As trends and traditions change and the average age of couples getting married for the first time has increased, more couples are paying for their own weddings with little or no financial help from family members. After they start to plan their weddings, they get sticker shock. With that comes a whole new breed of brides, the bride who is planning a wedding on a small budget. The budget bride tries to find thrifty ways to have the wedding of her dreams without going into debt.
A couple does not want to start a new life together in debt. All that money going into "that one special day" could be used toward a down payment on a house or a new car. To cut wedding costs, you need to do a lot of research and get creative. Budget, shop around, compare prices, bargain, barter and delete unnecessary expenses.
Where to Begin
Start planning by making lists of everything you want and need. A wedding planner book is helpful, or you can get free checklists at many wedding planning websites. The Web can save you so much time, especially if you can't make it to stores before they close.
At the same time, start networking with all your friends and relatives. You'd be surprised at how many of your friends and family know someone who is connected to someone who can offer quality service for your wedding and possibly even get you a discount. Even if you can't get a discount, strong recommendations can help you find vendors you can trust.
You'll also need to get started on your invitations. Advances in printing technology mean you can print out your own invitations with a minimum of fuss, sometimes even on your home printer. Office supply stores and stationery stores provide boxes of wedding invitations, including the invite, envelopes, RSVP cards and RSVP envelopes. Hiring a friend with a knack for graphic design to help can also save you money. Save yourself time, money and frustration by doublechecking to be sure that you are following proper wedding invitation etiquette before you print that first batch of invitations.
Ceremony and Reception Venues
Next, you will want to find locations for your wedding and reception. If you belong to a church or if one of your parents belongs to a church, you can often get married at the church for free or for a small donation to the church. Many churches also have a hall or banquet area that could be used for a reception, though most churches do not allow any alcohol, not even for the champagne toast.
When you are shopping around for sites for your wedding and reception, be creative, and don't just look at places listed under wedding venues. Contact local parks that have beautiful gardens or gazebos, historical sites, museums or even restaurants. Sometimes places like that will allow weddings for donations instead of outrageous fees. Just make sure you always get all the details: What's allowed, what isn't, how many people will the place accommodate, is alcohol allowed, is smoking allowed, are tables and chairs available, do they have recommended caterers? These are all questions you need to ask, and always get the information in writing.
Also find out if you need to provide liability insurance. Many places now require you to carry your own liability insurance to cover any damages that may occur. In some cases, you might need liquor liability insurance if you serve alcohol at your reception. Sites such as wedsafe.com offer many other types of wedding-related insurance coverage.
Another option for your wedding and/or reception site is a hotel. Sometimes hotels will work with a couple's needs, especially if you have a lot of out-of-town guests coming in that you offer to send to their hotel. Always bargain. If you say you a price is too high and start to walk away, you'd be surprised at how quickly many vendors will start dealing, especially if you know what other vendors are charging.
Start shopping online, or look through magazines to get an idea of what style of dress you want. Check local bridal shops for sale dates and trunk shows. At designer trunk shows, you can often get one of those dresses you see in a magazine for a huge discount. Check your local area for consignment and resale stores or stores that are closing and want to clear out inventory. You might even want to contact a seamstress about having a dress made.
You can also try online auction websites for a dress. However, expect a lot of trial and error, since looking at images of a dress, no matter how detailed the photos are, isn't the same as trying one on. Make sure to take accurate measurements of yourself before you go shopping.
When shopping for attire for the rest of your wedding party, you don't want to make your friends and families spend a fortune either. For tuxedos, check the rental shops, get prices in writing, and then go to another shop.
They will compete for your business and try to beat the other store's prices if you have a quote in writing.
They almost always give the groom a free rental, and, if you have a lot of guys in the wedding party, they often give you a bigger discount.
For your bridesmaids, you don't need to get dresses from a bridal shop. Try regular women's clothing stores, including department stores. If you are having a spring or summer wedding, you could use sundresses if you can find them in the right colors and sizes. Dresses like that can be cheaper, and your bridesmaids will thank you because they'll have a dress they can actually wear again. You can also give bridesmaids a color and have them choose the dress, as long as the dresses are all in the same shade.
The same goes for flower-girl dresses and mother-of-the-bride dresses. Frilly spring and Easter dresses often work very well for flower girl dresses. Look at the styles offered at bridal shops, and then go to stores that are not bridal vendors so you don't get the bridal markup prices.
Shoes can be found just about anywhere, not just at bridal stores. Plus, if you're wearing a really long dress, no one is going to see your shoes anyway. However, keep in mind that the height of the shoe might impact the height of your dress and how it hits the floor.
If you want a beautiful tiara and veil, you can find tiaras on online auction sites, and then you can buy veil material at a craft or fabric store. You can attach the veil to the tiara yourself or have someone who is handy with a needle and thread attach it for you.
Food and Alcohol
Food and alcohol are two major expenses, but you can reduce costs if you are creative. Consider holding your reception at a time of day when you won't be required to offer a full dinner. Just offer light snacks or hors d'oeuvres. If you do plan on having a dinner reception and do not have a caterer at your disposal or in your budget, you can hold a type of potluck where your closest family and friends can prepare and bring dishes that you request.
If you do opt for catered service, at the very least forgo the sit-down meal for a buffet. It costs more to have everyone served than it does to have your guests serve themselves, and you'll save by not paying as much for the catering staff. You can also save a money by not renting china table settings and silverware. If you are having a more informal meal, such as a BBQ, your guests can eat off color-coordinated paper plates and with plastic silverware.
Alcohol can be one of the biggest wedding expenses. To save on alcohol, you can skip it and the problems it can cause altogether and just offer coffee, tea, soda, punch and lemonade. Other options include a limited bar, in which beer and wine are free to guests, but they must pay for any other type of alcohol. Or, you could limit alcohol to champagne for the toast.
You can make wedding favors on your own. For example, buy tulle circles and ribbon from a dollar store, and wrap up tiny pewter castles that you can find online. You can make your own tags to attach to the favors on your computer. For centerpieces, try mirrored tiles with clear glass bowls on top, and fill them with glass rocks, water and a floating candle. Buying the supplies and assembling them yourself is cheaper than renting the same items from a party-rental store.
When it comes to cakes, you might meet people who are just getting started in the business and working from their home. Don't be afraid to work with people who are new to catering. They can often offer the same quality service and products without the expensive price tag that comes from a more established vendor. Just ask for references, and ask to taste cake samples to make sure you get what you pay for.
You can use silk flowers from craft stores, or look up wholesale florists in your area and assemble the bouquets yourself. Other options include checking to see if you have a floral design school or class offered in your area. Sometimes schools and classes will do weddings just for the cost of the supplies because the students need experience. You could also buy fresh flowers the day of the wedding and wrap them in ribbon to give you a simple, but pretty bouquet.
Limo rental is another expense you can cut unless you get a really good deal. Borrow or rent a nice car, or check and see if someone has a classic car that you could borrow or that they could drive you around in.
Photography and Wedding Videos
Instead of paying a photographer and videographer thousands to preserve your wedding memories, enlist the help of a few friends who are into photography and own digital cameras. You can have them take photos and video and even have them edited on the computer. Also place disposable cameras on all the reception tables, and have a few people videotape everything, which you can have professionally edited later.
Technology may also work to your advantage instead of hiring a high-priced DJ. If you have access to a teenager or college student who is into music, chances are they have a decent sound system, and they are quite capable of downloading any song you want and creating mix CDs. A mix CD also works great for favors, as blank CDs are inexpensive, and so are the cases. All you have to do is create a cover on a computer.
Or you can always plug in an ipod with all your favorite music on a playlist- easy music no DJ required.