In putting together an inexpensive but fun and elegant wedding in just over two weeks, my best tools are my notebook and pen, my cell phone and email. I find that lists help keep me focused, so from the very beginning, I made the following list:
Reception: food, drink, cake, etc.
Colors I’d choose?
Wedding Dress for me
Invitees – his/mine
Don’t forget: Jenny’s school, pre-cruise packing list, what bills to pay before leaving town, last minute things to do
Things you can’t get married without: license, preacher, rings
Then, of course, for almost each of the above items, there’s a separate list. Take location, for example. We had first planned to invite only immediate family and one or two friends, which would mean a guest list of about 23 people. One of my friends, Renea, who has an open, spacious living room/den/dining room combination with a nice fireplace offered her home as a spot for the ceremony. Robert and I talked about it and decided it would be nice, cozy setting for a small, intimate wedding. And then the list of invitees began to grow. Fortunately, a mutual friend of mine and Renea’s manages a facility with meeting rooms and quite often does weddings, receptions and big parties at his facility. When T. Clark learned of my upcoming wedding, he offered to host it at his facility. I won’t bore you with the details, but let me just say this: I had talked with small chapels, churches, hotels, and various people about where to have a small wedding and reception. The charges for the venue alone were usually outrageous. However, there are some creative places in which to wed, such as:
Meeting rooms at State Park Inns
State- or County-Owned/Managed Historic Sites (check out the Chapel at Cannonsburg in Murfreesboro,
Private homes of friends or family (indoors or outdoors, weather permitting)
Meeting rooms in malls, hotels, and event centers
After T. Clark’s generous offer, I met with him to discuss the set-up: tables (whether I want round (large or small) or square tables), whether we want rows of seats or seating at tables, an aisleway for bride’s entrance; what I have in mind for entertainment, food service, etc. T. also showed me around the facility, noting that they have restroom facilities for the small meeting room which I am using, and larger restrooms with the larger meeting room on the other side of the kitchen. Since there is no one in the large meeting space that night, the bride (me!) will have a private dressing area. We also discussed kitchen use, the other bathroom facilities, decor, what I need to supply and bring, etc., etc. And as we talked, the decisions were made.
Let me point out here that event planners who do this all the time are a source of valuable information, and keeping in touch with T. Clark during this time by email is working very well for me. Should I have a question, I simply zap him off an email, asking things like, “is there a coffee urn there I can use? Is there freezer space for rings of frozen pineapple juice for the punch?”, and the next day or so, I have his answer. Also, when I mentioned I wanted to have a DJ and Karaoke, he simply opened his rolladex and sent me an email with links to several he knew of, saving me a lot of time in searching for event entertainment.
The plan is that the D.J./Karaoke equipment will be behind a “wall” which is placed at the front of the room. The preacher’s back will be toward that wall, and T. will set up a dance floor in the front of the room, with rows of chairs for use during the actual wedding ceremony. After the ceremony, the chairs will be moved so attendees can use the dance floor. Toward the rear right, the food tables will be set up, with a long table for the hot and cold appetizers and a round to hold the wedding cake. A Party Place has attractive, disposable tablecloths (for $3.50 each!), and since my colors are red, gold and cream, I decided to use centerpieces of poinsettias and red/gold ornaments and matching table runners. Each poinsettia should run about $10 (and can be taken home and used for the entire Christmas season) and the table runners were $1 each at the Dollar Tree (and they’re really pretty!).
So, here’s what I’d accomplished with all these decisions: inexpensive, season- and color-appropriate decor, all of which is easily disposable for ease of clean-up. I also picked up several spools of red, white and gold 2″ wide ribbon for $1 apiece at the Dollar Tree, with a total expense of between $85 and $100 (depending on the final cost of poinsettias) to decorate the room for both the wedding and reception.
Note on Venue Costs: Rooms in event centers, hotels, etc. are normally rented for events on Saturday nights and not usually for events on Friday nights. This is great knowledge because negotiating a cost break on a night that is not in demand is much more likely.
Note on Hiring DJ/Karaoke/Entertainment: These folks are very competitive and stay informed as to what’s happening in the industry, so most of the time, you’ll get comparable prices from each one. Before you contact them, ask around, inquire of several people (including your venue manager) what the cost should be for a specific amount of time, say, 3 hours. I was told that a DJ should run somewhere around $300 to $350 for the evening. So after careful consideration, I decided if I could get a DJ for $350, our budget could swing it. However, when I contacted the entertainers whose numbers were given to me, each quoted the same price: $495 for DJ-ing. And these guys are hard-sell professionals who love making some $150+ per hour! And yes, they will PUSH HARD for you to book them if they’re not busy that night. After all, we were less than 2 weeks away from the event and they weren’t booked, so the likelihood that they were going to be booked was remote. Despite the pressure (“I want to see you get this tied down so you can worry about other things,” and “It’s a really busy season, I’m booking pretty fast,”), I had decided that my budget could go to $350 and I stuck to my original plan, explaining that I simply couldn’t afford $495 for 3 hours of entertainment. And I moved on to talk with another DJ/Karaoke person, continuing to ask everyone I talked with if they had a recommendation.
A day or two later, I got calls back from the original $495 guys… one had an associate who could do it for $375; another offered to “meet me over half-way” and do the show for $420. Fortunately, my inquiry had produced a highly recommended DJ/Karaoke guy named Brad Coursey, who was available (depending on how far he had to tote his equipment, the ease with which he could get into the venue, etc.) for $300 for 3 hours. Hooray!!!!!!!
More on putting together an inexpensive wedding next time, when we talk about making your wedding invitations!!!! I’ll give tips from start to finish!