Planning: Less Expensive Days for Weddings

Some reception locations may offer the same sit-down dinner on Sunday for a lot less cash than it did on Saturday.

If there were a popularity contest for days of the week, Saturday would win. Most likely when you were a kid, Saturdays meant watching cartoons, playing in Little League ball games, or going to the pool. Now that you're one of the adults (yes), Saturday means sleeping in, shopping, and barbecue on the deck. Not surprisingly, Saturday is also the most popular day to get married. But more and more couples are choosing off days, like Friday, Sunday, or even midweek days, for their weddings -- and finding that being flexible about the day of the week can make a big dollar difference.

Practical considerations are the big draw: At many ceremony and reception sites, Saturdays are booked a year or more in advance. If you have your heart set on one of these venues, an off-day wedding can be an event-saving alternative. Religious considerations also can come into play. For example, many Jewish weddings take place on Sunday in deference to the Jewish Sabbath, which lasts from sundown on Friday until sundown on Saturday. Officiants of many denominations often are more readily available for an off-day wedding. For some couples, having their wedding on a specific date -- say, their parent's wedding anniversary, for example -- is more important than having it on Saturday. Other couples have a midweek event so they can take advantage of lower airfares for out of town guests (and for their own honeymoon flights). Off-day weddings seem especially appealing to brides or grooms who have been married before and who know that a wedding is a wedding, any day of the week.

Off-day weddings can save you some serious money. Some reception locations, in a quest to book venues that would otherwise remain empty, may offer the same sit-down dinner on Sunday for a lot less cash than it did on Saturday. It's a simple case of supply and demand: You'll have better luck negotiating lower rates with vendors if there aren't five other couples lined up behind you, ready to take your spot. Also, you may be able to make things work with fewer guests, because some establishments loosen minimum guest requirements on off days. You're also likely to get better service because you'll have management's undivided attention on a less busy day.

Depending on the specifics of your location, you also may be able to get your guests better hotel rates. Keep in mind that a hotel that hosts conventions or caters to business people probably won't offer lower rates during the week. At some establishments, you can reserve a block of rooms for Friday night with a lower number of guests because, by then, business travelers have gone home.

Three-day holiday weekends like Memorial Day or Labor Day are popular for Sunday weddings because out-of-town guests have a full day to return home; and because for most guests, these weekends come with a built-in day off from work. (If you choose a holiday weekend wedding date, be sure you give your guests plenty of notice before they make other plans. This is the perfect excuse to buy those cute save-the-date cards.) Other holidays like Halloween, New Year's Eve, or even Father's Day are perfect for creative types looking to build a wedding with a theme (and to celebrate their anniversary on a holiday every year!). Remember, however, that some vendors are in great demand for certain holidays. For example, florists are swamped on Valentine's Day and Mother's Day; and bands are tough to book for New Year's Eve.

Okay, no doubt it's a little more difficult for your guests, especially those traveling from afar, to manage a Friday or Sunday wedding. They may have to take an extra day off from the office or school. Be prepared for a higher-than-average rate of regrets, because those who aren't especially close to you aren't likely to accept your invitation. The good news: You end up with a core group of die-hard fans at your wedding, which makes the event a bit more cozy and a lot of fun.

These days, with so many guests traveling great distances to attend weddings, lots of couples plan celebrations that last several days or longer; couples with off-day affairs will find themselves in the same situation. Your weekend may begin with a bang: a Friday wedding followed by Saturday or Sunday activities and outings. Another option is Friday and Saturday group activities with a Sunday ceremony as the finale. In consideration of guests' schedules, a Friday wedding should be an evening affair, and a Sunday celebration should be planned to wrap up fairly early.

Thinking that maybe off-day means off-base? No way. Just because it's not a Saturday night doesn't mean that it's not a party. Friday evening or Sunday morning weddings can be just as elegant as Saturday celebrations. Consider a Sunday reception in the form of a champagne brunch. These tend to begin with a ceremony between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., followed by a reception that wraps up around 5 p.m. A Friday wedding can be a sophisticated, starry-night soiree that goes far into the evening.


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