Contributed by the Frugal Panda:
Planning a wedding can be an extremely stressful and costly endeavor. Weddings generate billions of dollars each year in revenue, with the average wedding costing over $20,000. But a wedding doesn?t have to be expensive to provide a wonderful experience. You can still have your dream wedding at a fraction of the cost. There are many ways to make your wedding less stressful on your finances so that you and your future spouse have more money to spend on things to start your lives together. Here are a few suggestions on how to cuts costs and still have a beautiful wedding.
Set a Budget: The first step to keeping your wedding spending under control is to create a budget. Decide how much you can spend and don?t overspend, not even for the delightful themed extras. A few dollars here and there can add up over time.
Prioritize Spending: There are some things that might be more important to you and your finance/e than others. Prioritize to spend more on things to truly matter to you and cut costs on things that aren?t as important.
Keep It Simple: One way to save money and your sanity is to simplify your wedding. Sometimes less really is more. Do you really need every one of those five-course dinners to enjoy your special day?
Give Yourself Time: By giving yourself ample time to plan, you won?t feel rushed at the last minute and forced into using services and products that are more expensive. By having more time you?ll be able to shop around for the best deals, and not get stuck with what?s available at the last minute. Plus, if you have a credit card that accumulates airline miles or points for travel, you?ll have time to use this card so you can use the rewards to cut prices on your honeymoon travel.
Shop Second Hand: If you?re not dead set on having a new dress, you can often find great dresses at consignment shops, on eBay, or in the classifieds. These dresses, in all but the most extraordinary cases, have only been worn once and a second-hand dress can provide a great money saving alternative. Or, if you?re looking for something more meaningful, ask a family member if they have a dress you can wear. It will be sentimental and help you save some money.
Rent Your Dress: For those who aren?t hung up on keeping their wedding dress for future generations, renting can also be an option.
Consider Evening Gowns: Who says a wedding dress has to be one that was made especially for that purpose? Often an evening gown purchased off the rack in a department store (especially on sale!) can be just as elegant and considerably less expensive.
Shop for Samples: It?s commonplace for bridal shops to have sales to clear out their remaining stock of each year?s wedding dresses in a sample sale. Get out your phone book and call your local bridal shops to see if and when they hold sales. It might take a little more planning, but you can get great deals on designer dresses this way.
Do Your Own Hair and Makeup: You shouldn?t have to break the bank to look good on your big day. You can save a lot of money by styling your own hair or if you have a friend or relative do it for you. If you?re worried about how it will turn out, give it a test run before the big day to make sure you get the look you want.
Wear Suits: If you want to save some money on rentals, and if you aren?t picky about matching everything precisely, you can wear have the men in your wedding wear suits instead of tuxes. Suits are a better investment, as you?re more likely to have an occasion to wear a suit again, and many in your wedding will already have a suit to wear in their closet.
Look for Group Discount Rentals: If you are going the tux route, shop around for a rental shop that will give discounts for multiple rentals. Many places will give the groom his tux for free if the rest of the bridal party plays along.
Let Bridesmaids Wear Their Own Dresses: No one likes getting stuck with an expensive dress they?ll never wear again. If you allow your bridesmaids wear their own dresses they?ll save money, and you?ll know that they?ll be comfortable wearing a dress they picked out. You can pick a certain color to coordinate them all, or help them look more similar by purchasing matching wraps to go with the dresses.
Buy Discount Shoes: Add the word ?wedding? to anything and the price goes up exponentially. Shoes are no exception. Try getting your shoes at a discount shoe store (where they can often be dyed to match for a reasonable fee) or wear simple slippers. No one is really going to see them anyway, so there?s no need to splurge. Be comfortable and save money!
Borrow from Friends and Relatives: Make your wedding ensemble more special by wearing items you?ve borrowed from family and friends. Wearing special jewelry, veils, or for men, cufflinks, and give your outfit a more personal and meaningful touch.
Make Your Own Accessories: One way to save a hefty chunk of change is to make some of your wedding accessories. Some fancier veils can cost almost as much as the dress itself, but with a little creativity you can make one yourself. Also consider making the pillows for your ring bearers as well. Accessories can be some of the most expensive parts of a wedding, so anything that you can do yourself will save some money.
Grow Your Own: If you?ve got time to plan in advance you can plant the type of flowers you?d like to have at your wedding. You can always enlist friends and relatives if you don?t have a yard. Not too many people will object to free landscaping, and you can save a bundle by raising the flowers yourself.
Buy Wholesale: If you don?t have the resources to plant your own flowers you might find more reasonable wholesale prices at a local flower market. You might not get the same wholesale price as resellers, but you?ll still get a bigger discount than at a retail establishment. Remember that the more flowers you buy from a single vendor, the bigger discount you?re likely to get. If you can pay with a cash back credit card, you might save even more money!
Arrange Flowers Yourself: Arranging your own flowers can be easier than you?d expect. There are many books available on the subject that you can purchase or get from your local library, or if you really have the time and inclination you can take an inexpensive class on flower arranging.
Use Flowers In Season: Flowers that are in season and readily available are much more reasonably priced than those that might be more exotic. You can consult with your florist about the flowers that will allow you to make the most of your budget and still look great in arrangements and bouquets.
Reuse: You might be able to save some money by reusing some of the flowers from your ceremony at your reception. See if your florist or if a friend is willing to transport the flowers. It does put them at more of a risk of being damaged in route, but it can also save you a lot in not having to purchase as many flowers for both locations.
Limit Your Attendants: A small wedding party can cut the overall cost of the wedding, as you will need fewer dresses, suits, flowers, food, etc. If you think there will be hurt feelings if you limit the number of attendants, try going with only a best man and maid of honor instead.
Avoid Peak Seasons: The peak wedding season is between May and September. Opting to have a wedding in the off-season can get you some deals on wedding venues that may be more reasonable in the face of fewer bookings.
Consider Alternate Transportation: Unless it?s your dream to be whisked away with your new spouse in a limo or horse drawn carriage, you could consider an alternate means of transportation as a way to save money. Try being creative. Borrow an antique car from a friend or relative or try jazzing up your own with some wedding decorations.
Limit Your Guest List: If you?re trying to keep expenses in check, keep in mind that every guest you add to your list increases your expenses significantly. This may sound mean, but do you really want to invite people you barely know? Only invite those with whom you are close.
Have a Mid-week Wedding: Most weddings are held on Saturdays, but you can save quite a bit of money by having your wedding midweek. It might take a bit more maneuvering to arrange everything on a weekday, but the savings can be worth it.
Be Creative With the Location: It can be more cost efficient if you get away from the more traditional settings for weddings. If possible, a family member?s backyard or a beautiful city park can make ideal settings for a romantic ceremony or reception. These settings can often be considerably less expensive than many other fancier venues and may lend a more personal touch to your wedding.
Share Costs: Check with the venue of your wedding to see if there are any other weddings that day. If there are, try checking with the other brides and grooms to see if you can possibly share some of the decoration costs. Since they probably will not be reused, there?s no sense in spending a lot on them. Doubling up their usefulness can be beneficial to both parties.
Use Non-traditional Items: Get creative with your decorations and let them personalize your wedding. Try using potted houseplants or plain pillar candles as decorations. They can be less expensive than flowers and can be reused or sold at a yard sale after the wedding.
Make Your Own Favors: If you want to give guests a little take away gift and still not spend a fortune, make the favors yourself. You can tie them into your wedding theme or make them very personal to you and your guests. You can also have a small party to enlist friends and relatives help you make those favors.
Decorate Tables Yourself: While having a bouquet at the center of every table is nice, you can decorate the tables at your reception with less expensive alternatives. Instead of floral bouquets, try making centerpieces from photos of the bride and groom. Even a small glass dish with floating candles can look elegant in the middle of the table. There are many creative alternatives that can help lower your wedding costs.
Shop Around: This goes without saying, but don?t simply take on the first photographer you come across in the phone book. Rates can vary widely, so shop around to make sure you?re getting the best deal and the best quality photos.
Enlist a Friend or Family Member: Have someone in your family that?s an amateur photo enthusiast? See if they wouldn?t mind taking pictures of your wedding. Or, for a more creative option, enlist your guests to take photos of the wedding and give them a little incentive to compete to see who can take the best photos.
Photography Students: If you can?t afford professional rates, students can provide a good option as well. Try posting an ad in a local university newspaper or website for a photographer. If you?re worried about the quality, simply ask to see some samples beforehand. Any serious photography student will have a portfolio. You?ll be surprised at the quality you can get for a lot less money.
Buy the Negatives: Some photographers will agree to sell you the negatives from your wedding photos. This can save you money in the long run because you can have as many prints as you?d like made from the negatives at a much lower cost than you would through the photographer.
Cut the Number of Hours On Call: Save the money you?re spending on your professional photographer for the times when you really want the best photos. Some photographers offer ?ceremony only? services and you can have friends and relatives take photos at while you?re getting ready or at your reception.
Print Your Own: Making your own invitations is easier than ever nowadays. You can use your own computer software and paper bought from your local craft or stationary store to print your invitations much more cheaply than you can have them printed for you.
Ask Guests to Reply Online or by Phone: You can use an online service for RSVP?s and simply include the web address on your invitations, which will save the need for RSVP cards and extra postage. Or, you can include a phone number for your guests who might not have Internet access.
Use a Reply Postcard: Instead of including the standard reply card and envelope, consider using a postcard as an alternative. It?ll make your main invitation lighter and also save money on RSVP postage.
Make Your Own Wedding CD: Instead of hiring a band to play as you walk down the aisle, you can make your own wedding CD of your favorite songs or ones that have special meaning for you and your spouse to be. You can give a copy of the CD to your guests for the wedding favor.
Hire a Student Band: If you can?t afford a professional wedding band to play covers of all your favorite songs, try hiring a student band or non-professional players. Though they may not know how to play the chicken dance, they can be just as good as a professional band.
Be Your Own DJ: It?s easier than ever to DJ your own parties nowadays. You can make your own mix on CDs or your iPod and rent the speakers. It?s a simple way to make sure the music playing during your reception is all music you want to hear.
Hold the Wedding and the Reception at the Same Place: If you hold your wedding and reception at the same location, you can make things simpler and cheaper. Fewer locations means fewer things to rent, fewer decorations, and less transportation to pay for as well.
Have Friends and Family Cater: If you can?t afford to hire a professional caterer, see if you can get friends and family to help you cook for the wedding. Home cooked foods can be just as good as catered foods; but keep in mind that this proposal is much easier and less stressful if the effort is for a small wedding.
Opt for a Buffet: Sometimes buffets can be cheaper than sit down meals. Consult with a caterer to see if this might be a better option. Buffets can be an easier way to please potentially picky guests instead of having to offer a wide variety of dinner choices. Plus, they require fewer wait staff than you?d need for a regular dinner.
Limit the Open Bar: Limiting a traditional open bar to a few hours or to a few choices can really cut costs. Depending on the local laws and the rules at your reception hall, if you are able to purchase the liquor yourself you might save enough to hire a barkeep.
Get a Smaller Cake: Cakes are available in all shapes and sizes, but the fancier the design, the more expensive the cake. Sheet cakes are much more reasonably priced than tier cakes. If you?re looking for something photo friendly, get a small tier cake for you and your spouse and a larger sheet cake for your guests. It all tastes the same even if it doesn?t look the same, so decide if the frills are worth the expense.
Buy in Bulk: Food and beverages are cheaper if bought in bulk. Head to your local discount club and see if you can pick up some of the essentials for your reception. Wine and champagne can also be purchases at a substantial discount when bought in cases, so look for that as well.
Have Alternate Desserts: If cake isn?t your thing, you might consider a cheaper dessert. Pies, tarts, mousse, chocolate covered fruits and even attractively arranged cookies and brownies can provide a cheaper and more creative alternative.
Have a Potluck: To really save some money, ask friends and relatives to each bring a dish to your reception. To make it more fun you can challenge your guests to create the best dishes, with prizes to the winner in each category.
Move Your Reception to Lunch: If you move your reception to the afternoon, you can help you save on food and alcohol charges. Food will be lighter and less expensive, and guests will drink less in the afternoon than in the evening (you hope).
Have Your Reception at an All-in-One Locale: You can often save money by having your reception at a place that includes everything in the total cost. This type of venue will save you the trouble of renting tables, chairs, and paying for a separate caterer.
Cut Down on the Wait Staff: You can save money by limiting the amount of wait staff you hire for your wedding. Make sure you have enough people to make your guests feel comfortable, but not so many that some are left standing around. You can also save by hiring local college students rather than professionals through a catering service.
A wedding is an occasion for celebration, not for stressing out over finances and small details. You can still achieve your dream of having a beautiful wedding, even if it isn?t champagne and caviar. The idea is to make your special day personal and special, not expensive. And just think, the money you save on your wedding can be used to take a wonderful honeymoon or to put a down payment on a new house. Of course, you might discover that an elopement is the least expensive way to get hitched.
The point is to strike a balance. You don?t want to look needy on your wedding day, but you also don?t want to build a lifetime?s worth of debt. If you do accumulate massive credit card debt while planning your wedding, you might think about transferring those balances to a new low-rate card so you can take some time to pay down your balance.
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