How to Get the Most From Your Wedding Budget

Budgeting for a wedding can be stressful, and if your budget is on the conservative side, you may be wondering how to get the most out of it. Luckily, with a little creativity and practicality, you can have your dream wedding without overspending.  Here’s a few quick tips on how to get the most from your wedding budget!

Decide What Matters for Your Budget

When budgeting for your wedding, and particularly for the reception, we advise making tiered lists.  Tier 1 should be the “absolutely must have” list.  Tier 2 would be the “would love to have it if the budget allows” list.  And Tier 3 should be the “we can live without it” list!  To start make a list of what the bride and groom want most, then move on to what any other VIPs (like parents) might desire.

For Tier 1, Make a list right away of the non-negotiables, then for Tier 2 a list of the wants but not needs. This communication will help both sides of the aisle cooperate and hear what’s important to each person and most importantly the bride and groom. Remember, it is your day as the bride and groom, and although parents and family are important, negotiation is sometimes needed to make smart decisions. A collaborative document, like Google Docs or Google Sheets, could help everyone contribute if you can’t meet face-to-face. You can make changes to it as well in real-time, which helps if parents/family are long-distance. However you decide to collaborate, doing so will make budgeting more smooth for everyone. Lastly, make a join decision on the items that just aren’t possible and label those “Tier 3”!

How to Negotiate

Negotiation is the key to stretching any wedding budget! Maybe the bride really wants centerpieces, but does not care much if the flowers are real.  If that’s the case, then technically no one should spend money on real flower centerpieces! This could save a couple thousand dollars on something guests may not care about and allow room in the budget for other Tier 1 needs.

Don’t really want a cake? Maximize your dollar with pies from a bakery that are pre-cut, and you save some money on cake-cutting costs. Keep in mind, this savings idea will depend on the caterer or reception venue, so make sure that is part of your conversation when making planning decisions. Keep in mind, making money saving decisions will open up areas of the budget that will allow Tier 2 items to make their way to Tier 1… So get ready Mr. Groom (who really wants a certain DJ who is more expensive than others)! It looks like forgoing real centerpiece flowers or a custom cake will make room for the DJ who will make your event a party!  If the necessary and unnecessary pieces of a reception are discussed, then the decision-making falls into place more easily.

It Will Still Be a Good Time

Just because the bride and groom are on a budget doesn’t mean the wedding cannot be meaningful and enjoyable for everyone. When planning the evening, plan for time slots that need a “wow” factor. This is where you want your non-negotiables to be. Maximize your time with the important parts of the reception like a slideshow, any traditional dances the bride/groom and parents desire, or toasts. Capitalize on any talents or interests you and the bridal party have that could be memorable and entertaining for guests! Choreographed dances, musical performances from members of the bridal party, etc. are very fun and will also make for great photographs when you’re reminiscing. Because you are able to focus on the important parts of the wedding to you, your guests will appreciate how personal it is—just because a wedding is extravagant doesn’t mean guests will enjoy it.


Prioritizing your resources and time lends to staying within your budget and getting the wedding of your dreams. If you plan out the evening well, it won’t feel sparse and you will have a memorable time with friends and family who are there for all the right reasons—to celebrate you and your new spouse.  


Want more budget ideas?  Check out more here:

65 Ways to Stretch Your Wedding Budget without Giving Up the Luxury

Rose Gold: A Timeless Wedding Color

Rose Gold is Timeless!


Choosing a wedding color or pair of colors can sometimes feel inauthentic or difficult… This gets worse when the wedding industry seems to drive brides to ‘pick’ a color or two. When thinking of the vision of wedding, it is best to think about the mood and vision as a whole. After you have a vision for the event’s “mood”, then decide which color to accent to keep a consistent look throughout your wedding experience… from save-the-dates to the thank-yous! If your vision is classically modern, soft, elegant, but feminine, Rose Gold could be a color you decide to use in all aspects of the look of your wedding. While it has been in the spotlight in the fashion and home décor world lately, rose gold has staying power in weddings—and for good reason.


Rose Gold For the Wedding Party


When deciding on the look of the wedding party, rose gold is a strong contestant when it comes to pleasing everyone without compromise. Classic and feminine (but never outdated), it pairs well with the soft or bold hues of bridesmaid attire. Soft rose bridesmaid dresses are more straightforward. PLUS – you always have the option to accent a darker hued dress with rose gold jewelry. For the bride, rose gold jewelry is stunning, no matter if the gown is white or ivory. Thinking about using rose gold in your bouquet?  Accenting ivory and pink florals with rose gold jewels can add an element of sparkle without being gaudy. Because it is not trendy, it’s a great color choice for you party to guarantee wedding photographs are beautiful and relevant for years to come.


Achieve Cohesiveness No Matter the Season


 Other colors that can be paired with this elegant color are navy, marsala, gold, mint, or white, as either an accent or major tone – regardless of role, they tie together what your guests see from save-the-date to final cocktails of the night. Rose gold is versatile for each season and time of day!  Adjusting the complimentary color of the wedding allows you to set the tone for a day or evening event.  Another noteworthy adjustment: it can be paired with darker jewel tones like marsala for fall or winter and lighter hued accessories for spring or summer.


Versatility in Décor


Looking to tie rose gold into your décor seamlessly?  This beautiful color is absolutely one of the most versatile colors for pairing!  It can be tied into florals with ivory or light pink roses.  Don’t forget to add in rose-colored crystals to the bouquet for more sparkle. Depression-glass drink ware and gold chargers can complement each other to create an elegant and vintage setting. Another option we love, rose-colored tablecloths create a bold statement alongside the details in the background like as crystal lighting.


Thinking about rose gold for your event?  Just remember, no matter how you decide to use it— bold or subtle— this beautiful hue is versatile enough to fit any style.


Photography: Mark Alison

13 Unique Wedding Cake Ideas Tailored to Your Wedding Month

One of the biggest things our clients tell us is that they want a unique and beautiful wedding cake.  They have spent hours planning their perfect day, organizing guests lists, and ordering invites – The last step?  Designing their wedding cake!  Brides want the wedding cake to fit their theme, but also fit the season of their wedding month!

To help you in your designing process, we’ve laid out 13 (because a baker’s dozen!) unique wedding cakes that tie perfectly to your wedding month!

A Wedding Cake for Every Month:

January – New Year’s Resolution Cake!

Wedding Cake

Beautiful Bella Sera Wedding Cake

We love this cake’s fun, flirty look!  The new year symbolized a time of rejuvenation and a chance at a better year than the previous one.  This cake sums up JANUARY just perfectly.  The blue and purple icing tie perfectly to a winter wedding them, and the gold bow is perfect for “your golden year”.

February – The month of Love Cake!

February is the month of love!  It’s also a perfectly positioned month to get married, as everyone has settled down from the holidays and the cold winter months are almost over.  Weddings are an amazing opportunity for your loved ones to reflect on their own relationship and secretly renew their own vows during your ceremony.  A classy black-tie wedding (and wedding cake) are just the ticket for a guaranteed night of fun!

Check out our recent wedding post detailing Why Guests LOVE February Weddings!

March – The month of Fresh Flowers

March is a gorgeous month fresh flower weddings!  With spring quickly approaching, your guests are excited at the new season of growth ahead.  We love this amazing orange, floral cake for a beautiful March wedding!  The flowers are lightly placed, ensuring people don’t get confused with a summer wedding, and the bright color is just a teaser for the season ahead.

April – Little White Dress Wedding Cake

April is often recognized as a “clean” month!  Spring cleaning has begun and guests are enjoying the afternoon showers that bring a sweet smell after they pass.  We love this little white cake, complete with a champagne rose top.  It’s light and airy, just like the beautiful spring wedding your guests are eagerly awaiting!

May – A little Love Goes a Long Way

We are obsessed with this feminine and playful cake designed for a May wedding!  The light color palette and gorgeous shape make this cake every May Bride’s dream cake.  You guests will “ooh” and “ahh” over this stunning addition to your reception.

June – Ombre, Like Your Favorite Summer Dress

We chose this ombre wedding cake as “June” because of its likeness to a beautiful summer day. The bright blue chosen for this particular cake is a perfect match for summer oranges, pinks, and purples.  The ombre design is unique and can be dressed up with glitter, or down with ribbon and pearls.

July – Summer Chic

This wedding cake is just breathtaking.  It’s elegant, fabulous, and would go perfectly with a summer strapless wedding dress.  The tiny details on the cake take the classiness to the next level and add an element of elegance that would overwhelm a more elaborate cake.  We think you’ll find this July cake chic, classy, and perfect for your wedding!

August – Purple EVERYTHING!

August is the month of purple!  Many of our brides choose purple as their wedding theme, because it’s a great “transitional” color.  The darker pigments resemble upcoming fall colors, but the playfulness in different shades allow them to tailor it to their them.  Purple is one of those colors that gets chosen as a main wedding color, so adding hints of it to your wedding cake will tie it all together without overwhelming the look!

Check out our Lighting Your Night Post for step by step instructions on incorporation PURPLE into your wedding!

September – Jaw Dropping Like Fall Leaves

This wedding cake speaks for itself.  It’s just stunning – jaw dropping, if you will.  The gorgeous orange and blue color scheme is perfect for a September wedding (especially if you live in Denver and root for the Broncos!).  The cake is elegant, yet fun, because of its composition.  The hanging aspect of the cake ads a level of interest that most guests don’t get to see.  The design is unique and glamourous, just like our September brides!

October – Colder Nights

October is the perfect month to commit to a fall theme!  Halloween is just around the corner and everyone is starting to get excited for the holidays.  We love this cake that draws inspiration for Denver’s changing seasons.  The empty vines are elegant and eye-catching and guests always love seeing a cake that reminds them the seasons are changing and nights are getting colder.  There’s a coziness this cake brings out; we can’t explain it!

November – All Bundled Up

We love this formal, elegant tiered cake for November weddings.  The theme? Black Tie.  It’s starting to really get cold and guests will appreciate a reason to wear long dresses and tuxedos (with coats!).  The cake is classic and the clean lines help mirror the formality of your event!

December – 2 for the Price of One!

It’s the holiday’s, so we thought we’d go the extra mile and give you two options for your December cake!  We LOVE Champagne themed cakes for December.  Whether you are having a holiday/winter themed event, or a New Year’s Eve wedding… You can’t go wrong with a champagne colored cake!


Why Guests and Couples LOVE February Weddings

      Photographed by: TrevG Studios

We get it… Planning a wedding is hard.  It’s full of complex decision and every details impacts the event.  Are guests going to be able to come? Is the event space going to work?  What’s the theme? so on, and so forth! We, also, know that the first and biggest challenge of planning a wedding is “Choosing the Date”!

If you’re reading this, you probably haven’t landed on a date and are exploring your options.  Well, you’re in luck.  We want to chat with you a little bit about the “forgotten months” and give you a few tips to consider if you’re looking to do something a bit out of the norm!


Photographed by: Mark Alison Photography

While summer, spring, and fall are great months to say your nuptials.  Let’s focus on the season people often overlook… WINTER.  Winter is a unique and beautiful time to get married, especially in Colorado!  We’d like to focus our efforts on one particular winter month – FEBRUARY!

Here are a few of our bride’s top reasons for choosing a Winter Wedding with us:

1- February, as we know it!

February is a great month to get married!  It is the month of LOVE!  Valentine’s Day and red hot romance from start to finish.  Winter weddings are unique and a February Wedding offer your guests an early year surprise!  The holiday hustle and bustle has slowed and loved ones are itching for a little getaway – so why not give them what they are asking for?

2- Available Venue Space

One of the most common problems in planning a wedding is finding a suitable venue.  Often times, brides struggle to find their perfect space on the perfect date.  Additionally, it is often difficult to secure a Friday or Saturday wedding from April – December.   However, that’s just not the case in winter months!! February offers more flexibility in scheduling your wedding.  Having a wedding in February allows brides to choose the perfect day AND the perfect venue (and they get to eat their cake, too!)

3- Easier on the pocketbook!

February is less expensive!  Our Brides & Grooms (and especially their parents!) really appreciate the discount for an off season wedding!  For instance, our ~already unbelievable~ prices are $2,000 less during the winter months, money much enjoyed on a Honeymoon or your home as you start your new life together!!


Colorado is a vacation wonderland and your guests can stay a few extra days to head to the mountains once the wedding festivities have concluded.  This beautiful state offers skiing, hiking, fishing, as well as horseback riding for the avid outdoors family.  Denver also offers culture and fine dining for indoor activities as well.  Guests love stumbling into cultural museums, shopping centers, and, most of all, the unique retail spaces Denver offers!

5- Weather and Location

Being the month with the least precipitation in Colorado, February is a great time to visit with ease of travel and mild winter weather.  Often finding absolutely beautiful cool and crisp days with blue skies and bright sunshine during the day.  Should the weather present any challenges, the Bella Sera is an all-inclusive indoor venue, located just a few minutes from the airport, so weather will not be a factor for your ceremony or reception!

Looking for some winter wedding inspiration – check out our Winter Wonderland Design blog post!

Those are a few of our favorite pieces of advice from past couples and their guests.  We would love to hear your inputs and thoughts – Happy Wedding Date Hunting!


Wedding Makeup Artist

Finding the perfect wedding makeup artist!

Having challenges finding the perfect wedding makeup artist? These tips are sure to help written by Bella Sera’s Bride, and amazing fashion blogger Rebecca. Check her out at The Novice Native.

Rebecca writes…

I couldn’t be more excited about weddings and sharing my tips from finding the perfect wedding makeup artist for my own wedding.  Having had the perfect wedding at The Bella Sera Event Center (in my opinion), I’m loving every opportunity to celebrate someone else’s big day and reminisce on our own memories! I’m also collaborating with Elisabeth at The Bella Sera to help create and share fun, helpful and inspiring blog posts for The Bella Sera.

Recently I went to Denver’s version of Vegas, Blackhawk, to celebrate a sweet girlfriend and fellow blogger’s bachelorette party!  Be sure and check her out at

But let’s talk your wedding, and review hands-down the best makeup artist in Denver!

Choosing your hairstyle first

First things first; you may want to determine what your hairstyle will be first before finding a  makeup artist. Referencing a post on my website about this topic will help; see here on Choosing a Hairstyle . Here is my wedding hair style in progress below:



Wedding makeup


Steps to finding your perfect wedding makeup artist


  • Ask around!  Friends are a great way to get good, real life feedback.
  • Peruse Instagram and blogs!
  • Google
  • Make a list of your top choices, narrow it down to 10.


  • Send an initial email to your top 10.  Include your date, wants, and needs, as well as photos if you have them.  Ask for pricing and availability!


  • Rule out everyone outside of your budget once you’ve gotten a majority of the responses.
  • Dig a little deeper into your top 3.  Talk to each of them, see if they offer trials (most of these will cost money, be prepared)
  • Choose your artist and sign your contract!

Now that you’ve chosen the perfect partner, you’re ready to set up your trial run!  I HIGHLY recommend doing one, as there were a few changes I needed to make after mine.  Scheduling it in the morning is ideal, as you can see how the makeup wears throughout the day!  You don’t want it to slide off, or smear with the slightest glisten.  Having a photo to bring with you on the day of your trial will be very helpful for the artist.  If you can, bring a few options in case the artist suggests that one may not work with your skin tone, etc.


Makeup artist for weddings


If you are happy with the way your trial went, get with your artist and determine a timeline for the big day!  You will want to consider how many girls are getting their makeup done, and factor that in to the hair schedule.

I am going to leave you with this little suggestion for scheduling and deciding what work is done… If you are considering paying to have your bridesmaid’s make up done, or asking that they pay for it themselves, one of the best ways to cut down on the cost is to ask the makeup artist if she does “mini facials”.  If she doesn’t understand, you could suggest and ask if she would be willing to do “eyes only” or “full face with no lashes” for each of the girls.  This will cut down on her work load, but also give her the opportunity to earn additional business since she is already booked that day.


My perfect wedding makeup artist

For all who have asked– I found my DREAM Makeup Artist, Tori, in the most roundabout of ways… Yes, I followed my steps listed above, but it goes to  show you all methods counts.  I reached out to a friend of mine who suggested her top pick in Denver.

After reaching out, I was recommended to Tori, from Bronze and Beautiful.  Once finding her, I browsed her website and decided to add her to my list!  After chatting on the phone and exchanging emails, I decided to book with Tori.  Not only did she have a fantastic resume, but Tori was more than willing to work with me to create a look for each of my girls that was in my price range…

Wedding lipstick

Wedding makeup eye shadow

The final look

Here I am at The Bella Sera Event Center on my wedding day. My makeup artist did more than exceptional job, she helped make my day absolutely perfect, and even came to my home the day before for a spray tan and brow tint!  Dreams do come true!!!!!!  PS It lasted all night 🙂


Beautiful Bride's makeup at Bella Sera


I hope this helps you find your perfect match – You’re going to be beautiful!



Rebecca (Happy Bella Sera Bride)

The Novice Native.


65 Ways to Stretch Your Wedding Budget, Without Giving Up the Luxury

Wedding budget tips

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

Do you dream of hosting a luxury wedding, but fear that it is not a financial possibility for you and your fiancé?

Fear not! Here at The Bella Sera Event Center, a local wedding venue in Denver, Colorado, we’ve spent years perfecting the art of hosting spectacular events that leave your guests in awe, all while helping you maintain your overall wedding budget.

With a little ingenuity and a firm grip on your top priorities, you can create an unforgettable experience for you and your guests without investing beyond your means.

We’ve got 65 tips to prove it…let’s get started.

When Will Your Big Day Be?

The first step to planning your wedding is choosing a date and venue. This choice can set the tone for your entire experience from both a personal and financial perspective. Make sure to consider all variables before choosing the one day that will impact your entire wedding budget.

1. Engagement Length: Your engagement should be one of the most exciting and fun times in your life. Savor these moments of anticipation and planning. A short engagement can become very expensive with rushed decisions and limited vendor availability. Consider giving yourself a bit more time to plan, which will open up more options and allow you to set a wedding date based on what you can afford. Not only will you save money, you will be able to sit back and make the most of this happy chapter in your life.

Engagement period planning


2. Off Peak Months: When picking a wedding venue, be smart and bear in mind that special pricing is available for weddings during the first three months of the year (except Valentine’s Day). Winter weddings can add intimacy and decadence. Guests will be excited to have an event to look forward to amid the winter slump, and their enthusiasm can make the experience of the day even grander.

3. Seasonal Sanctuary Décor: If you plan to get married in a church, synagogue, temple or other place of worship, consider a wedding during any of the major religious holidays that your spiritual sanctuary celebrates, such as Christmas, Easter, Hanukkah etc. During these special times these buildings will often be decorated with Poinsettias and other seasonal flowers and decor, and may allow you to use these decorations during your ceremony. This could save you on the cost of ceremony flowers and other decor in the aisle ways and throughout the sanctuary.

4. Skip Saturday: Friday and Sunday weddings are becoming trendier as savvy brides realize that even the finest vendors and venues may offer discounted prices on these non-traditional days if it is open on their busy calendar. This is a great option for couples with an unconventional work schedule, or many in-town guests.

5. Off Peak Venue Pricing: Don’t just assume you’re getting the best deal possible. Talk directly with the wedding venue manager to find out what their off-peak seasons and times are and whether these periods offer lower investment levels. Some venues may have unique circumstances, such as local festivals or events that drive prices up or down accordingly.

6. Off Peak Vendor Pricing: If you choose a wedding in an off-peak month, ask your DJ, photographer, florist, and other vendors for an off-peak rate. Don’t be afraid to negotiate! Many local companies will be happy to work with you on pricing, especially if it means a happy customer willing to give a rave review.

7. Date Flexibility: Be flexible by providing the venue with 2-3 date options, you may be able to enjoy attractive rates for the dates they want to fill.

Where Will Your Wedding Take Place?

Where you hold the wedding and how the venue operates will heavily influence where you invest your wedding budget, so it’s important to be educated on all the elements to consider when selecting your location.

8. Dual Purpose Wedding Venues: Many locations have the ability to be both a ceremony and a wedding reception venue. This adds convenience for guests who will not have to drive from the ceremony to the reception. Additionally, you may reduce costs by only having to decorate one room. Have a light cocktail hour, or pass around appetizers between ceremony and reception to break up the event and keep guests entertained while tables are arranged and pictures are taken.

wedding venue savings on appetizers

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

9. Set Up Time: Be aware of what the venue expects in terms of time. Some venues will allow you to come in and set up the day before, which can allow you to potentially save on outsourced set up costs if you handle some of this yourself. Other venues only allow a few hours of set up time, which may result in needing to invest in help. Likewise, some venues handle set up and décor for you, which is always a nice bonus. Ask how long the room will be yours in order to plan (and budget) your decorating, arriving, and break-down accordingly.

10. All-Inclusive Services: Rather than having to look for services from different vendors, look for venues that offer multiple wedding services in-house as an all-inclusive package including catering, DJ, photography, flowers, etc. Not only will this cut your own personal investment of research and interview time, it is highly likely that these vendors will be far superior in quality. Venues tend to be rather discerning when it comes to the suppliers they entrust to create an experience their clients will be thrilled with.

All-inclusive Denver wedding venue services - DJs

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

11. Catering Included: If you choose a venue that does not need to bring in outside catering, you’ll save on additional charges, such as servers, administrative fees, tax, etc.

12. Non-Hotel Venues: Consider a non-hotel event center as they often offer attractive rates and great benefits. You will reap the benefits of exclusive attention, and won’t have to compete with other overnight guests and hospitality obligations. If overnight lodging is needed, suggest local bed and breakfasts for out of town guests, or rent a home on Airbnb for multiple families to share and enjoy the entire weekend together.

Non-hotel wedding venues in Colorado

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

13. Rental Company Options: Consider a venue that doesn’t limit themselves to only one rental company for China, glassware, linens, etc., so that you have options for selecting items that fit within your allocated budget. Mix and match high-low products, prioritizing stem-wear and plate presentation.

Who is Coming?

Your guest list is one of the top factors in determining your overall wedding spend. Choosing the number of people you’ll invite is an important part of the planning process, as every attendee multiplies the overall wedding investment.

Some couples choose to scale back on certain luxuries in order to have more people in attendance, while others choose to limit the guest count in order to create a more fulfilling guest experience. Whichever camp you fall into, below are a few ideas to help you navigate through this decision.

14. Quality Over Quantity: Decreasing your guest count will allow you to enhance the overall experience for every attendee, including yourselves. With fewer people to accommodate, you’ll have the freedom to spoil those on your exclusive guest list with only the best in decorations, food, and flowers. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, couples are leaning more and more in this direction and investing in the guest experience.

Elisabeth Montoya, owner of The Bella Sera Event Center, offers some helpful guidance on handling guest seating, “Figuring out guest seating placements can be a very stressful step when planning your wedding due to divorced parents, family who may not get along, the couple not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. Creating the method for how guests find their table and seat can also be very stressful. We walk through all of the options with our brides, (usually the bride is the one who handles this process), and we help her choose the most effective option that also minimizes stress on her. We begin with a floor plan showing her where the head table will be placed, as well as all of the dinner tables in relation to the head table; we then ask her to ensure she has all her guests on an excel spreadsheet or a digital list. Once the tables are drawn in place, she just has to go down her guest list and start grouping guests together by table. The easiest way to inform guests of where they are sitting is to create a Guest Seating Poster or Poster Board. The first option is a poster that can be made by a local printer that lists guests by last name and then first name next to their table number, and is placed on an easel in the cocktail hour room. The second option is for the bride to make a board herself with nice scrapbook papers and simply type each Table number at the top of a page and each guest’s name under that table. Each table sheet can then be placed on the board in a decorative way in the cocktail hour room. The third option is to create individual escort cards for each and every guest, but we find that this can be very stressful on a bride, and it’s not typically her first choice.”

Wedding guest list savings

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

15. I.P. Wedding Party: Although members of the wedding party typically fund their own attire and grooming needs, the couple often foots the bill for at least one luxury gift for each attendant as well as the rehearsal dinner and wedding plate costs. Having a more modest wedding party could save the couple hundreds of dollars and make the day more intimate with a close knit VIP group.

Choosing the wedding party

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

16. Frugal Favors: Favors are often a source of stress for couples because they want to keep the investment within reason, yet send their guests home with something they’ll appreciate. Consider a tasty treat that doesn’t take up room in the guest’s home, but is something they can fully enjoy. Gift local goods, such as a dessert infamous in your area, or farm grown strawberries dipped in chocolate. If you’re really looking to stretch your food budget without sacrificing luxury, make the dessert the favor. Box up full size cupcakes and let the guest decide whether they’ll eat it at the wedding or the next day at home.

What Will You Eat?

Upscale weddings are synonymous with the most savory nibbles and tasty beverages, so these aren’t areas you’ll want to skimp on. However, with our insider tips, you can keep your catering affordable while offering a premium eating experience for your guests.

Wedding catering budget ideas - butler passed appetizers

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

17. Plated + Family Style Combo: To minimize catering costs without removing the luxury of table service, serve a main dish individually to each guest and all other courses family style (e.g. salad, pasta/starch/dessert). Guests will bond while passing food, which can spark conversation amongst strangers.

18. Minimal Appetizers: Many couples are surprised to learn that appetizers can cost way more than entrees; so doing a “stations” reception or “all appetizers” dinner can add up. Sticking with a traditionally served dinner may allow you to fully satisfy your guests’ appetites while keeping your budget in check.

19. Passed Hors d’oeuvres: When serving food during a cocktail reception, opt for hand passed appetizers rather than self-serve stations. Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs and we often over-indulge if we serve ourselves. This minor adjustment will allow you to stretch your catering budget further without guests noticing the difference. This is especially important for decadent seafood hors d’oeuvres, like shrimp, scallops, crab and other shellfish.

Bella Sera’s Elisabeth Montoya says, “For our couples who can’t afford expensive appetizers, but want to make sure their guests are not starving and annoyed while they take formal photos, we have a great solution. We offer $1 or $1.50 “one bite” passed appetizers that will hold guests over until dinner, add a little class while being butler passed, but will not break the bank. Although this may not have been their first choice when they begin their planning, at their final meeting when money is tight, they are thrilled to know they can do something vs. nothing.”

Wedding appetizer savings - one bite apps

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

20. Brimming Buffet: Buffets can easily replace a sit-down dinner and still be formal when your caterer adds original and fun frills. With less wait staff needed to support a buffet, you may find that this option allows you to serve higher-end entrees than an individually plated meal. Check with your venue or caterer to find out. Presentation is key; label dishes with clever names involving the couple. For example; a seafood dish labeled “Angela’s Catch” or a dessert labeled “Pam and Nick’s sweet surprise.”

Wedding catering ideas, buffet entrees

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

21. Beloved Brunch: Move your wedding to earlier in the day and serve brunch or lunch instead of a traditional dinner. This will allow you to reduce costs by limiting the number of courses served, yet still offer a delectable dish that impresses guests. No open bar either; just bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Mary’s!

22. Big Bowls: Create an effect of abundance without putting a strain on your catering budget by presenting oversized bowls or giant woks of more affordable items, such as seasoned rice and bean dishes, lush salads of locally-grown vegetation or grilled vegetables currently in season.

23. Menu Makeover: Find out if there is any room for customization in the menu and sub in certain items that are less expensive (e.g. in-season local vegetables instead of out-of season vegetables that must be shipped in), or build your own menu with more affordable yet creative options.

24. Meal Modifications: If a caterer presents a dish that sounds mouth-watering, but comes with a hefty price tag, ask if there are any particular ingredients that can be substituted that may lower the cost of the dish and allow for a collaborative relationship between you and your chef to create a top notch dish for a bit less.

Wedding entree savings

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

25. In Season Fare: Be wary of out-of-season ingredients and see if local, in-season options are available. Out of season or non-local ingredients must be ordered and shipped at a premium, so there may be potential savings if you’re willing to compromise.

Wedding budget tips, bite-sized appetizer skewers

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

26. Buy in Bulk: Instead of providing your guests with a choice between meat, chicken, and fish, choose one to serve to everyone. Catering costs tend to go down when items can be purchased in volume, rather than having to bring in smaller quantities of several different foods.

27. Kid Cost Cutting: If you expect several children to attend, find out if the venue or caterer offers a less expensive, smaller portioned children’s meal.

28. Surf & Turf Skewers: Want to shower your guests with an extravagant dinner, while keeping your budget in check? Rather than a full surf & turf entrée, consider a single combination skewer of grilled shrimp and beef medallions paired with a more affordable chicken dish. Let the chef shine by creating great sauces to accompany these items.


29. Seafood Swaps: To impress your guests with more unusual tastes, serve calamari and mussels instead of shrimp cocktail and scampi, for roughly the same investment. You’ll raise the level of sophistication of your event, not the overall budget.

Affordable wedding appetizers

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

30. Veggie Variety: Change up your produce choices for appetizers and side dishes; Swap carrot sticks and cucumber rounds for artichoke hearts, broccoli flowers, radishes in heart shapes or other creative choices, with flavored dipping sauces.


31. Scaled-down Soup: Another creative idea is to serve mini cups of clam chowder, lobster bisque, acorn squash soup, or any other flavors that are chic, yet easy on the wallet.

32. Modestly Priced Meats: Inquire to your venue about catering options other than costly filets. Boneless short ribs and cuts of lamb or pork are delicious choices.

33. Starchy Substitutes: Simple, less common starchy sides can sometimes add an extra element of lavishness without adding on costs. For instance, you might replace the usual potatoes with risotto spiced in extravagant flavors.

Wedding budget ideas, simple wedding cake

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

34. Clever Cakes: Instead of an elaborately designed wedding cake, the venue can provide a very small artistically designed cake for 2 (the couple only) or a larger partially faux cake for the purpose of cake cutting, and then serve the guests sheet cake from the kitchen, which is minimally designed but absolutely delicious with all the fillings, flavors and toppings you desire. When cut and served, guests will be too busy enjoying it to be aware of this budget saving technique.

The Bella Sera has experienced this approach first-hand. Here’s what Elisabeth suggests, “Many brides want elaborate wedding cakes with fondant icing, fondant details and bling. However, they don’t have the budget to accommodate this vision. Instead of a full sized elaborate wedding cake, request all but one layer be made of Styrofoam cake dummies. The bottom will be used for the traditional cutting by the couple. Have sheet cakes in similar colors and flavor to serve from the back kitchen. When the sheet cakes are cut and served, guests will be too busy enjoying and unaware of this budget saving trick. There are still costs involved for the cake dummies, icing and design labor, but not as much as baking stacking and decorating real cake. Guests never know the majority of the cake is fake, and the bride achieves all of her goals. If necessary, the real cake layer can be used for guest servings, or it can be wrapped up for the couple to take home.”

Wedding cake budget, faux tiers

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

35. Creative Cake Concepts: If you have your heart set on a spectacularly designed wedding cake, speak with your baker about alternative décor options that may be more affordable than labor intensive, intricately designed fondant details. Simple accents such as real floral blooms, lace trim or satin ribbon can create a lavish look with less investment.

36. Dessert Diversity: Many couples are shirking the wedding cake tradition altogether in favor of fun and unique desserts. Whether its cupcakes, specialty cookies, fine chocolates or a sundae bar, you may find that exploring other affordable dessert options can spare your funds for the upscale details you’d like to add to your wedding.

37. Flavor Factors: Talk openly with your baker about which flavoring options drive the price up, such as certain gourmet fillings like cannoli cream. Simply being educated about your options can allow you to have more control over where you allocate your budget. And with a tasting, you may find that you prefer the less expensive fillings anyway.

Inexpensive wedding dessert ideas, candy table

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

What Will You Drink?

Pass the bubbly please! When talking dollars and cents many couples particularly dread the drink portion of the bill, but there is no question that keeping your guests hydrated is an essential element to throwing an upscale celebration. Over the years, we’ve come up with a few simple ways to stretch your beverage budget while still keeping the drinks flowing and good times going!

38. Happy Hours: Limit the number of hours the open bar is available to the most critical parts of the reception. It will allow your guests to fully enjoy some spirits during the height of the celebration without overextending you financially.

Elisabeth reassures, “You truly can afford to host some complimentary alcohol at your wedding, if you don’t host a bar tab all night. The most important 2-2 and a half hours of a wedding celebration is the cocktail hour and dinner hour. You can typically get away with a bar tab of under $1500 for 100 guests if you limit the hours. Ask your venue if they can prepare a sign that says, “Complimentary Beer and Wine through Dinner,” or whatever alcohol you choose to serve. Once the dinner hour is over, the sign can change to say, “The Bar is now a Cash/Credit Bar.” These are the kinds of tips we give our couples to help them achieve some of what they want without having to cut things out entirely.”

39. Dinner Drinks: If you have a bit more room in the budget, give your guests the luxury of an open bar during the cocktail hour but switch to wine and beer during the dinner to reduce costs. You can always open up the bar again once dinner has ended.

40. Wine Service: Ask servers to pour the wine throughout the night so guests can drink what they want without wasting half-finished bottles on the table. This saves money, and adds a feeling of sophistication.

41. Fixed Mixed Menu: Mixed drinks with upscale liquor can really add up costs, but many guests enjoy the variety. Ask your venue to create a special menu of the most popular mixed drinks using only 3 house liquors (ex. rum, vodka and gin), rather than every type of liquor available.

Liquor options at weddings

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

42. Signature Sips: Offer creative signature drinks with one type of affordable liquor and fun garnishes such as curled lemon and lime peels, or mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks. Choose a concoction that expresses your personalities as a couple. Guests will love the unique experience of honoring you as they try something new.

43. Say “Ciao” to Champagne: Skip the champagne for your wedding toast and instead have your guests toast with the drinks they have in their hand.

44. Last Call: Close the open bar thirty minutes to an hour before the celebration ends to help transition to the close of the event and avoid overtime fees. Guests can enjoy iced water and coffee until they are ready to say their goodbyes.

45. Host With House: Guests love an open bar and we at The Bella Sera believe it is a large component to a successful event. If you need a bit more flexibility in your budget for some higher end items in other areas, consider the house liquor open bar, rather than the top shelf bar.

Who Will You Hire?

Your venue is only part of the equation. The vendors you choose to bring onto your event team can make or break your entire wedding experience, so these aren’t decisions that you should enter into lightly.

An inexperienced emcee can folly up the entire wedding party entrance or turn guests off, just as a novice photographer can miss the most important moments of the day.

As expert event planners for our clients, we learned long ago that there are a few key considerations you want to keep in mind to avoid the pitfalls of bringing on amateurs, while still keeping your overall budget in check. To stretch your wedding venue budget furthest, bring the right suppliers on board and be educated about your options.

The design team at The Bella Sera wedding venue

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

Photo & Video

With today’s technology it is incredibly easy to capture the magic of your day and re-live it over and over.

46. DIY Video: If video is on your nice-to-have list, but not your top priority, look into a more affordable service like WeddingMix by StoryMix Media, which gives you access to video cameras and editing tools or services at a very affordable rate. Entrusting your guests with your video clips could help you save on a videographer, putting thousands back into your wedding budget.

47. Hidden Talent: Take the time to research a good photographer who is reasonably priced, yet offers the quality of images you’re looking for. They do exist! Here in the Denver and Boulder areas of Colorado, we find many couples spending over $3500 on photography even though there are talented photographers in the $1,800-$2,500 range. Some of these photographers may simply be hard to find without a website or social presence. Pricing all depends on your region but choosing a lesser known but equally talented photographer could give you the financial cushion you’re looking for.

DJ & Entertainment

Tips for choosing a wedding DJ

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

48. Better DJ, Less Time: If fun is your first priority, choose a top-notch DJ, but forgo on the overtime. Ask for video of their performance at a few recent weddings to see them “in action”. The right emcee can make or break your event so, if need be, we often advise our clients to re-allocate funds from other areas of your wedding where guests are less likely to notice (ex. sheet cake options, favors) so that you can give them a truly fantastic entertainment experience, free from embarrassing moments or announcement blunders. Speak to your venue about which professionals they trust. When you’re looking to create a fun, upscale experience for your guests, this is one area you’ll want to get right, even if it means compromising on other wedding ideas.

So how can you save in the DJ department? Skip the overtime. While entertaining guests later in the night can be a fun luxury, it’s the one additional DJ cost that put couples over budget. It’s a wiser investment to get the better DJ for a little less time than the questionable DJ for extra time.

Rockin DJ Perry at The Bella Sera

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

Flowers & Décor

49. Thrifty Florists: An innovative and experienced florist will know exactly how to get you the luxury look you’re going for at a fraction of the cost. Research florists and venues who have previously put together weddings in a similar style to yours. Ask for samples of past work, and interview to find someone who seems collaborative and creative.

50. Go Local: Remain on budget by discussing with your florist which flowers will be in season, rather than picking flowers that need to be imported. Take advantage of native vegetation in your area.

51. Decked Out Venues: Save both money and time by selecting a wedding venue that comes decorated on its own or has its own vast collection of décor to choose from. You’ll enjoy significant savings by not having to rent decorations and will also free up more of your time to actually enjoy your engagement period.

52. Homemade Haute: Ask permission from the florist to add bling to the centerpieces on your own. You can buy rhinestones, gems, and cubic zirconium for a bargain from online craft stores. This will add sparkle to your décor without raising the rental costs.

53. Bridal Party Built Bouquets: Have your florist make your bouquet, but create your own bridesmaids bouquets using flowers purchased online or through membership retailers, like Costco. This can be a fun activity for the bridal party the night before the wedding.

54. Monochromatic Bouquets: Monochromatic bouquets and arrangements with one single flower type are quite trendy and chic these days, and allow you or your florist to buy in bulk for a lower cost when creating floral arrangements.

Wedding flower budget tips

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

55. Repurpose Arrangements: To drastically reduce your flower investment, transfer all arrangements from the ceremony to the reception venue before anyone steps in. Repurpose bridesmaid bouquets into table centerpieces or add them to the head table as well.

56. Hike It Up: To save a bit on the décor budget, choose shorter, elegant table linens instead of floor length linens. Once chairs are positioned around the tables, guests can’t see the table legs anyway. This tip can save you hundreds of dollars.

57. Faux Flowers: Many couples long for the extravagance of fresh flowers, but when this luxury isn’t within reach, there are alternative options couples can consider to recreate the look of live blooms without the expense.

Elisabeth suggests, “Fresh flower centerpieces seem to be the first thing that gets cut when things go over budget unfortunately. When this happens to our brides, we help them achieve the “look” of fresh flowers with our realistic silk flowers, but achieve the fragrance of fresh flowers by adding a filler flower called ‘Stock flowers.’ Stock flowers come in many colors, and they are super fragrant. The wholesale cost of a bundle of 10 stems is around $10.00. This is a very economical way to achieve the fragrance and look of fresh flowers without having to make the entire centerpiece real. We suggest adding a bundle of 3 stems to the bottom of the centerpiece where guests will enjoy the fragrance and look. Silk flowers can then be used on the rest of the centerpiece as long as they are very realistic in appearance. The guests will never know. This is something we do quite frequently, and our brides really appreciate the tip.”

Wedding flower alternatives, silk flowers


58. Keep Guests Close: Try to choose a venue that doesn’t require guests be shuttled in from far away to save on guest transportation costs. If this is unavoidable, rent one coach bus or trolley instead of multiple cars to leave at one time for everyone.

59. Free Parking: If your guests will be driving to the wedding ask the venue to provide complimentary parking for your guests. You can make cute signs, “Johnson Party of 2 this way!” to lead guests to the right entrance.

Wedding transportation budget

60. One Way Ride: If you want to treat yourself to luxury without cutting into other important aspects of your wedding experience, rent a limo just one-way to get you to the reception, where your own cars are waiting to drive back home. Or, if you plan to indulge in a little bubbly, then schedule an Uber to pick you up or ask a designated driver to escort you back home.

Add Meaning and Save Money

Despite all the talk about lavish luxuries, we know that your wedding day is really about the sentiment; the people, the memories, the traditions, the story of you, the celebration with friends and family.

That’s why our final tips are probably the most important; how you involve your loved ones into your event. It just so happens that many of these ideas will allow you to stretch your budget a bit too.

61. Married by a Friend or Family Member: Have a friend marry you! Unless you have a special relationship with a certain religious leader at your local place of worship, consider the modern approach of asking a close friend to officiate your ceremony. Here in Colorado anyone can marry you.

Have a friend or family member marry you

Photo Credit: Mark Alison Photography

62. Homemade Cake: Have a friend or family member who is an exceptional baker? If the venue can allow for it, ask them for the gift of making your wedding cake or another bulk dessert they are famously known for.

63. Family Funded: Many times family members or friends, beyond the parents, deeply desire to be involved in the wedding planning process and to contribute financially. If you’re comfortable, involve a few extra family members in the planning and see what surprise blessings may come of it!

Elisabeth shares our experiences with this at The Bella Sera, “Many times there are relatives who would like to contribute to a couple’s wedding expenses, but can’t afford to pay a large amount, and therefore, would prefer to pay for something special a couple desires. Since we take the time to get to know our couples’ desires and visions for their wedding, we try to help them obtain everything they can. We host private food tastings for our catering, and it is very common to have parents and step parents attend the tasting. Recently one of our couples mentioned how they wished they could afford to treat their guests to some sort of complimentary alcohol, but they just couldn’t afford it. With all of the parents and step parents at their private tasting, this was a great opportunity for our catering manager to give the bride’s Mother and Step-Dad a suggestion to host a 2-hour beer and wine tab for the cocktail hour and dinner hour. They were thrilled to hear that they could contribute and give the couple something they really wanted, but couldn’t afford. This also made them feel like they contributed to the guest experience. Looking for these opportunities to help our couples is what makes it a win win for everyone.”

64. Friendly Face: Have a friend who is fantastic with makeup? Let him or her do yours for the day. It will be more fun to chat with a friend working on your face than a hired stranger, and you will be able to trust they are fully invested in your look.

Wedding makeup budget

65. DIY Boutonnieres: Have a crafty friend make the groomsmen’s boutonnieres, which do not necessarily need to be crafted with flowers to look great.

Start Stretching Your Luxury Wedding Budget Today

As you can see, a little ingenuity and flexibility can make a more upscale wedding within your reach. There is no need to sacrifice class, sophistication or quality when you’re trying to stay on track financially if you understand your options and resources.

Align yourself with top-notch vendors, including a creative and resourceful venue, and you’ll be well on your way to designing the wedding you’ve always envisioned with the budget you already have.

Fabulous Wedding Cakes by Bella Sera Cakes

From simple to stunning, our cake designers can create the most delicious and beautiful wedding cake for your wedding. Whether it’s a grand cake we spotlight for you on our hanging cake table, or a simple 3 tier cake beautifully displayed on a 4 foot table, we believe your cake should always be a focal point of your reception.

Check out a few of our cake photos from the gallery below.

More Bella Wedding Cakes photos to come!




A Sand Ceremony

In a previous blog post we gave The Unity Candle Ceremony its time in the spotlight, now we want to share some details on another type of unity ceremony, “The Sand Ceremony”.  An equally beautiful element to incorporate into your wedding ceremony timeline, the Sand Ceremony offers thoughtful and meaningful symbolism.

The Sand Ceremony consists of a unity vessel and two or more bottles of colored sand. Sometime after the formal vows, the bride and groom take turns pouring their chosen color of sand into the vessel.  When couples are blending families, they will have several bottles of different colored sand for each child also. The flowing sands and blending colors of the Unity Sand Ceremony symbolize the bringing together of two lives into one or two families into one. The separate sands symbolize everything that the bride and groom have been in the past and by combining them, it symbolizes their future together. Once the two sand colors are poured into the unity vase, they can never be put back into their separate vases. They are forever entwined and interconnected just as the lives of the bride and groom are joined, and their children are joined. Many officiants beautifully communicate to the guests how the separate sands once poured into the unity vase can never be put back into their separate vases. They are forever entwined just as the lives and love of the bride and groom.

The Sand Ceremony is one of the many different types of symbolic unity ceremonies that can be incorporated into your wedding ceremony; and at the Bella Sera it is truly important to us to share the meanings and significance behind each one so our couples can choose one that is the perfect fit!

An Unplugged Wedding

An unplugged wedding, what a simplistic, charming and novel concept. But in the day and age of guests armed with cell phones and iPads that can’t wait to share your special moments on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat almost simultaneously as you are saying your ‘I do’s’, an unplugged wedding is a very rare occurrence.  However, the rarity of unplugged weddings doesn’t take away from the importance of the idea. Taking the time to unplug, be present and actually connect with the wedding experience is important and as a couple, it is ok to ask your guests to do so.  Not to mention that occasionally  “guest photographers” can inadvertently compromise your professional pictures. The Bella Sera experts are always making our couples aware of the “pros and cons” of certain decisions. We have seen entire ceremony photo galleries ruined by smartphone screens in every professional photo and the occasional guest who stands up right at the “wrong” time to get their own shot, and up right in the middle of what would have been a magical shot for the wedding photographer.

There are countless ways to politely ask your guests to keep their devices tucked away during your wedding celebration.  Cute and clever signs are just one option, with a simple message asking guests to please keep their phones and cameras put away during the ceremony.  An officiant can also start the ceremony with a gentle request for all guests to put their phones and cameras aside for the ceremony. There are many ways to ask this of your guests, but one of our favorite announcements was a simple and thoughtful greeting. “Welcome, friends and family! Good evening, everyone. Please be seated. The couple invites you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology. If the groom can do it, then so can you.” The guests all happily obliged, and even after the ceremony, many decided to remain unplugged, keep their arms down and their hearts open and enjoyed the day, instead of being an observer from behind their cameras.

But if an unplugged wedding just isn’t your style, embrace your tech savvy guests and have fun with it! Use an app that will allow all of your guests to post pictures in one location so everyone can share them or even create your own unique wedding hashtag!


Springtime Cocktail

With springtime in the air, we at the Bella Sera thought that it would be fun to share a springtime cocktail that is the epitome of all things spring! While traveling around Italy this past year, gaining inspiration from every breathtaking view, beautiful flower and amazing piece of architecture, we came across an Italian aperitif that we just haven’t been able to forget! In the spirit of springtime, we wanted to share one of our favorite Cocktail recipes with you! Perfectly named, The Garden Party cocktail is a refreshing drink that takes our favorite Italian aperitif, Aperol and pairs it happily with gin, lemon and a splash of Prosecco. Each of these drinks separately are lovely but when combine together they are simply irresistible. Whether you are looking for the perfect drink to enjoy on your balcony during one of these wonderfully warm springtime afternoons or searching for the perfect signature cocktail for your wedding, this one is definitely a contender! It’s beautiful color and refreshing taste is something that you won’t be easily forgotten.

Instructions: Add Gin, Aperol, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and basil to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake thoroughly; the basil will break up and flavor the rest of the cocktail. Pour into a glass with ice and top with a splash of Prosecco. You can garnish with a sprig of basil & a slice of lemon!


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