Planning: Money-Saving Strategies

No matter what your budget, a chic, high-end wedding can be yours without sacrificing a single iota of style. We've come up with five basic planning strategies and a multitude of specific tips to help you.

1. Cut Down
Have two bridesmaids instead of 10 (save on gifts). Serve three courses instead of five (save on price-per-head). Invite 100 guests instead of 150 (save on everything). Do the math: If your wedding comes to $100 per person for food and drink, cutting your list from 150 to 100 saves $5,000.Exchange vows in a naturally beautiful place, like a public park or flower garden.

2. Loosen Up
The less formal the affair, the more affordable. Instead of a sit-down dinner, go for a casual brunch or barbecue. Get rental cars in lieu of limos.

3. Pick and Choose
You don’t need top-of-the-line everything. Ditch the hors d'oeuvres and spend your food budget on exquisite entrees. Serve a great cake, but skip the dessert table.

4. Put it off
Get silver or white gold wedding bands now, and upgrade to platinum on your first anniversary.

5. Do It Yourself
Never underestimate the penny-pinching power of elbow grease. Coordinate the alcohol yourself, make the favors, address your own envelopes, do your own hair or makeup.

Now that you've got the basics down, here are some specific suggestions by category:

Keep them simple. Remember, top-quality paper, fancy typography techniques and custom-colored inks increase the price, as do decorative envelope linings and multiple enclosures. Choose one fabulous element and keep all the rest simple. Use response postcards or make save-the-date cards yourself. To keep postage costs down, stay away from oversize or overweight styles.

The Dress
Got your heart set on couture? Save big bucks (as much as 15 to 35%) by simply swapping out the fabric. For example, a dress made with of poly satin instead of silk satin will cost hundreds less. Want more creative ideas for saving on a designer gown?

Formal Wear
Wear basic black nondesigner tuxes. Encourage all the groomsmen to rent from the same place -- often that means the groom’s tux will be free. If your wedding is semiformal, wear a nice suit that you already own.

Choose a Lincoln over a limousine. If you really want the limo, don't stretch it: stick with an average-size car, use it for only the bride and/or wedding couple, leave out the amenities, and have the wedding party carpool.

Swap an expensive flower for a less expensive one. Even little substitutions add up: If you exchange Black Magic roses for more reasonably priced deeply colored dahlias in all your bouquets and table arrangements, you’ll save about $4 a stem. If you were planning on having five roses per bouquet and 10 per centerpiece – with a wedding party of five gals and guest list of 150 people, you’ve just saved $520.

Exchange vows in a naturally beautiful place. Pick a public park, a flower garden, or an already ornate house of worship so you don’t have to spend a dime on decorations.

Reception Site
Skip the home wedding. You may think you’ll be saving money by having your wedding chez-vous, but that’s not always the case. Between tents, chairs, catering, and port-o-potties, home weddings are more stressful and inevitably more costly than a we’ve-got-everything-you-need reception hall.

Reduce the number of overall dinner courses (making each of three courses fabulous costs less than serving five individual courses) and keep your menu simple. Stick with the specialties of the season and region. Buy your own alcohol. Have the caterers bring out the fancy Dom Perignon for the toast, but then switch to a less expensive champagne for the rest of the night – no one will ever see the bottle, or know the difference.

Order a small, fabulous cake that's exactly what you want and, in the kitchen, have several sheet cakes of the same flavor cut for your guests. Stay away from tiers and (time-consuming) handmade sugar flowers and special molded shapes. Have your caterer decorate each plate with a flavored sauce, instead. Forego fondant: buttercream frosting is tastier and less expensive.

Reception Music
Keep the band small. If their equipment is modern and up-to-date, a small combo band shouldn't sound like it's that small. Or have the band do double-duty, playing at your ceremony and then at your reception. Alternatively, opt for a DJ -- they almost always cost less than a band. The best DJs and bands are in highest demand on Saturday nights, so try Friday or Sunday for a slightly discounted rate.

Consider having only the ceremony filmed. Forego complicated editing. (You'll want at least minimal editing done, however -- otherwise you'll end up with four to eight hours of video, some of which is not so interesting!) Use a single camera, and forget special effects like animated titles or still photos.

Hire your photographer for just the ceremony plus a limited amount of hours at the reception. Keep prints simple, and stay away from special treatments like sepia tones, multiple exposures, and split frames, which add to the cost. Select a package carefully -- some include parents' albums, but many don't, which means you may pay an additional fee later. Opt for faux leather rather than the real thing.

Use the mileage/frequent-flyer miles you earned when using your trusty credit card to pay for your flight. Avoid traveling during high season, the peak tourist time when things are most crowded and in demand. Check airfares for departures out of nearby, smaller cities -- Milwaukee instead of Chicago, Baltimore instead of D.C. Or get a package instead of purchasing plane tickets, hotel, and food separately. And definitely let people know that you’re on your honeymoon. It could result in perks like chilled champagne waiting for you in your suite, or free upgrades.


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