From a young age, girls and boys (but mostly girls), are instilled with the belief that weddings are should be an occasion to remember, the event of a lifetime, an elegant affair. We're supposed to have numerous attendants, a boatload of guests, and all the accoutrements for a party that will dazzle all who attend.
After you've got the right guy, what's the next step? Where do you start?
Kelly Williams, a bride-to-be, confided, "Right after picking a date and sticking with it, my greatest concern about my wedding is making sure we have enough money. We don't want to be over the top and go into debt over it, but we deserve to have the wedding we want."
According to theweddingreport.com, the average wedding in 2006 cost $26,800! While some may be fortunate enough to pay that amount up front, or have others pay for the celebration, others will drift silently into debt throwing the wedding of their dreams. They could be paying for a new sports car or putting a massive down payment on their future home, but instead, they're paying a fortune for a wedding that society's social requirements have dictated.
If money is no object, rattle your bling. But if you want to be smart about the planning process and save money, here are a few tips on getting exactly what you want out of your wedding-- without sacrificing your savings.
When it come to diamonds, pass over the oft overpriced retail shops and try a wholesale store which specializes in exquisite diamonds at wholesale prices for the public. You end up paying less overhead.
Or, you could break away from the diamond mining industry altogether and visit a store like DiamonSecret, which offers laboratory-grown stones that resemble authentic jewels set in 14K gold in almost every way. Store owner Kelly St. Clair confided,
"The cost of one of our stones usually equals the sales tax of a diamond! Also, you don't have to worry as much about insuring or losing a ring you can replace at a fraction of the cost, as our rings usually run between $200-800."
Not bad, when you consider that financialplan.com reports the average price of a diamond engagement ring to be between $3500-4000. Yikes.
Limit the number of guests at your wedding to the people you and your honey really want to share your special day with you. There's no sense in inviting your step-cousin's friend's boyfriend, unless you really want to.
According to Kathy Long, Bridal Consultant for Crowning Moments, "Numbers revolve around people. The more people, the more money you're going to spend.
If your goal is saving money, consider carefully who you invite." Period.
Cindy Rueb, Certified Wedding Consultant with Wedding Decisions explained, "the date and day on which you choose to get married will reflect the prices you are quoted." The cheapest months to marry are January through March, or November. They have fewer weddings, and prices will often reflect the chilly, off-season weather. Also, Saturday is the most expensive day to get married on, so getting married on another day, especially a weekday, is likely save you a load of cash.
The wedding site is often one of the biggest expenses. The obvious money-saving tip is to have both your ceremony and reception in a church, where rental charges are minimal, especially if it's your church.
More and more people, however, seem to be moving away from church weddings. With that in mind, if you're having a small wedding, try to have it somewhere you don't have to pay for, like the backyard of your friends who have a landscaper . . . or Woodward Park.
The natural, outdoor settings will not only provide a lovely backdrop for the ceremony, but will also help you save money on decorating. Williams plans on having her wedding on the banks of the Illinois River and said this about the setting:
"I want to have colorful wedding, and since I'm planning on getting married in October, I figure that the shades of autumn will help provide the natural beauty I'm going for in my wedding."
If you're having your wedding during winter months, consider buddying up with that family member who lives in a manse with enough room to move about.
Skip the fancy invitations that contain two envelopes, two cards and gold-leaf lettering. Chances are, you'll be the only one saving the invite, and you'll most likely never see your RSVP cards if you don't provide the stamps too.
Get creative! In this age of scrapbooking, there are a plethora of supplies that will help you create beautiful and individualized invitations.
Or, if you don't mind being a techie, send out e-vites. While this is a less personal approach, your chances of getting responses are far greater, and you can also save time sending out reminders.
Unless you're looking to buy an heirloom dress that you can pass down, is your wedding gown again ever going to get worn again? If you wouldn't wear your mother's dress, you might consider shopping at a wholesale website or a consignment shop.
Even used dresses, if you really think about it, haven't been worn very often. Some bridal shops even rent dresses, or you can even borrow one from a friend.
Connie Morgan, owner of Marriage Go 'Round for 35 years, is amazed at the amount of money brides are willing to spend on dresses. She asked, "Why pay upwards of $1000 on a dress you're going to wear for only a few hours?" Marriage Go 'Round specializes in bridal rentals & consignments and recommends, "If you do buy, consign, or buy a dress you can wear again. Otherwise, you're thinking with your heart, not your head."
For the gents, rentals are definitely the way to go, unless they already own a tux (that isn't polyester and from the '70s). As for bridal attendants, Williams recommends taking the non-traditional route. She believes, "If you're not insistent that everyone look exactly the same, you can ask your friends to pick out and buy their own dresses.
"This way, they won't feel bad about spending their cash on a dress that they'll probably wear in the future, and everyone will pick out a dress that suits their shape & style." In fact, I think they'll thank you for it.
Accessories & good looks:
Shop for cute wedding shoes in the summer, when white, strappy shoes abound. Getting them at a bridal shop will increase your expenses and limit your choices.
Take this into consideration: since they'll be hiding under your dress, and you probably won't wear them for long once you get on the dance floor, get something comfortable.
In the same vein, buy your own hair accessories. Don't leave it up to the stylist or bridal shop to have what you're looking for at twice the price.
If you have a large wedding party, you can often get a stylist to come to the site and do everyone's hair for a flat rate. Or, if you're a creative bunch, take turns doing each other's hair and makeup. Just don't get carried away. Less is more.
Health & Well Being
Most people want to look and feel their very best on the wedding day. For some, this means getting a haircut and manicure. Others may want to quickly drop a dress size, and some will use their wedding as a reason make positive health changes for life. While these things may not make the final cut for people on a strict budget, many brides would agree that beauty is a necessity worth paying for when it comes to weddings.
For example, Elements Spa downtown offers an escape to help beat the stress before your wedding. Meg Sutherland, marketing rep, agrees that the spa helps brides and their parties to "completely relax and indulge instead of being a neurotic mess."
The spa offers treats such as Vichy shower treatments, massages, body polishes, facials, waxing and nail services, and they offer packages for a girls' night out or even for the happy couple to enjoy before their big day.
Sutherland declared, "The spa kicks ass. It's truly decadent, well-thought out and well-designed. It's an unparalleled experience." Trust me...as your wedding day approaches, you'll need a lesson in relaxation.
Some women use an impending wedding to motivate them to get the body they've always wanted. Gaynor Morris, owner of the Cherry Street Curves, thinks that Curves offers a perfect workout for brides-to-be and helps them "look like a million dollars" in their wedding dress.
"Curves offers a full-body 30 minute workout with total support for women," says she. "We are committed to women who are committed. We counsel women in nutrition and are constantly providing motivation and incentives for them to get healthy--permanently."
For extra motivation, Cherry Street Curves is also offering 50% off the sign-up fee for brides-to-be through March 15.
Yet another way to get a workout is also a big help when it comes to your spotlight dance on your wedding day. With ballroom dancing gradually getting replaced with hip-hop moves, fewer couples know how to really cut a rug on the dance floor. Surprisingly, ballroom dancing burns an average of 400 calories per hour and enhances both grace and agility.
So, if you're looking to perfect a few moves to show off, you can get some pointers without going broke on time or money. Micki Pillow of Miss Micki's Dance offers lessons to couples and their bridal party for $45 a month per person, but will also choreograph steps to "your song" for a reasonable rate.
"Most people who come in are beginners, but every couple has different needs," Pillow says. "Choreography is individualized for the couple, and they are spending quality time together as they do it." Sounds like a bargain for such personal attention!
Own, Personal Wedding Staff
For starters, if you have enough free time and organizational skills, plan the wedding yourself. Not only are coordinators expensive, they also know your taste via only what you tell them. Only you know exactly what you want.
Rueb, however, insists that, unless you are a planning genius, hiring a coordinator can not only save you time, but also money.
"You save money when you use a consultant because we know all of the wedding products & services," she says. "Doing it yourself doesn't save enough money to compensate for the added stress. We facilitate relationships and base budgets on what's most important to you. Then we counsel you on how to stick to you budget."
This service sounds like a Godsend for those living a fast-paced, stressed-out life, and if that's you, this may be one of the things for which you want to splurge.
Some agencies or sites, like Stinchcomb Mansion & Victorian Gardens or the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, will offer wedding packages that are inclusive of almost everything and offered at a lower price to reward you for planning everything in one spot.
The benefit of going with a package deal, Long said, is that "not only will you save money, you'll also be able to turn the stress of organizing the event over to someone else."
Beyond that, do you know someone who's a DJ? Bartender? Photographer? If they don't want to donate their services as a wedding gift, they might at least offer you a decent rate. You don't want to shortchange them, but it's nice to have people on hand who care about you and your wedding.
If you're not being married by a church official, you might have one of your friends register as a non-denominational minister online. It's easy, cheap, and then you're getting married by someone who knows and loves you.
Have them try www.ulc.net, for a start. It's a personal touch that also helps cut costs. It could even make that person money! Paul Reagan, newly ordained Minster of the Universal Life Church, exclaimed,
"Now I'm in business! Once I performed my first wedding for my goddaughter, I started thinking about offering my services to people I don't know." He may have said this to be silly, but I think his point was that getting "ordained" was a cinch.
As for photographers: most people want to have gorgeous pictures to commemorate their union, so this may be one area in which you're willing to fork out extra money. If that's the case, at least make sure that you will own the images once you've paid the photographer. That way, you'll be in charge of reproductions.
Another popular idea is to place disposable cameras on the tables and let guests take photos. While you might get some repeats or pictures of the floor, you'll also have the benefit of many different perspectives.
And music? If you can't afford a live band or DJ, consider asking a high school or college quartet or band to play. Often, people are charging largely for name recognition.
Or, Williams suggested, "you could try being your own i-J. Load up your i-Pod with your favorite play lists, and let the good music roll." You won't hear "YMCA" for sure, and most reception halls have a sound system you can use for free.
Food & Drink
If you are planning on feeding all of your guests dinner, go with a caterer who provides everything, including table linens, glassware and flatware. Susie Copenhaver of Twisted Sisters says "With caterers, buffets are cheaper than plate settings, because sit-down dinners require more staff.
"Plus, every one gets to eat what they like. Another way to save money is to serve only hors d'oeurves rather than a whole meal." Furthermore, picking in-season foods that people are familiar with will also help cut costs, and there will be less food waste.
If you're planning a smaller wedding, try catering from a restaurant you like. They are usually cheaper than full-time caterers. Or, you can simply supply the main course and ask people to bring their signature dish!
As alcohol goes, this is a personal choice. Not everyone wants to provide booze at their wedding. If you do choose to have alcohol, however, you can still save money in a few ways. For starters, forget the liquor and offer only beer and wine. This will cover most everyone's taste, and you can save the champagne toast for the wedding party.
Also, buy in bulk. You can get a keg of beer a lot cheaper than bottles, and a case of wine (buy 1.5 liters instead of 750 mL) will run a lot less than "by the bottle" prices. If your Uncle Jack simply must have his scotch, allow people to BYOB, or throw a "Stock the Bar" Couples' Shower in advance.
Skip the designer cake, and go for something beautiful...that you won't feel bad about eating. If you won't be happy without the lavish cake, get a small one for you and your honey to share, and provide the guests with an assortment of desserts. Bobbie Merritt of Merritt's Bakery told UTW, "It's not uncommon to have wedding desserts other than cake. We also sell a lot of pie, cupcakes, tarts, pastries, petit-fours and shaped & initialed cookies. The key is to find a creative way to display these desserts."
If you're still set on everyone getting a piece of wedding cake, however, buy a plain one and decorate it yourself with fresh flowers.
While playing florist can be taxing and time-consuming, if you've got a couple of people willing to help out for a few hours, arranging your own flowers will save some cash. Most stores will be able to tell you what's in season for your wedding and will let you order way in advance what you want when you discuss budget restraints.
Ron Harrison of All Around Flowers, argues that "flowers are one of the lesser expenses, but they're also the main event" (behind the bride, of course).
His main money-saving tip: "Use the same flowers in the wedding and the reception, just change the presentation a bit." For example, think about reusing bridal attendant bouquets in vases as centerpieces for the tables. No one's going to want to carry around their bouquet during the reception anyhow.
Or, if you don't want to make a separate bouquet for tossing, think about throwing a single flower to a lucky lady.
A really ambitious suggestion: If you've got a green thumb and enough time to plan, you might even consider growing your own blooms.
Dollar stores often have the little things you need, without the wedding price tag. Things like candleholders & candles, vases and ribbon can all be purchased at these stores, and no one will ever know the difference or care.
Get premarital counseling. Most churches offer it for free, and on top of opening the lines of communication before you walk down the aisle, you'll also get your marriage license fee waived.
If you're a salesperson by nature, hustle and get local service providers to sponsor your wedding in exchange for advertising at the reception. Apparently this sometimes works.
Still lost? You've got a couple of wedding shows coming up in Green Country. On Saturday, February 24, the Mabee Center at 7777 S. Lewis, will host the Tulsa Bridal Show from 10am-5pm. The admission is $7.
Then, on Sunday, March 11, Arrowhead Mall at 510 S. Main in Muskogee, hosts its 2nd annual Bridal Fair from 1-5pm. The cost is only $5. Not only can shows like these give you ideas for what you want in a wedding, but they'll also save you a lot of time, and let's face it, time is money: precious.
They've got everything you need under one roof, and sampling products will also prevent you from making choices you may later regret. Also, you can register to win all sorts of prizes and give-aways. In fact, the Bridal Fair in Muskogee is going to give away one dream wedding, inclusive of even the smallest details, and the Tulsa Bridal Show will be giving away a similar prize. I can think of no better way to save money on a wedding than to get it for free.
So, whether you've decided to go all out for your big day or are simply trying to create an intimate celebration for your nearest & dearest, you now have a few tools to help you make educated decisions.
A quick summary: Shop early, often and lots of places. Next, be flexible. Many people spend too much on their wedding because they're trying to be traditionally extravagant. By trimming things from your day that don't matter to you, you'll save money and have a wedding that's just your style.
Finally, if you have to splurge, pick the thing you want most, and then cut costs from other areas. For example, it might be very important to you to have a live band but not to feed your guests a gourmet sit-down dinner.
Go with that. You'll be happy, and you guests will see and appreciate that. If all else fails, marry a miser.
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