How to Decide Which Big-Day Details to Spend the Most and Least On, According to Wedding Planners
The pros weigh in on what is and isn't worth a large chunk of your budget.
Here's the thing about wedding details: There are a lot of them to consider, which can make the event very special—and very expensive. "The details of a wedding help to make the event unique to the couple," says Samantha Seay Kesner, owner and lead planner of Jackson & June Events. "Details allow the couple to show and celebrate their personalities, both individually and together, to their loved ones. Maybe the couple met on a hiking trip so they name their tables after local hiking trails. Or maybe the couple loves to tend to their garden, so they give little succulents as party favors. The possibilities are endless—and because they're endless, the cost can also be endless, if you're not careful." With that in mind, we asked two planners to tell us the details that are well-worth your money, and the ones you can confidently cut back on.
Ultimately, if it's a detail that matters to you—whether or not the pros think it's worth splurging on it—you should go for it. It's your day, and if a multi-course meal with wine pairings, a jazz band, or late-night fireworks are of the utmost importance to you, you should allocate larger portions of your budget to those aspects of the party and save elsewhere.
Spend More on Food
"You definitely do not want your guests to go hungry on the dance floor because your caterer didn't cook the steak properly or let the chicken get cold," says Kesner. Plus, she adds, this is one detail you can get creative with: "Are you and your partner obsessed with brunch? Find a caterer that offers brunch food. Do you guys eat steak on every special occasion? Find a caterer that grills a mean steak. Personalize this very important detail." Though Kesner says food is incredible important, she does think you can save when it comes to dessert. Wedding cakes are "so expensive," says Kesner. "And guess what? Some of the most expensive cakes don't even taste very good. I always advise couples to find a local baker who does really beautiful work, but also focuses on good old home baking. These cakes typically taste better and are much cheaper."
Save on Favors
Kesner says wedding favors "are slowly becoming less popular. Think about it: Back in the day couples would fork out hundreds of dollars to have a personalized Champagne flute engraved for each guest. Yikes! Now, couples can order koozies, cookies, or tiny mason jars filled with local honey or jam for way less. Some couples are even opting out of giving out party favors, because they might just end up in the trash."
Spend More on Music
As Kesner points out, music "sets the tone to your entire party. If you settle for a band or DJ that doesn't care about your music preferences, you could be stuck listening to 'Cha Cha Slide' while you're eating your supposed-to-be-romantic dinner."
Save on Stationery
Sarah Crowell, an event planner with Mavinhouse Events, says you can (and should!) save on paper goods. "Save-the-dates are one area where digital can really be a budget saver," she says. "The job of notifying guests of a date is small, and you can reallocate that budget towards a velvet tie or a beautiful response card." The same goes for ceremony programs. "Most of the time, programs only live a short life before they end up on the trash can or scattered all over the venue," admits Kesner. "I would suggest the couple spend way less on this by creating one big 'program' with everyone's name on a chalkboard or printed sign, and putting it on an easel for everyone to see. That will cut back on litter, too." With all that being said, the pro does like to see a couple put a little more money towards the main invitations. "If you are looking to set the tone for your wedding up front, sending a beautiful invitation suite will impress," says Crowell.
Spend More Table Décor and Lighting
Guests are "up-close-and-personal" with your tablescapes, says Kenser, and because of that, they're worth more of your money. "Their eyes will only be a few feet from your centerpieces, china, table numbers, and more—so you absolutely want them to look nice," she says. Your linens are also important because they really set the tone of the room." Crowell agrees, adding, "Things guests will touch and feel, like a napkin, are worth spending money on." But if your guests won't be able to see all of those details you chose, there's very little point in putting money towards them. That's why the pros agree lighting is so essential. "While lighting may seem like a small consideration, neglecting it can make that beautiful design you've spent months creating look lackluster," warns Crowell. "Whether it is simple up-lighting, a ceiling of chandeliers, or moving dance floor lights, skimping here can really impact the mood you are looking to create."