Wedding trends geared toward saving money

By Barbara Bradley

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In today's economy, the biggest wedding trend is saving money, according to local wedding planners. One way to do it is to hold the ceremony and reception at the same site.

Some venues have the option of an outside ceremony and an inside reception, said Angela Dacus, owner of Southern Event Planners. Or the ceremony may be held inside, letting guests go outside for cocktails while the room is reset with tables and chairs for the reception. It's surprising how much theatrical lighting can transform a space, she said. "Guests walk into a completely different environment."

Saving on facility fees and decorations can trim $1,000 to $3,000 off the budget, she said.

Lynda Jones-Owings of Mid-South Wedding Planners in Olive Branch said nearly all the weddings she does now are held in one room. She creates an aisle and altar using pedestals, flower stands and chairs for guests in one area of a room and sets up reception tables in the back. While guests are at the "reception," she and assistants quickly remove the ceremony set-up and create a dance floor.

Couples may save on music as well, since a deejay could provide recorded music for the ceremony and reception.

Contrary to what you might think, seated dinners can be less expensive than buffets because you can control the amount of food you serve, Dacus said.

A trend in seated dinners is small plates or "flights of food," in which five or six courses are served in small portions. "It's really interesting done that way," she said. Guests get waited on, and they get to experience a lot of different foods. About 8 percent to 10 percent of weddings they do have that concept.

"Memphis has incredible musicians and artists," said Woody Degan, partner and production manager for Memphis Sound Entertainment, a full-service Entertainment, production and digital services company. Unfortunately, there are also many ways for Entertainment agencies to take your money. One way, he said, is for an agency to claim a last-minute glitch and substitute a band worth less than the one for which the couple paid.

Couples should be able to get a good local band for around $2,500, he said. Book for Friday instead of Saturday for the best price, he said, and think three to six months out to get the band of your choice. Booking through a reputable agency can help you find a talented, reliable band that suits your needs.

Memphis Sound Entertainment provides sound and light production as well as screening bands and managing the booking to ensure the band arrives on time with all its equipment. Degan said his company makes its money in production, not in its booking commissions, which average 5 percent.

Dacus, of Southern Event Planners, which has been in business for 14 years, has spotted a number of other trends:

In Southern weddings, the groom's father is traditionally the best man, she said. But increasingly that honor is going to a brother or a friend.

Couples are leaning away from using just florists and looking more toward event designers who can create a scene using not only flowers but also other natural elements, candles, lighting, etc. (Florists, as well as wedding planners such as Dacus, may offer this service as well.)

Organ music is on the decline for ceremonies, even in churches with big organs. Couples often have a harpist, guitar, piano or string quartet and may have all live music or incorporate recorded music as well.

Cakes are getting more imaginative, but, to Dacus, flavor is key. She recommends "the naked cake," a tiered strawberry shortcake confection covered and layered in fresh strawberries instead of icing. It's pretty, but the impressive part comes when you bite in.

-- Barbara Bradley, 529-2370