Tips to planning a wedding you can afford

Tips for the Wedding You Want at the Price You Need

It is finally June, the most popular month to get married, and if you don’t already have wedding fever, get ready.

There is no better time to plan a wedding than now with all this year’s inspiration in full force this month, even when you are planning a wedding on a limited budget.

After the initial blissful time of celebrating your newly defined relationship status, you will find that there is lots to do and spend — hopefully without increasing your credit card debt. Based on a 2012 study by TheKnot.com and TheWeddingChannel.com, the average cost of a wedding in the U.S. is about $28,427, excluding a honeymoon.

However, the average amount spent on a wedding is largely dependent on location.  According to the same study, Manhattan couples spend the most on their weddings, with an average budget of $76,678, while couples in Alaska spend the least on their weddings, with an average budget of $15,504.

Now, hold on. Don’t let these numbers cause your first “Bridezilla” moment; you might want to save that for later. No matter where you live, planning an affordable wedding is possible when you know where and how to reduce your expenses. Here are some great ways to have the wedding you want at the price you need:

Wedding Gotchas

Most brides and grooms are aware of the standard expenses of a wedding like the dress, venue, menu, flowers, photography, music, centerpieces and cake; but it is the hidden fees that add up. Although most couples set up a budget, they tend to exceed it by almost 15 percent. Consider these costs in your budget:

  • dress alterations
  • tips for vendors
  • delivery, set up and breakdown fees
  • sales tax
  • service charges (some venues will first add up the rental fee for the venue, the cost for food if they are to cater, sales tax and then add another 21 percent service charge on top of that)
  • jewelry
  • hair, makeup and nail trials and on the big day
  • shoes (for ceremony and reception)
  • ring bearer pillows
  • flower girl basket
  • cake cutting utensils
  • toast flutes
  • guest book and pen
  • wedding party gifts
  • cocktail hour decorations
  • favors
  • stationary and cards for save the dates and invitations including hotel, map and direction cards, a rsvp card, your registry card and postage
  • thank you cards and postage

Bridal Shower Gift Registry

If you are going to have a bridal shower, you may want to register for a gift registry that lists important wedding day essentials, including any unity ceremony pieces, reception decorations, personalized items like napkins or any of the wedding gotchas like ring bearer pillows and a guest book.

Choosing an Off-Season Wedding Date

Schedule your wedding date in off-peak times. Wedding peak season is from May to September and the most popular month to wed is June. When you choose a wedding date that is not in peak-wedding season, you have more negotiating power. Also, consider a Friday or Sunday wedding, as Saturday is the most popular day to wed, some vendors will give discounts for other days to fill their calendars.

Consider a Consignment Shop Gown

A lot of pressure is put on brides today to wear a lavish, expensive gown. In recent years, expectations of the dress have driven brides to drop over $4,000 on a dress they will only wear once, but what a lot of brides don’t know is there are alternatives to turn heads on your big day. Shop designer or sample sales or consider visiting a consignment shop to buy your perfect dress for up to 90 percent off the retail price. Consignment shops sell gently worn or never used bridal gowns sold by brides looking for a way to dispose of their gowns, which, even if never worn, are typically nonreturnable. When out of ideas, there is also the option to wear a family members dress, and if it’s OK with them you can alter it to make it your own.

Simple Bands

Although it may be tempting to hover over the counter of a jewelry store and gaze at the most expensive, diamond-encrusted weddings bands, consider buying something simple for the big day and gradually upgrading the bands for future anniversary or holiday presents. You can also wait for designer sales or events to save on the ring you really want.

Trim the Guest List

Slimming down your guest list will make the most significant impact on your wallet, but it is often the hardest way to reduce costs. Start with the children. It is OK to invite your friend, but you don’t have to invite your friend’s four children. Invite just the parents, they will understand. You can also reduce the plus-ones to only those who are engaged or married. Consider making an A and B list, where list A is immediate family and close friends and list B are those who you would really like to invite, if you can. This can help narrow down the guest list. Also, keep in mind that, on average, 18 percent of your guest list will not be able to attend.

Trade Vows at a Nontraditional Venue

Consider a nontraditional venue such as the backyard of your childhood home. This can add a special touch to your big day, but be careful, because the cost of renting chairs and tables can be expensive. You can also have your ceremony and reception at the same location to cut costs. Also use bigger tables that can fit more people, rather than a bunch of small tables. This will save on centerpieces and linens.

Trade Dinner for Brunch

Serve lunch or brunch, which are almost always cheaper than dinner, but not necessarily less appetizing or filling. With a lower demand for brunch celebrations, reception sites such as banquet halls or country clubs usually rent their space for a lower fee. It can also cut costs at the bar, as guests would not drink as much at lunch or brunch as they would during the night.

Show Off a Display Cake, Eat a Bigger Cake

Have a smaller display cake and have a sheet cake in the kitchen for serving. This way you can still have a pretty tier to cut into and display, while having enough to feed everyone without breaking the bank.

Jam to Your Own Playlist

Some couples opt to make their own playlist and rent a stereo system. This can add another personal touch to your wedding, but make sure you have someone with a microphone to announce you as husband and wife, and to initiate the first dance, call up parents for parent dances, and other wedding highlights such as the cake cutting and maid of honor and best man speeches. This will make things run much more smoothly.

Pretty, Seasonal Flowers

Buying flowers that are in season can greatly reduce your floral costs. Ask any florist what flowers are in season during your wedding month. Also, ask what flowers are least expensive. Sometimes peonies can be even more expensive than roses. You can also opt for more greenery than flowers or incorporate only one or two kinds of flowers to limit your costs.

Create Centerpieces with Guests

Make use out of Do It Yourself (DIY) projects and throw a party while you’re at it. Invite family and friends to help you create decorations for your wedding, such as

  • table numbers
  • centerpieces for cocktail hour and reception
  • favors
  • bouquets
  • corsages and boutonnieres for parents and grandparents

This is a great way to spend time with those who you love during the crazy time of planning a wedding, and it saves you money!

Split Photography Duties

There are a few ways you can save on wedding photos. You can hire a professional to take photos of the ceremony and group photos and have family and friends capture your reception. You can hire a photography student for the night, or have friends and family take photos for the entire night, but if you chose the latter, make sure you have designated certain people to be serious about capturing your most important moments.

Ask a Guest to Record Ceremony, Key Moments

If you’re already having photos taken, some see that it is unnecessary to have your wedding recorded at all, but it can be nice to look back 10 years from now and watch it all on video. This doesn’t mean that you have to fork over thousands. Consider asking a guest who wouldn’t mind to record your ceremony and highlights of the reception, like your first dance and the cake cutting. This person probably shouldn’t be anyone in your immediate family, because they will want to enjoy the night and you will probably want them in the video, not behind the camera. You can also ask a student with camera experience. You don’t need to have a professional quality recording to enjoy the memories years from now.

Limit the Liquor

Don’t feel obligated to have a full open bar. Most guests are just as happy if you stick with just beer and wine. This can trim your bar fee in half, while keeping everyone happy. If you can’t leave your guests without some type of hard liquor, consider making a signature drink or two using the same house liquor. Some bars charge by the bottle that was opened, even if the bottle is not empty by the end of the night. By keeping the same liquor, you reduce the amount of bottles that will be opened. This way, your guests will have the option of one or two mixed drinks, while also adding to the uniqueness of your special day. You can also ask if you can provide your own alcohol and buy them in bulk. You can even make personalized wine and beer labels to add a personal touch.

Something Old, Something Borrowed Saves Money

Wearing something old from a family member or friend, such as jewelry, and something borrowed, such as a hairpiece, veil or shoes, can add a personal touch to your look while saving a pretty penny!

With these helpful money-saving tips, you will be able to plan your dream wedding without spending an exuberant amount of money. Everyone deserves to have the wedding they want, and with just a little more hard work, you can make it happen within your limited budget, without sacrificing style or class.

Happy planning!

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