Your "big day" can generate some big bills. The average cost of a wedding is in excess of $25,000, according to the American Weddings study conducted by The Fairchild Bridal Group. But reining in your wedding costs doesn't mean you won't feel like royalty when you finally walk down the aisle. Here we'll give you some ideas on how you can have a wedding with style - without giving away the kingdom to pay for it. (For more insight, check out Revealing The Hidden Costs Of Weddings.)
For a beautiful ceremony at a budget price, start shopping early. For the bride to be: as soon as you know that you are going to get married, begin your hunt for that special gown. The more time you have, the better, because you can shop the sales and won't feel rushed to purchase a big designer gown if you can find a similar one for a quarter of the price off-the-rack. If you're not overly sentimental about a dress, or don't have a lot of money to purchase your gown, consider renting or purchasing a gently-used gown, which you can pick up for a fraction of the retail price.
If you don't mind a more casual or modern event, you can skip the traditional gown altogether. There are plenty of elegant dresses to be had at much lower prices than what you are likely to pay for the average hand-tufted white satin gown.
Your groom-to-be can help out in the savings department too. If he's never going to wear a tux again after the wedding, your pocket book will be far better off if he rents the outfit for a night rather than buying it. Plus, keep an eye out for special tux rental offers. It is not uncommon for the groom to have a free or discounted rental if enough of his groomsmen, male relatives or guests rent their outfits from the same establishment.
Invites and Programs
Invitations and programs are another item that can set you back a substantial sum. Update your wedding to the age of the internet and consider creating a wedding website (or "wedsite") and announce your wedding via email - directing all guests to your site for additional information.
If you do print your invites, achieve the "understated elegance" look by skipping costly papers, ribbons, embossing and other fancy designs. If the email announcement was received well by your guests, then there's no reason you can't request that guests RSVP by email too.
Speaking of guests, cutting the guest list for the dinner is a great way to save a significant amount of money. That third cousin you haven't seen in 20 years and that friend of your parents that you don't even know can be left off of the list. An intimate event filled with the people you really care about is not only more meaningful than a room full of near-strangers, but it's also a whole lot less expensive. If cutting the list isn't an option, then consider cutbacks like having a late lunch/cocktail reception instead of a seated and served four-course meal.
Flowers, Decor and Transportation
Flowers, decorations and transportation are also areas where you can trim your budget without hurting the overall feel of your event. To save money at the florist, skip the exotic orchids in favor of a seasonal bouquet. The flowers will be beautiful and the bill will be too. Go easy on the flowers when it comes to decorating your tables too. Candles cost much less than fresh flowers do, but look just as elegant - not to mention that your guests won't have to look around a giant bouquet to talk to someone across the table.
Save money on the transportation portion of your event by holding the wedding and the reception at the same venue. There are plenty of catering halls, restaurants, hotels, parks and private residences where the wedding and reception can be held in close proximity. The hundreds of dollars that you don't spend on a limousine or rental vehicles can be better used elsewhere.
Photography and Videography
Don't go wild on the photography and videography. This can be a very pricey area in terms of wedding costs - with good reason, considering it's the only hard copies you'll have of your memories for that day. That said, remember to choose your photography/videography package carefully to get the coverage that will mean the most to you later. There's no need to pay a professional for photographs that aren't going on your mantle or a video you'll never watch.
If you don't think you'll need more than a few shots as you get ready the day of the event, challenge your bridesmaids and groomsmen to see who can capture the most memorable photos and reward them after the wedding with a nice dinner or movie tickets.
When it comes to actually covering your ceremony and formal photographs, don't skimp. There's a reason there are professional wedding photographers for hire - they are trained to get you the photos you want! Pay what you can afford and get the poses you want - no more, no less.
When it comes to the reception, consider planning it so that the cake cutting, garter tosses and first dance happen at the beginning and only pay to have those shots covered by your photographer. The price should be lower and you'll still have the shots you want for your album.
Watch out for the price trap of putting disposable cameras on every table and letting your guests decide which shots are worth taking. Although this may sound like a better option than paying a professional, you won't have many shots worth keeping from those cameras because of the quality of film and lighting. In addition, the cost of developing those disposables can be more than paying a professional. The point is to identify which part of your day is the most important to you and pay for that part to be covered professionally.
The Dinner and Dance
By most estimates, the reception accounts for nearly half of the money spent on the average wedding. To trim your reception budget, choose the venue carefully. Holding your event during the peak of wedding season at 6pm on Saturday evening is going to cost you a lot more money than Sunday brunch in October. The time of day and time of year both have a big impact on the cost, so shop around and plan accordingly.
Once you've figure out the "where" and "when," it's time to plan "what to serve". Go easy on the hors d'oeuvres if you're serving a full meal, and cut dessert if you're serving your cake. Consider limiting the type of alcohol to only beer and wine instead of an unlimited open bar to cut back on consumption. If you'd rather not choose what people drink, consider charging them a dollar or two to make up for the cost of the hard liquor. The hard stuff costs big bucks, and five years from now, nobody is going to remember the amount or type of liquor available at your party if you don't make an issue of it yourself. When it comes to drinking at weddings, you don't want to spend the first five years of your marriage paying for your fiends' overindulgences.
Traveling can be expensive. Traveling to exotic destinations can be extremely expensive - especially after you just paid an arm and a leg to have the wedding of your dreams. If you don't have the cash for a trip to Bali, consider a destination that's closer to home. In addition, driving instead of flying to that now-closer locale can help you save hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars.
If an exotic getaway is something you simply can't live without, put gift certificates for travel on your wedding registry. Airlines, hotels and even tour agencies now offer them. A nice contribution toward your honeymoon from each of your guests could really make a difference in your own out-of-pocket expenses.
If you want to be pampered for a reasonable price, consider a cruise. You'll get to visit multiple destinations without spending much time at the airport and, if you shop for a bargain, you'll make the trip for less than you would have spent for a comparable land-based vacation. (Read Cruise Ships: Reining In Vacation Spending to learn more about saving money on the high seas.)
The Ever After
A beautiful wedding doesn't have to cost a fortune. Keep it simple, plan carefully and make memories that last a lifetime instead of debt that takes a lifetime to pay off.
To read more about love and finances, check out You Can't Live On Love, Marriage, Divorce And The Dotted Line and Happily Married? File Separately!