Yes, you can cut costs and still have a fabulous wedding

January 21, 2014


Associated Press Writer

If you have a trust fund, read no further. Otherwise, face the facts.
Post-wedding financial hangovers can last longer than the champagne buzz. They can put home-buying plans on hold, strain relations with in-laws and even torpedo new marriages.
“People come to their wedding thinking they have to present their station in life to the world, even if they cannot afford it,” says Lauren Rutten, a wedding photographer in South Orange, N.J. “Big cars, big presents — such extravagance is in our mentality now. That makes it hard to put things into perspective.”
The cost of the average American wedding and honeymoon is now pegged at $23,000 to $26,000, according to various surveys. Even industry experts are saying “Basta!”
“It really is pretty exorbitant when you see how much all the different elements of a wedding can cost,” says Diane Forden, editor in chief of Bridal Guide. “You have to realize less is more. Who needs the limo with the fully stocked bar and the TV?”
Three rules help with the hard work of keeping costs in check: Hold down the size of the wedding. Rein in its extravagance. And rethink traditional expectations.
That could mean excluding some cousins, saying no to the five-course meal and ditching extras such as favors. You might consider marrying on a day other than Saturday, limiting liquor options, and calling upon the skills of friends and relatives.
To start, focus on the biggest bills: the ones for the party.
“Seriously, the cost of the reception site was just overwhelming,” says Megan Fitzpatrick, a 24-year-old bride-to-be from Jersey City, N.J. “I really had no idea.”
Many places she checked had a 100-person minimum to book a Saturday reception. To compensate, she and her fiance kept their bridal party to six people and are having an informal family barbecue for their rehearsal dinner.
“The rehearsal tends to get blown out of proportion and can end up becoming a mini-wedding,” Fitzpatrick says.
Even with all the rented silverware and linen, tent weddings are still usually less expensive than restaurants or banquet halls, especially if you can plunk those poles down in a park, on a beach or on a relative’s well-manicured lawn.
Whether the walls are fabric or sheetrock, you will need to decorate. And many couples end up shocked by their flower bill.
“You don’t need huge, elaborate centerpieces on every table,” says Forden.
She suggests buying local flowers in season, using hand-tied bouquets and substituting candles for some centerpieces. Brides can also reuse church flowers at the reception (but someone has to move them!) or check out fruit and dried flower arrangements.
If your guests are artists or gardeners, put their talents to use. As their gift, they could design decorations, grow flowers for centerpieces, or create banners or invitations. Such personal touches make a wedding unique — and can deepen your friendship in a way that just receiving a toaster can’t.
As for food, look into buffets with servers — they reduce the amount of food wasted. Offer a wide variety of breads and salads.
Or ditch the heavy meal altogether. If hors d’oeuvres reportedly were good enough for Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher, they could be good enough for you.
“You can have a wonderful cocktail party, great music and dancing, serve hors d’oeuvres and cake,” says Forden.
Keep the cake to two layers and garnish it with real flowers, she adds. The higher the cake, the more expensive, and elaborate sugar flowers involve a lot of labor.
Eileen Monaghan, vice president of the nearly 4,000-member Association of Bridal Consultants, says liquor bills can run hundreds of dollars past expectations unless couples are careful. Instead of an open bar, she suggests a select menu of wine, beer and one signature drink. Try to avoid those half-opened bottles — you will pay for every one.
Monaghan’s favorite moneysaving tip: “Get married at offbeat times: Sunday afternoons, Friday nights. ... The Friday after Thanksgiving is a great day, or anytime Christmas week people are usually off.”
Finally, ditch the stretch limo. Be a rebel bride: Arrive in a taxi, pull up in a jeep with the top down, pour out of an SUV with all your attendants, create a stir on the subway. Those are memories you won’t forget!
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