It's no secret: weddings are expensive.
Even contemplating the overall cost is enough to make would-be newlyweds seriously consider eloping.
Yes, running away to somewhere exotic sounds like a romantic idea, but you don't need to give up on your wedding reception plans because of the hypothetical price tag.
Some expenses are unavoidable.
Guests will expect to eat, expect the wedding party to be in formal attire, and expect drinks and dancing.
It is possible to trim down the overall price tag of your wedding quite significantly by taking a number of different steps.
These wedding tips can make the planning process less stressful, while also saving you money.
Here are 25 ways to be creative when planning your wedding so that you can save money and time and have more energy to focus on what is supposed to be one of the happiest times of your life.
1. Force yourself to streamline by adopting a short timeline.
Everyone wants a perfect wedding: the kind of celebration that is memorable for everyone who attends.
Many times, the biggest obstacle to a stress-free, budget-friendly celebration is you.
Given time to think and re-think, people tend to second guess themselves and end up adding unnecessary elements to their wedding ceremony or reception.
Give yourself a couple of months instead of a year, and you'll be surprised how much easier it is to focus on the really important elements of your wedding.
2. Use lapel microphones to record your wedding or event yourself.
With this one professional trick, you can forget the videographer and still have a professional-sounding video of your wedding.
With these small microphones, which can be hidden in the folds of clothing and connected wirelessly to a voice recorder or laptop, the bride and groom and officiant will sound crisp and clear on the video.
All that will be left to do is strategically place a couple of video cameras on tripods.
You can edit the footage together later with a video editing software.
3. Schedule during an off-peak time of year.
June is the most popular wedding month, with the other summer months coming in a close second and third.
Wedding costs become a simple equation of supply and demand during the summer: more people want their weddings held during this season and they are willing to pay more to make it happen.
Vendors and venues are well aware of the demand and raise their prices accordingly.
By avoiding the summertime, you can easily escape this peak-season pricing.
April, May, and October are viable options, as is sometime around the holiday season (but not on a holiday itself).
4. Consider a day other than Saturday.
Saturday weddings: one tradition that most people are not willing to break.
No matter what other changes they are willing to make, moving the date to a Friday or Thursday or Sunday is usually considered out of the question.
However, if you are looking for one way to really cut the cost of your wedding, a weekend celebration is it.
Typically, vendors don’t work during the week or are quite slow, and most venues sit completely empty.
Both will give steep discounts to those who want their services or spaces on weekdays.
5. Avoid expensive decorations by hosting in a garden or museum.
Decorations can run up the cost of your wedding and can be a huge source of stress if you decide to decorate yourself rather than hiring someone.
Hosting your event in a garden or an art museum or somewhere similar means that the venue will come with its own built-in atmosphere, so decorations can be kept to a minimum...or you could forget about them altogether.
6. Lower alcohol costs by serving a signature cocktail.
Drinks are one of the the biggest expenses at most weddings.
You can cut costs by not having a full bar.
Some attendees will, of course, be disappointed by this, but you can appease the drinkers at your celebration by serving a couple of signature cocktails.
People will be drinking, so they'll have nothing to complain about, and you can use cheaper alcohol and stretch out what you serve by adding various mixers.
7. Serve a lunchtime buffet or brunch buffet and avoid a set meal.
People expect to eat at a wedding.
But a sit-down meal is not necessary.
Most guests will be perfectly happy with some sort of buffet.
Having your reception before dinnertime means that a lunchtime buffet, with cold cuts, salads and other (less expensive) foods, won't seem out of place.
You can even buy the foods yourself and hire a small staff to oversee the buffet.
8. Use a local restaurant or bakery to avoid professional catering costs.
Professional wedding caterers can be costly.
Why not approach your favorite restaurant or bakery and see if they would be willing to either make the food for you or even cater your wedding personally?
Many will do so for a little more than the cost of the food, especially if you already have a good relationship with them.
9. Don't give away too much when interviewing vendors.
Vendors know that people are apt to spend freely when they are planning their wedding.
When you first inquire about the services of a caterer, designer, photographer or florist, don't tell them what you want to hire them for.
Eventually, it will have to come out that you want to hire them for your wedding, but it can certainly pay to keep your cards close to your chest until you get the “regular event” prices instead of the wedding prices.
10. Buy your outfits online and have them fitted later if needed.
Wedding dresses are expensive.
Either you can rent one or spend heaps of cash to have one made.
An easier option is to buy your dress online and then have it altered if necessary.
You'll be getting exactly what you want, and you'll be saving lots of money in the process.
11. Ditch the DJ and use your iPod.
This is a simple way to save money.
Figure out how to connect your iPod to the venue's sound system and keep the DJ out of the equation.
Just make sure that you have a set playlist and that you can hook your device up beforehand so that you are not left figuring it out as the guests wait to start dancing.
12. Check invitation postage before selecting and sending.
You want nice invitations, but weighty or oddly shaped envelopes can lead to unnecessary extra postage costs.
That doesn't seem like a big deal, but if you are sending out several hundred invites, it can certainly add up.
Take each of your invitation options to the post office and find out the postage before choosing.
13. Leave everyone with a positive feeling.
Wedding favors are a tradition, though it can be tempting to forego them if you are on a tight budget.
A cheap, trinket-like favor is almost worse than giving nothing at all.
If you can be original, however, you can leave everyone with a good last impression of the celebration.
A homemade goodie, a candle, or other simple-but-unique gift can really make a good impression.
14. Use inexpensive candles to set the mood.
Elaborate centerpieces can add to your overall budget.
Candles, on the other hand, can be bought for a few cents each at your local drug store, as can simple tea-light candleholders.
And what's more romantic than candlelight?
You'd have to make sure that you have enough candles to impress guests (not just one in the center of each table) and, more importantly, you need to make sure that the venue will allow you to use candles (some don’t because of fire codes or because they have antique decorations that could be damaged by small amounts of smoke).
15. Time your event to have a season-appropriate theme.
Getting married over the holidays?
Many venues will be decorated with season-appropriate décor.
If you can make your ceremony and reception work around a holiday theme, you wont need to do much decorating, and you may even be able to get vendors for their holiday party rate, rather than their usually-more-expensive wedding rates.
16. Honeymoon in the same place that you wed.
Many estates that host weddings also have overnight accommodations.
Check with your venue to see if you can have a room to kick off your honeymoon.
Many will give you a reduced rate, at least for the first night.
17. Let the venue play its part in your celebrations.
Decorations are nice, but you can keep them to a minimum if you choose a venue based on the type of atmosphere that it already has without decorations.
Does the estate have art and furnishing that you like?
Can the lights be dimmed or brightened to set the desired mood?
Can your guests access gardens or patios or other rooms?
Taking full advantage of all features of an estate can make it easier to decorate.
18. Choose an indoor event space with plenty of windows.
Open air weddings can be great.
However, you have to be ready for poor weather, and that often means renting a tent or pavilion.
Better to find an indoor space with lots of windows or doors that can be opened, weather permitting.
This will give you the feel of an outdoor wedding without requiring you to pay extra for a tent.
19. Opt for a non-traditional cake or dessert.
Wedding cakes are pricey, but they really don't taste any different than other types of cake.
Sure, they are nice to look at, but can even taste dry and stale as they have been on display for several hours by the time they are cut and served.
Opt for classily decorated cupcakes or other pastries.
These will be less expensive and, often, more appreciated by guests.
If you must, you can get a smaller wedding cake for display.
20. Find the right photographer for the right price.
You can get the best deal by doing your research on the The Wedding Photojournalist Association site.
Photographers can be expensive, but you can make sure you are getting the best possible deal by doing some comparisons online.
21. Get your guests involved so you can forego the photographer.
Sure, you'll want to record your wedding, but do you really want a photographer to be there the entire time.
You can get a portrait-taker from your local Proex studio or even a photography student to get the pictures that you want, and then get your guests involved.
You can rent a photo booth or set up your own with a good webcam and laptop.
Or you could organize a Flickr stream so that your guests can take their own pictures and then upload them online.
You can then choose the best of these to make your wedding album.
22. Find special décor items, apparel on places like Etsy.
This is yet another way to save money by not hiring wedding-specific vendors.
Websites like Etsy are filled with skilled artists and craftspeople who sell their work online.
You can either buy your decorations through the site or contact a certain artist and ask them to make special decorations or apparel for your ceremony.
It will cost, but will almost always be cheaper than getting a professional decorator or designer, who will charge you a premium “wedding rate.”
23. Why not in the morning?
There are many reasons why a morning wedding is a good idea.
You can serve a bunch buffet, which will be a lot less expensive than a set meal.
You can possibly get an off-season rate because the venue will be able to host another event in the space later in the day.
Having your wedding take place in the morning will typically lend itself to less drinking.
In short, if you do it in the morning, you'll probably save a lot of money overall.
24. Find alternative forms of entertainment.
A band or DJ will cost you.
Like other vendors, they charge their premium rate for weddings.
However, other entertainers won't.
Some crowd-pleasers could include a caricature artist, performance artist, or even a balloon artist (if you have lots of kids at your celebration).
These performers will make more of an impression than a band because they are unexpected.
25. Make your own bouquets with large bloom flowers and inexpensive filler.
Flowers with large blooms can give your bouquets, centerpieces and decorations a full look without requiring lots of flowers.
When you combine large blooms with inexpensive fillers (even small wildflower that you can pick yourself) the result is a low-priced bouquet that is actually quite beautiful.
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