Brides on a budget

By REBECCA SCHWAB

OBSERVER Staff Writer

With “DIY” all the rage, what’s a girl to do when she doesn’t want to do it herself?

Some studies show that the economy is recovering, but for most people, financial worries are far from over. Among those feeling the pinch are the newly-engaged trying to pull off the professionally-vendored wedding of their dreams, complete with all the details that will make their day special.

“The success of any event is in the planning,” Christine Huff, catering sales manager and events planner of the Clarion Hotel, explains. “When you have the time to plan for and work around any issues that may arise, you can have a beautiful wedding without going over your budget.”

And the first part of that plan, Huff says, is to figure out what the wedding budget actually is. Then, a bride should enlist the help of a friend or family member who “loves (her) enough to make sure (she) sticks to it!”

“It’s so easy to go over your budget,” Huff says. “I’ve seen it time and again. To ensure that you have the wedding you want, prioritize aspects of the wedding that are most important to you. If you compromise on some things you can splurge on others. Figure out where you want to be extravagant.”

The next step, after setting spending caps and deciding where money will be spent and where it can be saved, is to contact trusted vendors who will act professionally and keep their clients’ best interests in mind. After all, a wedding day cannot be replaced. It should be important to everyone involved, including the vendors.

“The experience of professional vendors is an asset,” Huff says. “They can help you when you need to get creative because of budget issues.”

Mike Mleczko, owner of Flowers by Anthony in Dunkirk, agrees that planning in advance can only benefit the bride.

“To any bride, I would say contact your florist as soon as you know your date, and order early. Give the florist enough planning time to get you what you want. Your florist will be able to work within any budget, but price comes down to the type of flower.”

Mleczko is the perfect example of how professional vendors can help keep a bride within her budget, and of how the experience of a vendor pays off:

“If the bride keeps choosing expensive flowers and is going over her budget, we sit down with her and talk about less expensive flowers she can substitute that will still give her the look she wants,” he explains.

Huff also says that brides can save money by having a clear idea of what they want. They shouldn’t start buying things until they have decided on the look or theme that they are going for that way, they aren’t wasting money on decorations or supplies that they don’t end up using.

“If you have a vision or a theme, and you have time to plan, you will save money because your spending will be focused,” she says.

Brides who want an elegant experience for their guests, but who don’t want to break the bank, should also look for venues or caterers that offer flexibility in their options. Julie Kulpa, in charge of advertising and fundraising at the Sheridan VFW, has helped her share of brides choose budget-friendly menu options that still leave guests raving about the food.

“Our menu is elegant and extensive,” she advises. “We can work within any budget. It can be as cost-conscious or as elegant as you want, all the way up to lobster tails. Make sure your caterer has a flexible menu.”

Huff agrees, and adds that brides can look for venues that sell bundled services or include extras in their prices. At the Clarion, Huff makes sure to include amenities that give brides the best value for their money, like a hospitality suite, a honeymoon suite, and a free ceremony space for up to 100 guests.

Brides can look for things to do “double duty” elsewhere, too, like favors that also work as place settings, or table markers that are also decorations.

In addition to the experience and knowledge of so many local vendors, it’s also important to note that the rates of the vendors and venues in Chautauqua County are far lower than those found in larger cities. Huff has worked with several brides who are from the area but have since moved away, and have chosen to come back home for their weddings.

“If people come back here to get married, they can have elegant weddings without the hefty price tags,” she says.

Huff recalls one bride who saved over $50 per guest by choosing not to have her wedding in a big city. And even with a reasonably small guest list, that savings really adds up!

Every bride wants her wedding to be amazing and memorable. When engaged couples devise budgets, give themselves plenty of planning time and work with trusted and experienced vendors, they can make their plans a reality without accruing the kind of debt that will take years to pay off.

“The most important thing to remember,” Huff says, “is that money doesn’t make a wedding special. It’s paying homage to the personalities of the bride and groom that make the day stand out.”

Send comments to rschwab@observertoday.com