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How to Have a Wedding on a Budget

From Zawaj.com


A wedding without frills still keeps the thrills

(Zawaj.com Editor's note: this article was originally written for a non-Muslim wedding site, so some of the advice may not be appropriate for Muslim weddings, but it still has lots of great ideas about how to save money on a wedding.)

Marrying is pricey, but creative couples can reduce expenses without cheapening the big day. These tips can help you beat the averages as you map your matrimony.

By Adriane G. Berg

The average wedding in the United States now costs more than $15,000, according to Bride's magazine. But the two of you can beat the averages, if you're willing to be creative and do your homework. Here is a quick guide of strategies and sites to get more information:

Use the Web to plan your wedding
There are now dozens of Web sites that offer everything from tips to worksheets to links to professional consultants who can help coordinate your wedding for far less than the going rates. Here are some of the best sites that we found, with short descriptions:

Website
Description
Best Feature
Wedding
Channel
Planner and gift registry site
Allows couples to create a website
Bridal
Planner
Wedding planner site
Budget worksheet and help on creating calendar, gift registry and cost estimates
Wedding
Network
Internet's largest gift registry site
Several exclusive gift registry shops and wedding announcements
USA Bride
Planner and gift registry site
Planner timeline and honeymoon ideas
Wedding
Bells
Planner and gift registry site
Entertaining calculations help you determine how much floor space you'll need or how many drinks should be available

You also can use wedding software (which costs $30 to $75) to get a realistic idea of the total cost of your dream wedding. The best programs take you through each component, as would a high-priced wedding planner. The programs allow you to plug in costs in your area, and then calculate taxes and gratuities. They also allow you to print out the invitation list and prepare your thank-you notes. You can track gifts, register RSVPs, track accommodations and transportation for out-of-town guests and even plan showers and bachelor parties.

What these programs can't do is make your wedding truly individual and special. You have to supply the personality. Memorable weddings are all about themes, colors and surprises. The more unusual your concept, the less you'll have to spend to make the day a winner.

Know how to cut costs
Here are a few quick ideas on how to trim costs without making the event seem "cheap":

  • Think carefully about whom you need to invite. Make two lists, with "must-haves" and "maybes." Cut silly frills and invite more guests. Those imprinted napkins that cost 70 cents apiece go right into the garbage.
  • Keep the wedding dress simple. The more ornate, the more you'll have to pay for your dress. An off-the-rack wedding dress (yes, they do exist) can cost less than $200. You could use the same philosophy that the grooms and ushers have followed for years: Rent the dress. Check out the local consignment shops. At a shop in New York, I recently bought a Bob Mackie wedding dress that originally retailed for $6,000 and I had it altered to be a formal gown. I paid $55.
  • Plan the wedding for any day but Saturday. Saturdays are the most popular -- and expensive -- days to schedule events in ballrooms or other reception areas. Think about using a community center, a university-owned reception hall or some other less-expensive public building to stage your reception.
  • Plan your wedding in one of the off-peak months. Nearly 40% of each year's formal weddings occur in May and June, so everything from reception halls to catering services are more willing to negotiate fees during the non-summer, non-holiday periods.
  • Carefully select the types of food and drink you'll serve. Choose less-expensive entrees, such as chicken instead of beef or seafood. Pasta is a fine, less-expensive dish. On the drinks side, cases of the same beverage are cheaper than a variety of drinks. Food with a theme can be more memorable than yet another trendy buffet or a heavy sit-down dinner. Have a smaller decorated cake for the formal cutting, but then have a larger, less-expensive sheet cake to supplement for serving guests.
  • Compare prices of photographers and know what you really want handled by the professional. A professional photographer or video crew can run into the thousands of dollars. Have the professional photographer shoot the ceremony and the formal photos, while you have friends and guests take the candids and reception shots. If you hire a video crew, shoot only the wedding.
  • Consider using a disk jockey rather than live musicians. Or, if you prefer the atmosphere of live musicians, replace the expensive wedding orchestra with a chamber music trio from a music school, for a sedate, formal affair.
  • Use flowers that are local and in season. Special orders can run up a bill fast. Use multiple, less-expensive flowers in bouquets. If it's an outdoor wedding, you may not need any flowers other than the ones for the wedding party.
  • Use invitation stationery that's light enough when assembled for delivery that it doesn't require more than one stamp.

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