Photo: Jessica Craig-Martin
Ashlee Simpson and Evan Ross, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade, and Johnny Depp and Amber Heard all celebrated their upcoming weddings with extravagant engagement parties this month. And while their lavish prenuptial celebrations probably cost more than the average couple's wedding, it is possible for you and your fiancé to throw an A-list bash without the celeb-worthy price tag. We spoke to a bunch of seasoned wedding planners to get details on how to host an epic engagement party on a budget.
Keep the Guest List VIP Only: The easiest way to save cash is to keep the head count to a minimum. That means don't invite your second cousin that you rarely speak to or your mom's best friend's friend. The guest list should include close family and friends only. "A small guest count will allow you to save money on food and beverages, not to mention go elaborate on other details like flowers, lighting and specialty décor," suggests Charleston-based wedding planner and designer Francesca DiSalvo-Follmer of Pure Luxe Bride.
Skip the Weekend: You know how it's harder to get a Saturday night reservation at your favorite restaurant than it is on a Wednesday? Well, apply that same logic to choosing your engagement party date. Instead of booking on the weekend, try a slower day of the week to help save serious cash. "Make a list and call at least three, compare prices, accessibility and what's being offered," advises Cemone Glinton, owner of Out of Box Events and Weddings, LLC.
Choose an Unexpected Venue: Think outside of the "event space." Often, locations that aren't traditional party locations come with a lower price tag. "Industrial warehouses, factories, rooftop gardens, atriums, and greenhouses create a magical aesthetic while still offering amenities for intimate parties to large numbers," event planner Claire Gordon of Claire Gordon Events says. "Restrooms, catering amenities, parking, and natural lighting options are often standard in these spaces, making them a cost effective 'non-venue'."
Get the Party Started Late: The time of day you hold your event can make all the difference. Pick a time that's in between meals to cut costs. "You can do an all dessert menu or ice cream truck for a late-night party or just appetizers or a food truck for a mid-day get-together," suggests wedding planner and founder of Pretty Pear Bride, Shafonne Myers.
Get Created With Décor: The key to throwing a star-studded engagement party without a star-studded bank account? Super-glam details. Instead of renting or buying expensive chandeliers, candles, centerpieces, and other décor, try scouring your local second-hand store or flea market. "Buy lots of crystal, such as glass wear, serving platters and bowls, for pennies on the dollar," says certified green event designer Veronica Cole. "If you find a great shaped flower vase but it's in a funky green color, spray paint it gold or silver. Make use of décor you already own, too." Another cheap, instant mood setter? White twinkle lights strung around the room — Ashlee Simpson used tons of them at her engagement party!
Think Quality Over Quantity When It Comes to Blooms: Wedding flowers often eat up a lot of a bride's wedding budget, but it doesn't have to be such an expense at the engagement celebration. Brooke Wetzel, florist on BloomNation.com and owner of The Plum Dahlia, advises choosing a "big bang" flower like hydrangeas to show off the detail of your vases without having to go break the bank on filling them. "Jewel tones like deep purples, pinks, and reds can instantly feel modern, luxuruious, and romantic." Bonus: Hydrangeas can be sprayed in just about any color.