Save Here, Splurge There: Entertainment Budgeting 101

Did you know today is National Splurge Day?

Before I run off and make some frivolous sparkly purchase, I thought it would only be appropriate to share a few thoughts on saving money for your wedding. Of course, when you save money, this allows you to splurge on the good stuff – like glamorous Orlando wedding entertainment, of course!

In my experience performing belly dance for weddings in Orlando and also in the CT/NY area where I recently relocated from, I’ve learned that every bride is on a budget. And just as budgets come in all sizes, every bride will prioritize hers differently. I’ve worked with DIY brides on extremely tight budgets who didn’t blink at my wedding prices (which are significantly higher than the Orlando norm), and I’ve turned down requests from a few Ritz-Carlton brides who wouldn’t budge on their entertainment budget of $100 (for 3 sets and a zaffa).

At the end of the day, my goal is always to be fair and transparent about my own prices, help my brides avoid unnecessary costs, and make a profit that’s sustainable for me.

While every Orlando belly dancer runs her business differently, here are a few of my favorite tips that I share with brides who are looking to avoid extra charges and keep their entertainment costs reasonable:

  • Ditch the Ensemble; Book a Solo Act: While I get tons of requests for multi-dancer shows for Orlando weddings, and while there’s no denying that a duet or trio certainly LOOKS cool, it’s not the most cost-effective way to entertain a crowd. As I’ve been known to bluntly tell clients, belly dancers are not like napkins at Costco – you don’t save money buying in bulk. To get an estimate for how much this type of show will cost, just take the rate for ONE dancer and multiply it by 2, 3, you get the picture. Then, add on additional fees for rehearsals and additional pre-show coordination, and suddenly, a $200 show can go as high as $1,000 in the blink of an eye. Here’s the truth: you probably don’t “need” a multi-dancer show, unless your venue is palatial. A good solo artist will know how to perform “in the round” and entertain audience members on all sides of the dance floor so nobody gets bored.
  • Book Just One Set: If you’re on a budget and considering a 2-part show, consider cutting back to just one set. Just like a multi-dancer show, a multi-set show is the extravagant choice, but not always the practical one. And in case you’re wondering, booking 2 15-minute sets generally does NOT cost the same as one 30-minute set, as most seasoned pros will factor the additional wait time and/or costume change into their grand total. A single set provides all the glamor you’re looking for, at half the price of a two-part show.
  • Ask About Off-Peak Pricing: Time is inventory. For those who don’t know, Friday and Saturday nights in Spring, Fall and Winter are prime real estate in my world. Everything else is a little more flexible. Many wedding vendors offer off-peak pricing during slow seasons, on weekdays, or afternoons. Some belly dancers may offer a slight discount if you’re getting married in July or August (the slow season in Orlando), on a weekday or afternoon. I help my brides whenever I can. It never hurts to ask!
  • Book for the Rehearsal Dinner: Many seasoned dancers will charge a little more for a wedding reception than for a smaller event. It’s nothing personal – just the complexity of the event. (I charge extra for mitzvahs, big corporate events, you get the picture). If your wedding is a 300-guest, black-tie affair on a Saturday night and your rehearsal dinner is a simple, intimate gathering on a Friday, you may be able to save a bit of money. And belly dance is a great way to break the ice at a rehearsal dinner and get everyone relaxed and in the spirit for the wedding!
  • If You’re Going to Negotiate….Be Nice! I will gladly work with brides on the price, if I can find some wiggle room using the criteria we’ve discussed above. And what they say about catching flies with honey? Yeah, that too!

What NOT to Do:

The regional “market price” for belly dancers in Orlando starts at $200 for a simple 20 minute show. It may be tempting to book a student or an amateur who will do it for less. It may also be tempting to take your Arabic DJ up on his offer to “throw in some free belly dancers.” Don’t do it. While a seasoned pro will take your budget into consideration and help you come up with a package that makes you happy, hiring the cheapest possible entertainer is possibly the worst money you’ll ever save. Cheap belly dancers are notorious for embarrassing and/or flaking on their clients. If you can only spend $100 on entertainment, I strongly suggest that you do without.

You’re Engaged? Planning Your Budget? Don’t Forget Entertainment!

Seriously. My wedding planner friends tell me stories about brides who book the most expensive venue in Orlando and have no money left for the dress, the caterer, the DJ, or anything else. While this example is a bit extreme, even the savviest brides have a tendency to put off entertainment until the very last minute, and this is a huge mistake.

As I tell my brides, your decor and venue are what GET your guests’ attention. Your entertainment is what KEEPS their attention. We’ve ALL been to weddings where nobody danced, everybody just sat around and stared at each other, and people went home early, making excuses about putting the kids to bed or feeding the pet iguana. So please. If you don’t want this to happen, and save a little bit of room for some entertainment to give your guests something fun to do and look at!

For some great pointers on budget management, check out this great article from Martha Stewart Weddings: 55 Ways to Trim Your Wedding Budget.

About Carrara Nour: Carrara is an Orlando-based belly dancer offering custom entertainment for weddings and glamorous events. For more information, check out her Weddings Page or find her on Facebook or Google Plus: Carrara Nour+

Orlando belly dancer, Carrara Nour
Carrara Nour, Belly Dancer in Orlando

Comments · 2

  1. May I add:

    Try to keep costs in perspective. A single set by a high-quality belly dancer costs less than I spent on the invitations for my wedding.

    (And we didn’t go over the top on the invitations, either. They were very nice, but we bought a kit and assembled them ourselves, instead of having them made.)

  2. You are absolutely right, Nadira! Nothing has been more eye-opening for me than networking with other wedding pros and learning about their prices. Really puts into perspective how reasonable a $200-400 belly dance show is! It costs $400+ to rent a chocolate fountain in the Orlando area, and I believe ice sculptures start around $300. Our prices are right in line with other “specialty” vendors, and actually pretty reasonable when you think about the benefits.

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