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Wedding budget tips and tricks – part two

Welcome to part two of our guide to the best wedding budget tips and tricks! ThistleBEA founder and lead coordinator, Breanne Dodge, is sharing their top tips for how you can stick to your budget with most of your wedding vendors. Read on for details on where you can absolutely save some cash – and where you really shouldn’t skimp!

Can you negotiate with your vendors? Any tips?

You can absolutely ask if there is any wiggle room, as long as you do it respectfully, but don’t assume they’ll give you a better price because most often they are individuals or small businesses, not big corporations. Ask about group discounts or promos for things like hair and makeup, especially if you have a big group! You can also ask about custom packages, so you’re only paying for the services you absolutely need.

What about payment plans? Do most vendors offer them?

Absolutely! Many vendors will work with you and do payment plans. It’s especially helpful when you want to avoid a bunch of big payments coming out in the last few weeks before the wedding, as that’s usually when the balance for most vendors becomes due. Ask about them and make sure to ask if there’s any financing fees or anything that might add additional costs if you do this. And if you try to offer to pay e-transfer rather than by card, vendors may be more willing to work out a payment plan.

Some say outdoor weddings are more budget-friendly, but are they really? What kinds of hidden costs might there be?

This is a big misconception! You have to have a rain plain in Vancouver, even in summer, and tent rentals are REALLY expensive. You also have to pay to bring in everything – think plates, glasses, cutlery, décor, sound system, tables and chairs. Of course, you CAN do outdoor weddings on a budget, it just takes some planning. If you keep it really small, you can probably get away with a smaller tent, or find an outdoor venue with a rain plan like an indoor space or gazebo. Either way, outdoor weddings are beautiful, so if the budget can absorb it, I say go for it!

A happy couple walks back down the aisle following their ceremony while guests throw white petals. Ceremony outdoors with mountains in the background.
WOW! Michelle & Taylor proved that no backdrop compares to what nature has to offer with their stunning outdoor ceremony. Photographer: Nomad by NK IG: @nomadbynk. Venue: Squamish Valley Golf Club, IG: @squamishvalleygolf. Rentals: Spark Event Rentals, IG @spark_event_rentals.

Is a cash bar ok or will my guests riot? What about a dry wedding?

If you and/or your partner don’t drink, then a dry wedding is perfectly fine. You don’t need to pay out this big expense for something you can’t partake in – especially if either of you (or a member of the family) is sober and not comfortable around alcohol. Whether it’s for personal or budget-related reasons, morning or brunch weddings lend themselves very well to being dry events. 

If you do serve alcohol and just want to keep costs down, a cash bar is absolutely fine. Just make sure it’s clearly stated on the wedding invites so your guests know to bring cash. If you have control of the bar, try to set prices for drinks at $2 or $5 to make it easier. A reminder text a few days before the wedding is also a good idea, especially if there isn’t an ATM on site. If you use an invite site like “With Joy” you can text all your attendees at once with reminders!

Any tips for saving money on the venue? If I book in advance or pick a less popular day or time, would it be cheaper?

You might be able to lock in a lower rate by booking in advance, especially if its more than a year away as prices tend to increase annually. Some vendors may offer week-day or brunch event pricing, but don’t count on it! They need to do the same amount of work regardless if you’re getting married on a Wednesday or a Saturday, or if they only do one event per day or weekend. It doesn’t hurt to ask though! 

Keep in mind that weekend daytime weddings could be a conflict for some religious guests, and weekday nights could be tricky for those who work during the week. You can make it easier by finishing up the key parts of the reception at a reasonable time for those who need to duck out early. It’s less of an issue if you have a lot of family coming in from out of town as they’ll often be in town for at least a few days anyway, so the day of week won’t matter as much.

My wedding venue doesn’t include much so I’ll need to budget for renting or buying a lot of my décor, including tables and chairs. Any tips?

You can ask your caterer if they have a rental company they are using for your wedding, you may be able to add on other things and save on delivery.  You can also look at secondhand, upcycled or DIY décor, and reach out to your inner circle to see if anyone has anything they can help with. I also love Facebook wedding buy and sell pages for this reason. Check out ours, ThistleBEA Your Community to get in on the action! Here, you can get DIY tips and tricks, and buy or sell décor. As a bonus, if both buyer and seller are ThistleBEA clients, we may be able to help with transporting the décor from one wedding to another at no charge! Ask your ThistleBEA coordinator for details.

Also, if you are dealing with a blank slate venue and are getting overwhelmed with building up your entire wedding from scratch, ask about our Come Together package where we can help you build your timeline framework. We offer rental organization as well as a setup and teardown package and string light rental/installations!

An outdoor wedding with string lights over the tablesof happy guests eating.
String lights done right! They added a beautiful touch to Alexandra and Angus’s wedding at Cecil Green Park House. Photographer: Page & Holmes Photography, Kristian Holmes IG: @pageandholmes. Rentals: Ellssi Design & Rentals, Sarah IG: @elssievents

What are some extra fees we should know about and budget for with our wedding venue and caterer?

If you are planning to play music at your wedding, there will likely be a SOCAN fee. It’s about $50 and ensures that artists are compensated when their music is played publicly. Both your venue and DJ may charge it, so check your contracts to make sure you don’t pay for it twice!

Most venues will also have a cake cutting fee. You can reduce this by just cutting for you and your partner and do single-serve desserts for your guests that don’t require extra cutting and plating. You can also do a faux cake! Most or all layers can be non-edible, giving you a beautiful “cake” for your photos but saving big if you don’t need that many servings.

No one will miss the cake when you have a stunning dessert display like this one at Dan & Jaco’s wedding! Baker: Buttermere, IG: @butter.mere. Photographer: A Tale of Two, IG: @ataleoftwophotography

Speaking of catering – it’s a HUGE part of the wedding budget, what are some ways I can save?

You can reduce your catering cost by avoiding a sit-down dinner. Consider brunch, lunch, cocktail hour, or post-dinner evening receptions as they lend themselves well to lower food and drink costs. If dinner is definitely on the menu, a buffet or a family style meal would be more more cost effective than a plated meal.

What are your thoughts on hiring Friendors – AKA friends or family as vendors? Is it ok to ask them for their services to be discounted?

I am absolutely here for Friendors! That being said, I wouldn’t replace pivotal vendors with them e.g. coordinators, caterers, photographers. If they are too emotionally involved with you it can lead to poor results or to them feeling left out of your wedding day, and can even lead to friendships ending. You both have to have healthy boundaries and realistic expectations. As far as money goes, it’s okay to ask for discounts in lieu of a wedding gift, but be respectful and make sure they have the opportunity to say no. If your Friendor is a professional, weddings are their bread and butter. As a friend, you should absolutely be supporting them by paying for their service. Also be sure that any professional vendors you hire are willing to work with friendors; many planners and coordinators won’t (but we will!)

Is hiring a DJ really necessary? Couldn’t we just play a Spotify playlist over the speakers and be done with it?

You can DIY DJ in some situations, but definitely not all – it depends on the type of vibe you are going for. If you want a party with a dance floor going, a DJ is the better option; they can make sure scheduled dances go off without a hitch and hype up the crowd. They can also help to avoid problems like people messing with the songs or skipping your jams. But if dancing or music in general isn’t a priority then it’s not strictly necessary.

My makeup artist’s package includes a trial. Is this something I can skip to save some money?

You should absolutely do a trial so you and the artist are on the same page for the actual day. If you want to get more value out of it you can schedule it for before your engagement photos, bridal shower, or a fancy date night so it doubles as makeup for another event. We will get more into the beauty of it all in a few months when we share about beauty professionals and selfcare!

I often hear that a wedding coordinator or planner is not only a super valuable asset stress-wise but can also help me stay on budget – how?

We can let you know of pitfalls with things you are planning on so you don’t waste money on things you don’t really need. Coordinators also help reduce stress, especially if you are doing most of the planning or DIYs yourself. We share our experience and invaluable industry insight to avoid common problems or DIY fails which can cost money otherwise. We can also help you to review vendor contracts and recommend our favorites so you know your money is well spent (and sometimes offer a referral discount)!

The last word

Staying on budget is one of the hardest parts of planning a wedding; we hope our tips and tricks have helped you to stay on target!

Come back in a few weeks for our next topic, venues! Want to know what to look for in a contract? Or find out which local venues are Breanne’s top picks? Tip – if you enter your email for our budget worksheet, you’ll also get notified first when our next blog and cheatsheet drops! Happy Planning!

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