By Judy Totts and Kristen Nowak Winn
The diamond ring sparkles on her finger, the happy couple books the church and the race is on to rent a reception hall, find a dress, design invitations and throw a party for the biggest day in their lives. But after hitting a few wedding Web sites, trying on gowns and making a few phone calls to check printing and posy prices, sticker shock drenches dreams like a bucket of cold water.
With the price tag on some weddings averaging more than $20,000, itâ€™s not surprising couples look for ways to cut costs without sacrificing the beauty of the occasion. For those frugal-minded souls whoâ€™d rather sock away the cash for a down payment on a house instead of a one-day money pit, hereâ€™s a list of suggestions to rein in spending before it rockets out of control. Frugal does not mean cheap in the sense of poorly made decorations or meals from a fast food drive-through. It does mean setting spending boundaries and sticking to them, discovering the thrill of finding bargain buys and the satisfaction of more coins jingling in your pocket after you say â€œI do.â€
50 ways to save
First things first
1 Having a wedding on a Friday night or Sunday could save you a lot on food, hall rental and entertainment costs.
2 Start by setting a realistic budget. Try www.theknot.com for a sample budget planner.
3 Keep receipts in a safe place, so you will have no problems returning something you later decide you no longer want.
4 Be mindful of the sales tax in the county you decide to purchase wedding items or use services. Even a difference of
1 percent can add up quickly â€” especially if youâ€™re spending quite a bit.
5 Is there a gazebo or pretty park in your area? Get married in the open air and follow with a picnic-style reception. Have a backup plan for bad weather.
6 Forego the formal and go with a casual look for the wedding. Be sure to let guests know they can let their hair down.
The bridal party
7 Opt for a smaller bridal party. Each bridesmaid or groomsman needs flowers, a dress or tux and thank-you gifts that can add up quickly.
8 Have an informal bridesmaidsâ€™ breakfast on the big day, then help each other do makeup and style hair.
9 Likewise, do each otherâ€™s nails the night before instead of an expensive manicure.
Food and drink
10 For a cake and punch reception, throw a baking party a few weeks ahead of time to create extra goodies. Use recipes for cookies or treats that freeze well.
11 Having a casual reception instead of a sit-down dinner? Plenty of hors dâ€™oeuvre recipes can be made ahead of time and frozen.
12 Serve a potluck. What could be better than Grand-maâ€™s apple pie coupled with Uncle Jimâ€™s famous chicken wings?
13 Serving chicken and fish would be cheaper than serving steak, prime rib or lobster.
14 Or, better yet, opt for the buffet. Just imagine all the choices for your guests.
15 Instead of a full open bar, offer free beer and wine instead.
16 Plan a barbecue for your rehearsal dinner. Ask a willing friend to act as chef. Donâ€™t forget the marshmallows.
17 Vintage clothes can work for weddings, so donâ€™t forget to check out family heirlooms or shops specializing in classic clothes.
18 If you donâ€™t want to wear your motherâ€™s dress, what about her veil or gloves?
19 Shop for wedding gowns at the end of a season. Like car dealerships, stores have to make room for new models.
20 Check Web sites like davidsbridal.com for discounted dresses (some as cheap as $99). The company has shops in Northeast Ohio.
21 Instead of fancy shoes for the bride, wear decorated white flip-flops or sneakers. No one will see her feet anyway.
22 Put your creativity to work and make your own invitations and programs. Youâ€™ll save hundreds.
23 Choose quarter-fold invitation sizes instead of larger half-size invitations, which typically cost more to mail.
24 Have guests RSVP online or by phone. If you prefer the traditional route, make RSVP postcards, which also will save you money on postage.
25 Card-making software for invitations is available for computer-savvy couples.
26 Hook up your iPod to a stereo system and hire a friend or cousin to play DJ.
27 Look to see if music students will perform at your ceremony for a cheaper rate.
28 Buy flowers in bulk. One place to check out is Costco.com, which offers several different types of wedding arrangements for a lot less than florists.
29 Need small vases for floral centerpieces? Buy a few sets of clear drinking glasses â€” theyâ€™re cheaper as a set, and no one will no the difference.
30 Use silk flowers instead of fresh for the bouquets. Turn them into floral arrangements after the big day.
31 For the best price, choose flowers that are in season. Add greenery to make them fuller.
32 Hire a photography student to take digital wedding pictures. Many welcome freelancing projects at almost half the price of some of the bigger studios. Just make sure to ask to see his or her portfolio.
33 Check out grocery stores for cakes.
34 To save some money on cake, add fake layers to give your wedding cake some added height, and serve the guests sheet cake.
35 Buttercream frosting tastes better than fondant, and itâ€™s cheaper.
36 Some places will charge you extra to cut and serve the cake. See if you can make a deal, or find an alternative.
37 Borrow, borrow, borrow. Ask your cousins or siblings to share.
38 Search eBay or Craigslist for common wedding items, such as a veil, unity candle and centerpieces. Many people only use them for a day, and you can find many just-like-new items for less.
39 Make repeat trips to craft stores, instead of buying everything all at once. Ever notice all those 40- to 50-percent-off coupons that appear once a week in the Sunday ads? This is a great way to save on supplies for invitations. Plus, buying as you go will help you focus on what you need, not something you think you might want eight months before the big day.
Centerpieces, gifts and favors
40 Make candle centerpieces by filling attractive pots with sand to anchor the candle and top with a clear hurricane glass chimney. Add a ring of silk flowers or ribbons. Use them later on your patio or give as gifts.
41 For favors, fill small, clear plastic bags with M&Ms and tie with ribbons in your wedding colors.
42 Instead of favors for guests, donate to a charity in their honor.
43 Make your own card box for the gift table. Just take a medium-sized cardboard box, wrap it with decorative wrapping paper and attach some photos of the couple.
44 Ask ahead of time if your place of worship has certain items on hand you could borrow, such as unity candle holders, pew bows or silk flowers.
45 For Christmas weddings, think about ornaments as bridal party gifts.
46 Small, inexpensive picture frames can double as table place card holders and wedding favors for guests.
Other tips to consider
47 Forget the limo. Find out if any of your family members know an antique or sports car collector who would be willing to give you a ride from the church.
48 Find a hotel that offers a free room for the bride and groom if you reserve a block of rooms.
49 Hold gift opening at a relativeâ€™s house instead of reserving a room at the hotel. Invite family to bring their favorite breakfast food to share with everyone and exchange the recipes.
Last, but not least
Totts may be reached at 330-721-4063 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Winn may be reached at 330-721-4053 or email@example.com.