Tom Binns of Tom French Flowers notes that roses — surprisingly — are a good bargain.Chris Smith photo
A wedding is all about decisions, and Jennifer McBride couldn't bring herself to spend $7,000 on a gown.
"You need to think about what's important to you," says McBride, who hired a tailor to make a similar gown. A wedding planner with Occasions Event Planning and Design, McBride asks vendors what's in season or most accessible, and finds out what other couples are purchasing for their weddings the same weekend, so vendors can buy in bulk. Downsizing the guest list or choosing a day other than Saturday are other ways to save.
"Doing a little legwork before you make decisions can really pay off," McBride says. "Maybe [a venue has] that one lingering date in October or November that they would really like to see booked," which you can grab with a possible discount.
McBride advises consulting a travel agent when shopping for a honeymoon, because he or she may have access to deals unavailable to the public, while Paula Ramirez, the proprietor of Historic Mankin Mansion, recommends a wedding planner. "They have the experience and knowledge to prevent you from making costly mistakes," she says.
Of course you can save some cash by buying flowers or decorations online, but the following "save" examples offered by local wedding pros give you relative savings while still impressing your guests.
Dress for Less
Splurge: Embellished with handmade lace appliqués and crystals, this silk organza gown by Melissa Sweet (above)costs $4,990 at Jingles. Owner Ellen Clark says Jingles will store the gown until the wedding and press it before portrait sessions and the wedding, and she will personally supervise all alterations on-site (although there is a fee for the alterations themselves). Save: Go for a similar look at Jingles: An English net gown by James Clifford with lace and beading is $1,580. Or commission Liliya Korenman of Couture by LK Design to create a custom dress — add sleeves or remove the sash, etc., as desired — and a Venice-lace-and-silk-organza dream could materialize for approximately $2,700. Korenman also suggests customizing a satin number from J. Crew or a bridal-store bargain with lace or beading.
When and Where
Splurge: Reserve the grounds for a weekend wedding package at Historic Mankin Mansion (pictured above) for $8,995. Their wedding-planning staff will coordinate a rehearsal dinner, bridesmaid brunch and a wedding for up to 250 guests (the price excludes catering). The package includes two nights in the honeymoon suite and is loaded with luxuries, such as massages. The in-house DJ will customize music for the entire weekend for an additional $1,295 (the price excludes catering). Save: Mankin Mansion proprietors Martin and Paula Ramirez now offer one-day packages, starting at $5,995 for a Saturday wedding using the mansion grounds from 2 to 11 p.m. This package retains wedding-planning services. Tie the knot on a Friday for $2,995 or Sunday for $3,995, or opt for a weekday: The one-day package costs $1,995 Monday through Thursday (prices exclude catering). The same tent fee applies, and the DJ's fee is $995.
Splurge: For a spring wedding, Tom Binns, owner of Tom French Flowers, might start with peonies and design a truly extravagant bridal bouquet for about $250. Add bridesmaid bouquets featuring hydrangeas, hand-tied lilies for mothers and calla-lily boutonnieres, and you're just over $1,500 for a bridal party of 25. Full-on floral splendor at the ceremony and a 20-table reception means an extra $3,300, making the total cost for flowers approximately $5,050. Save: Binns recommends inexpensive hydrangeas — or, surprisingly, roses — for a more frugal bouquet (about $100) that still makes a grand statement. Rose corsages and boutonnieres along with small, in-season bridesmaid bouquets of tulips could reduce the cost for a bridal party of 25 to $560. Scaling back ceremony and buffet-table decorations, floating large blooms in decorative centerpiece containers, and nixing cake-table flowers drops the bill for the entire event to approximately $1,460.
Splurge: One hundred traditional, triple-panel invitations by Crane cost $1,491 at By Invitation Only, factoring in the lined envelope with return address and the response and reception cards. The 100 percent cotton ecru paper has a noticeable weight and softness, and the invitations arrive with keepsake engraving plates. For the nontraditional, the store carries Marsupial's pocket-style invitations in a cherry-blossom design, priced at $1,525 for 100 invitations, reception cards and RSVPs. Save: Birchcraft's triple-panel ecru invitations aren't engraved, nor are they 100 percent cotton, but they are a fraction of the cost: $275 for the equivalent set of 100. Pay $534 for Carlson Craft's cherry-blossom, pocket-style invitations, but they come unassembled. To further cut costs, Monica Horsley, owner of By Invitation Only, says, "I would eliminate the envelope liner first, from an etiquette standpoint." Address envelopes by hand to save more, or print reception information on the invitation.
Splurge: For approximately $40 per person, a menu devised by Andrew Hardie of Chez Foushee starts with butlered hors d'oeuvres of mini crab cakes, cumin shrimp and portobello mushroom vol au vents. On the buffet: a beef-tenderloin carving station, sliced duck breast with a spicy apricot sauce; potato gnocchi; goat cheese with Provençal tomato-olive sauce; cedar-planked roasted salmon; blanched asparagus and crudités; and a Bloody Mary oyster-shooter station. Save: Hardie's menu at $28.50 per person features grilled chicken with corn relish and roasted pepper aioli; jerk pork barbecue with mango chutney; potato röstis; lump crab royale; black-bean quesadillas; mini quiche; shrimp pot stickers; and more. Hardie recommends forgoing the carving station and butlered hors d'oeuvres, minimizing labor costs. Caterer Ellie Basch, owner of Savor, says that buffets are generally less expensive than other options — sit-down dinners require more staff labor, and heavy hors d'oeuvres call for more prep (picture elaborate canapés).
Splurge: A five-star resort like Casitas Royale (above) — an adults-only, all-inclusive spot just below Cancun, Mexico — defines post-wedding relaxation. Book seven nights in a secluded swim-up suite with airfare, transfers and travel insurance from Cynthia May of All About Honeymoons for approximately $7,450. For something more exotic, pay about $6,700 for seven nights (plus airfare and insurance) in the five-star Grand Wailea Resort in Maui. Includes breakfast only, so be prepared to spend up to $200 a day on food, plus expenses for car rental and activities.
Save: If a worry-free honeymoon sounds too pricey, May points to another all-inclusive resort just north of Cancun: seven nights in a concierge-service room at the four-star Isla Mujeres Palace runs approximately $4,670 with airfare, transfers and travel insurance. Yearning for the perfect island honeymoon for less money than Hawaii in half the travel time? Try Excellence Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. An ocean-view junior suite costs about $4,800 with airfare, transfers and travel insurance at this four-star, all-inclusive hotel with a casino.
Top left: photo courtesy Priscilla of Boston; top right: PW Photography photo; bottom left: photo courtesy Chez Foushee; bottom right: photo courtesy Casitas Royale