What are some helpful tips for planning a beach wedding in La Jolla, CA on a budget?
May 2, 2011 9:16 AM   Subscribe

My fiance and I have been together for almost four years. She wants to get married in her home town, probably on the beach in La Jolla. I've never been married before, and neither has she, and I guess what I'm wondering is... What are some resources I can use to estimate the cost and planning necessary?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The most important rule of wedding planning is: Set your budget FIRST. Figure if you have a thousand, ten thousand or a hundred thousand to spend and then plan a wedding within those boundaries from there. I found the budget tools at WeddingWire helpful for tracking spending (TheKnot has similar tools, except that they all suck and you don't realize it until after you've put all your info in them), though some of their estimates were far off from how we balanced things.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:20 AM on May 2, 2011

I would encourage you to initially do two things: One, determine what is the acceptable amount of money you are willing/able and able to spen and; Two, do you want to have a small and intimate family/few friends wedding, midsize 50-150 people or large wedding 150+. Once you have completely resolved these two variables the other issues/costs are much easier to reconcile. Good luck with the planning. When we were married we each separately wrote down a list of people that we wanted to invite. I had 10 people and my wife had around 125. We had around 100.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:25 AM on May 2, 2011

If she wants to eat at a La Jolla restaurant, use a La Jolla hotel for the reception, etc. it will be well into five figures with just the basic costs of venue and catering.

On the other hand, I went to UCSD and a grad student couple I knew got married on the public part of Black's Beach, with all their friends chipping in stuff and a tiny reception at the library where the bride worked. I think total cost was a few hundred dollars.

This is an example of exactly how much YMMV. It's the intersection of what you want and what you can afford, but you can have a nice wedding with $500 or $50,000. Start talking to your wife about what the wedding means to you and what's important and what you could care less about. Go from there.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:30 AM on May 2, 2011

As others have said, without knowing how much you want to spend, there's not a lot of specific advice to give. But with that said, I've found that there are very few resources for estimating costs or guides for do-it-yourself weddings (which I'm just assuming a beach wedding would be). apracticalwedding.com has some, including one for how to plan a beach wedding here.

I made a spreadsheet with estimated costs for my wedding in September that's going to be very low-key and very inexpensive, using a traditional to-do list/schedule as a guide but cutting a lot of it out. I used Real Simple's checklist, available here. (I wouldn't recommend actually using one of those, though--they can be pretty intense.) The only way to find out costs is to call around to providers you'd be interested in and find out, unfortunately. If you'd like to take a peek at my spreadsheet, memail me and I'll be happy to share it with you.
posted by mchorn at 9:35 AM on May 2, 2011

Your biggest cost by far is going to be the reception. I'd find out a few of the most popular reception venues and find out from them. If you need to find out popular venues, you can look at wedding announcements in the local paper.
posted by kat518 at 9:57 AM on May 2, 2011

It seems like there are basically two approaches to planning a wedding budget.

The first is to assess how much money you have to spend, and/or how much money you can save in a set amount of time, and then make that your wedding budget, and break it down into categories from there.

The second, if you have a fair amount of money but don't want to spend it all, is to research categorical expenses first, and then weigh the various costs against how comfortable you are spending those amounts, and figure out how much money you need to spend to be happy with the day.

In my experience, the main "budget buster" categories are venue, food/catering, photography, flowers/decor, and attire. All the other things add up, sure, but they're much easier to cut, reduce, replace, etc.

A few general tips: the most inexpensive venues are going to be affiliated with city governments, such as public parks and beaches, community buildings, possibly historic venues, and so on. In general, if anything is advertised as being specifically for weddings, it is going to cost thousands of dollars.

Many wedding venues have required caterers, which tend to be on the more expensive end. I'm not familiar with La Jolla specifically, but in major cities, such as here in Atlanta, it is very common for catering to run at least $100/head including food, service, and basic rentals (plates, cups, silverware.)

Planning a brunch wedding, or afternoon tea/cake/snacks wedding will really lower your catering costs. Planning a Friday, Sunday, or weekday wedding can often lower venue costs as well, though not always.

If either of you or friends/family are crafty, consider DIYing any floral elements, (bouquets, centerpieces, etc) as you will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Again, not familiar with La Jolla, but I could not find a decent wedding photographer for under $2500 here, and the ones I really liked were in the $3500+ range.

There are wedding budget calculators all over, but my favorite is at Project Wedding. I'd second reading apracticalwedding.com if you want to stay sane.

Lastly, congratulations, and good luck!
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:11 AM on May 2, 2011

Oh, one more thing: I'd suggest taking one of those checklists and a big fat marker and crossing out all the things you don't really care about. Don't feel pressured to do/buy/make stuff just because it's traditionally included.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 10:13 AM on May 2, 2011

Admittedly, I'm more in the DC area, but things that have been helpful in cutting costs for us:

-Plan as far out as you can. We have a date for next April, and all the wedding stuff for this spring season is going on sale in July. We're picking up stuff for way cheaper than waiting until the last minute to get it. We put down on our venue one year to the day, so we could spread out costs over a few months rather than dump it all at once.

-DIY as much as you can. For us, this includes all paper goods (invites, place cards etc), favors, the cake, and the favors. I have an advantage in that I'm a culinary school grad, so making the cake is completely possible for me. I also enjoy graphic design, so the DIY invites are relaxing and fun for me. Some folks do the printable kits you can find at Michael's and the like instead.

-We're not going with explicit storefronts for certain things. Flowers are coming from Costco ($300 for *all* the flowers we'd be buying from a florist at $600+, sign me up!), dress is coming from an Etsy vendor who is making it to my measures, and we're making decor for the ceremony space and buffet tables.

-Consider doing anything BUT a three-course sit-down meal. Breakfast for dinner? Heavy hors d'oeuvres? Sushi on platters from your favorite sushi joint? Do it. Even with the possibility of a "kitchen use fee", it may be cheaper than having a meal you won't really like cost 3x what it really should, and have it be crappy food. (The last wedding I went to, the food *looked* good, but it was stone cold- steak should *not* be stone cold, nor should mashed potatoes. ymmv.)

-Be flexible. Be really, really flexible. I'm having my wedding be a day about celebrating my SO and I. Everything else is frickin' gravy. In the end, boil down with your fiancee what they really need to have, and prioritize. I highly, highly suggest Offbeat Bride and A Practical Wedding long before you ever get to buying any mags or the like.

You're welcome to memail me for more specific suggestions.
posted by Hwin at 12:22 PM on May 2, 2011

For La Jolla, many people get married at "the wedding bowl." It is not actually on the beach, but on the cliffs. Is gorgeous. And, is relatively cheap if you actually want something more formal than "hey everyone, let's just go to the beach!" I work in La Jolla and am getting married in December, so if you have any questions, please feel free to me-mail me. We are also on a super duper budget.
posted by fillsthepews at 2:00 PM on May 2, 2011

If you've got no idea about how much weddings cost, then the quickest rule of thumb is to estimate the cost of the reception and then assume that's half the total cost.

For example, a fairly typical wedding reception in the UK in my crowd would have a 3 course catered meal with wine around 70 people followed by a disco+buffet for around 150 people. At one local venue that's £40 a head for the meal, and £15 a head for the disco+buffet. Which makes up around a £5k reception cost and a ballpark budget figure of £10k. In your area you'd probably end up with a different figure.

I think it's easy to underestimate how much it costs to feed a large number of people, and how much effort can be needed to save money. If your initial ballpark estimate is considerably more than you would like to spend you will probably have to drastically change either the number of guests you invite or the 'fancy-ness' of the wedding you have.

Oh, and don't forget to have a contingency fund.
posted by plonkee at 2:26 PM on May 2, 2011

I got married at UCSD, almost three years ago, with 100 guests, and we ended up around 10k for everything. My husband was still in grad school at the time so nobody really judged us for not splurging. Message me if you want specifics on our vendors or how we planned things. I think I still have our spreadsheet around someplace.

Sorry to say our $1000 photographer appears to have quit the business :(
posted by troublesome at 9:30 PM on May 2, 2011

My husband and I were married at Windansea beach five years ago, and our total cost was under $6000. We stayed at the Bahia, which has a private beach that was absolutely perfect for the rehearsal and rehearsal barbecue dinner. The paddleboat was really fun that night too. I would seriously consider splurging a bit more to stay across the bay at the Catamatan if I did it over, though as I said, the Bahia was wonderful.

I cant remember our photographer's name, but she was in the sub-$1000 range. I was far more pleased with the photos our friends took, however.

We did flowers ourselves. There is a wholesale florist in San Diego, and I went crazy in there the day before the wedding- to the tune of $115. It was worth it to spend a couple hours putting boquets together for that price.

We for-went a traditional reception in favor of a dinner for everyone at a restaurant in Old Town. It was much cheaper, and seemed more intimate.

Anyway, I did a ton of research that I am willing to share. Memail me if you want more info.
posted by LyndsayMW at 7:52 PM on May 3, 2011

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