Cape Cod is a beautiful place to get married with all sorts of ranges of locations to suit your vision and your budget. When starting to research venues, be sure you have a set budget in mind, as the reception location, food and drink will be the most costly portion of your planning. Here are some tips on keeping the budget down without having to do a lot of negotiating.
May venues on the Cape offer discounted rates in the off-season - November-March. If you do not have your heart set on a beach ceremony or beach photos, having a wedding in the off-season on the Cape can be absolutely beautiful. And if you love the winter and are hoping for a “White Wedding”, the winter months can be stunning, especially because a lot of the venues will be decorated for the holidays. Also, many vendors may also offer seasonal discounts, as it is so quiet we are always looking for off-season business!
Saturday weddings are the most expensive day of the week to get married, especially in July and August. If you are open to a Friday or Sunday wedding, you have more flexibility with venues and what they will charge for food, rental fees and more. Friday weddings are definitely becoming more popular. You may not be able to get pricing down on a photographer, DJ or planner for a Friday or Sunday wedding, but saving at the reception location will allow for more wiggle room with your other vendors.
Call me crazy, but weekday weddings are also a great option. Seeing that venues and vendors hardly ever book weekday weddings, you almost have the upper hand when booking. If you are having a destination wedding and most guests are coming from out of town or from out of the country, why not have a Monday wedding? Worth looking into!
Renting a House with a Tent
Many brides come to me with a small budget and think that renting a house and putting up a tent will be the cheaper option. Depending on the size of your guest list this could be possible, but more than likely it can be the same price or more expensive when comparing to a venue. Caterers, bathrooms, rentals of linens, chairs, tables, china, glassware and more can add up quickly! If you do go this route, I highly recommend talking to a planner to help to keep everything organized and managed the day of the event.
With the explosion of Pinterest, many brides are finding great ideas and going the DIY (Do It Yourself) route for centerpieces, favors, escort cards, etc. This can help you to save hundreds of dollars (although it will cost you some time) if you are creative and have friends or relatives that would be willing to help you put it all together. Again, you do not want to be doing all of the DIY elements the day of the event, so look into hiring someone to execute all of your vision.
There are so many places to choose from to share your special day with everyone you know and love on Cape Cod! Where to begin?! Here are some tips on the best ways to narrow down your options when deciding on a place for your dream wedding on Cape Cod.
1. Guest List
The first step in your wedding planning process is to put together your guest list. Once you know how many people you will be inviting, realizing that if it is a true destination wedding that usually 20% do not come, you will be able to start your search. Some of the people on your list you may be able to peg as not coming right off the bat, but you invite them anyway! Having a guest count will then help you to narrow down your options of where on Cape Cod you can comfortably fit that many people!
Setting your budget is the next most important thing to do before looking at your reception options. You need to have a good idea as to how much you want to spend on food and beverage per person. Some locations will also charge a room rental fee, while others will have a food and beverage minimum spend to use certain rooms. Also, remember when looking at venues to see if their tax and service fees are included or added on top of their listed price, as it can be upwards to 26% more.
3. Mid, Upper, Lower, Outer
Next you need to decide where on Cape you want to have your wedding. Did you summer in Falmouth or Chatham and really want to show your friends and family your most favorite area of the Cape? Or have you never been to the Cape and just want to find the location that suits your budget, style and guest count? Explore the Cape and be sure to find a location that is comfortable for you. Don’t forget to take into consideration the travel of your guests. Having a wedding in Sandwich or Falmouth is a lot easier for traveling as opposed to Provincetown or Wellfleet.
4. Waterview or No Waterview
Although the Cape is surrounded by water, there is not a huge selection of wedding venues with a waterview. And of those that are on the water, they tend to be on the higher end of the budget - such as Chatham Bars Inn,Wequasett, Wychmere and Ocean Edge. You can still find some great waterview options around the Cape that may work into your budget, don’t forget to ask about Fridays or Sundays as well for better rates (see tip #6). If waterview is not a requirement, there are tons of hidden gems on the Cape like golf courses, farms, restaurants, etc. that are beautiful!
5. Ceremony On-Site, Off-Site, or in a Church
Are you planning to get married in a church? On the beach? On a venue’s lawn? When looking for reception locations you need to take all of this with you before you decide to book. And if you are looking to get married in a church, you need to start that search as well, as lots of churches have requirements on who can be married there and timing can also be tricky.
6. Friday, Saturday or Sunday
If you are not dead set on a Saturday wedding, you should really explore the options of Friday or Sunday weddings when you speak to your different reception locations. Some may have lower rates for days other than Fridays, as they are not in as much demand. Be sure you get all of the details on your options before making your decision. And remember, if you mean a lot to your guests they will be there on a Wednesday if they had to!
7. Time of Year
Some properties offer DEEP discounts for winter weddings on Cape Cod. If you are a winter person, look into having your wedding December thru March and you can save a boatload! If they are open, venues are desperate for business during those months - you could probably even name your price! (Ok, well maybe not go that far!)
Excited news!! A couple of months ago I was approached by writer Susan Santangelo who has written Moving Can Be Murder and Retirement Can be Murder. She was at the end of writing her new book - Marriage Can Be Murder - and asked that I help her with the destination wedding tips at the end of the book. We came up with a list and it was published and her new book that launched this week! She is going to be doing a book signing today (June 30) at noon at the BARN & Co. and details cape cod on Route 6A in Dennis - stop by and check it out! I would love to be there with her, but I have to be in Wellfleet working a destination wedding! Stay tuned though because we will be planning a fun launch party in the next month or so!
When planning your wedding, the destination is the first thing to consider. Do you want to stay local or travel to your favorite childhood vacation spot - like Cape Cod? If you are looking to travel, the real question is, is a destination wedding right for you?
How far away are you from your destination location? If you can easily drive 3 hours or less to your destination location, then it is definitely doable. When you have to travel by plane, or drive longer than three hours, it can be difficult to manage all of the details. Hiring a local wedding planner will assist in managing the vendors and details while you plan from afar.
Is your destination location easily accessible for guests? When selecting your destination location be sure that there are many viable options to get your guests to your wedding. Whether it be public transportation, rental cars, private shuttles or boats, be sure that your guests have all of their options ahead of time and that they all know the best and easiest way to get to your wedding. Using your wedding website to show all options is an easy way to get the word out. There are many options on Cape Cod, just be sure your guests are aware of them!
Are there a selection of different accommodation options for all budgets, family sizes, length of stay, etc? When choosing your venue, be sure that there are many different options for your guests accommodations. Your college friends may want the cheap hotel or a rental house and your parent’s friends may prefer a bed and breakfast or a fancier option. Be sure to call around to the hotels in the area to check their availability and to see if they can do a wedding room block for your guests. Also be sure to check on the minimum night stay requirements on weekends, as sometimes there could be a 2-3 night minimum depending on the weekend.
Are you comfortable on the phone? It sounds like a silly question, but since the invention of email lots of people have been putting down the phone in favor of email. If you are going to be planning a destination wedding, you need to feel comfortable picking up the phone and talking to your vendors. It will give the vendors a sense of who you are and instead of waiting around for an email to be answered you can make decisions more rapidly.
Are you taking into consideration busy travel weekends? When planning a wedding at a destination over a holiday weekend, especially on the Cape, you may want to take into consideration the travel details of getting your guests to your wedding. Some locations start their peak seasons over certain holiday weekends or school vacation periods. You do not want to make your guests deal with a ton of traffic getting to or from your destination or have them pay high prices for airfare or hotels rooms if you can help it.
How organized are you? Planning any wedding requires a bit of organization, but having a destination wedding means that you really need to be on top of everything. When living far from your wedding location, you only get so many chances to visit your venue and vendors. This means that you will have to be sure you get all of your questions answered and all of your vendor meetings in while you are there. It could include cake and food tastings, rental decisions, officiant/ceremony meetings, accommodation research, etc. Just be sure that you have a really good wedding binder to organize everything! Or once again, this is another great reason to hire a local wedding planner to manage everything for you!
I recently received a save-the-date in the mail from one of my brides - it was simple and to the point. A magnet with their names, a Cape Cod image, their wedding website and a calendar with their date circled on it. I love magnet save-the-dates, especially if they are original. Most guests are likely to put your save-the-date on their refrigerator anyway, so why not be one step ahead of them.
When it comes to save-the-dates there are a couple of things I recommend:
- Keep it cheap - there is really no need now-a-days to have an elaborate save-the-date when all of the information your guests need can be on your wedding website.
- Postcards or magnets are the best - I have seen everything from a photo of the couples date in the sand at the beach turned into a postcard, to a print of a Nantucket basket turned into a magnet and then there are the hundreds of wedding sites where you can buy them if you aren't that creative. But if you can do it yourself, it can be a great way to save money.
- Build a wedding website - This is a must have. You can find them for free by registering on TheKnot.com or by mooching off of one of your friends or relatives that know how to make them. I would not recommend spending money here if you can. On your site you can include a page for the day of festivities and where they will take place, a page for places to stay near the event, a page about you and your finace, links to your registries, travel options if necessary, and things to do around the area for those that are traveling. If you want to go crazy you can add a page about your wedding party with crazy pictures and stories of them, a virtual guest book (free on TheKnot.com), and any other special/crazy things about you and your event.
Send out your Save-the-Dates about 9-12 months before the wedding. If it is a destination wedding - which a lot of Cape Cod weddings are - the sooner the better.
Good luck and have fun!
Plan. Relax. Enjoy.
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