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helping brides create beautiful weddings without breaking the bank


As a wedding planner I have to take on many roles in a days work.  One of those roles is frequently Financial Advisor.  Hands down, this is always my clients’ biggest concern, especially when planning in New York City.  I can totally understand why, since the wedding industry is now a multi-million dollar beast.  But being on a tight budget doesn’t have to mean giving up your wedding dreams or DIY-ing until your fingers are permanently covered in Modge Podge.  Here are my Dos and Don’ts for those dreaded budget talks.

wedding budget dos and donts

DO invest in an amazing photographer – The first thing to do (after creating your guest list – because, really, you can’t find a venue until you have an idea of how many people you’re inviting) is to create your budget.  Sit down with your fiancé and the wedding financiers and discuss what is most important to you as a couple.  Now, I know this is different for everyone, but the one thing I ALWAYS advise people NOT to skimp on is the photographer.  Here’s why: after all the wine has run out, the food devoured, flowers tossed and dress preserved the most priceless memento from your wedding will be the pictures.  Trust me when I tell you, the day goes by so fast that it’s impossible to remember every detail (unless you’re Sheldon Cooper). A great photographer can capture those moments that you may have missed.

Picture this if you will: Your grandmother tears up as you walk down the aisle but your eyes are glued on your man.  A good photographer will have preserved that moment for you to see later.  Or perhaps, your fiancé was anxiously waiting before entering the ceremony; how else would you know about those adorable nerves if not for the photo? (Because you know he’ll never admit it)  Do yourself a favor and dedicate a sizeable chunk to your wedding photographer.  Do you ever regret amazing pictures? (I’m guessing ‘No’)


DON’T overspend on your Venue/Food & Beverage – Most people/planning apps, etc will tell you to dedicate the largest portion of your budget to the venue and food.  And it’s easy to spend enormous amounts on food and beverage, because it ain’t cheap!  But if you’re on a tight budget, it’s best to cut down on all those foodie heaven bells and whistles.  Sorry, that means your mashed potato bar gets cut.  If you still want stellar food (and who doesn’t?) cut back on the cocktail hour and invest more in the actual dinner.  After all if you’re spending the equivalent of a car payment on a seated dinner or buffet, you want people to eat it!  And they won’t if they’ve filled up during the cocktail hour.  Keep it simple, too.  The less exotic the food or more simple the preparation; the more budget friendly it will be.  Stick to beer & wine and a signature cocktail to keep alcohol costs down.  Remember, people don’t come JUST for the food – they want to celebrate and party with your amazing selves!


DO invest in great music (or at least a great playlist) – a great DJ or band will get people out of their seats before you can say “DANCE BREAK!” And once everyone is dancing their pants off; they’ll forget all about the fact that you didn’t have that shrimp tower. (note from the editor: A budget friendly option would be to set up a Spotify playlist (save that free 1-month trial for your wedding day to cut the commercials) and appoint a friend to Emcee your event on the cheap!)


DON’T focus on labels – Yes, I mean designer labels.  It’s SO easy to get caught up in wedding runway fashion and dream of going to Kleinfeld’s (you know, Say Yes to the Dress).  There are plenty of small wedding boutiques that cater to many different budgets.  And hey, you’re supporting the small business economy.  If you’re absolutely set on a designer dress there are some wallet friendly alternatives. Online stores such as Nearly Newlywed, Once Wed, and offer deep discounts to either purchase or rent.  Some of their selections even include the wedding greats such as Amsale, BHLDN, Jenny Packham, Monique Lhullier and yes, even Ms. Wang.

And this goes for the gentlemen too, there’s no need to go splurging on a custom suit or tux when the dollars are tight and there are so many more affordable options.  (Even if he claims he has awkward measurements)


DO consider a florist.  It always scares me when brides say they don’t need a florist.  Maybe their aunt knows where to get them from the farmers market or they think it’ll be a fun project the morning of the wedding.  It won’t be, I swear.  From a planning perspective, this leaves SO much room for error.  What if the flowers you love are out of season?  How will you store them? Where will you store them? How will everyone get his or her flowers?  What will the centerpieces be displayed in?  How much do the vessels cost in which to display them? I could go on.

I completely understand that flowers can be expensive.  (I’m understating here)   But a really, truly great florist will be able to create something wonderful from the smallest of budgets.  You don’t need a huge bridal bouquet.  It’s romantic with even a small nosegay; and once you’re dancing you won’t be holding it anyway.  And the same goes for bridesmaids; a few long stem roses or a bunch of hydrangea can go a long way.  Centerpieces? Ask your florist to use fuller flowers to pack a larger punch.  And candles.  Candles go a loooooong way.  Or scrap the centerpieces all together and do something more personal like display photos of you as a couple, pictures of you both growing up or even books that you love.  I love helping clients think outside the box!


DO Hire a wedding planner – Yes, this is the very FIRST thing people cut when they’re on a budget and it makes my heart cry. It’s quite possibly one of the biggest wedding mistakes you can make, especially on a budget.  Despite popular belief, wedding planners are NOT just for the rich and famous. In fact, a knowledgeable wedding planner can actually save you money.  Yes, I said SAVE YOU MONEY.  This is because we already know the industry ins and outs.  We can tell you, ‘Hey that loft space is going to require a lot more rentals than your budget allows but how about this venue?’ Or, ‘I see on your Pinterest board you wanted to make those adorable cookies wrapped in a monogramed box.  I know the perfect supplier for the cookies AND the boxes will be cheaper than going to a craft store’.

Not only can we tell you how and where to save money but we’re also the ones who will artfully set up all your DIY projects and décor details exactly as you want them so your mom can enjoy seeing you get into your dress. (In fact, at Private Receptions, we’ve even helped our brides with their DIY projects) Buses running late?  We’ll be there to let the venue and other vendors know so that you don’t walk down the aisle as your guests are pulling up.  You see, wedding planners exist to make your planning process, and consequentially your wedding day, as stress free and fun as possible; no matter the budget.  And we want your family and friends to sit back and enjoy it too! I promise, you won’t regret being able to enjoy every moment of your day and not lift a single finger. (Except for a toast of course!)




Lauren Ricciardelli is a city girl with southern charm.  President & Creative Director of Private Receptions; a boutique wedding planning firm, she specializes in marrying sparkle (trends) with charm (tradition) to bring each couple's love story to life.  Private Receptions serves NYC, Hilton Head, SC and are also available for destination weddings. We can't wait to work with you to help create your happily ever after!
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  • Jennifer

    Wedding photographer here — LOVE this! You hit the nail on the head with EVERY point here and I second each and every one!
    Especially about the wedding photographer …

    I had a few friends in the past, since I started my wedding photography business, who opted to not hire me nor another pro and have a friend or family member do it as a gift or for a really good “deal”. I can’t describe the personal pain I felt when I saw their photos posted online … ouch. I could tell that these were beautiful weddings, they put so much time and effort into all the details. But the photos … dark, blurry, grainy, off center, cringe-worthy!

    NO details photographed, just standard “posing”, no ‘real’ moments and the ones that were, well, blurry and dark or overexposed with an improperly used flash.

    SO much goes into your day and it’s over before you know it. You spend the money on the details. Spend the money to preserve them. Too many have told me they regretted not hiring a professional. You can always find someone in your budget. Even I did. I can’t afford MYSELF. But, I know lots of friends who do photography for weddings … and I was lucky to have someone who was willing to cut us a huge deal with a partial “gifting” of the overall cost. Look around and shop – even looking for a professional who offers a smaller package who would shoot for fewer hours or cut out the prints in the package in exchange for more time shooting, or work with a budget and payment plan … get creative, interview them, and find out who will help meet you half way. I do it for my brides, knowing that a budget is a big reality today. But I’m an investment.

  • Cassie

    I do not agree with the florist point. No one needs a florist, especially if you only plan on using one for bouquets. Come on, no wedding needs to be 30,000. This guide may help someone save 100$ at the most.

  • Vicky

    The problem with this advice is it doesn’t really work with a budget wedding. Florists and flowers themselves are expensive, and a wedding planner? Seriously? On a budget? This just sounds like average wedding planning advice.

    • Hitch

      I am a wedding planner myself and you HAVE to have one. If you don’t then mom, aunt, grandma, or friend gets stuck with the stress, freaks out, and doesn’t enjoy the big day with you. What if, for example, something goes wrong with the caterer or flowers? Wouldn’t you want your wedding planner on the phone with them for thirty minutes instead of you crying, messing up your makeup, and stressing out over it? Wouldn’t it just be easier to show up, relax, and let someone else do all the work? I think its worth every penny!!

  • Beck Altarr

    Note to the Editor: Using Spotify is ILLEGAL. As is any type of online music service. Check their terms of service. No one should be promoting illegal activities in such a blog. That is part of the reason some DJs & Bands cost more than others. They pay for the legal right to play the music they do.

  • Jaqui mallett

    Whew, I am happy to say that I am following all of these rules to the T (except the wedding planner – sorry! I appointed a VERY organized friend that is not in my bridal party to coordinate the day of, but I also planned my wedding 18 months in advance to give us plenty of time to get the best deal).

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