Time to tally up the wedding expenses. We tried to do as much as we can, with help from our family and friends, so we kept it under $30k for 130 guests.
Venue Rental: $12,000
Renaissance by the Creek in Mississauga. Final score: 8/10
- Affordable: <$100 per person, including $300 worth of wedding cake
- Accessible by car or public transportation
- Food quality was high: appetizer + soup + salad + 2 x meat entrées + dessert + open bar
- Servers and waiting staff were professional.
- Interior quite clean and elegant.
- Lockable bridal suit with safe and private washroom.
Not so good:
- Parking was a cramped but sufficient: 130 spaces in main parking lot and 250 spaces across the street in industrial area.
- Exterior was not photogenic: Just parking lot, fences, and other industrial businesses.
- You don’t have access to speakers and table lighting if you don’t go with their partnered DJ.
- Carlos, the operations manager, was unhelpful. More details below.
Our major issue with this place was how unhelpful, and sometimes rude, the management can be. We provided seating charts according to their templates, and they still had the wrong number of chairs at some tables. When I asked the manager Carlos for 3 additional chairs, he first said “It’s according to the chart.” But it wasn’t, the seating chart he printed clearly said 12 when there were only 11 chairs physically present. Next, he tells me “You can grab it yourself from the kitchen.” When I asked if the people who set up the other chairs can help, he said “I don’t have staff.” So I followed him into the kitchen and grabbed the chairs myself…
The most helpful staff happened to be Orlando, the person in charge of sales. He actually physically got a long 8-foot table for us on his own and put a tablecloth on it, and it’s not even his job to do physical labour.
Orchid Studio. Final score: 8/10
- Included a lot for the price: engagement shoot + prints, 2 photographers + 1 videographer for 10 hours each on wedding day + prints.
- Very friendly photographers. Didn’t show any ego.
Not so good:
- No female photographer available on our date. We wanted better capture of facial expressions and emotions.
- Lacked creativity: the poses were very by-the-book, and very rigid.
- Not skilled with flash photography. Harsh lighting and hard shadows, and direction of lighting looked like on-camera flash.
- Photobook design initially super childish, cheap-looking, and utterly amateurish. It looked nothing like the samples, and took us many edits to get it to look more professional.
- Photobook takes 45 days to arrive. When we ordered prints online from Picaboo, it arrived within a week.
At $6,000, it certainly wasn’t cheap, but also could have been much more expensive with other studios. The quality was okay. There were easily flaws with 95% of shots, and it was quite easy to eliminate most of the photos. We’ll see how the video turns out. Overall, it was good for the price.
DJ & MC: $1,200
Mike Lupo (As You Like It DJ). Score 10/10.
This was probably the single most important and worthwhile hire. Mike was just phenomenal, starting from the planning phase, all the way into the day of the event.
- Extremely organized. His website has a savable and loadable form to input all your details, timeline, who to introduce and to what music, must-play and must-not-play lists, and wedding games.
- Provided suggestions for wedding games and timeline. For centerpiece giveaways, he has a PDF with a dozen suggestions for games, ranging from simple ones like “closest birthday to the day” up to a narrative poems. Similarly, help plan out blind-fold games and shoe games.
- Great selection of music based on ambiance, mood, and energy level of the guests.
- Respectful of age and culture. He made sure at our first meeting to exclude certain songs that may be offensive, especially to older generations. He kept the event very classy and professional.
- Extremely observant at the event and flexible to still control the atmosphere. When people were distracted and we were behind on schedule, Mike was very good at taking control of the audience and shifting their attention pleasantly and with friendliness.
- Very well-rehearsed. For the violinist introduction, we gave him a 4-sentence paragraph. He made sure to memorize it all, including the name of the violin and what year it was made, and awards she’s won.
- Goes above and beyond. When he saw we were running behind on schedule, he communicated with the head waiter to speed up the food. He helped us take care of things we couldn’t pay attention to.
All around fabulous service. We can’t praise him enough. We are just blown away by how good he is.
Costco Bulk Flowers. Final score: 10/10
- Delivered on-time by UPS in 3 compact boxes. Needs signature or you can go online and authorize drop-off without signature.
- Fresh, and came with instructions and nourishment packets.
- Great price, a fraction of the cost at florists. Ended up being $20/bouquet.
- Much better than fake flowers.
- Finger-numbing 4 hours of trimming and wrapping into bouquet bundles. Gives a good appreciation for why florists are more expensive.
We knew we want to do bulk flowers from the start. This turned out costing $20 per bouquet instead of $80-100 from florists, and with 20 bouquets, we easily saved a thousand dollars. We scheduled the flowers to arrive 2 days before the event, and kept them in water in coolers in the basement. The nice thing was ordering “20 mini Euro bouquets”, which already came with rubber bands and plastic-wrapped bundles. We just added extra roses and greens, and bam, bigger bouquets. As much as we recommend buying local, if we were allowed to order bulk flowers, we would have gone to local greenhouses. But due to the auction policy, only florists with memberships are allowed to purchase bulk flowers from local growers. Costco ended up being our only choice for bulk flowers, aside from other online flower shops, and we felt this was a good choice in the end. Highly recommended.
Event Booth. Final score: 4/10.
- Unbeatable price: $300 for 3 hours
- Guests were very entertained by this, including my parents.
Not so good
- White Balance is all wrong: all photos came out very yellow. The girl was saying she needed to adjust the lighting, but there’s difference between WB and flash lighting…
- Frequent jams, had to be taken out of commission every once in a while.
- Old machine. Slow and not the best interface. Missed the focus on several shots.
- Asked for all the money paid 24 hours before event. For a company I’ve never met face-to-face, I asked if I can pay after they show up, but no, they wanted money first.
The most regrettable vendor at the wedding. We should have chosen a higher-quality vendor, even at higher cost and shorter duration. This was kind of slow, and the operator didn’t seem to be very skilled with the machine. Guests still had fun with it, but also had complaints. I would not recommend this company.
Leslie Ashworth. Score 9/10.
- Extremely skilled violinist, violist, pianist. Full scholarship at Glenn Gould School at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
- Very friendly and pleasant, and despite winning tons of awards, is very humble and down-to-earth.
- Courteous and very classy performance.
- Very affordable.
Not so good
- More of my fault, as I should have asked for more upbeat and happy music. Leslie ended up playing a lot of poignant and emotional pieces (some guests felt moved to tears), but my wife was hoping for more cheerful songs at the wedding celebration.
Leslie really added to the elegance of the evening, and her skill is just superb. My biggest regret was not asking her to play faster and more joyous pieces of music. Also, playing 5 pieces in a row in 15-minute segments ended up dragging a little long, especially because the kitchen staff paused serving food out of fear of interrupting the music. Once again, my fault not planning this one right.
U-Haul Rental & gas: $210 + 30
For 3-day rental, better cost than Discount, which would have been $265 + gas.
Why did we rent a cargo van instead of using our own cars? Because it was cheaper to rent the backdrop than to hire a decorator, which would have been thousands.
Backdrop + thank you cards + gifts: $800
We ended up getting most things from Ali Express, and wow, so cheap. Most arrived within a month, and we ordered them well in advance so they were fine. It ends up being much much less expensive, and quality turned out very well. We also had help from our bridesmaid who printed the menu and seating chart, so that saved us a lot of money too.
Overall, the wedding was within our $30k budget, including dress, dance lessons, everything all in. If we spread it all out, that’s $230 per person. We’re happy with this 🙂