Since starting his self-titled business, Events by André Wells, six years ago, André Wells has arranged more weddings than he can remember. Though they have varied in style, size, and social significance, Wells says there is one essential detail that affects them all—the budget. Yet he repeatedly hears the phrase that causes the most angst during planning: “I have no idea what I want to spend.”
“I know it may not be the fun part,” Wells offers, “but the only way you can properly plan a wedding is by knowing what you want to spend. The budget impacts every detail of the wedding day, so starting with a financial plan can reduce anxiety and provide the foundation for a well-executed event.” Wells has several suggestions that can help you get the most value for your big day.
Research details before choosing a site. Many brides choose venues such as a museum or library to save on costs, but Wells warns that it’s difficult to compare the fees of a reception hall or hotel to noncatering sites. “The overall charge may seem less expensive, but you will need to bring in staff, a caterer, pay for insurance, and bring in a cleaning service, all of which can significantly impact your budget.”
Be clear about the guest list. Wells admits that this can be a point of contention in families, but it is also an area where costs can balloon. He advises couples to be firm about who gets invited. “If you haven’t seen or talked to them in a long while, you really don’t have to invite them.” Destination weddings can often reduce a guest list, but Wells warns that other obligations may raise costs. “Etiquette dictates that the couple host the welcome dinner and departure brunch.”
Consider off-peak days and times. “Morning weddings are big in Europe,” says Wells. “With a morning reception, you can serve a nice brunch or pastries.” Scheduling receptions on Fridays or Sundays may be difficult if you’re inviting out-of-town guests, but off-peak days cost significantly less. “You could save anywhere from 25% to 40% on those days. January and August are also off-peak months for weddings.”
Delay the reception. For those involved in their church or who attend megachurches, Wells suggests hosting a celebratory gathering after a morning ceremony at the church. You can serve cake or petits fours for the large church congregation, and then have a small, intimate reception later that evening for close family and friends. “Or you can consider having a intimate wedding and then a larger party later on.”
As a planner, Wells creates a budget schedule and timeline, a tracking practice he recommends for every couple. “It’s important to keep really good track of spending and to manage expectations.” For more information on Wells’ company, visit www.eventsbyandrewells.com.
This article originally appeared in the June 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.