We know planning a budget-friendly wedding that wows is a challenge, so we decided to consult the experts on your behalf to bring you the thriftiest tips out there!

This week we caught up with Tracie Domino, a Tampa, Florida-based wedding planner with operations in Arizona and Connecticut and 10 years’ experience under her belt. According to her website, Tracie once helped former Florida Governor Jeb Bush sneak through a hedge at a wedding so he could avoid loud protestors and media. Now that’s what we call going above and beyond the call of wedding-planning duty!

Florida-based wedding planner, Tracie Domino - photo by Pezz Photo

To say Tracie is a busy gal is a major understatement – not only is she a certified special events professional, she also serves on local boards around Tampa Bay – and yet she still finds the time to work with all of her couples to help them stay within their budgets and  avoid spending money on unnecessary details. So, what are those budget-busting details, you ask? Keep on reading to learn the ins and out of wedding planning from a planner who really gets it (and has fun doing it).

You got your start working with brides and grooms at the A La Carte Event Pavilion after working a stint for your beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so how did you decide you wanted to work in the wedding industry as a planner? 

Seeing the joy in the eyes of our clients after their wedding was all they could imagine and more, made me want to experience that over and over again! Plus I’m a little OCD … the perfect trait for a wedding planner!

According to the latest report by the XO Group, Inc., the average U.S. wedding costs about $30,000. Have you noticed changes in couples’ wedding spending habits?

My clients are absolutely spending more – more than $30,000 and more than last year. They are spending more on things they weren’t even thinking about a decade ago: mixologists, welcome receptions, welcome bags, percussionists to play along with their DJ …

Do you have specific memories or examples of working with budget-friendly couples, and how did their big days turn out?

The best memories of dealing with clients, regardless of their budget, is flexibility. This helps create a design for their wedding that is new, interesting and elegant while fitting their budget. If they are too tied to one particular over-the-top element, sometimes it can eat up so much of the budget that it makes the rest of the event suffer.

What are some typical wedding money-wasters, or things that may seem like an important splurge at the time, but don’t make a huge difference at the overall event?

If budget is tight, expensive food selection, specialty linens and out of season flowers are the biggest money wasters. No one will care how fancy the linens were if there wasn’t any alcohol or if the DJ was horrible.

Have you worked with any clients with exceptionally low budgets, perhaps $10,000 or less?

Yes. I had a client get married in Cabo with this exact budget. It was amazing! The key was they picked a gorgeous venue and kept the guest count to 40 guests. It was one of the prettiest weddings ever with the Sea of Cortez as a backdrop.

Sometimes, focusing entirely on price can compromise quality. What wedding purchases and decisions should not hinge on cost?

Photography, bar and entertainment. These are the things that will make your guests have the best time and the only way you will have beautiful memories of the event.

How important is hiring a planner or day-of coordinator? Can a planner or coordinator actually help a couple save money?

You need a planner. In this day and age, it is no longer optional. There are way too many moving parts on your wedding day that need to be handled by a professional. Luckily, there are planners available for every budget. A good planner will save you a ton of money by not letting you make expensive mistakes.

What advice would you give to planning couples who feel overwhelmed by wedding cost and budgets? 

Weddings are expensive, but realize everyone is on a budget. Your friend’s budget might be larger than yours, but they are still feeling the stress. The best thing you can do to keep your wedding costs down is to keep your guest count and bridal party small.

Do you have any final advice for brides and grooms on their big day, budget tips or otherwise? 

Be as present as possible and enjoy it. Never again will all the people you love the most in the world be in the same room to celebrate you!

And there you have it: wedding advice for every budget, straight from the pros. Stay tuned for more vendor spotlights, real bride interviews and money-saving tips that will help you plan and keep you sane.