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Ask Rashana: Confused in Houston

Dear Rashana,
I don't even know where to start. I am newly engaged and am now having to plan a wedding. I have never been one of those people who wanted to look like a barbie doll following a lot of traditions. I am very traditional in a non-traditional way. I just don't know where to begin.

We will be on a budget...I am guessing $10K. Staying on budget is very important. I want a small wedding party (just my sister as maid of honor)...I want everything to be chic, simple, and eclectic...I'd like the ceremony and reception to be held at the same place...the DJ and cake are very important. If you've ever seen the show Girlfriends, I want the wedding Joan would have, but on a budget.

How much should I expect to pay for a venue? How much is too much for catering? I really don't like the look of hotel weddings, so what are my options?

Confused in Houston

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Dear Confused in Houston,
Congratulations on your engagement! Although I work primarily with brides in the New Jersey / New York area, I can tell you with confidence that it's definitely possible to have the chic, simple and eclectic wedding in Houston, on a $10K budget. The average U.S. wedding costs $14K - $36K and Houston weddings tend to start a bit higher (around $18K), but there are several steps you can take to cut costs.

The first thing you should do is set a date at least 18 to 24 months from now. This will give you the time you'll need to research and negotiate prices. I always tell my brides EVERYTHING is negotiable, but starting early always gives you an extra "edge." Procrastinating will cost ya.

Thank goodness you're looking to have a "Joan Clayton" wedding and not a "Toni Childs" extravaganza, complete with Romona Keveza digs (wink). It sounds like you're comfortable being practical, so this could be easier than you think. Plus, you've already got the right idea in keeping your wedding party small. Just try to apply this to your guest list too, if possible. A number of 75 or less would be best.

Your reception will carry the biggest price tag. You should expect to spend 55%-65% of your budget here. So, when choosing the facility, consider a banquet hall or rented facility that accepts outside catering. Bringing in a caterer for a buffet meal could be a cheaper option than using a venue with their own kitchen. Definitely weigh both options, but think buffet no matter what. If you haven't already, you might want to check out Events Etc., The Milford House or Masraff's.  There's no clear answer to "how much is too much for catering," you'll just have to shop around and take time to taste, literally.  And if you're interested in having alcohol, consider limiting it to just beer and wine. Also, look into having a morning wedding and afternoon reception. You might save even more if you consider a Sunday instead of a Saturday.
Finally, being that you're not looking to follow many of the common wedding traditions, you may be able to fore go having lots of flowers and create centerpieces and focal points out of other materials to come up with something really special and cost efficient. When selecting a photographer, videographer and DJ, consider giving a newcomer or freelancer a shot. Also, plan to take on a few DIY (Do-It-Yourself) projects, such as invitations, programs and menu cards.  Michael's always has lots to choose from.

Best of Luck to You!
(photo courtesy of TheKnot - Wedding for 75 held at Masraff's, Houston TX)


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