Brides on a budget How to have a fabulous wedding for less

The average wedding in America costs around $29,000, according to The Wedding Report, Inc., a wedding industry research company. Not surprisingly, couples are looking for ways to save money on their special day.

Here are some ideas to help you have a wonderful wedding on a budget.

The date. Having a wedding on off-peak months and days can be a bargain. November through April are slower months for weddings, so many halls, caterers, and other service providers give discounts because they have fewer bookings. Some will also have discounts for weddings held on any day other than Saturday.

The venue. If you know anyone with a beautiful home or a large garden, consider having the wedding there. Be sure to factor in the cost of renting tables and chairs. Holding the reception at a private place lets you buy your own alcohol and hire your own bartenders, both of which can save you money. Another option is to negotiate a package deal on an all-inclusive venue such as a hotel. The wedding and reception are all in one place, and out of town guests won’t have far to go when the party’s over. (Negotiate a good deal on a block of rooms for guests.)

Invitations. Keep them simple. High-end paper, custom-colored inks, decorative linings, and multiple enclosures all cost more. Do online research to find the best deal – or print them yourself. You can find plenty of affordable options at craft, hobby, or office supply stores. To keep postage costs down, don’t use oversized or heavy paper.

The dress. It’s possible to save big on your dress by choosing poly satin instead of silk fabric. Another option is to buy a discontinued design, rather than the latest one. These are usually less expensive and can be found at smaller dress shops or consignment shops.

Flowers. Do you really need fresh flowers blanketing everything? Many couples opt for fresh flowers for the bridal party and silk arrangements as decoration for the ceremony and reception. Look into candles, ribbons, shells, and decorative stones as alternatives.

Food. Save serious money by planning the reception for a time when guests will not need a full, seated meal. If your ceremony is between one and three in the afternoon, you can have a tea reception. Serve tea, finger sandwiches, scones, and mini pastries. For a reception starting at four or five pm, have a cocktail reception. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres are all you need. Make it clear on your invitation – “Tea (or cocktail) reception to follow.”

Decorations and favors. Take inventory of what you already have – and what friends and family have. Borrowing is cheaper than buying or renting, so ask around. Do-it-yourself favors are a great way to personalize your wedding for less. If you do need to buy supplies in large quantities, don’t be afraid to talk to the store manager about a bulk discount.

You can have a fabulous wedding for less with some planning and elbow grease. But the best advice for saving money is to make a budget and stick to it. You’ll be tempted to upgrade just a little here and there – but pretty soon your bargain wedding is no bargain at all.

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