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Planning a Wedding for Less
You probably have thought about your child’s wedding day for years, with a mixture of anticipation and sadness. Now it’s around the corner. Your child is engaged, and you have a wedding to plan – but you don’t want to break the bank. Here are some ways to keep a handle on wedding expenses without putting a damper on the day.
First, start with a frank discussion with the soon-to-be bride and groom. Talk about who is going to pay for what, and how much each party can plan to spend. That gives you a budget – which is critical, because wedding planning can eat up cash in a hurry if you don’t stick to your budget.
The best way to save money on a wedding is to decide what elements are really important, and what ones can be eliminated or scaled back. Is it critical to have a large number of guests? A reception at a specific hotel or restaurant? A designer gown? A sit-down dinner and open bar? An orchestra?
Once you have a general outline, look at specific ways you may be able to cut costs without cutting out things that matter, especially to the bride and groom:
The guest list. The number of guests is a critical determining factor in the final cost of the wedding, so you can start controlling costs by controlling the list.
The date. Since Saturday is the most common wedding day, you may be able to save money if you choose another day, like Friday. This works especially well if most of your guests are local, so they will not have to travel. Similarly, you probably will save money on a wedding at a time of year that is less popular, such winter in the Midwest.
The location. You may be able to save money by being creative about the location. You don’t have to choose a hotel or banquet room – you can look into area nature centers, park lodges, etc. An outdoor option may be available. And if you do have the wedding and/or reception at a hotel, ask if you can get a discount if you have your guests book rooms at the hotel.
The dress. This is often a major expense – and it does not have to be. Even if the bride has her heart set on a designer dress, she does not have to pay designer prices. She should check online to see if she can get the dress she wants for less. Discount bridal centers also offer less-expensive options. And, especially for less formal weddings, some brides buy a special-occasion or bridesmaid gown or a cocktail dress in white or off-white.
Invitations. With only a minimum of computer savvy and a high-quality printer, it is possible to print lovely invitations at home.
Music. Generally, a band is the most expensive option, followed by a DJ. But some couples put together their own wedding mix and play it from a laptop computer or iPod, through a rented sound system.
Food. Sometimes – but not always – a sit-down dinner costs more than a buffet. Take your time choosing a caterer. Talk about menu options, including vegetarian choices. And make sure you get a taste before you decide.
Drinks. A full, open bar can be an enormous expense. Consider, instead, offering an open bar for a limited time and then serving only beer and wine, or serving only beer and wine throughout the reception. Alternatively, see if your reception venue will let you buy your own liquor and hire your own bartender.
The cake. A wedding cake can be surprisingly expensive. You can save a lot of money by just ordering a regular decorated cake – once you say it is a wedding cake, the price usually goes through the roof. For an informal wedding, consider something even less traditional, like cupcakes. One bride built a tower of Little Debbie snack cakes and put the traditional bride and groom on the top.
Photography. Many couples agree that this is not a good place to cut back. Professional photographs and videos are … professional. And you don’t want to leave those once-in-a-lifetime wedding memories to amateurs. However, you can still shop around for the best deal.