Bridal Guide asked three planners to work with a Big Day budget of $5,000. Here's how they toed the bottom line.
Party Option #1: Garden Brunch
Photo Credit: Sarah Kathleen
Planner: Lisa Gorjestani, Los Angeles (detailseventplanning.com)
Guests: 100 or fewer
"A brunch on a Sunday can keep your venue fee low. Another great thing is that you don't have to offer a lot of alcohol," Lisa says.
Menu: Stick to white wine or prosecco (a sparkling wine that comes at a fraction of the price as champagne), sparkling water with slices of lemon or lime and juices. Consider a coffee or tea bar. Serve a selection of frittatas, salads and a variety of breads and pastries.
Cake: Go for mini fruit tarts or cupcakes stacked on tiers.
Decor: White linen table covers and butter-colored napkins with white grosgrain ties have a fresh, coordinated look. Have printed menu cards in a brighter yellow at each setting.
Flowers: Each round table should have a small galvanized-metal pot of pretty white daisies. With a garden backdrop, you don't need pricey arrangements.
Favors: Delicious chocolates, in paper boxes tied with yellow grosgrain ribbon or yellow and white gingham. (Check out more edible favors your guests will love!)
Party Option #2: Afternoon Picnic
Planner: Joseph Todd St. Cyr, New York City and New Hampshire (josephtoddevents.com)
"An afternoon event saves you money because you don't have to serve a big meal," Joe notes. For the ceremony, you can eliminate an "altar" that requires a structure and floral element simply by having guests form a circle around the bride and groom.
Signature Cocktail: Forgo an open bar and offer a special drink. Try grapefruit juice, vodka and just a touch of blue Curacao, served over ice in a highball glass, garnished with a lemon wheel and blueberries.
Decor: Rent cotton linen in French blue and cover cocktail, bar and buffet tables. Rent white wooden folding chairs, slender highball glasses, white ceramic platters for buffet, serving pieces, dinner and dessert forks. Arrange lavender, herbs and greens in low white vessels.
Menu: Cold fried chicken, red bliss potato salad, a green salad and a tomato/mozzarella/basil salad and sliced avocados.
Cake: Have a three-tiered white wedding cake with a triple-berry compote layer. Garnish with a few blooms that match your bouquet. Forget coffee; it's expensive to serve with all the components. (Check out more gorgeous embellished cake ideas!)
Party Option #3: Intimate Dinner Party
Photo Credit: Allan Zepeda for Mel & Co, courtesy of Brooklyn Winery
Planner: Karen Bussen, New York City (karenbussen.com)
Guests: Up to 50
"Choose a small local restaurant that serves a seasonal menu," says Karen. "Small restaurants offer great value — the owners are often willing to negotiate and throw in extras."
Decor: Take a look at the restaurant's linens and inquire as to whether there are choices in colors, fabric types or patterns. Many restaurants are able to switch tablecloths and napkins for a small upcharge. Ask if you can use their dinner plates as chargers, or base plates, to give your table extra polish. Wrap fresh herbs (thyme and rosemary work well) around napkins, or use button mushrooms as unique escort cards. Ask the manager to print a menu card with your names on it.
Centerpieces: Arrange small bowls of olives, hunks of parmesan cheese, dried fruits and nuts, glasses filled with breadsticks, bowls of grapes — and nestle in votive candles. Buy a few narrow glass cylinders (no taller than 8"), and place one or two blossoms in each. Arrange them here and there down the length of the table.
Cake: Many restaurant kitchens have dedicated pastry chefs who can make a small wedding cake. If you're in a French bistro, why not opt for a croquembouche — a French wedding cake "tower," made of puff pastry and cream. (Check out more fun wedding cake alternatives here!)