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Weddings On A Budget

by Kathryn Lemmon, Wedding Zone Staff Writer

Many couples are shocked to learn the average wedding will cost over $10,000. In larger cities, that amount can easily top $15,000. However, with good organizational skills, a bit of ingenuity and some flexibility, it can be done cheaper.

Good communication is essential when discussing money and budgets. The bride and groom should discuss the budget openly, and diplomatically, with their families, but no one should feel pressured to contribute.

Setting a realistic budget and sticking to it, is a critical element for keeping costs down. Couples can easily get carried away during the planning process, upgrading here and there, quickly surpassing the budget. The wedding budget can be broken down into six major categories: reception, music, photography, flowers, bride's attire and miscellaneous. As a rough guideline, plan on devoting about 50 percent of your budget to the reception (including site, food, drink, rentals, service and cake) and 10 percent each to the other five categories. These amounts are flexible, but they do provide a workable starting point.

A custom-made wedding planner is one way to keep track of all the details, including the budget. You could also get a loose-leaf binder or accordion file, divided into all the special sections. One of the biggest mistakes couples make is not planning ahead. If things get down to the wire, all budgets may become useless. Utilize your planner/binder/or file to stay organized.

When dress shopping, avoid ornate, hand-done beaded gowns, which are more expensive than simple styles. Consider buying a sample dress, off the rack. If you're lucky enough to be the right size for a sample dress, as opposed to having it custom made, you can save money. But note, you may have to get the dress dry-cleaned before the wedding. Another less expensive option would be a white bridesmaid dress.

For your photos, compare hourly rates and package deals to see which is more cost-effective for you. You can have the photographer do only the formal shots and then ask your guests to take candid shots at the reception to fill out your album.

As the wedding reception is the single biggest expense, it's also where you can save the most money. Reception Halls can be costly, especially if couples are required to use the in-house catering service. Search for a site such as a historical home, park, museum, fairgrounds, public gardens or other venues. It's always a good idea to avoid the peak wedding months, May, June, July and August, because all aspects of the wedding business are more likely to negotiate a lower fee during slow periods. If you can have your wedding on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon, your venue may lower their standard price.

At the reception, control what is offered at an open bar. If you decide on hard liquor, include only two or three options such as gin or vodka. If possible, hire an independent bartender and buy the liquor at wholesale outlets.

Here are a few more wedding budget stretchers:

1) Check the classified ads for a wedding dress, chances are, it's only been worn once!

2) Narrow the guest list. If you have 200 on the list, cut it to 150.

3) Make do-it-yourself centerpieces for the reception, using balloons or potted plants.

4) Select your flowers carefully. They will be cheaper if they are in season....tulips in late March, for example.

5) Instead of a limo, rent a luxury car and have a friend drive.

6) Have the ceremony & reception in the same place and have the DJ do the music for both.

7) Ask relatives if they can help you cater the event yourself.

8) Rent basic black, non-designer tuxes, all from the same outlet, and ask for a group discount.

9) Borrow items such as punch bowls, glasses, serving trays, etc.


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