How much money are you willing to put into your offbeat-ness?

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Directional sign - the other sideI've just started looking around at venue options, and I'm realizing that my dream venue (funky and yes, offbeat) is potentially going to cost us TWICE as much as this more traditional, kinda-boring venue that offers wedding packages.

Thinking about this reminded me again that offbeat does NOT necessarily mean less expensive! Then it made me wonder how much other Offbeat Bride readers are willing to spend to pursue their nontraditional visions — versus going lower-budget for a more packaged wedding.

Given that many corners of the wedding industry are set up with packages, how do you decide between an easy/low-budget package vs. a more expensive but more authentic offbeat vision? -WW

We're going to open this one up to you all: how did you navigate your budget priorities between “low budget” and “offbeat”?

Comments on How much money are you willing to put into your offbeat-ness?

  1. For us, the venue was non-negotiable. Cost didn’t come into play until afterwards and then we decided to just have the wedding on a Monday so it would be less expensive. Don’t regret it for a moment.

  2. Our offbeat wedding is actually saving us money because we opted to choose a venue that didn’t have a package and is VERY bare bones inside. We are creating exactly what we want, and funneling each cent into what our priorities are, not having to adhere to what a package dictates. We have had to be creative in sourcing the right vendors to participate (but really our only vendor is the caterer-we’re having tacos). We have 2 days to set up what will hopefully be more like an art installation than a wedding reception and have had a small army of help offered from excited and loving friends and family.
    For us, creating the space into a kind of magical experience for people (and ourselves) is the most important thing (although our $6000 budget is also a frontrunner of importance). Somehow, in life too, these 2 things seem to naturally go hand in hand. I don’t think we’d be as creative and innovative if we had money to throw at situations.
    So I guess to answer the question, we didn’t have to decide between easy/low budget and more expensive/more authentic, we took what was low budget, and we’re turning it into something authentic for us!

    • Emily, I couldn’t agree more with your idea of making the venue magical. Budgeting really does depend on your priorities. If I may suggest two things: first, one of the most inexpensive ways to highlight all the details you’re putting into your wedding space is through lighting (uplighting / ambient room lighting). The cheapest way to do that, if you’re really limited on funds, is certainly using “uplighting”. Some DJs include that in a “lighting package” (note: packages usually suck, but on a tight budget, it makes sense). If you opt out of a DJ, then a more pricey alternative is going through a local event lighting company.

      Here is my sage piece of advice #2. A reception is “a celebration” rather than a “food-based event”, and really a wedding is kind of like your first huge party for friends and family as a married couple. If you want your guests to stay all night, keep them from getting bored by entertaining them somehow. They’ll quickly forget the origami centerpieces and the cool stationary, but instead remember how much fun they had in the years after your wedding. Seriously the best investment you can make in wedding entertainment is with a kick-ass DJ (has to be a GREAT ONE who cares about your vision and musical tastes vs. a company’s “available DJ of the night”, plus 20 other factors). A band is usually $2,500-10,000+. A GREAT DJ can be had for a bit over $1,000, depending on where you live. In San Diego, for instance, a great DJ is usually between $1,500-2,000. That’s a lot of money, but if they’re really good, they’ll keep people dancing all night, play most of the songs you asked for, and coordinate with the other vendors to keep your reception flowing on-time and smoothly. In any case, it’s up to you to determine what is important.

      I wrote a crazy-long blog on wedding lighting AND another blog on budgeting for wedding DJs. You can certainly Dr. Google what I’m explaining here. 🙂 All the best!

      – Drew

  3. Cost is too critical for us. We’re not using credit or gifts from family members, so we’re cutting those corners as much as possible. And that’s just how we prioritize things. A place is mainly intended to be a rain shelter and meeting ground for our guests. We never had a vision or idea of the “where.” We’re more worried about low cost to our guests, easy access, and good food. However, some people (like you!) might prefer to put venue up higher on the chain of priorities.

    I’d ask myself this; does the venue offer something that can be recreated by you or your group? Is it the food, the lighting, the decor, or staff that appeals to you? Many of these things are wonderful, yet not always unique to that place. Sometimes better deals or arrangements can be had. Other venues and vendors could be flexible and open-minded enough to try out the offbeat ideas your dream venue has. On the other hand, if it’s ease of location, then I’d personally be more willing to pay. Same if the venue has an emotional tie to the couple or their families.

    edit: If the offbeat qualities can’t be easily separated from the venue (mini-golf, launch pad, museums, etc.) I can see that being an added value as well, too.

  4. We have a very limited budget, plus some of the vendor and guest constraints (No smoking anywhere on the property- including outside? Seriously?!) Didn’t allow for me to book in the Orangarium, or the Waterworks museum, or the Museum of Science, or that old drafty castle. When I was giving the figures for some of these places, he was like 10 grand is our entire budget, this is barely under it. Why can’t we just rent a Sons of Italy and be done with it. With a stunned look of horror and visions of wood paneling and no windows flashing through my mind, I stammered “But I don’t want to get married in a parking lot!” Determined, I scoured the internet for something, anything that was a function all but not ugly. (You want a knights of Columbus? I got your knights of Columbus!) It ended up paying off HUGE in the end. I stumbled upon the Elks on Bass Rocks in Gloucester, Ma. Now I grew up in a tourist trap of a beach community and believe me, the last thing I wanted was a “Cape Cod” wedding. This venue is GORGEOUS. Instead of a beach, it faces Cape Ann sound, which is all huge rocks with the surf crashing on them. In the middle of the sound is Thatcher’s Island, and it has twin working lighthouses on it! The venue it’s self has NO wood paneling, just wall to wall windows with that killer view. The cost? Just over $3,000, because we are electing to get hitched on their front lawn. It also comes with an Event Director for the entire event, and they only do one event a day! (

  5. I’m fighting with this right now. We have a very affordable sleepover camp that we would have to get a tent for and it’s far away from the cultural catering options we want (Russian) or a Russian banquet hall in the middle of a parking lot. As long as our guests don’t feel trapped by the space I think we’re going to end up going banquet hall. At first this felt like a blow, not the relaxed atmosphere of a camp, no way our broke friends could stay over for cheap, but now I’m taking it as a challenge. How can I make our wedding representative (and therefore offbeat) in a totally WIC space?

  6. I have an army of family who are do-it-yourselfers and are very hands on with everything family. I plan on footing the bill for most things and when it comes to the venue, we are willing to pay for what we want. Almost everything will be handmade and we are saving a lot of money. We are also going with nontraditional attendant attire, bridal attire, doing a taco bar instead of plated (very expensive) dinners and almost no fresh flowers. This allows us to splurge on the site, a great DJ and one of my great friends who is also a wonderful professional photographer. I think offbeat can be extremely expensive or quite the opposite depending on the amount of premade you are planning on buying or doing the DIY…also some of the packaged places can be reasonably priced OR very expensive. It all boils down to time and research!

  7. We went for what we wanted. In this stress-y out phase that I’m currently in, I say it’s not worth it. Stay in budget and talk with people before making big money decisions. We thought that more people would be interested in staying overnight, but it seems like the majority of folks just want a day thing. That would have been a heck of a lot cheaper.

  8. Our venue that has wedding packages is actually quite spend when you look at just the numbers. But it’s offbeat in a sense that it’s castle-ey looking and we can set up the inside however we want (it doesn’t need much, its very pretty) and its got a Shakespeare theme (we’ll be getting married user a mural of Romeo and Juliet, a play we were both in when we started dating). However, it comes with nearly all but the food and clothing, so we dont have to go rent stuff. If the high price of your venue comes with the benefits of extra stuff, go for it. Also remember packages dont necessarily mean you can’t customize your wedding

  9. So far we are staying really low budget (for Chicago). Our aim is not to be offbeat, so much as it is to be as personal to us as possible. As a result every corner of our wedding is being fulfilled by close friends. Our chef friend is catering, and we needed a really high grade onsite kitchen at our venue for him to use. This really limited our options and thank goodness there was a loft space that was actually really reasonable in price to accommodate that. But our venue choice was as much about functionality as it was “vibe”

    Our Photographer and Videographer are friends of ours. The pastry chef from the same restaurant as our friend will do our cake. Our good friends are going to officiate, and we will build the ceremony with them from scratch. We will pick songs that mean something to us that probably most people won’t know. My dad and I are playing a duet on guitar together rather than a father daughter dance.

    Where things get tricky are the decorations, but I’m using a lot of what I have. I have a huge container full of wine corks. Tons of left over beer bottles etc. I am designing our invitations on our computer to reflect our day and venue…

    I guess the point is that our goal is not to be offbeat, but to be personal, even if the personality is what makes it offbeat, or at times traditional. But when you’re focused on the personal touches, most of those things don’t have to cost a ton of money. (IE preforming a duet with my dad, possibly wearing my grandmothers wedding dress, brewing our own beer for the reception)

    Where I draw the line is cost per benefit. I guess I’m not really committed to a hard theme that makes me feel pressured to provide all these reminders of it. I think that would get expensive. I’d have to have all this custom made stuff. At times that’s very alluring, it would be great to pull the stops out for something elaborate and unique, but I just remind myself the most important elements of the day will be free (the vows, the family together, the speeches etc.) And really I don’t want to drown that out with a million beautiful distractions, unless I get handed them for close to free.

  10. I think it’s ok to have one thing cost a lot if you skimp on other things. We were very specific about the kind of food we wanted and our vendor is going to cost us more than half of our budget! So we made up for it. We found a cheap venue and opted to decorate it ourselves. Me and my friends are making all of the decorations and the cupcakes, and we shrunk our guest list a bit. That way, we were able to focus a good bit of money on the aspect of the wedding that was most important to us.

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