This article comes from Extraordinary Affairs at 5280, a spectacularly lovely wedding planning site that will make planning your fairytale wedding a beautiful reality. They are incredibly talented wedding planners located in Denver, Colorado, but their site is jam packed with insightful advice, tips, tricks and inspirations for a wedding anywhere. Please check them out. Give the original article by Angela Alizadeh a read here!
HOW TO PLAN A LUXURY WEDDING WITHOUT THE CELEBRITY PRICE TAG
• BY ANGELA ALIZADEH
Yes, a celebrity caliber wedding can be within reach; even if you don’t have a 7-figure wedding budget.
In this article, I’d like to show you how.
First, let’s establish one thing: luxury weddings aren’t reserved exclusively for celebrities and heiresses.
As a DENVER WEDDING PLANNER who oversees a wide variety of upscale events both small and large, I can confirm that, these days, couples across the country of all backgrounds, religions, nationalities and personal preferences plan luxury weddings every day.
Although the typical 6-figure luxury wedding budget is significantly higher than the $32,641 national average in the U.S., having a higher end affair is still within reach to a wide variety of professionals and everyday couples who may not even consider themselves in the luxury category. (Ref: 1)
Some couples may have been born into a higher tax bracket or come into an inheritance early, while others have simply entered into high society by means of their own personal life journey and career choices.
Regardless of the type of couple planning a luxury wedding, many are financing it themselves.
According to Splendid Insights, 40% of couples with luxury wedding budgets ($96,000 or greater) pay for part or all of their wedding themselves, making them not all that different from average budget weddings. (Ref: 2)
Which is why more and more couples, possibly like you, are investigating in creative ways to re-create celebrity trends and mainstays on a more accessible budget.
When PLANNING WEDDINGS IN DENVER for my clients, I try to innovate ways to create celebrity-worthy event elements even if we aren’t working with a celebrity budget.
I can help, Let’s dive in.
Set the Tone with Memorable Invitations
Photo credit: FROZEN EXPOSURE & PLATYPUS PAPERS
Today, luxury weddings are all about creating an experience. It’s a defining shift in the mindset of modern couples and the true mark of a luxury affair.
The Knot reported that, in 2015, the trend toward making the guest experience a priority continued with per-guest spending increasing while guest count decreased. (Ref: 3)
Your wedding invitations should be a preview of this coming attraction.
They are your guests’ first impression of the kind of experience they are about to have at your upcoming nuptials.
Some events are elegant and sophisticated, some are quirky and unique while others are fun and lighthearted. Whatever mood your event will set, your invitations can become part of the affair.
With an investment of between $4-$20 per invitation, creating a surprising and impressive preview to your wedding can be well within reach.
Photo credit: KRISTIE WITH A MAGICAL AFFAIR & PLATYPUS PAPERS
When Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones got married, they created highly specialized wedding invitations embossed with custom holograms. Not only did this special effect make their invites stand out, they served a purpose too. The hologram allowed security to keep crashers from entering the event with fake invitation replicas. (Ref: 16)
It’s not necessary to throw a 1.5 million dollar affair, as these actors did, in order to create a fantastic preview of your event with your invites; it only takes a touch of creativity or resourcefulness. (Ref: 4)
Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones created a sense of exclusivity with their invitations, what kind of experience do you want to make with yours?
Photo credit: PLATYPUS PAPERS
The Interactive Save-the-Date
Want to create a wedding experience that makes your guests feel involved in the fun?
If so, you don’t have to wait until the big day to get started. With playful invitations like edible board game save-the-dates and Mad Lib inspired response cards, your guests will be active participants from day 1. (Ref: 5 & 6)
The Element of Surprise Invite
Whether it’s invisible ink, 3D reveals or scratch-off lottery style invitations, you can let your guests unveil the details of your upcoming event with a bit of playful amusement. (Ref: 7 – 11)
The Anticipation Builder
Photo credit: HTTP://UNTILSUNDAY.IT/
Luxury weddings are a tremendous investment of time and resources so, naturally, you’ll want your guests to be as excited about your coming affair as you are. What better way to build anticipation than with a countdown chart? (Ref: 12)
The Story Teller
A few years back the infographic storytelling invitation became a popular trend. Today, you can build on that concept with even more creative ways to share your story as a couple or how you met.
One couple incorporated their love of making music into an originally recorded song invitation that recipients could play using the invitation itself. (Ref: 13)
PAPER RECORD PLAYER from KELLIANDERSON on VIMEO.
Less Is More
Luxury affairs are instantly recognized by their superior guest experience. From the instant ambiance and over-the-top décor to the delectable food and savory wine, upscale events have a way of whisking guests away to a fantastical place, if only for a day.
But this extraordinary experience comes at a cost, which typically gets broken down by “head” or individual.
Thus, for those trying to keep their luxury event within, or even under, a $100,000 budget, the key is to manage the number of guests invited.
The larger a crowd, the more stretched a budget becomes; even a high-end budget.
Which is why being selective about whom to invite to your wedding can help you reach your goal of creating a premium event experience for everyone in attendance, including yourself.
Photo credit: TREVOR BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY
Many married couples would confess that they no longer keep in touch with a decent portion of their guest list, and possibly even a few bridal party members.
While this may seem completely improbable for you, it is actually quite common. For this reason, it might be worth taking the time to seriously consider the strength and closeness of your relationship to each and every guest prior to inviting everyone you know. Your current budget and future self will thank you.
Here are 7 tips for helping you narrow down your list:
- First, respectfully ask parents, and possibly other close friends and family, not to discuss your wedding date with others or verbally invite anyone until you’ve formally created your guest list, to avoid embarrassment. It would be humiliating for both you and the uninvited guest if they had the impression they’d be invited to your wedding and were not. Likewise, it would be frustrating for you to feel obligated to invite someone you’d never intended to invite, due to an avoidable misunderstanding.
- Decide in advance the percentage of your final guest count that will be allocated to each set of parents. Many couples honor their parents with a reasonable percentage of guest list choices, especially when they are contributing financially.
- Create 3 categories of prospective guests: 1) Essential family members and wedding attendants you wouldn’t dream of excluding (grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, first cousins, the wedding party and ushers), 2) close friends and extended family (second cousins), 3) Colleagues and other friends. As you firm up your per-person investment and confirm how many guests your overall budget can (support), you can begin trimming down the list from the bottom up, starting with category #3. Remember to account for the guests on your parents’ lists.
- Ask yourself, ‘how close are we really?’ If you’re considering someone whom you haven’t spoken with or spent in-person time with for a year or more, they may belong in Category 3 and could be one of the first to exclude when you begin to narrow your list. This should include any person you’re inviting mainly because they are close friends with one of your close friends, even though you personally are not as close with them.
- While it may feel like your colleagues play an important role in your life today, because you see them on a daily basis, frequent interactions can be deceiving. Ask yourself whether or not you would truly stay in touch with that person if you were to transition to another company or job. If a co-worker is genuinely a close friend outside of the office with whom you spend a good deal of non-work time, then they are probably a good invite choice. If not, some extra consideration may be in order.
- If you strongly believe that a plus-one will significantly enhance the enjoyment of your wedding for all of your single guests, then certainly provide this option. However, don’t assume that you’re obligated to allow for an additional guest for your single invitees. This is a personal decision that is entirely the prerogative of you as a couple.
- Don’t forget about vendors. Some wedding vendors, such as musicians or photographers who are present throughout the entire day, may require that you supply them with a meal as part of your contract.
The day and season of your wedding can have a tremendous impact on the overall investment, along with a few other perks.
The more flexible you are with your wedding date, the more financial freedom you’ll have to fashion a spectacular wedding experience from top to bottom.
Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden shocked the media when they chose to get married on a Monday; which some believe was motivated by a desire for privacy by catching the paparazzi off guard. (Ref: 14)
Photo credit: NICOLE NICHOLS PHOTOGRAPHY
Privacy isn’t the only advantage to getting married on a weekday. Weekday weddings can also mean:
- Better availability of the most prestigious, talented wedding suppliers and venues in the area
- More attractive rates with the finest venues and wedding resources
- Fewer crowds in prime public spaces for desired photo shoots
- Only the closest, most excited guests (not everyone may be willing to take time off of work for your wedding)
Whether you choose to wed on a weekday or weekend, you can also get access to in-demand vendors and enjoy more attractive rates at desirable venues by choosing a date in the off-season.
Photo credit: REBECCA MARIE PHOTOGRAPHY & MILE HIGH CELEBRATIONS
Weddings tend to have a peak season and a slower season. If you choose to plan your event during one of the less popular months of the year and not during a holiday, you may enjoy the same benefits that weekday weddings offer.
In 2015, The Knot Real Weddings Study reported that Fall is on its way to becoming more popular than Summer for weddings; only 33% of couples wed in the Summer while 39% of couples held nuptials between September and November. (Ref: 3)
Imagine how much more you’ll be able to splurge on your highest priority wedding items when your venue and supplier costs fall by 15-30% simply by selecting a less competitive wedding date.
Land a Designer Gown or Suit for Less
Celebrities are known for investing substantially in their bridal gowns. According to Business Insider, Madonna wore an $80,000 Stella McCartney gown when she married Guy Ritchie in 2000 while Victoria Adams tied the knot to David Beckham in a $100,000 Vera Wang dress. (Ref: 15)
When you’re hosting an extravagant event, it’s only natural to want to feel luxurious yourself. Celebrities have long known that part of the whole experience is acquiring the finest, designer attire you have access to.
Fortunately, there are a few clever ways to source some of the most exclusive dresses and designer gowns without investing more than you’ve set aside.
1. Commission a Custom Piece
If originality and exclusivity is more valuable to you than designer name, then you might consider sourcing a local custom designer or tailor to fashion a one-of-a-kind gown or suit for you as a couple.
Going local will drastically reduce the investment without compromising on quality. Custom designers and tailors are often very selective with their choice of fine fabrics and will pay close attention to every detail.
You won’t have to worry about another bride or groom wearing something similar when the garment is crafted by hand just for you.
2. Premium Pre-Loved Attire
The life of a wedding dress is short lived. Enjoyed for only a day or two, then preserved for a lifetime, most gowns never receive the use they deserve.
That’s why it’s so refreshing to see a few discerning bridal boutiques make consignment available to their community.
Local shops like THE ALTAR BRIDAL CONSIGNMENT and THE GREEN BRIDEhere in Denver carry a wide variety of lightly pre-loved gowns in all shapes and sizes that are often no older than 3 years. If you have a particular designer in mind, you can work with them to procure the exact type of dress you’re pining for and save thousands.
3. Designer on Discount
Your perfect designer gown or suit doesn’t necessarily have to be new this season or on special order, if you’re not too particular.
With sample sales and last-season blowouts, many exclusive higher end bridal boutiques offer an opportunity to acquire top of the line attire for far less than original retail price.
If you are able to snatch up an in-demand designer piece on discount, no one has to know your secret.
By following any of these three tips, you’ll not only be able to flaunt a fabulous, coveted gown or suit on your wedding day, you’ll also have more funds to allocate to other high impact aspects of your event.
Borrow, Don’t Buy, the Accessories
Photo credit: TREVOR BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY
Your gown and tux aren’t the only wedding attire available for less when you know what your resources are.
For decades celebrities have held a coveted secret to their red carpet look: rental.
The reason so many celebrities are able to create a completely unique and stunning look for every red carpet event is that they borrow their outfit rather than buy it outright; including the jewels.
With resources like ADORN BRIDAL, you can actually rent your own diamond and real, precious gemstone bridal jewelry without investing five or six figures to get it.
With necklace rentals starting as low as $75, the most lavish accessories become well within reach.
For a svelt tux that requires zero in-store visits, check out Manguin, a more modern way to rent a fashionable suit.
Or you can order custom Boot Bling from Redneck Couture's Wedneck Couture Bridal Line--provide your Bridesmaids with their gifts at a reasonable price, allow them to have a beautiful piece of hand crafted jewelry that is splendid for any occasion, and the shipping is FREE!
Choose an Unconventional Venue
A sure-fire way to have guests rave about your wedding for years to come is to choose an unconventional and memorable venue. While not everyone has their own private island to host their nuptials at, as Johnny Depp and Amber Heard did, you can find unique and beautiful venues to create gorgeous ambiance and a luxury backdrop for your evening. (Ref: 31)
Have it at Home
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and Will Kopelman, Ellen DeGeneres and Portia De Rossi; these famous couples have one thing in common - at home weddings! (Ref: 17) Celebrities often choose to be married at home. They already have a beautiful estate, and using your own place means extra privacy.
If you don’t have your own gorgeous gardens or mansion to hold the wedding in, consider reaching out to relatives. Perhaps you have always loved your Grandmother’s garden, or your close friend’s beach house. By borrowing their space you can create an intimate and meaningful ceremony, with the luxury of privacy and discretion.
If destination is more your style - you can always follow Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’ suit and tie the knot in a castle! Tom and Katie chose the Odescalchi Castle in Bracciano, Italy. (Ref: 18)
There are many castles in Europe and the United States to consider, such as Denver’s Castle Marne here in the Colorado area.
If an actual castle seems out of reach, consider a Cathedral. Many old-age cathedrals resemble the gothic-style design of castles, and create an ornate and formal feel for your ceremony. Most famously, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in Westminster Abbey, known for its high ceilings, two towers, stain glass, and marble. (Ref: 19)
The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is a gorgeous Cathedral here in Denver, as beautifully photographed by our friends at ELEVATE PHOTOGRAPHY.
The Field Trip
Think museums, planetariums, zoos and aquariums are just places for school children? Think again!
Hilary Rhoda and pro hockey player Sean Avery were married at Long Island’s East End Parrish Art Museum. Desiree Hartsock and Chris Siegfried, a match made in Bachelorette heaven, hosted their reception dinner at the Redondo Beach Historic Library.(Ref: 20)
Add a touch of sophistication at your local art museum, or host a playful revisit to childhood at a Zoo. Many educational establishments also host high-end affairs and have their own ballroom and event staff. What better way to dance the night away then under an entire planetarium of stars?
Town Car Vs. Limo
Celebrities often opt out of the traditional wedding party limo, and instead ride up to their weddings in style. Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, and Mercedes are just a few of the luxury rides available.
Rent for the Day
Prince William arrived at Westminster Abbey on the day of his wedding in the Queen’s own Bentley, the “Bentley State Limousine.” (Ref: 21) While you might not be so keen on purchasing a luxury car of your own, many are available for daily or hourly rent.
Horse Drawn Carriage
If you prefer to make an even bigger statement, and be a true princess for a day, you might consider a horse drawn carriage as Princess Diana did when marrying Prince Charles. (Ref: 210). Carriages can also be rented on an hourly basis and create a memory like none other.
To add to your guest’s luxury experience, consider having beverages served upon arrival at the ceremony, rather than later during the cocktail hour. This is an unexpected extravagance that many celebrities have added to their higher-end affairs to keep guests excited and having a good time.
Opt for Non-Alcoholic
To keep this addition less costly have non-alcoholic beverages served instead. Lemonades, strawberry infused water, virgin-spritzers, and Arnold Palmers will keep your guests refreshed while they wait for the festivities to begin.
A Signature Drink
Add personalization by creating a custom drink named after the happy couple. Choose ingredients that symbolize each person’s personality to create a one of a kind beverage.
As your guests enter your venue they should be greeted by a setting that sets the tone for the entire evening.
Alex Jones and Charlie Thomson are from the Welsh mountains and New Zealand respectively, and wanted their guests to arrive amid greenery and atmosphere that represented their very different yet equally beautiful homelands. Through the entry way were placed winter trees and twinkling lights, which led way to a corridor adorned with rainforest sound effects and thick vibrant greens. Guests were transported into a dream like world where seasons changed rapidly. (Ref: 22)
Pick Your Vibe
Choose an entry treatment that lets your guests know what sort of an evening it will be.
A trendy yet casual lounge sets the scene for a relaxed and fun night; Billowing curtains and decadent floral arches promise a romantic evening. The first impression is so important - don’t forget to invest wisely in this crucial space!
Signature Focal Points
Designating separate spaces for guests to explore at your reception can add to the extravagance of the party. Using special lighting and luxurious furniture to turn your venue into an inviting atmosphere.
The Private Lounge
Celebrities are often seen in VIP lounge booths at clubs and parties. These coveted “above the crowd” spots create a sense of mystery and intimacy at events.
Having lounges throughout your ceremony may seem out of reach, but coordinated furniture can be rented starting at just 300 dollars. You don’t need enough of this seating for every guest, but just enough to create small getaways from the party where guests can go to steal a private moment with one another. (Ref: 23)
Unique Food And Beverage Presentation
A sure way to elevate the status of your event is to create unique food and beverage presentations. Take your dinner from drab to fab by making an experience out of the meal.
Photo credit: THE WILLINGHAMS
Many couples are choosing to add food to their décor. Lisa Karvellas of Cedar Lake’s Estate says, “We have seen everything from apple branches (with apples still attached!) as floating centerpieces, to ruby red beets and purple artichokes in bridal bouquets..” (Ref: 24)
Many couples are choosing to have themed bars at their weddings to show off their particular tastes. Choosing from specialty cocktail bars, whiskey bars, or even dessert bars can allow your guests to taste something unique and unexpected. (Ref: 24)
Surprise Guests With The Human Element
Many celebrities have live entertainment at their weddings that reaches far past the typical band or DJ. Circus performers, celebrity artists, servers, and performance artists can add the “human element” of live entertainment to your guest’s experience.
For their first dance, Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were serenaded by none other than John Legend. (Ref: 32)
Hire local talent to come in and enhance your big day. Station a local painter to come and paint the first dance live as guests look on, or hire a young singer to serenade guests outside the reception hall as they enter.
Recently two celebrity circus performers for Ringling and Brothers made the news by being married on top of a high wire. (Ref: 33)
While you yourself may not want to participate in such a daring endeavor, you can easily find aerialists to perform and stun your guests. Contortionists, dancers, and acrobats enliven the atmosphere and add a shock-factor to your reception.
Food and Drink Experts
Add the human element to your refreshments with bartenders trained to entertain, or rotate chefs to each table with flambeau dessert stations. You can also have personal waiters and waitresses for each table, eliminating the guests need to retrieve their own drinks from the bar.
Photo credit: STUDIO JKPHOTOGRAPHY
Creative Use Of Lighting And Video
When Kanye West proposed to Kim Kardashian he had the entire AT&T baseball stadium in San Francisco in darkness as guests entered for his surprise. Then slowly the lights lifted as a fifty piece orchestra serenaded Kim with her favorite song. (Ref: 25)
You can recreate this use of lighting to create a mysterious and romantic atmosphere at your own wedding.
Photo credit: TREVOR BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY
Color wash lighting refers to engulfing the entire room in a certain color. Use blush pink or pale blue to create an atmosphere or decadence. (Ref: 26)
Pin spotting uses mini spot lights to amplify special parts or attributes to the room. You can hang pin spots over special stations, such as the wedding cake, the guest book, or the center pieces. (Ref: 26)
Perhaps a celebrity’s most sought after element on their wedding day, privacy, can add an element of exclusivity to your event.
Ensure privacy on your big day by selecting venues that only allow one wedding at a time, or picking a date when no other weddings will be held.
Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren rented the entire Sandy Lane Resort in Barbados and the island’s only helicopter company to ensure paparazzi would be unable to snap their ceremony. (Ref: 18)
No Posts, Please
Kindly ask guests to keep their phones away during your ceremony, and instead invite them to use a wedding themed photo-booth. This can also act as a guest book that you can look through after, and encourages guests to stay in the moment instead of online during your festivities.
Be Wise With Food
Exotic or gourmet foods can come with a hefty price tag. Choose wisely what and how you serve your guests.
Instead of surf & turf for the main dish add seafood options as passed hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour. Guests will still enjoy the luxury of fresh seafood, but you’ll be able to manage the investment better.
Another Human Element
Having wait staff serve your premium nibbles instead of displaying them on a self-serve table will also minimize costs without detracting from the luxury experience. If anything the wait staff service adds a greater touch of elegance to the event, while monitoring the amount of food circulating at any given time.
Seasonal Flower Choices
Blake Lively’s bouquet when marrying Ryan Reynolds was filled with seasonal flowers including, pink jasmine, andromeda, dusty miller, and blushing bride hydrangea. (Ref: 28)
Choosing season flowers can allow you to splurge on volume and variety while remaining in budget.
Carnations, Gerbera Daisies, and Evergreens are all in season in Winter. (Ref: 29)
Gisele carried a bouquet of white orchids when walking down the aisle to marry Tom Brady at their winter wedding in Costa Rica. (Ref: 30)
While orchids may not seem like a winter flower, they are in Costa Rica, which naturally grows over 1400 varieties of orchids. (Ref: 34)
Anemone, Baby's Breath, Bittersweet, Carnation, China berry and Chrysanthemum are all Autumn flowers. (Ref: 29)
Apple blossom, Bird of Paradise, Brodea, Calla lily, Cherry Blossom, Corn flower, Cosmose, Dahlia, Delphinium, Delwood, Forsythia, and Freesia are in abundance in Spring time. (Ref: 29)
Summer flowers include Hypericum, Iris, Kangaroo paw, Liatrus, Lilac, Casa Blanca Lily, Gloriosa Lily, Star Gazer, and Lisianthus. (Ref: 29)
Start Planning Your Celebrity-Inspired Wedding
As you can see, a celebrity-inspired luxury wedding can absolutely be within your reach. All it takes is a little ingenuity and resourcefulness and you’ll be planning an upscale event guests will be blown away by.
Love this article or have your own tip to add? I’d love to get your input in the comments below.
Planning a downtown Denver wedding? And if you’re local to the Denver area, I would be thrilled to chat with you about how we can bring more celebrity-inspired luxury into your event. Explore my DENVER WEDDING PLANNING AND DESIGNservices to get started.