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Planning an Inexpensive (Not Cheap) Wedding

Jessica Forsyth - April 26, 2006

Brides, bouquets, beauty; these words fit quite comfortably in wedding conversation, but mention a budget and everyone squirms.

How do you cover the costs of the wedding attire, the food, the cake, the flowers, the reception site, the honeymoon, the pictures—the basics of any wedding—without going into debt or bankrupt? But rumor has it that it’s been done. Here are some tips for how you can pull off an inexpensive (not cheap!) wedding.

Have a Party!

First things first, begin hunting for a reception site. Many decisions can’t be made until a location has been identified. As you do your research keep in mind that it’s often most expensive to have a reception on a Saturday; if it doesn’t matter to you, consider having your reception during the week.

Also, as you’re calling around inquiring about different sites, don’t mention you’re getting married right away. Businesses know hosting weddings can mean big bucks for them. If you just say you’re looking to host a party they won’t have time to jack up prices or refer you to special wedding brochures with more expensive prices and catering options.

Finally, keep an eye out for sites that wouldn’t need much extra decorating on your part. Of course, to avoid paying a penny for your reception location, a wonderful option is to have the reception in your backyard or the backyard of a friend or relative. You’d also be amazed at how elegantly the cultural hall of your ward building can be turned around. But keep in mind that these options will require more work and money for decorations.

Decorate

With decorating comes the opportunity to let your creativity shine, and the more involved you are in the process, the less it will cost you.

Flowers are one of the most traditional and most expensive wedding decorations. Seriously consider arranging them yourself, or have a friend do them, because the money you’ll save is worth it. Buy flowers through your local wholesale flower market, wholesale warehouse club, or at a farmer’s market.

Consider what flowers are in season and if there are any garden flowers or wildflowers in the yards of your friends and family. If you don’t feel confident about your arranging skills, try looking for a florist at a grocery store flower shop, a florist working out of his or her home, or a part-time florist who can afford to decorate your wedding without marking up prices too much. Or skip arranging the flowers or hiring a florist all together. Have your reception somewhere that has a garden in full bloom. This keeps both floral and decoration costs to a minimum and provides a natural wedding theme.

You can also opt to decorate without flowers. Floating candles, flower petals, simple greenery, or even fall leaves for a September or October wedding can save on cost and add a unique flare.

As for other decorations, it really depends on your style, but talk to your Bishop or Relief Society President about borrowing tables, chairs, tablecloths etc. These are some great ways to save on the basics.  

Finally, find out if another couple is having a reception at your location on the same day, and ask if they want to share in decorating costs. If you find an agreeable couple and you can come to terms on the flowers you both want in the arrangements, you save money on almost all of your decorations.

The Honor of Your Presence is Requested

First, not only does buying invitations cost money, but mailing them out does too.

Avoid inviting everyone you know and stick to inviting the people you love and care about and who love you enough to make great efforts to come. Also, not everyone needs his or her own invitation. People residing at the same address or members of the same family need only one invitation.

You’ll also trim invitation costs by avoiding oversized invitations—they cost more for postage and paper. If you or a friend know how to work some design computer programs, you can make the invitations yourself. Have a friend take the pictures and find another who knows a picture editing program to tweak them a little.

Gown Up

Most brides-to-be want to feel absolutely stunning on their wedding day, giving the wedding dress high status among wedding priorities. With such status, gowns can get expensive, but there are ways to have your dream dress without sacrificing other wedding details. For example, look into having it tailor-made. This is cheaper and saves you the hassle of finding a dress that fits you right, is modest, and matches perfectly with what you’ve always envisioned. But prices do vary when comparing seamstresses, so make sure you shop around and see samples of their work. Try looking for a seamstress that doesn’t specialize in weddings; often they don’t charge as much. 

Another cheap alternative is to rent your dress. This can save you well over fifty percent of what you might pay for a new dress.

If you want to keep your dress, try shopping for it at bridal warehouse stores. This can easily save hundreds of dollars. Plus they often sell their own dress designs and have thousands of off-the-rack dresses from which to choose.

Celebrate with Cake

If your local grocery store has a bakery, find out how much they charge for wedding cakes. Supermarkets usually offer exceptional cakes for better prices than traditional bakeries. Also check the prices of non-wedding cakes—that may save you money too.

Another option is to look for a culinary school near you. If students learn how to bake and decorate wedding cakes as part of their curriculum, you might arrange for a student to make your cake. Obviously, this would cost much less than hiring a professional cake decorator. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to ask the pastry chef of your favorite restaurant to bake your cake. There’s a good possibility he or she might offer you a good deal.

And you can always fake it. Consider having a “dummy” cake as a centerpiece on the cake table. You can serve guests from sheet cakes that are plated in the back kitchen. Or have a small cake for your cake cutting, and then serve the pre-plated sheet cake.

Bon Apetit!

Your guests will be particularly interested in any food provided at your reception. And they won’t care how much it cost you—if it tastes good, it’s golden.

Buffets usually cost less than sit-down meals because there is less labor involved. The least expensive way to go is to have your reception in between meals or after a main meal. If you are absolutely set on a sit-down meal, choosing lunch over dinner will definitely save money.

Say Cheese!

Look for a photographer who works from home. This type of photographer can cost a lot less than photographers who have to maintain studios. Also consider the money-saving possibility of using a photographer who has a regular day job and does weddings on the side.

If you can find a photographer who will work for an hourly fee, you’ve really landed something. You pay them a set amount for a specific amount of time, provide the film, and pay for the processing, and you get to keep the negatives. While this type of photographer is uncommon, if you come across one you’re bound to save a lot of money.

Honeymoon

Your honeymoon can be equally as special and memorable in Hawaii as it could be spent a few hours away from where you got married. With all of your other wedding costs, you might consider having a local honeymoon at first and then saving your money for a blowout honeymoon on your first anniversary.

Register for a honeymoon. Several honeymoon registries are popping up these days. This option is best for the bride and groom who already have everything they need. Or consider camping together if you are outdoor lovers. Some couples register for backpacking gear, and cut honeymoon costs by backpacking half of the time and staying in decent hotels for the other half of their honeymoon.

While many factors contribute to how much your wedding will cost, these tips will get you thinking and help you consider all your options when deciding how much to spend. And remember, people love to help! Ask your friends and family for ideas and references to cheaper alternatives.

© LDS Living Magazine
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