Archive for the ‘Budget and Finance’ Category


One of the things I stress the most with my clients is that there are NO re-dos of your wedding day!! If you choose a sub-par photographer, you WILL regret it!!

Did I make that point clear?? ūüôā I’ve heard so many horror stories from people (who were NOT my clients) about how terrible their wedding pictures turned out and their disappointment can hardly be contained. Too many people think owning a “really good camera” means they are now a “photographer”. That could hardly be further from the truth.

Over and over again, I hear this, “Oh, my friend is a great nature photographer and has a really good camera, so they are going to take our wedding photos.” Great! It will save you some money, but trees, flowers, mountains, etc……these aren’t weddings. Weddings are fluid and moving. Getting a group of 30 family members to all look at the camera, at the same time?? That takes experience and patience. And you only get one chance to capture that first kiss on camera. You better bet you want the person behind the lense to be experienced with weddings.


Photo by Quinn Photography

I’m not going to lie……good photographers cost money…..period! And you get what you pay for. Experience matters when it comes to your special day. If someone is offering an “amazing” price that seems too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true. On average, in the Sacramento region, a good wedding photographer will cost between $3500 – $6500, depending on what services and products you need.

By now you are probably saying, “Well, why does this cost so much? They only spend a few hours taking pictures.” Ummmmmm……no! First, with digital photography, we now have the ability to tell a complete story of our wedding day, something I wish was available when I was married almost 23 years ago. You are going to want the photographer there to document the entire day, from the time you are getting your hair and make-up done, to the moment you step into that amazing vintage car and are whisked away from the reception. From ceremony start time to reception’s end, the average wedding is 5-6 hours long. Then add in about 2 hours for the getting ready photos and another 1 1/2 to 2 hours for pictures before the ceremony starts, and you are getting into quite a long day. And because digital cameras allow the photographer to shoot thousands of pictures of just your wedding day, it will take he or she days (uninterrupted) to review all those photos to delete the blinks or less than perfect lighting. Then, when you factor in the amount of time they spend editing those photos in Photoshop afterwards to crop them just so, or adjust the lighting just right, they are probably barely making minimum wage on your wedding. And don’t forget the time they spend meeting with you beforehand, shooting your engagement photos, or designing your wedding album.

View More: http://kristyweldonphotography.pass.us/patricejoewedding

Photo by Kristy Weldon Photography

So how do you go about finding the perfect photographer for your wedding? First, your coordinator can provide you with some good recommendations. We are fortunate enough to have some amazing photography talent here in the Sacramento area, and I’ve been privileged to work with many of them. I have an extensive list of photographers that I recommend to my clients based on their styles and needs. You can also ask friends and family members who they used for their wedding. Just make certain to see their finished album so you can see whether or not this photographer’s pictures style is right for you. Looking at a photographer’s website is also a good start, but remember, this is just a small representation of their best photos.

Once you have narrowed down your list, it’s time to start meeting with photographers. Most have various packages depending on your needs, but if you don’t see one that meets yours, ask if they can put together one that does. Most contain an engagement session. I highly recommend doing an engagement session as this allows the photographer to spend some quality time getting to know you and your personalities. This also gets you more comfortable with the photographer’s working style and makes wedding day pictures go much more smoothly. Ask to see many different albums from many different weddings. This will allow you to see a complete wedding, from start to finish. Also, make certain that the photographer has lots of good quality photos both inside and outdoors. Many houses of worship forbid flash photography during wedding ceremonies. Many photographers can get great lighting outside, but it takes a talented photographer, who knows how to use his/her camera and lenses, to take great indoor pictures.


Photo by Everlasting Images

Ask if the photographer is bringing an assistant, or second shooter as we often refer to them. Having a second photographer makes sure that all angles are covered on wedding day. One photographer can capture the bride walking down the aisle, while the second can capture the groom’s priceless reaction.

Photos by Jacqueline Photography

Do invest in a package that includes an album. Many couples decide they can “save money” but just using the photographer’s “digital” package. This is usually all the edited photos on a CD or flash drive. Most of these couples think they will just take these digital pictures and have an album made later, but that rarely happens. This is one of the most important days of your life! Don’t leave the memories sitting on a CD or flash drive. Put them into something that you (and your future generations) will truly cherish for years to come.

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Photo by Andrea’s Images Photography


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Once you have established your budget, figured out an approximate wedding date, and hired your coordinator, the next step is to find a location for your wedding. There are many things to consider. First and foremost, is to figure out your wedding theme or style. Many of us dream of getting married outside with an amazing mountain view, while others picture an elegant mansion for their nuptials. Some think a quaint farm while others think an urban loft.

Whatever your theme, always remember NOT to compare apples to oranges. What do I mean by that? Well, the first question you will most likely ask is, “How much does your venue cost?” That question really needs to be followed with, “What services does this price include?” You may be able to rent a hall “really cheap” but it only includes the blank space and maybe some tables and chairs that you need to set up yourself. Still you’re thinking, for only $1000, that’s still a great deal compared to the $15,000 that full-service venue, with in-house catering, wants. However, now you need to rent linens, china, glassware, a bar, and those chairs are really ugly…….time to rent chair covers! It adds up super quick, and you haven’t even added in the cost of catering or alcohol.

Some people think the best solution is having the wedding at their home or property. Sounds great and you don’t have to pay a rental fee……should be MUCH cheaper, right??? WRONG!! Wedding expenses add up quickly. First, you are starting with a blank space…..no tables, no chairs, no linens, no china, no glassware, no dance floor, no bars….and if you think the 2 bathrooms in your house are going to be enough for your 150 guests, think again. Can your house’s plumbing really handle the needs of 150 people? Most cannot and therefore, you will need to rent restroom trailers (not porta potties…..this is a wedding not a camping trip). In addition, what are your local noise ordinances? Where will all these people park? What about electrical for the DJ and catering? Who is going to set all these tables, chairs, linens, etc. up? And finally, who is going to clean this mess up and will you be able to fit all this garbage in your rather small garbage can? My experience has been, the more a venue provides, the happier my clients have been and they often save the most money in the end.

Weather is definitely another factor to consider when choosing your venue. Here in the Sacramento area, we are blessed with pretty amazing weather and can almost guarantee there will be no rain during the summer months. However, Spring and Fall can still sneak in a rain shower or two so having a venue with a back-up plan is a MUST. I highly recommend a venue with both indoor and outdoor spaces, just in case, during these months. Another factor to consider is the heat. You need to provide adequate shade for your guests, either with umbrellas, a tent, or trees. However, if you are depending on trees for shade, it is EXTREMELY important to visit the reception space during the actual time of your reception. The sun shifts all day long and so does your shade. A space that is nicely shaded at 10:00 in the morning, may be in direct sunlight by 4:00 in the afternoon. If the sun isn’t setting until close to 9:00 pm, your guests will be miserable and burnt to a crisp by the time your wedding is over.

Finally, one questions I always ask, that most couples forget, “What is your policy on open flame?” Often, I come into my clients’ planning process after they have booked their venue. Their “vision” for the wedding includes a beautiful candle lit reception. However, they are shocked to learn, after I have visited the venue and asked more detailed questions, that no open flame is allowed. Their vision suddenly goes up in smoke! Sure, you can use those LED candles, but they tend to be more expensive and nothing can compare to the real thing. Each venue’s policy on candles is different and it is important to ask this question BEFORE you book or you could be very disappointed later.

That’s all for today’s blog post. Over the next few weeks, we will start talking about booking the vendors (DJ, florist, cake, etc.). Until then, happy planning!

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Happy New Year and welcome 2016! How many of you got engaged over the holiday season? It’s a very exciting time in your life, but now that the excitement has worn off, the real work begins…….planning your wedding day!

Most couples start with an exact date in mind, but I strongly advise against that. Instead, chose a “time of year” and be a bit flexible within that time frame for your wedding date. Many couples who become engaged over the holiday season, have visions of getting married “that Spring” or “this Fall”. Problem is, many of the venues and vendors that you want, are already booked. In the Sacramento area, May/June and September/October tend to be the most popular times to get married. It makes sense as the weather is usually pleasant (and most likely rain free) with temperatures that aren’t too hot compared to July and August. If you are flexible in the your dates, you have a better chance of still getting married “that Spring” or “this Fall” as are there are at least a few openings left. They just might not be your “first choice” of dates.

Next, sit down and talk budget. What is your budget for this wedding? My experience shows that most weddings are a combination of the bride’s parents, groom’s parents, and the couple all contributing to the wedding costs. The average wedding in the Sacramento region costs between $25,000 and $30,000. Now, pick yourself up off the floor from fainting and gather your thoughts. What does this include? How can I cut back on this?

Which brings me to my next step…….hiring a coordinator! Yes, I know….of course I am going to say hire a coordinator. I AM a coordinator! But I am honestly telling you that I usually save my clients money in the end, most often covering the cost of¬† what my fees were. Why??? Because this isn’t my first wedding “rodeo”. I’ve seen it all and know what a wedding needs, and what it does not. I know venues and vendors you don’t. It sounds like I’m being a bit pretentious, but I’m simply being honest. I’ve been building up my resources and knowledge on weddings in this area for years. I am going to be honest with you when it comes to why certain things will or will not fit your budget.

In my first planning meeting with clients, I ask them to tell me 2-3 things that are the MOST important to their wedding day. It could be great food, great entertainment, best photographer, lots of flowers, etc. Whatever your 2-3 most important priorities are, that’s where you should focus the majority of your budget. If you make those few things really shine, the other areas you spent less on will hardly be noticed by your guests. The other STRONG suggestion I make to my clients is be reasonable about your guest list. The more guests you have, the more it will cost. That’s just basic math. Think about it, how well do you REALLY know your 4th cousin that you met once when you were 3 years old? Do you REALLY think they will be offended if you don’t invite them? Chances are, they probably won’t. When making a guest list, stick to the people who matter in your life. If your parents are “insisting” that the 4th cousin be invited, then they need to be prepared to add more funds to the budget.

I’ll end today’s blog post here. In my next week’s post, I will talk about the next step…..venue search and selection. Until you know where the wedding will be, it’s virtually impossible to plan the rest of it.

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Having been in the wedding industry for quite a few years now, over and over, I see things that end up being a complete waste of a couple’s money and resources.¬† For some reason, couples get it into their heads that they MUST have these things at their weddings.¬† Well, I’m hear to tell you that these MUST have items are usually a complete waste of money.

Number one item on my list……disposable cameras on the tables.¬† COMPLETE waste of money.¬† Nine times out of ten, you end up with a bunch of half-used cameras.¬† You’ll find yourself finishing up those rolls of film on pictures¬†of your pets instead :).¬† Then when you get the pictures back from the developer, you be lucky if you have more than ten “nice” ones (probably the ones you took of your pets, not the ones¬†from the wedding) in the bunch.¬† Oh, and as guests have more and more to drink, the pictures get weirder and weirder.¬† By the time you add up the cost of the cameras plus the cost to develop the film, you’ve wasted hundreds of dollars.¬† My advice, use that money towards upgrading your professional photography.

Favors that aren’t food.¬† As I’m clearing and cleaning up tables after a wedding reception, if the favor isn’t food, it’s often left behind by the guest.¬† Trust me, your guests don’t care about your favorite songs on a CD or a personalize picture frame of you.¬† These items will either get left behind or simply thrown away when the guest gets home.¬† Now, items that are¬†the exception to this¬†seem to be¬†candles and flower seeds.¬† Those do tend to be taken by the guest.¬† When designing your favor, do try to put yourself in your guest’s shoes.¬† Think about what you would want to take home as a favor if your were the guest.

Personlized cocktail napkins.¬† They are cute to have at the bar but most guests won’t even notice them.¬† The drink is usually served with the glass on top of the napkin.¬† Save yourself some money and just let the venue provide the cocktail napkins instead.

Programs.¬† Another item that is usually left behind in the ceremony seat.¬† Programs can be very useful if the majority of your guests are not familiar with your religious or cultural customs.¬† However, the majority of the weddings I’ve attended do not have this issue.¬† So, unless your ceremony is a particularly long, complicated one or requires a lot of “crowd participation”, like responding to prayers or songs, then don’t bother with this extra expense.¬† Use the extra money towards upgrading your invitations instead.

These are just a few ways that deleting some less important items from your wedding can add up to a big windfall in your overall budget.

Happy Planning!


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A fun way to kick off your wedding reception is by offering your guests a signature cocktail.  A grouping of the same beverage looks amazing when passed butler style by the wait staff on a tray.  It also adds a formal and elegant feel to your reception. 

How do you choose your signature cocktail?¬† First think of something that might be a favorite of yours, or has special meaning (like a drink you and your significant other had on your first date).¬†¬† Or it might be more fun to make a drink that coordinates with your wedding colors or theme.¬† Another idea is to¬†serve a signature cocktail that fits your venue….margaritas or mai tais¬†for¬†the beach, martinis or cosmopolitans for¬†the ultra-urban sheik venue, etc.¬† Use your imagination and have fun with it!

The other thing that signature cocktails can do is cut your bar costs.¬† My clients are always shocked and amazed at just how much money a fully-hosted bar is.¬† It can add up to the same costs as your food!¬† However, it is very distasteful to have a no-host bar at your reception.¬† You wouldn’t charge your guests to have a beer at your backyard BBQ now would you?¬† The same goes for your wedding reception.¬† By offering a signature cocktail during the cocktail hour, along with beer and wine, then going to a beer and wine only bar for the remainder of the reception, you can significantly reduce your bar costs.¬† Another option is to simply offer only the signature cocktail at during the cocktail hour (along with non-alcoholic options) and then no more alcohol after that.¬† Some worry that guests will be offended if they can’t order up their favorite cocktail from the bar.¬† My answer to that is…..this is your party, and you decide what is being served.¬† If they so desperately need that special drink, they can visit a bar on the way home :).¬†

Seriously though, a signature cocktail can add a layer of fun and sophistication to your reception causing most guests to not even miss that full bar.

Happy Planning!


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My latest issue of Modern Bride (Oct/Nov) arrived in the mail today.  As usual, I tossed aside the bills and junk mail and immediately starting devouring the magazine.  Right away an article caught my eye and I just had to read it.  The name of the article was called What it Really Costs to DIY.  It was about a bride who did most of her major vendors work as DIY projects.  She made her own floral arrangements and wedding cake.  No DJ but a play list instead.  Things like this.  She seemed to think that she save tons of money, but as a professional wedding planner, I knew better.

Let’s start with the stationery.¬† She spent about $650 on her stationary.¬† Immediately I thought to myself, but I know professionals who could have made those for her, for less money.¬† And, she wouldn’t have dealt with frustrating printer jams and the trouble of ordering new stationery when the first batch was the wrong color.

The same with the cake and flowers.¬† By the time it was all said and done, she spent $350 on cake supplies and $1400 on flowers and supplies.¬† I know a professional who could have made a cake and even delivered it for what she paid, without all the hassle.¬† The same with the flowers.¬† I know several floral designers who could have worked within her budget and made her some¬†amazing arrangements and bouquets.¬† In the end, she seemed a bit disappointed in how her DIY flowers turned out.¬† A floral designer knows where to get the best flowers and how to make them look fabulous!¬† Plus, there is no stress on the bride’s part in those all important and hectic few days before the wedding.

The other two vendors, DJ and photographer,¬†she certainly did save¬†some of money but at what cost.¬† I’ve mentioned this in previous posts but not having a good DJ at your reception is a recipe for disaster.¬† This bride¬†did mention that there were awkward pauses between songs.¬† Also, who was making the announcements?¬† Trust me, just because a person can talk does not mean they are a good emcee.

I think the DIY photography scares me the most.¬† After all is said and done, the flowers are wilted and the dress is put away, the pictures are what you take with you (oh, and your new spouse too ūüôā ).¬† But seriously,¬†the¬†photograpy is¬†what you have to preserve the memories of your very special day.¬† If you have a professional photographer as a friend or family member, then that’s great.¬† But most of us don’t have that.¬† Even this bride¬†mentions that she was worried so she gave her SLR camera to a friend as a back-up.¬† She also admitted that most of the photos on the disposible cameras were not very good.¬† I usually warn my clients against putting the disposable cameras on tables because of this very reason.¬† I haven’t found one person yet who was happy with how those pictures turned out.¬† Those things cost the author $120, which¬†she could have either pocketed or put towards something else.¬† In the end, it sounds like she was happy with the pictures that both her family member and friend took but honestly, she took a big risk!

Someone reading this might think I’m against DIY wedding projects altogether and I’m actually¬† not.¬† I¬†am so excited¬†when I have a creative bride who can add some wonderful personal touches to her wedding and I strongly encourage it.¬† I recently had a bride who made some great looking decoupage candle holder/lanterns to line the ceremony aisle and they were a huge hit.¬† In fact, as I was setting up the ceremony, another couple came through to do a tour of the venue and the bride-to-be LOVED them.¬†¬†DIY projects like this can¬†give¬†your wedding a personal and unique touch.¬† The creative person in me is always doing lots of DIY stuff for my own parties,¬†around my own home,¬†or for gifts at Christmas, etc.¬† But when I read this article, I just kept saying to myself, “For the money she spent, I could have found a professional to do that, without all the hassle.”¬†

The moral of this story is pick and choose your wedding DIY’s carefully.¬† Really research the costs, time, effort, and consequences before deciding to go the DIY route for your major vendors.¬† You only do this once and there are no do-overs or rewinding on wedding day.

Happy Planning!


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These days, wedding budgets are getting tighter and tighter.¬† We are all having to make do with less.¬† So how can you still have a beautiful wedding without the “bridal magazine wedding” budget.¬† My favorite decorating secret is candles….LOTS of candles!

Candles add two things to a room…..sparkle and drama!¬† A candle lit room is very romantic and amazing.¬† Just think how beautiful your evening reception will look with the lights dimmed low and a room full of candle light.¬† I especially like to combine them with my other favorite decorating secret….rose petals.¬† Rose petals can add a beautiful floral element to your decor for very little cost.¬† It’s amazing what you can do with the combination of these two items.¬† For example, in the picture below, we placed a pillar candle (with cover) on top of a round mirror.¬† They we sprinkled a thick layer of pink rose petals around the edge of the mirror and added a few more votive candles on the outside of the ring.¬† It looked amazing and these centerpieces were extremely inexpensive!


Another creative way to use rose petals, in combination with candles, is to put 2 rose petals in the bottom of a votive candle holder.  Then put a tea light in the holder.  Place a group or line of votives on a table and lightly sprinkle more rose petals around the candles.  The look is really dramatic and edgy!


Mixing and matching different colors of candle holders is also a great look.


Candles, along with rose petals, can dress up an otherwise dull and boring cake table.  In the picture below, we put a thick half circle of pink rose petals around the cake and then added votive candles for more drama and sparkle. 


In this next picture, we just went wild with candles.  Candles on the tables, candles in the fountains, candles hanging in the floral centerpieces.  The affect is really fabulous and this outdoor reception really sparkled and glowed!


Just remember, you don’t need to spend a¬†fortune on your candles and holders.¬† Think Dollar stores, Target, Walmart, even consignment shops.¬† You can find amazingly inexpensive holders at these places that will add so much to your wedding decor for very little money.

Happy Planning!


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