Saving The Cash

By Linda Pescatore

December 19, 2008 5 min read


A cheaper affair is in reach for the budget-strapped bride

Linda Pescatore

Creators News Service

Rare is the bride whose wedding budget knows no bounds. Whether you want to economize here and there or need to keep costs to the bone, you can save money without feeling stingy on your big day.

The number one way to economize is to limit your guest list, according to Denise Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Throwing a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget" ($15, Windsor Peak Press). "Obviously, to feed 200 people is going to be your biggest expense," she said.

Perhaps it's a symptom of a flagging economy, but the cost of a typical U.S. wedding is expected to dip slightly for 2008 to $28,704, down $28 from last year's estimate, according to The Wedding Report Inc., an industry research firm. But weddings for 50 guests and fewer are expected to average far less: $10,630.

Nole Garey, a Washington, D.C. bride, said limiting her guest list to 50 was a big factor in holding costs down for her wedding, but it wasn't the only benefit.

"We wanted to be surrounded by people who we love and who love us on that day," she said. "You're not just paying a caterer to feed 200 guests, some maybe you know and some you don't know. It's a great way to save money but it's also a great way to have a really good time."

Garey's daytime wedding cost about $13,000 -- about $3,000 more than her initial projections.

When Diane Ingino wed in New York City a few years ago, she invited 60 family members and friends, some of whom offered their services in lieu of a gift. She estimates her wedding cost just $5,000.

"Try to enlist the help of people who know what they're doing," she advised.

It helped that several friends were knowledgeable florists, caterers and dressmakers, but just starting out and eager to gain experience. That allowed Ingino to get custom items not only at cost, but also at prices only available to the trade.

For example, her one-of-a-kind corseted and bustled gown was made for the cost of the silk taffeta and notions, which was about $500 from a wholesaler in the city's garment district. The friend who made the dress now creates costumes for Broadway and film.

Although Garey declined to put her friends to work, she saw the wisdom in hiring a less-experienced event coordinator she found online -- following a tip she gleaned from Fields' book. The $400 fee was far below that of established pros.

"We couldn't have done our wedding without her," said Garey, who needed help executing the vision she had spent nine months planning.

Do-it-yourself projects are another way to not only economize, but also personalize your celebration. Garey's favorite was making something she'd almost banished from the budget: ceremony programs.

"We started off saying, 'Eh, who needs programs,'" she said. But after painstakingly preparing both wedding and ring vows, the couple wanted to enable everyone to follow along. She found distinctive paper online and designed the text and layout to work with her invitation design. For just $100, Garey's two-page programs made a meaningful keepsake.

Ingino made her own invitations, then addressed them using calligraphy and applied sealing wax with an initial stamp on the back flap. However, she warns that wax-sealed envelopes should be hand-canceled to avoid damage.

But artistically challenged brides needn't despair, Fields said. "You'd be surprised at people who aren't crafty who can do something like making a bridal headpiece," she said. The pieces, usually available at craft or hobby stores, can be glued or slipstitched together without much skill.

In fact, staying away from anything designated "bridal" will keep money in your pocket, according to Fields. Hotels, for example, will bring out the special bridal menu -- with special prices -- as soon as they know you're getting married, she said. And if you do patronize a bridal shop for your gown, be upfront and firm about your budget.

"They're going to show you a lot of the expensive things, and that's where the temptation comes in," Fields said. "Say, 'My budget is X and I really can't go over it. I'm not flexible, so please don't show me $2,000 wedding dresses."

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