Bridal budgeting: Weddings don’t have to break the bank


On Saturday, Molley Riley and Nathaniel Perkins were married at Goodlett Manor in Tupelo.

Riley and Perkins have known each other since they were students together at Tupelo High School. Riley graduated from Mississippi State University earlier this month.

For their wedding, Riley said she and Perkins wanted the wedding to be a simple, yet elegant event. One reason they were attracted to Goodlett Manor was the beauty of the home itself and the minimal need for additional decor.

Molly and her mother, Amy Riley, also wanted to stick to a reasonable budget for the wedding, without being too frugal.

Wedding spending in the U.S. is climbing back to record levels reached in 2008.

According a survey conducted by the popular wedding site TheKnot.com, Americans spent an average of $28,427 on their big day in 2012. But Amy Rileysaid she will not spend anywhere near that.

“I am not going over $10,000,” she said.

The retired school teacher and self-described farm wife said on Wednesday that the wedding was under budget with no major expenses left.

BREAKING IT DOWN

Where to have the wedding is just one of many expenses that make up a budget.

Billie Robison of Billie’s Catering in Tupelo said brides should plan to spend about one-third of their budget on food for the reception.

“Nobody does cake mints and nuts anymore,” she said.

Robison said the final cost varies widely based on menu selections.

“Sometimes a buffet costs less than hors d’oeuvres because hors d’oeuvres are so labor-intensive,” she said, noting that all of her menu items, including hors d’oeuvres, are handmade.

Not entirely separate from catering, the wedding venue still is likely to be one of the bigger budget items. Venues that do catering will often group the site fee together with the cost of food.

Pricing the two separately can save money, however.

Vicki Pitts Hester, the site manager said Goodlett Manor, charges around $3,000 to rent the entire facility for the weekend, which includes space for the rehearsal dinner the evening before the wedding. Amy Riley said being able to choose her own caterer was a big cost-saver.

She has called a number of friends and family members to help with the wedding, one of which is doing the food. Amy Vanlandingham catered her older daughter’s reception, and as a good friend, is giving the Riley family a deep discount.

Restaurants and full-service caterers are likely to be a more convenient but more expensive catering option, while those looking to save some money should consider venues with low reservation fees, like parks or public buildings.

TheKnot.com survey showed an average of $12,905 was spent in 2012 on the reception venue and catering, not including cakes for the bride or groom.

If friends and family members lack the talent or time to help, a wedding planner is also an option.

Jeremy Allison, owner of J. Edward Design Co., said hiring a wedding coordinator may be a better financial move than one might think. He said despite fees, “It’s 100 percent justifiable.”

The florist, wedding and event planner said he may be able to negotiate better deals with vendors like caterers and photographers whose services he uses frequently.

TheKnot.com survey said couples spend an average of almost $2,400 on wedding photographs.

Allison said trying to coordinate and book so many vendors for one event can be overwhelming without help.

“Its almost like subcontracting (building) a house,” he explained.

Allison offers a full-service shop but said the primary focus is on his floral business.

He said in recent months he has seen clients spend anywhere from $400 to $3,800 on wedding arrangements.

Amy Riley said this was another instance in which she has worked with a friend to get her arrangements done on a budget.

Allison said he is happy to sit down with the bride to discuss budgeting. He said a bride whose total budget is $5,000 to $10,000 is going to have to make decisions on what to spend the most on when it comes to her big day.

One of those will likely be the dress. TheKnot.com survey reported brides spend an average of $1,200 on their wedding gown, but prices vary widely.

For Molly Riley, the choice was easy. Simple alterations to the dress worn by her mother were inexpensive and added sentimental value to the ceremony.

Allison said his approach would likely be to work on the budget and determine how much a bride should spend on her top priorities before planning begins.

Expenses add up

Other seemingly small expenses can add up for things like ceremony site rentals, music, favors and invitations.

In the end, Molly Riley said that she let her mother do most of the worrying about the finances. Molly said she just wanted the event to be natural and intimate.

“I don’t have to be budget-conscious because she is,” she said.

sarah.robinson@journalinc.com

Sarah Robinson/NEMS Daily Journal