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To Have And To Hold

A wedding planner’s advice on when to save vs. splurge on your big day.

Written by Sofia Deeb


Location: San Ysidro Ranch | Photographer: Anna Delores

Tying the knot shouldn’t have to mean getting tied up in costs.

It’s no secret that planning a wedding is not an easy task, especially when it comes to deciding on a budget. Just ask Leah Miller of Carson Weddings.

As an Event Curator leading one of Santa Barbara’s most prominent wedding and event planning companies, Leah is an expert when it comes to talking wedding budgets. For nearly 30 years, the company has brought wedding dreams to life for couples in California, Idaho, and everywhere in between. Leah loves getting to know her clients and being able to play a role in their love stories. Over the years, she’s learned that every couple is different, and planning their perfect wedding means figuring out what they value most in order to decide on the most aligned vendors.

Leah shares, “My first piece of advice to couples at the beginning stages of planning is to narrow down the top three vendors or details that are most important and the three that they are more flexible on. This will help you figure out where you are willing to “Splurge” and where you want to “Save.”

The good news if you’re in the process of deciding on a budget: Leah shared with us some expert advice to help you get thinking about what’s most important to you on your big day.


The venue you select impacts many of your other vendor and detail decisions so make sure it is a space you love since it will be the foundation of where every vendor will work. You can “save” on a venue by finding a location that is inexpensive but be aware that you may have to bring in more vendors than other locations because sometimes the less expensive venues don’t include basics like restrooms, parking and a kitchen. If it’s a space you love and it doesn’t include much, that’s fine, just be sure to factor in that you might need to spend more on other vendors you didn’t previously consider.

Verdict: Splurge

Flowers and Décor

This depends on how important flowers, décor and theme are to you. I’ve had beautiful weddings where we just bring in a bouquet and boutonniere, and stunning weddings where we go all out with décor and florals. It depends on how you want your wedding day to feel. Your bouquet is in almost every photo you take so be sure you spend on a talented florist that fits your style since it will be highlighted throughout the day.

Verdict: It depends on your theme!


I recommend talking to your venue or catering team to determine the best way to allow for drinks that fit in your budget. Sometimes an open bar is the best way to go and sometimes it’s better to stick to just beer and wine. Or you could even have an open bar for cocktail hour and then beer and wine the rest of the evening. You know your guest list better than anyone, so take that into consideration and any bar service will work with you to create a plan for the reception that fits best into your budget.

Verdict: Save

Dress and Tux

The price range for wedding dresses varies drastically. Again, narrow down what you are looking for and determine what your dress budget is before you begin shopping so that you’re clear from the beginning of the process. It all depends on what you feel most comfortable and confident in!

Verdict: Can I pretend not to see that price tag?

Hair and Makeup

Having a professional to help with hair and makeup on the day of is a must for the bride in my opinion. You will be photographed all day and you want to be sure that your hair and makeup stay fresh throughout the day and into the night. I recommend a trial with any professional you are looking to book to make sure it’s a good fit and narrow down exactly how you want to look prior to your big day. I don’t see a big difference in pricing in this area so just be sure to factor it into your budget ahead of time!

Verdict: Splurge


Typically, a band costs more than a DJ but it is all up to what you prefer. If having your guests up and dancing with you is important to you and your partner, then I recommend prioritizing budget for music so that you can hire a charismatic and entertaining band or DJ since they will keep the night moving and help make sure everyone is staying on the dance floor and having a good time.

Verdict: Let’s get this party started!

Wedding Favors

So many of our couples are opting to skip on wedding favors lately. If there is something you want to give guests that is important to the two of you as a couple or is a fun trinket from the location of the wedding, that’s always a fun idea. However, guests don’t seem to expect a favor at the end of the night anymore. It’s fun if you have the budget for it but not necessary.

Verdict: Save

Photo and Video

I recommend finding a photographer and videographer that fit your style and make you feel comfortable–that is always worth the splurge. Your photos (and video if you choose to do that as well) are the only thing you have in the weeks, months and years after your wedding that are from that day, besides your spouse! You want to be able to look back at those and be really happy with the deliverables you have and the best way to make sure that’s the case is to hire a photographer and videographer you love.

Verdict: Splurge


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