• June 2010

Event planner Roxanne Rukowicz shares tips on getting married on the cheap

By Roxanne Rukowicz
Behind the Scenes Events

My father has been selling me on the idea of eloping since I was four. Daddy and his little girl plotting a ladder gently placed against the siding of our Cape Cod so my groom could whisk me off my feet late in the night. I guess he figured that planting the seed early would pay off to his benefit in the end.

Having found myself working in the wedding and special event industry, it’s no longer a wonder why he tried to sell me on brief court house nuptials similar to his own. According to The Wedding Report, the average cost for a wedding in 2009 was between $21,000 and $25,000.

Add an additional $10,000 if you live in a metropolitan area. Couple that with a down economy, and the sticker shock of a Cinderella-inspired dream wedding is enough to send any father reeling.

These days, I am planning my own wedding (scheduled for the fall) and am aided by a few savvy insider tricks I’ve learned along the way. Below are some ideas that may help others walk down the aisle with a few extra dollars left in their (father’s) pocket — no ladder required.

The W Word

To verbalize what you already may have come to realize … the word ‘wedding’ will instantly increase the average cost of some goods and services. And there are both legitimate and illegitimate reasons for this.

In the case of a venue rental, the cost of use and potential damage to a facility during a four hour bar and subsequent dance-fest can be extensive. A very different situation from a conference client. Another good example are florals. I’ve been in many a shop prior to a wedding where hair dryers were being employed to open bouquet flowers to the peak of perfection, just in time for the walk down the aisle. Items that require such manpower will inevitably cost you more.

But alternatively, in the case of many other services, vendors simply here the ‘W’ word and see dollar signs. My advice? If you can at all get away with it … don’t pull the ‘W’ word out unless it’s pertinent to the discussion, unless you’re directly asked or, if at all possible, until you’ve signed a contract.

The Venue

The rental of a private estate or unique museum for your reception can, at first glance, look to be an astronomical expense. Before you panic, find out if the venue is run by a 501c3. Portions of rental fees (otherwise referred to as ‘donations’) for facility use may be tax-deductible, a benefit that can save you thousands. Potential 501c3 managed locations to consider include historic sites, museums, botanical gardens, national parks and wildlife preserves.

Consider, also, those hidden gems run by your county or state. Many historic venues have been left to the local jurisdictions to run and are extremely affordable and kept in good condition.


In an economy like this one, everything is negotiable. If you are not negotiating every contract, you are leaving money on the table. It’s that simple. Also, get multiple vendor quotes and ask for the expenses to be line-itemed. You are then able to compare apples-to-apples … but don’t forget to consider the level of customer service you’ll receive from each vendor in your equation, too.

Less is More (really)

After speaking with a multitude of former brides, we haven’t met many who have said “I would have gone bigger”. Most brides lament, even after many years have passed, over an endless guest list, a meal they never tasted, a video that has never been watched or $10,000 dress they will never wear again.

As they say, every bride must live and learn, but if you heed the warning of those who came before you … less really is more. Intimate can be equally elegant and memorable.

A Few Suggestions:

• Shorten your guest list and invite those second-tier well-wishers to a party at your home after the official nuptials.
• Invitations can cost you thousands. Instead, go online. Utilize a website and blog to get the details out. For those do-it-yourselfers, log on to www.paper-source.com. This website offers easy-to-use templates for all of their designs.
• Take advantage of the ambiance of an outdoor setting to save on florals and decor (but always have a backup location).
• Exploit the talents of friends and family and delegate tasks like the creation of invitations, centerpieces, place cards and programs. They will be thrilled to help!
• Enjoy your dream honeymoon a few years from now. Celebrate your anniversary with the trip of a lifetime, after the wedding bills have been paid off.

No one can deny the stress behind planning a wedding. Couple that with the rising cost of such festivities and the experience has gone from festive and fun to a chore. Decide your budget early on and stick to it. And then get creative. Our favorite weddings, and those most enjoyed by guests, are those that the bride and groom put their very own creative mark on … and leave Dad with a smile.

About Roxanne Rukowicz

Ranked one of Washington, DC’s top Meeting and Event Planners for 2009 by the Washington Business Journal, Roxanne Rukowicz’s Behind the Scenes Events, opened its doors in July of 2008 with a single concept in mind: to offer organizations access to an affordable full-service meeting and event planning solution.

Having worked in the Washington, DC meeting and event industry for over a decade, Roxanne started her career at the Greater Washington Board of Trade in 1999. Her experience with this influential regional network of business leaders allowed her hands-on training from the start. What began as a mere temporary work assignment, later progressed into a position as General Manager, as she excelled at each advanced meeting and event planning position she held.

Her extensive association and nonprofit planning skills are accented by experience working in the social and entertainment markets. Positions with The Walt Disney Companies and as a freelance wedding and special event coordinator have featured opportunities with A-list celebrity clients and top ranking government officials.

With a commitment to excellence and focus on the customer experience, Roxanne Rukowicz and the Behind the Scenes Events team create and produce exemplary meetings and events that drive an organization’s mission and goals.

For more information, visit Behind the Scenes Events.