Friday, June 19, 2009

40 best cost-cutting tips for your wedding planning

1. Extend your engagement. A longer planning period means a better chance of getting the best vendors in your price range. Plus, you can typically lock in rates that might increase by the time your wedding date arrives.

2. Imbibe wisely. Many sites offer consumption bars (you pay for the liquor your guests drink) or open bars (a flat fee per guest). If your invitees are light drinkers, a consumption bar will save you cash. One caveat: Make sure you trust the establishment tallying drinks.

3. Limit your attendants. You could save hundreds on the boutonnieres and bouquets, not to mention all of the gifts you would need to buy for a large wedding party.

4. Avoid a Saturday night soiree. Wedding pros charge their highest fees for parties that are held on this evening. If you're willing to move your event to a Friday or Sunday night, you'll probably get lower rates-and even better ones for a weeknight wedding.

5. Marry in the off-season. Prime party times are from May to October in most parts of the country. If you instead plan your nuptials for January, for instance, you'll have a better chance of finding vendors who will drop their rates.

6. Steer clear of holidays. A Valentine's Day wedding will mean higher costs for flowers-and for nuptials on New Year's Eve, your site may charge you overtime rates for staffing.

7. Shop strategically. When searching for a gown within your budget, avoid luxe materials and embellishments. Instead, go for textured fabrics like silk organza, crinkled silk and silk faille, which look and feel more expensive than they are.

8. Inquire about freebies. Some sites include a cake, flowers or a honeymoon suite in wedding packages.

9. Pick a multipurpose venue. If you use one site for the ceremony and reception, you'll save on site fees and won't have to pay for transportation to both spots.

10. Keep it to one card. If you can fit all of your reception information on the wedding invitation, you'll save on the materials and printing costs, and possibly even on the postage.

11. Skip the inner envelope. This is a tradition but certainly not a necessity-it costs extra and may even add more to each invite's postage.

12. Use nonfloral fillers. Mix fruit with flowers to create a beautiful centerpiece for half the price of a flowers-only design. Or ask for extra greenery to fill out the arrangement at a lower cost.

13. Be choosy. For a destination wedding, select a hotel with an on-site wedding coordinator so you don't have to pay for an independent planner. Also, choosing an all-inclusive resort can save cash; if there's a reception fee, it tends to be small.

14. Throw a brunch (or lunch) bash. You'll save on the food (breakfast and lunch entrées are cheaper), the bar (daytime tabs tend to be much smaller) and possibly even the fee for the space.

15. Browse sample sales. Twice a year, many bridal salons sell samples of the dresses they carry at a significant discount. You could land a bargain (but first find out what dry cleaning and alterations might cost, so you can take that into account before your purchase).

16. Pare down ceremony decor. Guests will see these flowers for only an hour or two, so stick with the basics. Consider placing one or two big arrangements up front, where all eyes will be, and leaving the rest of the room decorated very simply.

17. Authorize a market buy. Instead of specifying the blooms you want for your wedding, ask your florist to choose the best bargains available in your color scheme on your big day.

18. Eliminate waiting fees. Hire one car to get you and your groom to and from the ceremony, and then another for the end of the night. Often, you'll end up paying less for two cars than for one limo with overtime charges.

19. Have dual-function flowers. Certain types of bouquets, most notably pomanders and nosegays, can surreptitiously be used twice. After they are carried down the aisle by your bridesmaids, they can be placed in vases to grace guests' tables.

20. Cut out a course. If you serve heavy hors d'oeuvres during the cocktail hour, you can get by with a simple soup or salad, followed by a main course and dessert (or just wedding cake) for the meal.

21. Be sly with centerpieces. Choose less expensive flowers that are in season (such as dahlias or local hydrangeas) to use at the base of the arrangement, since they'll ultimately be covered by pricier blooms.

22. Size things up. Play with texture and scale to make all of your centerpieces appear costlier than they really are. Three simple glass cylinders each holding a cluster of stems interconnected with a curly willow, for example, can be just as attractive as a traditional candelabra that's packed with many blossoms-and way more unique.

23. Ask about hidden fees. Before you commit to a venue, inquire about all the little costs-for example, some sites will charge to cut your cake or uncork your champagne. You can save by adding them up and factoring this into your decision about a site.

24. Mark down the meal price. A fancy beef or seafood dish is nice, but a fabulous chicken entrée or even an exotic vegetarian risotto can wow your guests for a lot less.

25. Be a minimalist. Instead of carrying a big, lush bouquet, opt for just a few dramatic flowers, like sunflowers or calla lilies, tied with ribbon. You'll get a chic look for a lower price.

26. Select a well-dressed site. A venue's affordibility depends in part on how much decorating it requires. A grand historic estate, for example, may need only minimal florals for decor-so in the end, this venue might actually cost less than a bare reception hall.

27. Alter the champagne toast. Sites usually charge extra for toasting bubbly, but you can decrease the cost if you substitute prosecco or a sparkling white wine for the French original. Or skip the champagne service entirely: No one will notice it's missing-they'll simply raise a glass of whatever they're drinking.

28. Call upon friends. To free up funds for other areas of your wedding, have craftsy friends (instead of your planner) create your welcome baskets, or ask a relative with neat handwriting to address all of your invitations.

29. Lessen the guest list. Its obvious, but it bears mentioning: Each additional attendee means an extra meal, a bigger bar tab and one more invitation you'll have to pay for. With eight to 10 extra guests, you'll also have to purchase another centerpiece.

30. Limit the liquor. The bar tab can be the biggest budget breaker for many couples. Those in the know make it more affordable at their wedding by offering guests beer and wine only (at least one red and one white), along with a sophisticated signature cocktail.

31. Be your own beauty pro. You can save a lot by doing your own hair and makeup. Get ideas and tips beforehand from magazines and makeup counters, and ask a friend to help on the big day.

32. Bring your own bar. If your site allows, it can be cheaper to buy liquor at a warehouse-style store and pay your site to provide a bartender. You can use any leftovers to stock your home bar.

33. Stick with the standards. Nix premium-brand liquors and instead serve more economical "house" brands. In mixed drinks, it can be difficult to tell the difference.

34. Be frugal with photography. If the photographer you have in mind seems priced beyond your reach, you may still be able to hire him without going over budget. Ask this pro to provide proofs only, then craft your own album out of those. You won't have to settle for a different vendor-and you can always order more prints or a polished album later.

35. Ask for a rough cut. Scale back on videography costs by asking your pro to give you just a very basic edit. You'll get the footage you were looking for, in the style you wanted, and you can always save up to have him edit it further later.

36. Minimize the musicians. For your ceremony, hire just a pianist and a vocalist instead of booking a string quartet-you'll still get the great music you'd envisioned but at a greatly reduced cost.

37. Bypass a live band. Most top DJs charge a lot less than top bands. An added benefit is that a DJ can act as an all-in-one entertainer: He can play the tunes for your ceremony, switch to background music for the cocktail hour, then take the remainder of the party into high gear.

38. Forgo the favors. Your guests will hardly notice that they're missing. Another option: Give one favor to each couple instead of one per guest in order to pay half the price.

39. Craft items by hand. If you have time for this budget-friendly DIY project, make your own favors. (Enlist friends or relatives to help!) A bonus: Since homemade treats are more personal and unique, they're always a hit among guests.

40. Postpone your honeymoon. Consider delaying the trip to your dream destination until the off-season, when rates will be lower. If you can't be this flexible, try to schedule your departure and return on a Monday or Tuesday to secure better airfares.

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