Ask Linley

Tips for saving money.

Q My fiancé and I are thinking about getting married on the Vineyard, but trying to figure out how to make it affordable. Where do we start?
    – Betrothed and Budget-conscious

Dear Betrothed and Budget-conscious,

The first thing to do when planning a wedding anywhere is to sit down with your spouse-to-be once you have a budget in place and prioritize. Between flowers and music and wardrobe and food, there are many choices to consider, so start with a list of what’s most important to both of you so that you can determine where to splurge and where to cut corners.

    If you’re foodies and not so into dancing, hire a three-piece band to play jazz standards during dinner, then switch to an iPod play list. Paying a small band or a pianist for an hour or two is a lot less expensive than a five piece with optional horn section for five hours. Then you can go all out on the food spread.

    On the flip side, if dancing is what defines the ultimate wedding experience for you, you might consider forgoing the raw bar or opting for a dessert selection rather than a five-tier fondant cake, so that you can spring for that horn section.

Q We are trying to decide where to say our I dos and celebrate our nuptials. What are some questions we should ask of potential venues?
    – Where to Wed?

Dear Where to Wed?,

    One special thing about the Vineyard is there is no shortage of varied locales. The Island offers everything from backyards to beaches to ballrooms, and the rules at each venue can be as different as the venues themselves.

    Consider how much responsibility you are willing to take on before you visit potential wedding sites, then find out what they are able to provide. If your venue requires a tent, are you responsible for renting tables and chairs? The tent itself? A catering kitchen? These are added expenses, and boy, can they ever add up.

    The bar raises issues as well. Can you bring in your own alcohol, or will the venue be charging you five dollars a beer and thirty for a bottle of wine? Also, are you responsible for hiring your own bartenders? I had a friend who overlooked this and found herself bartender-less the morning of her wedding. After some quick phone calls, the crisis was averted and there were people neatly clad in black and white to pour the champers, but this is not a situation you want to deal with on your wedding day!

Q Between bouquets, center-pieces, and altar decorations, I can’t believe how much flowers cost! Any ideas on saving money here?        
     – Floral and Frugal

Dear Floral and Frugal,

    There are many ways to repurpose your floral investments on your wedding day. At my outdoor wedding, we used planters to designate the place where we exchanged our vows, then moved those planters to the stage before the band set up for the reception.

    Centerpieces are another place to save. One clever bride I know had her bridesmaids’ bouquets double as centerpieces. During the cocktail hour, once pictures were complete, the bridesmaids snuck into the reception area and put their bouquets into the water-filled vases waiting in the middle of each table. (Granted, she had ten bridesmaids!)

    You can also go for a seasonal alternative to flowers. For a fall wedding, one friend filled glass vases with green apples and cranberries. For a mid-summer affair, shells surrounding a hurricane lantern with a layer of beach sand in the bottom can create a romantic vibe.

Q Any ideas for making our wedding day special and personal without breaking the bank?
    – Memorable Without the Mortgage

Dear Memorable Without the Mortgage,

    I’ll tell you a little secret. Here’s where my wedding obsession comes from: I used to work in publishing, where I spent most of my day working in graphic design programs. Since then, I have used my skills to gift numerous friends with wedding invitations, programs, and escort cards. They save money on printing, and I’m able to give them something a little more special than another All-Clad saucepan (not that there’s anything wrong with All-Clad saucepans – you should totally get some of those).

    Get your friends involved. What better way to personalize your day than to enhance it with hints of those closest to you? In addition to putting together something unique, I’ll tell you from experience, those late-night sessions with a box of glue sticks, a hole punch, and a bottle of wine will be some of your favorite wedding-planning moments.

    So recruit! Your neighbor’s a chef? Your sister’s best friend is a wedding singer? Your college roommate was a photography major? Toasters and blenders come and go, but those pictures – well, you’ll have those for the rest of your life.