By Laura Leon
ways to save money and still have the wedding you want
so you’re planning your wedding, and of course, you want everything
to be absolutely perfect. But the more you think about all
you want, the more you have that gnawing feeling in your gut
that you will be swamped with an ever-growing list of expenses.
Part of this stems from the fact that people in the wedding
industry (no matter what they tell you) want you to spend
a fortune on their products. (Hey, it’s their livelihood.
Can you blame them?) Plus, you’re trying to please relatives,
friends and yourself, and if you show signs of economizing,
you feel like the biggest cheapskate who ever walked down
First lesson: Remember that you are in control of your wedding.
With good planning and a little imagination, there’s no reason
why you can’t have a stunning day and still have a savings
account. The following are some money-saving ideas for you
to consider in planning a more economical wedding.
Anyone who’s ever thumbed through a bridal magazine will know
that prices for brides’ dresses can go as high as several
thousand dollars. Start—or continue—a tradition by wearing
your mother’s gown or another relative’s or friend’s.
2. Scour antique and secondhand clothing stores, where you
just might find a vintage gown for under $100. Also, some
retail stores donate overstock or discontinued lines to local
thrift stores. Be sure to check for wear and tear, and be
open-minded—a little tailoring can make a dress truly your
3. Have a seamstress you know make your gown—not only will
this be much less expensive than buying one off the rack,
but you’ll have greater control over the design, fabrics and
fit of your dress.
4. Look in the classified section of local papers for gowns
on sale—chances are, they’ve never been worn.
5. When it comes to all the undergarments, the things that
provide a foundation for your dress and cost a small fortune
by themselves, consider going to a rental shop that specializes
in formalwear. After all, you’re never going to wear that
6. The materials that go into making a veil can cost as little
as $15. Considering that you could pay a few hundred dollars
for a veil and that, in all likelihood, it won’t survive the
25 years it could be till someone else wants to wear it again,
look at all your options. If you or someone you know can sew,
design your own. You’d be surprised at how simple they are
to make. Also, consider renting. Another option is to go without—choose
a hat, an antique comb or lace, flowers or just a pretty hairstyle.
7. Consider gowns for you and your attendants that aren’t
“bridal” dresses—depending on your style, you might consider
Laura Ashley, Ann Taylor, Talbots, Web of Threads, etc. You
might even come up with that elusive dress that can be worn
after the wedding.
Find out if someone else is getting married where you are
within 24 hours of your ceremony. If so, contact that person
and try to work out a plan whereby you both use the same ceremony
site flowers (altar pieces, aisle flowers). Even if your color
schemes are different, you might be able to work out an arrangement
that’s suitable to both weddings and saves both brides money.
9. Have your attendants each carry a single-stem flower such
as a rose or calla lily.
10. Rather than order prearranged bouquets for the bridal
party, buy flowers such as roses or tulips by the dozen, or
wholesale, and tie them with tulle, lace or ribbons.
11. Consider holding your reception at a site that, because
of its inherent splendor, doesn’t require massive decoration.
Historic buildings and parks are two such options.
12. For spaces that do require decoration, consider renting
greens and small trees to provide, cheaply, a unique backdrop
to the festivities.
13. Instead of floral arrangements, have edible centerpieces
such as baskets of fruit or platters of cookies (made by a
friend as a wedding present) wrapped in festive foils, tissue
paper and ribbons. Other easy-to-make table ideas are seashells
for a lakeside wedding; pine cones, berries and votive candles
for a Christmas wedding; or baskets of Easter eggs and chocolates,
found cheaply at your local candy outlet, for spring.
14. If you have a seating plan, as opposed to open seating
or a cocktail-style reception, you may want to provide each
guest with a party favor commemorating your wedding. As thoughtful
a gesture as this is, most people will either forget theirs
or throw it out once they get home. So don’t spend a fortune!
At fabric and party stores, as well as basket warehouses,
you can often find very inexpensively priced miniature baskets.
Spray-paint them to complement your color scheme or keep them
natural. Then fill with chocolates, candies and nuts that
you can get by the pound at candy outlets. Trim the baskets
with ribbon or lace—all told, this can cost as little as $20
and a couple hours of time.
Parties and Rehearsal Dinner
Often the bride and groom will each have some kind of party,
breakfast or dinner for their attendants. Don’t feel like
you have to spend a lot of money to do this. Try a touch football
game in a local park or a bowling party. Later, order pizza
and serve beer and soda from your local discount beverage
center. Or have a potluck picnic.
16. Depending on the time of year, have a pool/lake party
with barbecue or a day of ice skating, which can be followed
by mugs of hot chocolate or pitchers of beer at your favorite
17. Consider the alternatives to the restaurant rehearsal
dinner. Invite family and attendants over for a potluck supper
or a backyard barbecue. Not only is this less expensive than
a restaurant, it also provides you and your families with
better opportunities to spend quality time together before
the big day.
Consider marrying on Friday, Sunday, or (the emerging trend)
Thursday evening—often, reception sites are less expensive
on these days. Be sure to ask.
19. Marry “off-season,” when the costs of services such as
florists and caterers might not be as high. Plus, this gives
you a better chance of getting excellent service.
20. Look into alternative sites for your wedding or reception.
Obviously, a major hotel will be very expensive, but if your
guest list is small, you might want to consider a quaint country
inn. Also, city/county sites, such as parks and municipal
buildings, can often be had inexpensively. And let’s not forget
galleries, studios, museums and academic spaces.
21. When ordering invitations, consider size and weight as
it pertains to postage. Also, include “reception to follow”
on the invitation itself and avoid the expense of a separate
reception card. If you are going with the RSVP cards, however,
consider using a postcard rather than a card and envelope.
You’ll cut the cost of postage by one-third.
22. Sit-down dinners are expensive! Depending on the style
of your wedding, consider a wedding breakfast; a cocktail-and-hors
d’oeuvres party; a dessert-and-champagne reception; or a backyard
23. When shopping for a caterer, ask around to find out whether
any local churches have people who, for a fee, can do your
dinner. Sometimes, the people who actually put on church suppers
are available for parties and receptions. The food is down-home
and delicious, the price is reasonable, and your money can
go to a good cause.
24. Another less-expensive catering option, particularly if
your reception is at a home or a non-restaurant site, is to
check out area cooking schools or programs for a qualified
group of student chefs (under supervision) eager to prove
25. Don’t think you have to impress people by having a continuous
open bar—most guests will overdo it anyway. One option is
to have an open bar at cocktail hour, after which guests pay
for their own drinks. Or you could provide tables with preselected
wines (you might save hundreds of dollars or more by providing
the caterer with your own cases of wine).
26. When going over menus with the caterer, be specific about
what you want and don’t want. Don’t order food that is out-of-season
27. If your caterer provides the wedding cake, check into
its cost factor. If it seems a little steep—and especially
if you don’t really love the caterer’s cake—look around for
an alternative baker and have the caterer discount the price
of his cake from your total bill.
28. One of the first things to ask is whether your caterer
charges a cake-cutting fee. This ridiculous charge is often
applied when you do bring in your own cake, but sometimes
even when the caterer provides it! If there’s no getting around
it, ask a friend or relative to cut the cake for you and another
to help box it.
29. Don’t pay for a dessert; if it comes with your reception
package, ask to have its cost factor removed. It’s silly—and
a waste of money—to have both a dessert course and a wedding
30. If you are marrying in the same place or right next door
to your reception site, don’t bother with limos. Also, if
your ceremony site has a place for you and your attendants
to change, you have even less reason to rent a car.
31. For ceremony music, you might ask a musician/singer friend
to perform as his or her gift to you. Another option is to
recruit a local student of music to play at your ceremony—check
at area colleges that offer degrees in music.
32. Entertainment can be one of the costliest parts of your
reception. Know what you want before settling. If you’re using
a band for the reception, be sure to shop around. You should
get a demo tape, a list of the band’s songs and a chance to
observe them live. Make sure your favorite songs are on the
list. Also, get the date, times and cost in writing. Often,
a band can be persuaded to play longer, but some pack up as
soon as their set ends. But don’t feel obliged to hire a band
for your reception. Consider using a DJ who can play all of
your preferred versions of your favorite songs. Often, a DJ
can better provide the various moods and styles you require
(jazzy for cocktails, Motown for dancing, etc.) than one band.
And don’t forget that you’re required to feed your performer(s);
obviously one DJ costs less to feed than an entire band.
Always be prepared to talk to professionals. Think about what
you want and know your limits. Let the person you’re talking
to know these things right from the start, before he or she
can start talking you into those unnecessary extras that could
cost you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
34. Get everything in writing, from the very first estimates
you receive from florists and caterers, etc. Make sure deliveries,
taxes, labor and tips are included in you estimate.
35. Get in writing what your responsibilities and liabilities
are—if your wedding party goes over the allotted time limit
by five minutes, do you owe for a whole hour? If a guest is
involved in an accident coming home from the reception who
is responsible—you or your reception hall?
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