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 101 Best Wedding Budget Tips
 03-18-11
 

101 Best Wedding Budget Tips

*From Bridal Guide Magazine*

Don't even think about wedding planning until you've read all of our clever ways to save money.

Set Your Sites

1. Create a comparison chart to track what’s included in the price for each venue you’re considering. One company may not include linens and the cake, for example, while another company does.

2. Many public spaces, like parks or the local village green, may be available to rent at a low fee. However, if the space is not equipped to handle events, you’ll have to rent everything from napkins to tables and chairs. Make sure you come out ahead!

3. Choose an unusual venue, such as an aquarium, a zoo, a gallery or an historical site. Site fees are not high and you’ll save on decor because the venue already supplies ambience. But the same caveat goes as for public spaces: Figure in what you’ll have to spend on rentals.

4. Hold your ceremony and your reception in the same place. You’ll save yourselves multiple site fees as well as transportation from one location to the other.

5. If you belong to a community organization or to the military, you may have access, at low cost, to a venue belonging to them.

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6. Don’t forget your alma mater—these usually rent for a few hundred dollars.

7. Depending on your venue, you may not need to decorate extensively. If you marry outdoors at a winery, for example, there’s not much you’ll need to add to the gorgeous vineyard backdrop.

8. Rent a vacation home. Even if the owners charge you a week’s worth of rent for the day, it may still be equal to or less than renting a traditional reception venue.

9. If a family member has a scenic property, find out if you can hold your wedding there. One couple held their wedding on the Wyoming ranch where the groom had grown up. Unique and cost-conscious!

10. If you’re a city-dweller, leave town for your wedding. One Boston bride saved more than $50 per person by holding her wedding in Burlington, Vermont.

11. For a garden wedding, look into renting an historic mansion; many of these have gardens that are included in the deal. You may find, as did one couple, that the mansion they rented had no time limit, and the fee was less than half a hall rental.

12. Look for reception packages. Holding your event at a venue that provides catering and food-service items will save you quite a bit of money on rentals.

13. Save on your rehearsal dinner site by throwing a backyard barbecue or a picnic in a local park—both of which will cost you less than a dinner in a restaurant. (These may be more fun too!)

14. Accept a post-wedding brunch at a relative’s home as a wedding gift. You may find that in lieu of a gift, a friend or relative will be thrilled to host this event in their home.

15. Trim the length of your reception. Even doing three hours instead of four or five will save you money. Trust us, everyone will enjoy themselves just as much.

16. Determine early on what you can spend and stick to it. One rule of thumb: Food, beverage and venue should come to half of your budget.

17. Most venues charge a premium for Saturday night. Hold your reception on a Thursday, Friday or Sunday night. An afternoon wedding will cost less than an evening one, as will a Sunday brunch.

18. Consider the season— you’re likely to get a better price for a venue in January than you would for the same spot in June.

19. What about a destination wedding? Because the guest list will be smaller, a wedding away may cost less than a traditional event held in your hometown.

20. Think small. Check into bed and breakfast venues in your area and place firm limits on your guest list.

21. When you’re deciding between an indoor or outdoor space, figure in the cost of a tent rental—if it rains, a tent is worth every penny.

Photography: Michael Essig, courtesy of Fairmont Mayakoba.
 

Drink Up!

22. Forget the full bar. Instead, serve beer and wine (both red and white) with one or two signature cocktails that you’ve personalized with a cute name and your wedding colors.

23. If you happen to be holding your event near a vineyard or microbrewery, buy your wines

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and beers from them. Keeping to local products gives a special touch (and it’s cheaper).

24. Don’t forget to have some inexpensive (nonalcoholic) drinks on hand. Consider fresh lemonade in tall, sugar-rimmed glasses for a warm-weather wedding or sparkling water with colorful wedges of orange, lemon or lime.

25. Topshelf isn’t a high priority. Choose midshelf liquors for significant savings (guests usually can’t tell the difference). Another way to approach this: If the best brands are important to you, indulge guests with just a few choices of these but close the bar early and offer just wine and beer as the party winds down.

26. For an added festive touch, dress up your signature drinks with colorful, attractive garnishes, like curled lemon and lime peels, orange slices or mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks. Garnishes are usually provided free of charge by the venue or caterer, but give the appearance that you’ve spent more.

27. Eliminate shots or any drinks that make use of a number of liquors—these all raise your bar

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tab and aren’t necessary for guests to have fun.

28. If you’re stocking your own bar, do your homework! Check winespectator.com for less-expensive wine vintages. Corkage fees (a charge for opening bottles of wine or liquor) may be up to $10 a bottle or even more. Try to negotiate these out of your contract.

29. Close the open bar an hour early and offer coffee. You’ll save hundreds of dollars; even better, guests will have a chance to sober up before they head out to the road.

30. Make sure the wait staff knows not to pre-open bottles or clear glasses from tables that aren’t empty. This is a sheer waste of money!

31. Speaking of coffee, forgo a coffee bar offering expensive liqueurs with java and treat guests to a rich brew with flavored syrups. Or serve espresso before sending them home.

Music Notes

32. Want a live band? Hire talented students from a local music school to perform at the

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ceremony. Ask to hear them play—they may be just as good as professionals, and charge you less. Stay local: If a band has to travel for more than an hour, your costs will increase.

33. If you’re deciding whether to go with a five-piece band or a DJ, you'll save at least half by choosing the DJ. Or, why not be your own DJ? Download your favorite music and create playlists for the ceremony and the reception on your iPod. Hook it up to rented speakers and enjoy!

34. Negotiate a deal that you like. The closer you are to the wedding date (six months or less), the likelier it is that the band leader will work on your terms. Find out if one or two musicians can perform for the ceremony or cocktail hour as well.

35. If your band offers a singer who also plays an instrument, you’ll save money. And remember: You don’t need more than one of each instrument—one saxophone will do as well as two or three.

Cakes & Desserts

36. The traditional wedding cake is usually covered with fondant, but keep in mind that it’s expensive because it requires extra labor to make. You may want to go with buttercream instead. One caveat: For an outdoor wedding, go with fondant since buttercream or cream cheese will melt in the sun.

37. Consider cupcakes. These save money because they require less intricate decoration.

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38. Have a small cake for the cake cutting ceremony and supplement it with a sheet cake, served from the kitchen.

39. Go with fresh flowers. The amount of labor that goes into creating flowers out of sugar ups the price of the cake.

40. Consider your humble local grocery store. One bride’s supermarket bakery made her an elegant confection, based on a magazine photo, for less than $200.

41. If you like fruit fillings, think seasonal. Strawberries can cost three times as much when served out of season. If your baker charges more for multiple cake flavors, limit yourself to your favorite.

42. The baker may instead calculate the price by averaging the cost of different flavors, so plan carefully. If you have the most expensive flavor on the bottom layer (the biggest), it will cost more.

43. Traditionally, couples save the cake’s top layer to share on their first anniversary. If you and your fiancé don’t think you’ll be ready to dig in, forgo the extra layer and save some dough.

44. Have a dessert buffet. Mini pastries and other tiny sweets are crowd-pleasers. Save money by having only a small cake for your cake cutting.

45. The cheesecake option can be a boon because it costs less. Arrange the cheesecakes on pedestals of varying heights—it will resemble tiers—and offer sauces, such as chocolate and kiwi.

Photography: (DRINK STILLS) Micahel Essig, Liz Banfield; (IPOD STILL) Alexandra Grablewski; (CAKE) Geoffrey Sokol.

Fabulous Food

46. At the cocktail hour save costs by hand passing pricier appetizers, like shrimp, scallops or other seafood items. When guests self serve, they usually consume 40 percent more.

47. Have a lunch or an afternoon tea reception instead of a sit-down dinner. Guests tend to drink less during the day, so you’ll save on liquor costs.

48. If you prefer an evening reception, but still want to stick to a budget, consider a desserts-only reception. Specify on the invitation that you will be serving desserts, so that guests don’t expect a full meal. Offer a delicious array of sweets: pastries, pies, mousses and a dramatic flaming treat like Bananas Foster. To accompany, serve champagne or prosecco and specialty coffees and teas.

49. Another increasingly popular choice is the cocktail party reception. Event planner Harriette Rose Katz notes that you’ll save thousands on food and decorations; after all, you can forgo big floral arrangements for your tables and adorn small cocktail tables with candles and modest bunches of blooms. Hand pass hors d’oeuvres like mini hot dogs, grilled cheese
sandwiches and mini quiches. On a multi-tiered table offer finger foods like Italian breads, olives, artichoke hearts and cheeses (at room temperature), finger fruits and salads.

50. Consider a chic wine-tasting reception. Guests can sample from an array of small dishes at food stations, each matched with a special wine. Printed cards can explain the pairing.

51. Go for a rich look at a low cost: Caterers often suggest putting out lots of lush salads and grilled vegetables in unusual platters, like colorful bowls and big woks, for a great presentation. Also keep in mind that people eat with their eyes first, and if you display food beautifully— like small tapas-style plates— guests won’t notice or care if the fare is quite simple.

52. Crudites don’t actually have to be crude just because you’re on a budget! Serve artichoke hearts, broccoli florets and radishes cut in shapes—instead of carrot sticks and celery.

53. Comparison shop for cocktail-party seafood. Calamari and mussels are usually half the price of shrimp cocktail. Your caterer should be able to offer guidance about other lower-cost selections.

54. Instead of traditional cocktail party fare, go for comfort food like macaroni and cheese in martini glasses, mini grilled cheese bites and tiny crab cakes. (Hint: These low-cost goodies are huge crowd-pleasers!)

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55. Theme stations are always popular, and a fajita or Thai station are not budget-busters. You can have your caterer set out the food in big woks or take-out containers that echo your wedding colors or theme. Consider pyramids of basmati and jasmine rice, tons of egg noodles and an array of condiments. Other options: a mashed potato bar where guests can top martini glasses of spuds with bacon, sour cream, flavored butters or a panini bar that serves a choice of grilled sandwiches.

56. How about a pierogi bar? These potato-stuffed morsels of dough, served with cheddar cheese, goat cheese or spinach and a sauce, are a terrific variation on low-cost comfort food.

57. A perfect (and inexpensive) appetizer option for a cool-weather wedding: Serve miniature cups of soup, like clam chowder or acorn squash. In warm weather, consider mini cups of cold soup like gazpacho.

58. Two kinds of stations to skip: first, the raw bar, which will be over-the-top expensive; second: a carving station. Prime rib, ham and pork loin are too heavy—and costly—for cocktail hour fare.

59. After nibbling on appetizers, your guests will not need a five-course dinner. Three will do— salad, an entrée and dessert.

60. Use a delicious sauce on a simple pasta or chicken dish to up the wow factor. Ask your caterer for low-cost recommendations.

61. A sophisticated salad course—like spring greens—can offset a less-costly entrée.

62. Forgo the filet. Your caterer can show you price options for different cuts of lamb and pork as well as beef. Braised boneless short ribs are a great choice.

63. For savings of up to 20 percent, consider family-style dishes: platters of pasta or sliced meat that guests can pass around.

64. Add interest to pasta—a good budget choice—by considering more unusual varieties, like mushroom ravioli or spinach and cheese tortellini.

65. Beware the buffet option. It won’t necessarily cost less than a sit-down dinner because you have to supply more food than you would for a plated meal. Do a cost comparison before you make a decision.

66. Cut out the bubbly; guests can toast with whatever they’re drinking.

67. Serve a duet plate for every guest. For example, you might serve a plate of beef medallions and grilled shrimp or crab cakes. You’ll save on the amount of food you offer—and on costs.

68. Before deciding on a seafood entrée, find out from the caterer what will be in season at the time of your wedding—a seasonal choice will save you hundreds of dollars. Likewise for meat: Select one that will come at a reasonable cost when you’re tying the knot.

69. Have your caterer patronize local farms for produce; it’s fresher, better-tasting and cost-effective.

70. Consider a vegetarian entrée option. These are usually less expensive, and guests might appreciate it for the novelty!

71. For side dishes, consider risotto instead of potatoes for something inexpensive and a bit unusual.

72. Presentation is key. A simple meal will seem special when you consider the visuals. Brightly hued vegetables on low-cost chicken can make all the difference.

73. Consider a modified DIY approach: One groom’s cousin baked enchiladas, and the couple ordered more food from local Mexican stores. Hint: Don’t make the wedding meal yourselves—that’s too DIY for your own sanity!

74. To feed your photographer and musicians, offer lower-cost food—this may cost 60 percent less per person.

75. If children will be attending, choose a caterer who offers free or half-priced meals for kids.

Photography: Festivities Events.

Transportation

76. Instead of renting a limo, go with a less costly option like a party van from a local car rental

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company. Whether you decide to book a limo or a van or any other sort of transportation, do this at least six months in advance of the wedding in order to get the best deal.

77. Ask about any special wedding packages a car rental company may have. A typical one may offer three hours of service, a bottle of champagne and a tuxedo-bedecked driver for about $300 (depending on your location).

78. Remember that white limos will always cost you more than black or silver ones.

79. Don’t have the car that brings you to the ceremony wait for you all day—hourly rates will add up quickly. Have a different car pick you up later, after the reception.

Invitations

80. If you, your fiancé or your friends are DIY-ers, consider creating your own invites by hand

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or high-quality printer. Your crafts store will have invitation and program kits—you can really get some unique effects this way!

Your crafts store will have invitation and program kits—you can really get some unique effects this way!

81. Don’t pay extra to have your invitations assembled; just get the bridal party together and set up an assembly line. If you have a friend who happens to be a terrific calligrapher, have her address your invitations as her gift to you—rather than paying someone else to do so.

82. Calligraphic fonts that look like the real thing are readily available. Free font sources: searchfreefonts.com, highfonts.com, dafont.com.

83. Choose basic black ink for your invitations and other stationery. Prices go up if you choose colored inks or a deluxe foil-stamp process. Also, colored paper and unconventional shapes tend to be more expensive than white or ecru or the standard square or rectangle.

84. Order your thank-you notes when you order your invitations. Some stationers give bulk discounts.

Flowers & Decor

85. Have artistic friends pitch in on your wedding. A friend who’s got a penchant for flowers can handle your table arrangements and floral details. Another way to go: Hire a florist to do just one arrangement and then have your friends and family copy it for all the tables.

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86. Potted plants make attractive table decor—and cost should be able to considerably less than floral season blooms arrangements do. Make the most of greenery in other ways; put plenty of it in your centerpieces to save money on flowers. Potted flowers are also a less expensive choice; check at your local nursery. Another option: Incorporate local flowers and grasses into your arrangements.

87. Buy flowers wholesale in a local market or online, and pay a florist to do simple centerpieces. Want to keep things really easy? Do one look in abundance and make an impact. Place tons of branches, like curly willow or dogwood, in urns or tall glass vases from the dollar store; for a bit more flair, hang LED tealights from them with ribbons in your wedding colors.

88. Try groupings of the same flower in different hues for an affordably stylish look. Cluster vases of different sizes in interesting configurations on tables.

89. Use fruits and vegetables to fill out arrangements; this way, you can create a sense of colorful abundance without excessive cost. As Melissa Paul, a wedding planner with Evantine Design in Philadelphia, points out: “It’s less expensive to buy an apple than an orchid!”

90. Sure, peonies may be your favorite flower, but if you’re tying the knot in winter, these springtime beauties will cost you a pretty penny. A good florist should be able to suggest in-season blooms that get the look and feel of your out-of-season favorites. Be sure to do you research on flowers (go to bridalguide.com) to find out what will be in season at the time of your wedding.

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91. If your wedding day happens to fall on Easter, Mother’s Day or Valentine’s Day, you may pay more for your blooms. On the other hand, scheduling a wedding around a holiday can work in your favor: Your reception spot may be decked out— saving you a fortune!

92. Less is more. The more elaborate the arrangements, the higher your bill. For simple elegance, consider a few roses, tulips or even orchids submerged in water. Rose petals floating in water in clear bowls are pleasing to look at, too.

93. Be sure to use all kinds of candles to good advantage: Place votives, pillar candles or tapers between floral arrangements and create a stylish look on a shoestring.

94. Keep ceremony flowers simple by only placing arrangements near the spot where you’ll be exchanging vows, not on every aisle seat or pew.

95. Must you place flowers on tables? Of course not. Pick one focal point—perhaps the entrance or the front corners of the room—and place just one gorgeous arrangement there.

96. Adorn plain white tablecloths by layering organza or tulle on top (which costs just a few dollars a yard). Or you may want to forgo the linens entirely and cover your tables with mirrors or frosted glass, suggests Randie Pellegrini, an event designer in Beverly Hills, California. The look is glitzy, the cost modest. Rent colored or textured chargers (bamboo or rattan) to add a simple but distinctive detail to each place setting.

97. Forgo expensive silver vases in favor of clear glass. Or shop local flea markets for vintage containers of different but complementary designs for your table—you’ll achieve a unique look at small cost.

Picture Perfect

98. If a photographer you love is out of range of your budget, find out if you can wait till after the wedding to order proofs or albums. That way, you can put some of your gift money to good use.

99. “Point and shoot” videography is the least expensive option (around $1,000). For this fee, you’ll get nuts and-bolts footage of your wedding. Tell the videographer to avoid gimmicky graphics and not to ask guests “to say a few words to the camera (if you find this tacky). With plain point and shoot,” the best treatment is simple and classic.

100. The most surefire way of finding a photographer and videographer who are right for you is to get recommendations from friends and family. However, be sure to carefully consider the work of many pros before making a decision about whom to hire and always keep in mind that the most expensive choice is not necessarily the best.

101. Photography is no place to skimp—your photos are the tangible mementoes of your wedding day—but if you do know someone who is just getting started, you may get a more affordable deal. A caveat: Make sure the work is top quality. Ask for references from former brides and grooms who have used the pro’s services.

Photography: (CAR) Dove Wedding Photography; (INVITATION) Geoffrey Sokol; (RECEPTION TABLES) Jenna Spector at Susan Blond PR.; (BOUQUET) Michael Essig.

 

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