Cents-ible spending: Making ends meet and avoiding big day budget busters

Photos: Rebecca Keeling Studios Photos: Rebecca Keeling Studios

It’s one of the first questions any planner asks: “What’s your budget?” But before your wallet starts nervous sweating, take a cue from Anyvent Event Planning’s Jazmin Portnow and newlyweds Ellen and Joel Loeshelle on how to cut corners (and where to splurge).


Good food + good music = great time

“Having good food at our wedding was a no-brainer,” says Ellen. “We adore Charlottesville and are obsessed with the local food scene.” With the help of Harvest Moon Catering, Ellen and Joel sourced as many local items as they could, which the couple says came at a cost. They also hired UVA a capella group Academical Village People for a surprise performance during the reception.

“Entertainers set the mood for the entire event. Food is part of the experience,” says Portnow. “Everything else can be beautiful, but people talk about cold food or if there wasn’t enough food for years to come. It’s money well-spent.”


Centerpieces aren’t the center of attention Portnow says many of her clients, like the Loeshelles, forego flowers. A mid-August wedding means major wilting, and finding alternatives is a good way to trim the budget. Portnow often recommends reusing statement pieces from the ceremony and repurposing them for the reception. And the Loeshelles DIYed centerpieces with flowers and herbs from Trader Joe’s, and filled bread baskets with loaves from Albemarle Baking Company.

“We needed to serve bread anyway, so it seemed like a natural fit,” says Ellen. “Some of our guests took the potted herbs home as favors at the end of the night. The loose blooms saved us a ton of money.”

Photos: Rebecca Keeling Studios


Remember how much a photo is worth. Some of Portnow’s couples “don’t care about photography,” she says, but Portnow still recommends a good photographer.

“It’s the only thing that you get to keep forever,” says Portnow. “I don’t know if people really understand that value.”

Ellen and Joel didn’t compromise on a high-quality, experienced photographer for their August 2017 wedding. That is, once they settled on who they’d use.

“We had a hard time agreeing on a photographer,” Ellen says. “Once we found one we liked, we worked hard to make it fit in the budget.”



Nobody cares about napkins Portnow says rentals and extras like premium linens or chargers can quickly add up to $7 a person, which makes a big difference at a 150-person event like Ellen and Joel’s Castle Hill Cider wedding. They chose to let the venue’s barn and surrounding landscape speak for itself.

“On Instagram and Pinterest, you’re seeing overdone images, like $100,000 weddings or a styled shoot,” says Portnow. “At the end of the day, no one remembers how your napkin was folded.”