Have A Charming (And Cheap) Wedding

By Reyna Gobel AAA

Are you totally depressed and conflicted after going to your best friend's $30,000 wedding blowout? You'd love to have your upcoming nuptials and/or wedding reception in the same ballroom, but you'd also love to avoid emptying the savings account you were going to use for a down payment on your first home. Fortunately, having an amazing wedding doesn't have to mean spending more than you can comfortably afford. (Read Are You Living Too Close To The Edge? to learn whether you're one missed paycheck away from financial disaster.)

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Even if your budget isn't quite as big as the puffy sleeves on the average bridesmaid's dress, you don't need to have your wedding or reception in your mom's backyard - unless she happens to have a really nice one. Let's look at how you can have your wedding and reception at a great place and still leave yourself with enough money for a romantic honeymoon. (For related reading, see Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings and Have A Princess Wedding On A Pauper Budget.)

Las Vegas
Tired of pricing out the individual costs of photographers, musicians, officiants and florists? This wedding mecca has a different and inexpensive wedding ceremony package at every corner. A couple of incredible options include the Tropicana Hotel and Casino for poolside weddings, which starts at around $100, and the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef aquarium wedding, which starts under $1,200. For Vegas weddings, it's especially important to call the venue and verify the maximum number of guests allowed at the ceremony.

City Park
Is there a beautiful city park in your neighborhood with enough rose bushes to rival the White House Rose Garden? You can probably rent it for your wedding ceremony for under $100. Since the flowers will be free of charge, you only need to rent chairs, buy your bridal bouquet and hire an officiant, a photographer and a musician. A harpist is a classic and economical choice for an outdoor wedding.

Approximate Cost for 50 Guests:
Park rental $100
Chair rental $250
Officiant $350
Bouquet $50
Harpist $500
Photographer $1,000
Tent (in case of rain) $500
Approximate Total $2,750


Your Favorite Coffee Shop
Does your day not officially start until you've had a frappuccino or your favorite Starbucks (Nasdaq:SBUX) brew? Does your morning coffee destination happens to be one with an amazing patio? Ask the manager of your favorite coffee shop what it would cost to rent out the patio for your reception. It could be less than $100 - with a few treats thrown in! For your tall-, grande- or venti-sized celebration, you can theme your wedding party with frappuccinos and Starbucks pastries - which can be stacked on a silver platter you supply to form an ultra-modern wedding cake. Plus, how unique is a spread of frappuccinos with fruit and cheese plates? As an added bonus, count on freezing leftovers for an extra month of goodies.

Approximate Cost for 50 Guests:
Patio rental $100 (or less)
Pastries $200-500 ($2 to $5 each, 2 per person)
Drinks $300-500 ($3 to $5 each, 2 per person)
Fruit/cheese plates $300 ($6 each, 1 per person)
Silver plate $100
Music Free from Starbucks\' speakers
Tips $100 to $200 (20% for your favorite baristas)
Approximate Total $1,000 to $1,600


Favorite Restaurant
You've been eating in the same Greek restaurant every weekend for the past two years. Why not have your wedding reception there?

Ask the manager what it would cost to rent a side room or the whole restaurant. Most likely, you'll just pay for the food, which shouldn't cost more than $10 to $30 a person for a buffet. Plus, you should get a discount since you've been a regular customer.

Remember to make sure tea and coffee are included in your pricing. If you serve wine, ask if you can bring your own. You can get a good-quality table wine for less than $10 a bottle, which contains four servings. If you have 50 guests, count on two drinks per person, which means you'll need to purchase about 25 bottles.

What about decorations? There are two inexpensive choices: If you've always loved the atmosphere at your favorite eatery, let your guests enjoy it, too. Otherwise, a single flower floating in a bowl is romantic and should be available from your local florist for less than $15 apiece. For 50 guests, you should need 10 centerpieces, one for each of the eight guest tables plus two for the head table.

Approximate Cost for 50 Guests:
Buffet $500 to $1500
Wine $250
Flowers $150
CD music $60
Tips $100 to $300 (20% for service staff)
Approximate Total $1,060 to $2,260

Apartment or Condominium Clubhouse
You live in a gorgeous community with an amazing clubhouse that has a huge foyer and designer Italian furniture with tons of seating - why not make use of it for your reception?
Talk to your rental or condominium management about when it is available, the price and how late it stays open. You may be able to use it from closing (around 6pm) until midnight for less than $500. In that case, you will just have to pay for catering, flowers, wine and entertainment. (To learn more about the perks of condo living, read Buying a Condo.)

Approximate Cost for 50 Guests:
Room rental $500
Catering $1,250
Flowers $150
Party band $2,000
Tips $250 (20% for caterers)
Approximate Total $4,150


The Bottom Line
No matter which option you choose, sit down as a couple and create a checklist of everything you need and want for your wedding. You may find the wedding or reception you both want is a little more or less expensive than the figures above. Also, don't be squeamish about the costs of hiring a wedding consultant. An initial consultation where you get a list of vendors and help with budgeting should cost you less than $400.

By choosing a venue, photographer, flower arrangements and catering that all fit your budget, you will make sure you are not making payments on a one-day event for years to come, which is sure to relieve some stress and leave you free to enjoy your day.

Newly married couples should talk about money sooner rather than later. Read Marriage: For Richer Or Poorer? and You Can't Live On Love to learn about the money issues affecting newlyweds.

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