You don't have to break the bank to have a beautiful, meaningful wedding day. Here's how to save cash without looking cheap!
First -- and most importantly -- remember that you only truly need three things to have a successful wedding day: a bride, a groom, and an officiant. Everything else is optional fluff. Remembering this will help you make some tough financial decisions during the planning process.
Your guest list
The single easiest way to slash your budget is by slashing your guest list. Your wedding is a celebration, but it is also a very intimate moment. It is a rite of passage in which you and your beloved are pledging your lives to each other, and joining two families together.
Do you really need to invite business associates with whom you (or your parents) only socialize to network? Second cousins thrice removed that you haven't seen since you were in diapers? Sorority sisters with whom you only keep in touch on Facebook, but haven't actually spent significant time since graduation?
When budgeting is a concern, keep your guest list to immediate family and the closest of friends. Not only will this save you wads of cash, but you will enjoy spending this meaningful day with the people you value the most.
Let's talk dress. Many women spend a good chunk of their lives dreaming of the beautiful frock we will wear on our wedding day, almost to the exclusion of thinking about anything else in that little fantasy. It is possible, if not downright easy, to find a gorgeous gown for far less than the astronomical prices charged by bridal salons.
There are lots of alternative options to get a beautiful gown -- even a designer gown -- at a far lower price than at a bridal salon. eBay, Craigslist and secondhand stores all have beautiful designer gowns at a fraction of the cost.
Many bridesmaid dresses are available in white or ivory and cost a fraction of what bridal gowns do -- check out Watters and Watters and Jim Hjelm Occasions for some beautiful budget-friendly designs.
Don't buy an expensive veil. You would be spending upwards of $200 for fabric that really only costs a few dollars per yard. Buy the fabric and have one made -- you'll save hundreds of dollars. Or skip the veil and wear a beautiful jeweled comb or flowers in your hair.
Your reception will probably be the most expensive chunk of your day, barring your honeymoon. To cut costs, consider these tweaks.
Have your wedding on a Friday or Sunday. Hold anything but a dinner party -- brunch, cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, dessert/champagne and cake, even a lunch garden picnic will all save you tons of cash over a full dinner. Still want an evening meal? Go for a buffet with chicken, pasta and in-season produce instead of beef. You'll save the cost of extra waiters and expensive ingredients.
Have an iPod or iPhone? Then you have your DJ. Playlist weddings are becoming increasingly popular, because couples can choose exactly the music they want to hear, no matter how obscure or alternative it may be.
Load up playlists for each portion of your wedding: pre-ceremony, ceremony, cocktail hour, special dances, dinner, dancing, etc. Ask a member of your wedding party to act as MC for special announcements. With live DJs asking upwards of $500 for four hours, and bands costing in the thousands, using an iPod can save you a pretty penny, and be completely personalized.
Really love the idea of live music? Hire musicians from a local music school to play at your ceremony. They are just as skilled and far less expensive.
Wedding flowers can easily run you in the thousands. To cut costs, make sure you order only blooms that are in-season. Order loose stems and make the arrangements yourself. This is not nearly as difficult as it sounds! You can also order your flowers online for a fraction of the cost of a traditional florist. ProFlowers.com, Wedding Floral Distributors and FiftyFlowers.com are popular and reputable choices.
You might also try ordering flowers without mentioning they're for a wedding, because sometimes the simple mention of matrimony can bump the price up a couple notches. Just say you're buying flowers for a party.
You can skip...
Favors: Most guests toss wedding favors anyway. If you really want to leave something, bake yummy treats yourself, or make a small donation to a favorite charity in memory of a cherished relative, placing a card at each setting explaining the gift.
Save-the-dates: Save the date cards are an unnecessary expense, unless you're having a destination wedding, requiring people to make travel arrangements well in advance.
Video: Chances are you will only watch a wedding video once or twice, yet spend thousands on its production. Add this money into your still photography budget instead.
Don't skimp on
Photography: Hire the absolute best photographer that you can afford. If you try to cut corners here, you are guaranteed to regret it each and every time you -- and your loved ones -- look at your wedding photos. A great photographer is one of the most important investments you can make. Remember, you are asking them to record a piece of family history -- one that will last for generations to come.
Drinks: It is a personal choice to serve alcohol or not, but if you do, do not have a cash bar. If you had a dinner party at your home, you wouldn't charge your guests for each glass of wine. To save money, offer only beer and wine, a signature cocktail or champagne punch. There is no need to provide an entire liquor store. Also be sure to have plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.
Saving money does not have to mean skimping on style. With a little imagination and creativity, you can have a gorgeous wedding on a shoestring budget. That way, instead of spending so much cash on that one single day, you instead have it available to use for the rest of your married life. Smart, no?
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