Bridesmaid Master Class, Lesson 1: Bridesmaid Budgeting

Bridesmaid budgeting is a lot easier than you think! Welcome to the first session of my new Bridesmaid Master Class, your FREE guides to being a fabulous bridesmaid, on a budget, with plenty of style, and with unforgettable class and grace. Your bride is going to love you!

I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this quick and easy: today’s bridesmaid spends an average of over $1,200, according to The Wedding Report, and The Knot puts that number up around $1,600 in their recent survey. When you add up that $400 dress, travel and a hotel room for a few nights, the bridal shower, gifts, hair and makeup, things can get very expensive very quickly.

Mty book Bridesmaid on a Budget is filled with hundreds of tips to help you save on all the big and little things on your new shopping list during the year or so that you’ll be a bridesmaid, but I thought I’d start you off with the Bridesmaid Master Class top 3 Money-Saving Commandments:

1. Don’t just say no, suggest something else. If the other bridesmaids want the $500 dress and you can’t afford it, don’t just email a ‘No, that doesn’t work for me,’ email with ‘That one’s really pretty, but out of my budget range. Sorry! What do you all think of these dresses?” And provide 3 to 5 URLs of pretty bridesmaid dresses. That’s how you get things done.

2. Go in on a group gift. If all five of the bridesmaids share the cost of a big-ticket item on the registry, each woman pays a lot less than a solo gift. For instance, that $300 cookware set divided by the five of you equals $60. Very do-able. Or, give their $200 beddding set, making your share $40.

3. Work those coupons! Coupon Sherpa on your iPhone, Retail Me Not, Target, even Costco all offer phenomenal savings on everything you need for the bridal shower. Check out www.coupons.com to get valuable discounts on everything from hummus to salsa and chips, colas, cake mixes and frosting, and more. At the craft store like Michaels Crafts, you’ll get 40% off or more with store coupons, often handed to you after you buy a little something. Tell every bridesmaid, and the moms, to start coupon-hunting, and checking Groupon and Living Social, so that the bride can get an amazing bridal shower…and you’ve saved over 80% on the cost of it!

Wild About Wedding Bands…even if they cost a little more

Last night, the hubby and I decided to act 20 years younger than we are and go out to see a band. We’d both seen The Nerds when we were in college, and this would be a great pre-Valentine’s Day awwww-isn’t-that-sweet story to tell the kids someday…how we saw this band as college students and then over 20 years later saw them together. The Awwwww-o-Meter quickly turned into something else.

 

The minute The Nerds ripped open the show with their jaw-dropping guitarwork, Joe and I said, ‘We should have booked these guys for our wedding.’ And we should have. Not that we didn’t love our deejay. These guys can play, and their personas as Biff, Mongo, Stretch and Spaz the nerds just make the entire show wildly fun. Did I mention they can play?

Seeing this band in action, and knowing so many top-quality wedding band leaders, reminded me to remind you that one thing a live band can do extremely well is not just transition from one song to the next but combine them. That’s what The Nerds do so well, a mashup of songs that makes a combo you’ve never heard before, and that had the dance floor jammed. Check out their YouTube videos to get a feeling for their high-energy performance and song-blending, and you might just get a renewed appreciation for the amazing musicians in bands. Don’t assume that every band has an overly-dramatic crooner singing ‘Cherish’ while wearing a white suit jacket with no shirt underneath.

Wedding bands rock more than ever, and local celeb-bands on the circuit like The Nerds can play your wedding. Even for just a few hours. After last night’s Nerd-fest, I do wish we booked them for our wedding. We made a big mistake in saying simply, ‘we want to hear the original versions of the songs we like,’ and not being open to checking out bands. Because if we’d seen these guys at BB Kings or down the shore, we would have signed them on the spot.

If you haven’t booked your entertainment yet, be open to both deejay and band, wedding band and circuit band, and you could go out on a date five years later thinking, “Our wedding entertainers were awesome.”

Newly-Engaged? Welcome to Wedding World 2012

This is me, happy that I finished the new book!

I’ve just put the finishing touches on my new wedding book, which is going to help you get lots of free wedding items the right way, sacrificing nothing, making no mistakes, not selling out, not avoiding wedding vendors, and not winding up with regrets. Quite the teaser, eh? Since this book won’t be out until the end of 2012, I didn’t want to leave all of you newly-engaged brides out in the cold. So here’s  little sneak peek at just one of the many categories of wedding freebies in my new book:

You’ve got to enter contests! As many as you can find! Brides are said to have a weird form of natural luck, and you might just magnetize…oh…a free honeymoon or a free wedding dress. That’s about $6,000 saved right there in some instances. Perhaps $2,000 or more, depending on the contest you enter.

Here’s my guide to the top types of contests and sweepstakes you need to enter now, and have your mom and bridesmaids enter for you, if they will. Some of those freebie prizes, after all, can benefit them. There are a ton of new contests out there that give the mom a new dress, or snag a free girls’ getaway to Vegas, which saves your bridesmaids serious money. So the more people you have clicking on Enter for you, the better. I got my husband in on the action when we were engaged, and we won some pretty sweet deals. Okay, so one of them was a lip gloss, but it was an awesome lip gloss.

1. Contests on bridal magazine sites. Bridal Guide has lots of contests going on throughout the year – free honeymoons and trips, gowns for your bridesmaids, beauty and jewelry swag. Check in at your favorite bridal magazines’ sites, or sign up for their newsletter, check their Facebook and Twitter posts, and click, click, click.

2. Contests on major bridal blogs. Right now, I have a giveaway going on Broke-Ass Bride in which you can win copies of my new books for the mother of the bride and for wedding weekend events, and 5 pretty blue floral Kodak cameras. Just about every major bridal blog — you know, the ones that win Bride Tide’s best-of awards — runs contests and giveaways all the time, and you might find that all of those too-busy, distracted other brides out there forget to enter them. So you might be one of 30 brides in the running to win mega-prizes.

3. Contests on so-called ‘smaller bridal blogs,’ the specialist blogs that are awesome but don’t yet have 150,000 followers. They may just be starting out, and they’re landing some fabulous prize deals from their partners and offering their products up as prizes as well. With a smaller entry pool, your chances of winning go up.

4. Hit the women’s magazines’ websites, for the mother lode of cash prize contests. At www.bhg.com, you’ll find lots of sweepstakes to win $5,000, $10,000, $15,000, $25,000 or more. Plus free trips. And blenders. They like to give away blenders. Don’t mind if I do. This link will take you to contests at their sister magazines, such as Parents. Even if you’re not a parent, click on those contests. You’re still eligible.

5. Bridal show giveaways. I can hardly believe how awesome the prizes are at The Wedding Salon! Valuable trips, designer gowns, designer cakes…it’s just mind-bending…but oh so thrilling! Attend this upscale show, and you could walk out of there needing a bodyguard. Any quality bridal show is going to offer terrific prizes, from honeymoons to elite photography packages, the works. The key is to stay until the very end when they do the winner drawings. Winning tickets have been pulled, with no bride in sight, and they go on to the next winner. One group won that girls’ getaway weekend after three not-there brides’ tickets were pulled. It pays to stay.

6. Network giveaways. We’re talking the HGTV Dream House, where you can win a house, a car and six figures in cash, plus all of the housewarming gifts that viewers have voted for you to get. Tons of network shows have giveaways, so follow them on social media, bookmark their entry pages, and do as I do…

I start each morning off entering all of the contests I can find on BHG. It’s like my Zen morning practice. Hot Dunkin Donuts coffee in one hand, and a big wellspring of hope and optimism all about me. Someone’s gotta win, they say. Might as well be me. Or you, as the case may be.

So get that bridal luck going, start or end your day with contest-entering, and hey, let me know where you’re finding great contests so that I can get YOU mentioned in the acknowledgments of my new book!

Visit my site at www.sharonnaylor.net and follow me at @sharonnaylorwed where my greatest sweepstakes finds will be posted! Good luck!

 

5 Top Bridesmaid Budget Mistakes

Bridesmaids spend a lot each time they walk in a bridal party — according to www.theweddingreport.com, the national average is over $1,000. Which we all know takes a huge chunk out of your bill-paying cash and spending money. So if you’re a bridesmaid right now, or expecting to be one soon, keep these top money-mistakes in mind:

1. Not speaking up when the other bridesmaids pick a too-expensive dress. Don’t just say No…provide them with a few URLs of equally-pretty dresses that work on a lower price point.

2. Trying too hard to compete and impress. Throwing a bridal shower that rivals a wedding is just silly. What’s happening now in wedding world is that people are raising their eyebrows at bridal showers and weddings that are over-the-top. Throw a more modest bridal shower, and let the wedding shine.

3. Not being organized. If you lose that email or receipt that says you paid your deposit for your dress, you won’t have proof of payment when the gown shop says you never paid. So keep a good record system (I like Microsoft’s OneNote for projects, and scan my receipts right in there.) Being organized will always save you money.

4. Being slow. If you drag your feet when it comes to ordering your dress, you’re going to pay pricy rush fees. So get right on each task, and you’ll save.

5. Not using coupon codes. Why would you not save 30% and get free shipping when ordering your dress, shoes and other items online? Visit www.retailmenot.com and other coupon code sites to cash in on big savings. And share the news with the other bridesmaids, so that you’re all soon looking out for each other, sharing coupon codes and shop sale FYIs.

For lots of ways to save, pick up my book Bridesmaid on a Budget at Amazon, BN.com or through my site www.sharonnaylor.net/books.htm