Recession Mama

{May 25, 2009}   Picking a Wedding Location #3

by Katy

Thanks again for all the comments on the two wedding locations my fiance and I have picked out. We’re very excited about this process, and we’re also happy to share our burdens. Believe me, we will make the final decision based on what is best for us (what we like the best and what we can afford the most), but it is really great to hear what ya’ll are saying. For some strange reason, it makes it easier, and it seems to relieve the stress for us a bit. Before I delve into location #3, I just want to quickly give a shout-out to my friend Vicky. She just got married this weekend, and it was spectacular! I don’t know what kind of budget she was working with, but I know she did have one. (She has mentioned it on Recession Mama.) I felt like she really did the most with her money, and it showed. It was the perfect example of having a 5 star wedding on a 3 star budget (Again, I have no idea what her budget was for the wedding, so this is just a guess.) And I hope I can do the same! Maybe she’ll feel comfortable sharing in the comments or in a future guest post. Well, here is wedding location #3! Enjoy…

House in Malibu

House in Malibu

Third choice for us is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) wedding. We’d rent a house/property in Malibu or on the beach somewhere in Orange County, bring in tables, chairs, linens, heat lamps, silverware, plates, glasses, caterer, etc, etc, etc. And if this sounds like a lot of work, well…you’re right! It is. But it could be the way we save money. So here goes…

A blank canvas or a logistical nightmare?I

A blank canvas or a logistical nightmare?

First, we have the location fee – $6500 for the above house/property in Malibu, and the huge sum of money is for…well, nothing. You get to use the grounds of the property for your ceremony and reception. But that’s it. On top of the $6500 you’re forking over, you have to find and put together everything else. So here’s what else we need – caterer – we’d go with a green/organic caterer, and that ranges from $45/person to $85/person (hopefully this includes plates, silverware, and glassware. We would be able to buy and bring our own alcohol (this could save us a lot!), but we’d also have to hire bartenders…so let’s say it’s $5000 total. Next. tables, chairs, linens, and napkins – $1600. In addition, $500 for about 6 heat lamps (it can be cool in southern california), and these locations generally just want you to stay outside on the property. $500 for a dance floor, and most of these places REQUIRE valet service and security – let’s say $2000 (on the cheaper side). So, before florist, photographer, clothes, etc…we’re looking at…$27,773 (if we’re going with the $45/person number).

what the reception could look like

what the reception could look like

Here are my pros and cons:

PROS = We could get exactly what we want – location, food, and decor. This could be cheaper than the other two options, if we’re good at negotiating and putting together iron-clad contracts.

CONS = This DIY location #3 is obviously a LOT more work. A lot could go wrong because there are sooo many vendors to coordinate that day. One late delivery for tables/chairs/linens could create a timeline disaster! This could also end up costing us more money than we can anticipate, at this time, since we don’t truly know what the prices are going to be until we’ve put the deposit on the location and then started negotiating with the rest of the vendors. Also, the $6500 feels like a big waste of money since it’s not for anything but the location. And again, these beach locations are very far away from our rehearsal dinner, the night before. (But this one isn’t as far as Dana Point.)

There you have it! 3 locations — Dana Point restaurant, downtown L.A. restaurant, or this DIY beach property rental. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Jean says:

Great discussions you are instigating! I vote for location #2, the main reason being that it seems there would be less to coordinate — fewer variables to deal with in term of timing — and minimalizing stress on your wedding stress is key. Plus the close proximity of a rehearsal dinner spot to the wedding venue is attractive too. My first runner up would location #1; if you want to have a beach wedding, do it there rather than location #3, because again, fewer elements to coordinate. Can’t wait to read what others write in!

recessionmama says:

Thanks, Jean! Great thoughts! Definitely easier to coordinate. We will just have to figure out how badly we want a beach wedding. ๐Ÿ™‚

I like the downtown L.A. venue. It gorgeous.

Have you considered Alverno High School in Sierra Madre? Is a duplicate of a villa in Italy and is set up to do events on Saturdays. There are still some summer 2010 dates open.



recessionmama says:

Hi Paula,

Wow! This school is gorgeous!! I may have to visit and see what the prices are like! Thanks, or should I not thank you since it may be one more place to consider? LOL j/k.

I meant to say It IS gorgeous, and IT is a duplicateโ€ฆ

My typing skills have just gone to pot!

recessionmama says:

Oh I didn’t even notice upon first reading. I’m so tired. I made so many typos and grammatical errors in this entry! Sorry everyone!!! Paula, you’re not there to edit me now! ๐Ÿ™‚

recessionmama says:

From Heather : This sounds like a lot of work and you don’t want to worry about napkins, tables and such on the big day. I think the best way to save money is to keep the guest list low. Or not have a sit down dinner.

recessionmama says:

Thanks, Heather B. Yeah a lot of work. And I definitely know you’re right on the guest list. We are cutting the list down, as I write this!

Angela says:

Wow… mind-blowing prices! Not totally shocking since I’ve helped with friends’ weddings to some degree. I never really seriously sat down to think about what I would do or how much I’d be willing to spend. Now, I’m thinking I’m eloping and using that money for a second house when I finally do get married!

recessionmama says:

Yes, definitely high prices, but it is on the cheaper side for a wedding in Southern California. We would definitely elope, and we talk about spending that money on buying our next door loft so we’d have more space or investing in a friend’s bar or re-doing our bathroom all the time.

Carla says:

Katy, no wonder this is such a tough decision. Since we’re so much alike in wanting a bargain, but not wanting crap, I see how this is a hard one. The cost on this location is obviously pretty low, but like Heather mentioned, do you want to be worrying about every little detail on your big day? As your MOH, I will certainly do all I can to make sure everything runs as it should, but that’s a lot to keep track of! Would you consider hiring a wedding coordinator? But how much extra would that be?

I’m sticking with my vote for the beach : )

Katy says:

Yeah I have been considering hiring a wedding coordinator. Hopefully, I can get it to fit into my budget! I wouldn’t want you to have to worry about all the vendors that day. ๐Ÿ™‚

Vicky says:

First of all Katy, I had a wonderful time this weekend and YOU saved me a ton of money. Having a friend who can coordinate day of, is invaluable– getting a coordinator or someone who knows how much everything could (notice, I didn’t say ‘should’ b/c everyone’s should is different) cost is probably the first thing to saving money. (Katy, you know I will gladly repay you in-kind, so let me know when I can help!)

Second, ironically I ran the same location scenarios on an excel spreadsheet that you’ve done here (including malibu house & restaurant). Unfortunately net-net, it is all about the same cost, so go for the location you love the most. The least expensive locations tend to be either hotel (b/c all rentals are included) or a park or beach owned by the city or county.

I’d love to share what I did for my wedding if it’ll save others money, so this post might be long (deep breath) but here goes!

1) determine how much money you have to work with 2) figure out how you’re going to fund it (really fund it, not on plastic- don’t start your marriage on a fantasy) 3) write down ALL the possible costs that you might incur during your wedding (remember the little details like hotel room night-of, car to get you from one location to another, gifts for your bridesmaids, hair/makeup for you, your mom, girls… everything) and 4) prioritize which of these is most important to you, assigning each a budget. BTW- try to pay via a credit card that gives you $ back (but make sure you pay it off and don’t incur a finance charge!)

For my wedding, I negotiated a flat minimum with the hotel, but made sure it included all tables, dinnerware, stages, chairs and dance floor (all that stuff adds up). I also negotiated in my wedding cake, hotel rooms for the night before and day-of. Since there was a hotel minimum to meet, my choice of entrees and absence of dessert (since there was wedding cake) allowed for premium cocktails, a groom’s cake, hors d’oeuvres and wine.

I found my bridesmaid dresses at Loehmann’s and bought my veil ($17), Vera Wang shoes ($65) and flower girl’s dress on Ebay. I bought fabric and sewed the flower girl’s sash, to change the color to my color scheme. There’s no shame in low cost or used– it’s only 1 day and as long as it looks classy. In this case, all were new. My wedding dress is the 1 thing I badly wanted, so I paid full price… but I opened a credit card to get % off, bought it in Portland (believe it or not, that air ticket was worth the savings in sales tax) and I plan to ebay the dress soon to recoup the cost.

AFTER you get all this stuff together, THEN order the flowers, design your cake and stationary. Contrary to belief, “the colors of your wedding” is one of the last things to think about. Your bridesmaid dresses DON’T dictate your color scheme, so don’t get distressed if you can’t find the perfect color of pink. Find a neutral dress color and use your flowers & stationary to take care of it. P.S.- don’t be married to a type of flower. Give your florist an idea of the “feeling” and “color scheme” you want… then let him/her get creative within a budget. Start with a wishlist of everything, then scale back. You may have to pick and choose what you emphasize (ex: I had white carnations in my mixed white, green, brown bridal bouquet. Others may say ‘no carnations’ but trust me, they looked great). My florist (Jackie Combs) was amazing– let her partner with you.

To save costs, I bought paper in bulk, printed my own invitations using Word, Powerpoint and Google images on my little home deskjet. I used the same paper & leftover scraps (if you get Kinko’s to cut your invites, have them save the scraps!) for my programs, escort card/favor tag & menu cards. It took a lot of time, so be sure to factor that in. For my favors, I shopped the after-christmas sale (everything was 75%+ off!) and when I tied a nametag to it, they doubled as my escort cards. Get creative and think after-holiday shopping… July 4th is coming up and you can get some very cool stuff. If you live in LA, the flower/gift mart is your best friend.

My final comment is that everything is online– look for ideas and start compiling an ‘idea folder’. Know what you’re good at… and know what you’re not. It may cost you more time & money in the long run, if you’re not crafty and you try to do your own invites or if you’re not organized and you try to coordinate your own wedding vs hiring someone to do it. STICK TO YOUR BUDGET and don’t allow yourself to be tempted with “should haves”. Just because someone else had it at their wedding, doesn’t mean you have to! We didn’t exchange rings b/c what we wanted is not within our budget right now… so instead, we exchanged leis! Garter toss? Nope. Bouquet toss? Nope. Spa appointments for the bridesmaids? Nope. Inviting parents’ friends? Only 1 table allowed. Videographer? Friend. Honeymoon? Later.

But we had hawaiian, fire dancers, a band and our close friends… just what we wanted. ๐Ÿ™‚ I hope this blog helps someone out there. A wedding is the worst nightmare 2 people will ever have. It’ll test the limits of your relationship, but 1 day is not the rest of your lives. Prioritize and you’ll get through this insanity just fine.

Kim says:

I still vote for location #1–you get the beach without the pain of coordination that #3 requires. But again, they’re all beautiful!

Katy says:

Yeah I’m starting to lean that way!!

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