Tying the Knot without Breaking the Bank: Setting the Date

Congrats newly engaged people!  Or people who think they’ll soon be engaged… or very participatory friends and family of newly engaged people… or all-around wedding enthusiasts (don’t worry, I won’t judge you).  This blog series is for you!!!  

(Yes, I understand a wedding is about two people forming a union before God and/or the state and/or their family and friends.  However, why not throw a party while you’re at it?!)

As I mentioned last week, my own wedding planning experience comes from when I planned my own 250-guest wedding back in 2009, but by no means do I knock smaller, more intimate gatherings (and they certainly stand to save you some money).  Regardless of the size of your wedding, I hope the next 16 weeks of tips and tricks will help you plan the whole matrimonial shebang… or any kind of shebang for that matter!

And one more bit of preface:  Though I may use specific words like “bridal,” I am by no means excluding gay marriage, civil unions, or commitment ceremonies; I’m just using the common language of the wedding biz.  By all means, apply these tips and ideas to your specific event as well.  Yay!

Now that I’m done prefacing, let’s talk about….

Setting the Date!

Unless you’re among the few engaged couples out there who have actually set a date before you were even engaged or are set on a particular date for other reasons (remember the 7/7/07 craze?), you probably don’t know (yet) what date you’d like to get married.  There are a bazillion things to consider, not limited to but including the following:

  • How much time do you need to plan your wedding?  And how much time do you need to save up for your wedding?  Even if you don’t spend a lot of money (which is my personal goal for you), you’re still going to have to pay some deposits for your various vendors up front, usually hedging in triple and quadruple digit form.  If you plan on having a big wedding, i.e., many guests, and if you plan on wearing a big frilly wedding gown, i.e., not just a dress that you make or find in a store off the rack, and if you plan on having bridesmaids that wear specific dresses that may need ordering, i.e., you’re not going to tell them to just all wear one color and call it a day, you need at least 6 months.  Plain and simple.  This isn’t one of those “you need at least 6 months to figure out if you really wanna marry this person” things (though maybe you need that, too?).  No, this is important because if you’re ordering a dress or dresses and securing a venue for a specific time with vendors and their own staff, you really do need that much time.  Time to wait for the dresses to get made and come in the mail, time to save up and pay those deposits over time so you’re not suddenly broke, time for just in case.”  However, if you’re not picky about what you wear (or already have your dress) or maybe your event is going to be small or self-hosted, then you only need as much time as you think you’ll need to prepare for everything you want your event to entail  (I initially thought I only needed 8 or 9 months, but soon realized I should count on a year… and I didn’t regret it).
  • Consider January, February, and March.  This is the wedding off season.  I got married on January 18, 2009, and I saved soooo much money  — approximately $10,000 just with the venue and caterer.  (And FYI, January 18, 2009 was an overcast, drizzly morning that turned into a beautiful, sunny day with temps in the 60’s.  Fabulous.)  You can also specifically ask for off-season prices when talking to vendors in case they’re not offered up front.  Because there are not as many events going on during this time of year, you have a lot more leverage to negotiate for a lower price, more hours in the venue, extra services, et al.
  • by jkDallas Photography

  • Depending on whether you need 2 months, 6 months, 1 year or whatever, figure out this approximate month or time frame and research it.  Consider whether it is: a holiday (or holiday weekend), a relative or close friend’s birthday, or even the future date of a sporting event that may detract from the big day.  Before I settled on January 18th, I seriously considered the SEC football season and tried to make sure none of my potential dates conflicted with important University of Tennessee games (not at my father’s insistence, though — he told me it didn’t make any difference to him, Tennessee-Florida game or not, he’d still be at his daughter’s wedding…  awww…..).  :)
  • Consider Sunday.  Or another day of the week besides the ever popular Saturday (though I don’t recommend these as strongly, unless you’re having a small event).  I got married on a Sunday morning, and it was lovely, as well as a huuuge savings (just renting the venue on a Sunday versus Saturday saved me $3,000).
  • Consider a morning or early afternoon wedding versus an evening wedding.  These are almost always cheaper.
  • Talk to your family and attendants (bridesmaids/groomsmen):  Usually, family and close friends can work around your wedding date, but sometimes something big may be coming up that they haven’t mentioned to you yet:  “Oh, you just set the date for May 5th?  I just bought a ticket to fly to Finland on that day!!!”  Why is your friend going to Finland? I don’t know — but this is something to at least consider (not the flying-to-Finland part, you know what I mean).  If their conflicts prove impossible to schedule around, then you may just have to let it go… after all, this is your wedding.
Despite the many nagging loving questions from friends and family about the wedding date (“When’s the big day!?”  “Have you set a date yet?”  “When are you going to get married already!?”), you do not need to feel pressured to solidify your date right away (within reason:  I waited a bit longer than I should have, on the verge of “jus’-plain-tacky” and I’m sure I frustrated my family and bridesmaids to no end).
In fact, unless you’ve signed contracts with all of your vendors, don’t  settle on a wedding date.  Even if you pick an off season (like I eventually did), it’s possible that your dream venue already has a booking on that date.  Or your favorite caterer is too swamped to take on another event for your particular date.  Or the photographer you’ve been holding out for is already shooting another wedding that day.
Determine a few date options, then prioritize which vendor is most important to you.  For Josh and I, it was the venue.  We visited many places, but once we found the Foundry at Puritan Mill in Atlanta (and realized that getting married on Sunday morning, January 18th was a super-savings time), we set that date in stone and all the other vendors fell into place after that.

by jkDallas Photography

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Picking vendors and venues is for next week! Check back :)

(And of course, share this blog with friends and fam, especially the engaged kind!)

Previous post in this series:

Tying the Knot without Breaking the Bank (preview)