how to save money on wedding expenses

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After the initial excitement of your engagement comes some planning and budgeting you're going to have to deal with almost immediately.

The parties, ceremony, reception, decorations, and everything in-between will cost you some serious time and money.

There's no reason you can't have a perfect wedding without starting your married life out in a heap of debt, or making your parents dig into their savings. From your ceremony to your honeymoon, we've got lots of tips for you to save money on your wedding expenses and still have the romantic day you've always dreamed of.

budgeting tips

  • There's no shame in being frugal! What you save now can help you set up your household or simply keep you out of debt.
  • Before you begin extensive wedding planning, make out a budget with all of the expenses. Don't pay more than you're willing. If you do go over budget on one thing, try offset the cost on another.
  • Figure in the tips. Caterers, bartenders, wait staff and other service providers expect a tip. Sometimes it's already included in the bill, so ask first!
  • Like anything else, costs will vary greatly. Shop around and compare services and prices. Bring a list of prepared questions and write down the answers.
  • Be straight forward with vendors and try to negotiate the fees. In addition, tell them you're on a limited budget and ask them how you can save more money.
  • Make all down payments with a credit card to protect yourself if the vendor breaches the contract.
  • Shop online! You can often find some great deals and discounts on unique items you'd never find locally.
  • Choose your overall color scheme to be either all white, or black and white. Many items and decorations (such as ribbons, invitations, and flowers) are easy to find in these colors and are often cheaper.
  • Hold your rehearsal dinner at home instead of a club, hall, or restaurant.

decorations

  • Piggyback your wedding after a holiday and you can save money on flowers and decorations at the church and reception site.
  • Make some of the floral decorations yourself and get friends and family to help. There's plenty of how-to books at the public library and the internet.
  • Hobby and discount stores (like Hobby Lobby or WalMart) often have decorations and accessories such as guest books, plume pens, ring-bearer pillows, cake knives, and wine glasses for a fraction of the price you'd pay elsewhere.
  • Make your wedding favors part of the decor. Be sure to tell the guests to help themselves as they often forget to take them home.

attire

  • Consider buying a second-hand bridal gown. Check out classified ads, consignment shops and online auctions.
  • If you're wearing a floor length wedding gown, your shoes will often go unnoticed -- so choose comfortable and modest ones.
  • Wear your grandma's, mom's or sister's gown and you make them very happy while saving money.
  • Shop early for your wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses. You can often find sales and discounts when stores try to clear out merchandise for the new season.
  • Men can rent their attire, why can't you? There are more and more shops offering wedding gowns, bridesmaids and flower girl dresses that you can rent and return.
  • Make your own hair accessories with hair combs, silk flowers and ribbon.
  • If you find a gown bridal gown you can't live without, write down the brand and code number and see if you can find the dress elsewhere at a discounted price.
  • Look for bridesmaid dresses at outlet or department stores (like Kohl's, J.C. Penney, etc.) You can also check out catalogs and stores offering discounted prom dresses.

save on flowers

  • Your bridal bouquet doesn't have to be packed with flowers and greenery. The same goes for the bridesmaids bouquets, corsages and boutonnières. Opt for a single, long-stemmed rose or modest arrangement that doesn't hide your gorgeous gown!
  • Silk flowers generally cost less than fresh ones. Order fresh flowers only when necessary and select silk for the bouquets and corsages.
  • Unless you have a lot of money to spend, forget exotic, out-of-season flowers and stick with ones that are readily available.

reception & dance

  • Consider a brunch or luncheon reception instead of dinner to cut catering costs.
  • Make some of the food yourself and assign a dish to some friends and family members who are willing to help out.
  • If your reception hall provides the catering, make sure you get to take home any leftovers that you have paid for. Some sites actually charge you for ordered food and then keep what you don't use for another event.
  • Hire a Disc Jockey instead of a band. D.J's are cheaper because there are less members, labor and equipment you'll have to pay for. You'll have much more variety of music to choose from, by the original artists!
  • Don't go wild with an open bar. There are several options. You can limit the free beverages to pop beer and wine, or have everything free for the first couple of hours. If you're more frugal, you can have the bride, groom, attendants and parents hand out tickets for free drinks.

invitations

  • For a smaller, less formal wedding, design and print the invitations yourself. Or design your own and have them professionally printed.
  • Fold the invitations yourself. If you pay to have this done, the more folds, the more it will cost.
  • Have your reception information printed at the bottom of the invitation so you don't have to purchase separate insert cards.
  • Cheaper paper and printing methods can save a bundle.