Bride Guide: “You betta shop around!”

I wrote this exactly one year ago on my former blog.  I edited it to reflect my views now but I loved going back to that time in my life, planning for the big day!

“Starting a blog that people actually want to read is one thing.  Knowing where the hell to begin is another.  Honestly, I’m winging it and maybe even zigzagging so please forgive me.  I want to get to all that big stuff but let me start with a biggie: You betta shop around!

“What are you talking about? This isn’t like shopping for a car or shoes.”  You’re right— it’s bigger so you best be looking at the bigger picture.  Let’s break it down.  This is one day.  It’s the start of your life with someone you love, the person you want to grow old with.  Down the line, you want to look back on this day with your grandchildren, look at the pictures, and be able to savor the dances, the people, and even the tastes.  What is it YOU want to remember?  Another very important P word besides perspective? PRIORITIES.

Forget style for a minute and think about what you get from where you go.  Let’s say I pretend book my wedding at the fake place I’ll call ‘Nabina’s Venetian Gardens’ (you like the combo of names, Jersey brides, dontcha?) because they have gardens.  Then I go to the fake ‘Springtime Inn and Manor’ and see that they too have gardens, their food is excellent, and they’ll give me a Viennese table for no extra cost per person.  Gardens is $100 more per person than Manor but if you didn’t look around first you wouldn’t know that.  This should be a no brainer for those of us who are on budgets and not trillionaires.  Wedding days are the days to spend but on what?

Now we get to priorities.  My personal priority was budget but with amazing music and photos.  (Disclaimer: we ain’t po’ but we ain’t rich by any means. We’re lucky my mom and stepdad and my dad and stepmom are helping. I also saved a lot for this.  Some people aren’t as lucky so really listen up.) I wanted to look back and see expressive photos filled with some posed and some artistic shots.  Being a singer, I also wanted amazing music. My fiancee wanted artsy photos and a huge variety of music but his priority was food.  Before we got engaged, I scouted out places in Northern NJ, Central NJ and NYC.  Do the math on a venue that covers your cocktail hour, dinner, desserts, and even your ceremony and then add almost double that for all of your other vendors and such.  It’s a lot but look at where you can pinch and squeeze.  Do you need bows on the chairs? No even though I wanted them.  Did I need a videographer? No but I got one.  It’s up to you!  Our priority was to have it all and use maybe a lesser known diamond in the rough. Edit: I did end up with bows on the chairs.  They got thrown in. I’m REALLY glad they did.

You betta shop around best relates best to my situation. We have many vendors all set up but we need a cake.  A cake is a beautiful and delicious accent that has a starring role for about 1 minute as you cut it and then no one even remembers it, even when they are eating it, unless the taste is UNREAL.  Honestly, unless a cake is mind-blowing, do you remember it? Think of every wedding you’ve been to. See? Not my top priority. If it’s yours, awesome but not mine. So I started doing my homework, having set a low budget.  I knew the design I liked was simple and elegant (very Martha Stewart) so I didn’t think it would be a lot.  While baking and cake design is time consuming, it is a cake, you eat it and poof it’s gone.  I’m a wedding officiant, I write the ceremony rendering people married for a lifetime, and I know what I charge.  Cake’s shouldn’t be that expensive. Guess again.  The first place I went quoted me more for a cake than I am paying for my dress.  Were they kidding?  I shopped around and found prices all over the map.  The minute some vendors hear how many guests you are having, they see dollar signs.  Then there are people who just make good cakes that taste delicious, look fabulous, and charge you for what they really are.  I appreciate the ones who realize that this is artistic food but still a temporary and quick part of the big day.  Will a cake add to a good marriage? LOL no but it sure tastes good.

My advice after shopping: Go to several cake tastings!  I already have a few appointments set up with places after narrowing it down from a dozen.  Tell them what you want and be firm about your budget.  That goes for any vendor and getting quotes beforehand is necessary.  Have pictures and flavor options chosen– buttercream is cheaper than fondant.  Northern NJ, your average cake price is looking to be around $6-$7 per person.  Biggest tip especially for those with a big guest list: get a pretty cake that will feed less than half of your guests.  THEN get a cutting cake that only the kitchen will see in the same color and flavor.  I realized at 99% of weddings when there is a fondant cake, i haven’t gotten that on my plate. Hmmmmm! Things we learn…

Present day: The bakery I ended up choosing gave us a cake that was gorgeous, delicious and on budget.  I originally just wanted buttercream frosting but ended up upgrading to fondant because of the great deal they gave us. I’m not a cake person and ours was GOOD!  If you want the bakery’s name I’m happy to provide. They were amazing to me and gave us everything we could ask for.  They are not a famous place for wedding cakes but they should be.  They are now our go-to bakery for every birthday cake I will ever buy or pastries I will ever bring anywhere.  We will enjoy eating the cake on our first anniversary.  We will enjoy it more because it will free up an entire shelf in our freezer. 🙂

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