep in mind, though, at these particular locations the ceremony is to be performed as what we call “stand-up weddings”. What this means is that chairs or arches or any type of structures cannot be setup, although a few chairs and some small decorating with flowers and the like are acceptable.
However, if you decide you would like to go all out and provide chairs for your guests, erect a finely decorated arch and lay a runner down for the bride to make that walk down the aisle of matrimony, quite a few of these sites will allow it if you apply for a permit. Applying for a permit in most cases is neither difficult nor costly. It is simply a matter of contacting the appropriate facility that oversees the site of interest and giving them the details they require.
In the Lake Tahoe area, the cost of the permit for the locations that many wedding planners use when coordinating a wedding can be as low as $15 and range up to approximately $350 in peak wedding season. This entire process of applying and paying for the permit can be done, in many instances, right over the phone. Or, if you want convenience, if you’re using a coordinator, they will provide this service, and the cost is usually included in their wedding package prices.
Professional Low-Cost Ministers
Another and sometimes costly but necessary item on the list of planning a wedding is obtaining a professional minister to perform the ceremony. Again, this cost can be minimal and fit within any budget if you just want simplicity. For example, in the Lake Tahoe area there are quite a few ministers who will travel to the wedding site, perform the service, and even issue and notarize the marriage license the day of your ceremony for under $200. This includes returning the completed license to the county clerks office where it will be recorded, making a certified copy available to you shortly thereafter. What’s more, finding these ministers can be as simple as conducting a Google search in the vicinity of your chosen venue.
Although acquiring the services of a licensed minister for under $200 seems rather low, with a small amount of time invested into researching their background and credentials, you can be assured that the quality of the ceremony will not be compromised. If you work with a reputable wedding coordinator, the research in many cases should already be done for you, though additional fees most likely will be paid to the coordinator for providing the service.
If you’re not working with a wedding planner and have concerns about the professional experience of a particular minister you are considering or want more than just an officiate who is merely licensed to perform ceremonies, don’t be afraid to ask him questions. Do a little probing into his history and see if he has a theological degree or other qualifications for ministering and if he has any affiliation with a local church. Although there are couples who place less emphasis on a minister’s background, knowing these things beforehand is a great comfort to many brides and grooms and makes the sacred event of their marriage more genuine.
Quality Photographers at a Discount
Photography is another area where huge savings can be acquired. Photographers in many areas are plentiful, and the competition is usually fierce. If you hire the services of a major photographic company, particularly one with a well-known reputation, you can expect to pay $1000 or more for your ceremony and reception. However, although a good reputation is quite desirable, there are alternatives to obtain the same quality product from reputable photographers at a discounted price.
The trick is in finding the less known photographers while maintaining excellence, which can ultimately cut the price in half. One way to accomplish this is to once again use the Google search engine. For example, type into Google’s search box the keyword phrase “Wedding Photographers” and add the city or town where your wedding is to take place to these keywords. From the search results, don’t look at just the top results or the fanciest websites. Rather, scroll down to the bottom of the page or go to the second page of the Google findings and make some phone calls. It’s a sure bet you’ll find a bargain photographer with an abundance of samples illustrating the quality of his work and capabilities.
Alternately, another method to find a great photographer without the high cost is to contact a wedding planner. Again, make a search in the area of your selected venue and ask a local coordinator for a recommendation. They usually have a list of low-cost but good photographers they work with, and though you’re not using their service, most don’t mind providing the information.
You’ll find in many cases that fees for shooting the ceremony can be done for a flat rate as low as $100, and the reception on an hourly basis ranging from $100 to $175 per hour. Although you won’t be given 500 pictures in a wedding album like many high-priced photographers may offer (which may be a little excessive anyway), you should receive ample photographs with the crucial moments of the entire event being captured. If you arrange for the photographer to be at the reception after cocktail hour and after dinner has been served—the time period when there are fewer photo opportunities—you will benefit from additional savings of hundreds of dollars.
The “small guys” will usually be happy to do this for you, and don’t think you’re getting short-changed on the quality of work. Just be sure to ask for their portfolio and confirm that it’s their own work. You may be surprised at the comparable—and often more superior—quality of work you’ll receive at a fraction of the cost.
Planning a wedding certainly isn’t an easy task. But with a little investigation into the options available and with a little help from those familiar with the business, big weddings with small budgets can be planned. Following some or all of the tips included here can amount to hefty savings, making your special day a little more special by knowing you’re getting the best of both worlds—the one you love and the wedding of your dreams at a price you can afford.