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How to Throw a New Year’s Eve Wedding Bash

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How to Throw a New Year’s Eve Wedding Bash

Looking to throw a New Year’s Eve wedding bash? Here are some quick tips to making it a celebration to remember:

  • Start late – consider the wedding ceremony at 8pm, followed by the reception at 9pm through midnight.
  • Serve light hors d’oeuvres, desserts and champagne.
  • Save on catering, the cake and florals by throwing a “New Year’s Eve party” instead of planning a “wedding.”

Several years ago I wrote a book called Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot. At the time, I was an editor at a national magazine called Relevant. Our target readership was ages 18-34, so I knew the demographic would be perfect to ask for wedding tips and advice. I had just gotten married and planned a wedding for $5,000. I couldn’t believe the lack of resources at the time for a budget wedding like mine.

Most of the budget resources were for weddings twice that amount. So, I set off to write my own guidebook. But I didn’t want to do it alone. Thankfully, our readers poured in their advice on how they, too, had planned budget weddings that were brimming with personality and celebration.

One of those responses came from Grace in Cincinnati, Ohio, and I just loved her idea of throwing a New Year’s Eve wedding:

“We got married on New Year’s Eve and had the reception begin later on in the evening, and then it lasted until midnight. We served desserts and beverages (some people suggest dessert and champagne, although that might negate the savings). It was great. We splurged on the band instead, but it saved us TONS of money on the reception.” —Grace, Cincinnati, Ohio

While December is among the lowest months of the number of weddings, New Year’s Eve always sees a spike. An average of 7,739 New Year’s Eve weddings take place each year, according to The Knot.

It’s the perfect day for a celebration, because we easily associate New Year’s Eve with champagne, dancing and celebration, so those good vibes lend itself to a perfect wedding fete (and your subsequent anniversaries!).

Plus, most people are off from work already (or will be on New Year’s Day), making it easier for friends and loved ones to attend (but be sure to give notice before people make other plans).

Step 1: Set Your Budget

Weddings get expensive – fast. Set your budget first and how much you’re willing to spend in each area. This will help you plan and make appropriate decisions for each area of your wedding.

Here are the two biggest wedding budget guidelines to consider: 48% on the reception and 12% on the photographer.

Step 2: Book Your Venue ASAP

If you’re planning a New Year’s Eve wedding, take note that most venues will be booked far in advance or have their own events. Inquire right away to see if you can book it first. Or – scale down your wedding and ask for a private room for your celebration instead of an entire venue.

Churches and fellowship halls are a good option and will save you money over traditional wedding venues on a date like New Year’s Eve.

Aside from the flowers, my wedding was completely designed and executed using various people in my church—even ones who I didn’t know that well at the time. I can honestly say my wedding would have never come close to being as amazing as it was (on the budget I had) if it weren’t for the amazing people in my church community who stepped in and made it happen.

So if you’re part of a community like that, don’t hesitate to utilize the resources at your disposal. Just make sure you show each person who contributed to your wedding your appreciation.

Step 3: Book Your Photographer

Photography is the one area not to skimp on when planning your wedding. Only ask a friend to take pictures if his style and level of ability match what you want. You will regret not having good pictures. New Year’s Eve is a popular time for event photography, so don’t delay in lining up a photographer for your event.

Interview two or three. Make sure to discuss important shots you’d like to have and give him examples of some of your favorite wedding photography. Start a Pinterest board and begin pinning ones you like the most.

Step 4: Set the Wedding Party & Invite List

Who should make up the wedding party? How many attendants will you have? Make a separate list of people you’d like to include in your wedding, but not as a traditional attendant, usher, etc. There are many ways to include a host of friends and family in your celebration.

Your wedding costs will be directly related to how many guests you’re anticipating having at the wedding. You will not regret keeping the celebration to your closest friends and family. This will allow you to focus on the quality of the event – better food, drink and a better time!

Jessica from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, says, “Don’t invite your cousins twice removed, no matter what your mother says—you want to have fun and be comfortable and not feel obligated to speak to everyone at your reception, and you won’t be spending money on people you don’t know or care about.” 

Step 5: Set Up Catering

Once you have the invite list and budget set, you will know how much you can spend on food and drink.

The majority of your wedding budget will go to your reception (45-60 percent), so when choosing a style for your wedding, keep in mind how much you want to spend for the after party.

The most economical choice (well, depending on where you get your cake!) is perfect for a casual or elegant informal wedding. Provide seating on the periphery of the room to allow guests to mix. Make the cake table the center of the action and make your guests walk to a different area of the room for the punch or groom’s cake if you choose to have one. It causes more interaction.

Consider “drop-off catering.” The caterer delivers and sets up already-prepared food.

Or, save money by having friends prepare the food. Serve it buffet style. Limit the menu and cut alcohol if it’s not important to you.

Step 6: Create Your Invitations

With your invite list set, you can begin creating your wedding invitations. An e-vite for a last minute New Year’s Eve wedding is completely in order. But if you’re traditional and have more lead time, printed invitations can be designed and ordered online.

Click here to for instructions on how to DIY your wedding invites: “DIY Wedding Invitations Under $200.”

Step 7: Select Your Decor & Florals

Fresh flowers (especially in winter) can be costly. If real flowers are important to you, consider buying them wholesale and arranging them yourself (with help from your bridesmaids). Or consider alternatives – fresh greenery, silk or paper flowers.

Stu and Steph pulled off one of the most unique and personality-filled weddings I’ve ever seen. The couple planned the ceremony and reception around a bold and bright color scheme that included hot pinks, electric blues, and glowing greens. Those who know Steph associate her with an eclectic sense of personal style that blends vintage pieces and shapes with modern air. And her wedding did the same.

Since they had a December wedding, the decor focus was around a nine-foot Christmas tree centerpiece. But not a single branch was adorned in holiday red, green, or gold. This tree exploded with hot pink, electric blue, and glowing green ornaments and natural branches—all spray painted and then placed on the tree and highlighted with white lights. It was a whimsical daydream of fantasy and romance. The colors and theme carried through the wedding, to the ribbons and blue spray-painted branches on the aisle ends to the two three-tiered pink cupcake towers at the reception, all the way down to the matching tablecloth and chair cover used at the head table. It was a low-cost reception winner.

A New Year’s Eve wedding is close to enough to the holidays to pull off a non-holiday color decorated tree.

Step 8: Coordinate the Dress

Chances are you’ve been dreaming about your wedding attire before you were even aware the opposite sex existed. Now’s the time to start looking for your dream gear and the attire for the rest of your wedding party. Remember the theme you’ve chosen and solidify that Pinterest board of dresses that have caught your eye. Write down the four or five consistent characteristics and limit your search to dresses that fall within those.

Consider thrift shops, ModCloth, JCrew, Target, David’s Bridal, Amazon or hand-me-downs or borrowed dresses to save money. Guys can wear suits or rented tuxes.

Step 9: Set Up Day-Of Coordination

No matter how much you DIY your wedding, you will still need help managing the events of the day. Instead of hiring a wedding coordinator to plan your wedding, consider hiring a day-of coordinator to make sure things run smoothly at the event itself. This person can make sure everyone has what they need, trouble-shoot potential problems, make sure the venue is left in the required order, tip vendors and other people helping, and tie up any loose ends.

I remember the day of my wedding, I did not want to know if anything went wrong. Thankfully, with a coordinator, I didn’t have to worry about a thing. I got to enjoy my day.

Step 10: Celebrate

You’ve worked hard to plan a New Year’s Eve wedding celebration that marks the beginning of a new chapter of your life. Now’s the time to relax, celebrate and throw yourself into the day (well, evening). Party, dance, and live it up. Don’t forget that special kiss at midnight!

Additional Tips to Throwing a New Year’s Eve Wedding Bash

  • Start late – consider the wedding ceremony at 8pm, followed by the reception at 9pm through midnight.
  • Serve light hors d’oeuvres, desserts and champagne.
  • Save on catering, the cake and florals by throwing a “New Year’s Eve party” instead of planning a “wedding.”
  • Decorate with metallic colors like rose gold, black, gold and silver. The more jumbo glitter, the better!
  • Have take-out boxes for guests to leftover food home, so you’re not stuck with tossing leftovers or storing them.
  • If you’re planning a New Year’s Eve wedding for next year, stock up on non-dated decorations, plates, cups, cutlery when they’re deeply discounted after this year.
  • Stay at a nearby hotel for overnight before departing for your honeymoon location.
  • Hire a local music student(s) if you’re set on having live musicians at the ceremony and reception.

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