St. Louis Wedding on a Budget

St. Louis Wedding for a Typical CoupleThis is the start of an ongoing series I’m going to call “What the Band Knows.” As you plan your wedding in the St. Louis metro area, you are no doubt thinking back to all the weddings you’ve been to as a guest.  But those of us who “work” weddings, have a different perspective ….

Everyone this side of the Clooneys are on some kind of a budget, some of us more budget-ty than most. I know when my wife and I got married 15 years ago (in L.A. — kinda the only place I recommend to have an outdoor wedding, but that’s the subject of another blog). We pretty much had to pay for the whole thing ourselves, and we did a really good job budgeting.

The first step is priorities. What I see when my band The Kevin Mitchell 4 plays a lot of weddings, is that some couples fall for whatever “trend” is happening at the minute and don’t think every aspect through. So make a list on ALL the things you can spend money on, and start figuring out what is MOST important.

What is the criteria for “most important” you ask? It’s what’s going to make the day memorable in a way that is true to who you and your soon-to-be-spouse are. For us, not surprisingly, music was important. We hired a jazz band AND a DJ. That was relatively expensive, but we made cuts elsewhere.

Flowers for example. When you celebrate your 15th anniversary, it’s doubtful you’ll reminisce about the flowers.

A well-stocked bar was important to me, with good beer and name bottles.  (I’m Irish, I write for a living, and I play jazz …. ’nuff said).  BUT we stuck with just whiskey and vodka.  See places charge you for the bottle when they just pour one shot of that spiced rum, so we controlled costs that way.  So Jack Daniels, Grey Goose, three good beers, and decent Chardonnay and Cab, and that was it.

I’ve seen some outrageously fancy wedding invitations of late, but we went as absolute simple as possible (though funny story: my wife, Lauren, is an editor, and one of the biggest “fights” we had was over the font!).

Food?  Here’s a not-so-secret secret: If you have a reception of any size, say more than 80, in very few instances the food will memorably amazing.  So when you’re trying out caterers (and I have my favorite), and you get that succulent lamb with stringy fusilli with pecorino toscano, it’s great because they just made two plates. When things are mass produced, it always turns out just okay. So go for the chicken (which everything taste like anyway) and a simple pasta dish alternative for your vegetarian guest.

Thinking of covering the chairs with drape? Don’t bother. Find yourself getting talked into those fancy table settings? Skip it and go as simple as possible.  Photography or video? … well those are things that are likely important, but with extra work, you can get quality people at fair prices (not a good idea to go super cheap here).

Arnold762You get the idea.  Of course, this is just one example of priorities (mostly mine, and what I see around town at wedding receptions). I’m just advising you have yours. For example, maybe gardening is really important to your and parents, and you’re not much of a drinker … than have lavish flowers and just beer and wine, etc. But what I see happen is couples get whisked down the rabbit hole of wedding vendors and end up going middle- to high- in every category without looking at the big picture. Trust me — you can go cheap on some of this stuff.  The litmus test should always be: What will we remember on our anniversary?  It’ll be the people, the music, the dancing, the joy. It won’t be the silverware.

Speaking of which … you may be surprised how affordable a swingin’ jazz/blues band that also surprises with some fun, contemporary tunes is! We’d love to be part of your big day, and if not us, some other great local live band!

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