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By Marie Anderson
MoneyMix Contributor

Planning a wedding includes more than just the stress from creating a guest list. In this economy, banquet facilities and wedding vendors are charging increasingly higher prices on everything from dinner service to cake cutting. These days, even Britain's Prince William and his fiancée Kate Middleton are thinking of ways to cut back on their wedding expenses. Follow these steps to stay within your budget, yet still dazzle your guests with a fabulous celebration.

set your budget

Determine what you really can afford to pay for your wedding. Make sure that everyone who is helping you plan the wedding is on the same page with how much money you are willing to spend.

You can save money if you host your wedding on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon.

set priorities

List the most important things you think you have to include in your wedding. What are you committed to having in your ceremony and reception? What are you not willing to budge on?

shop for deals

Get online and research which vendors offer the best deals. Visit as many reception sites as time allows to ensure that you're getting the best prices on dinner and bar service. Take notes about each place and compare venues to make the best choice.

think outside the box

If the date of the wedding does not top your "can't-budge-on" list, consider a nontraditional date for your wedding. You can save money if you get married on a Friday night or Sunday afternoon. Many wedding vendors also offer considerable discounts during the off-season, November through April. Finally, consider having the ceremony and reception in the same place, which eliminates transportation expenses.

do it yourself

DIY flower bouquets, invitations, programs, and party favors are a sure way to save money.

find other ways to save

Find deals on these wedding details as well:

  • Flowers—Don't set your sights on a particular color or type of flower. Choose flowers that are in season to get the best prices on bouquets. If you won't budge on the bouquets, order the flowers in bulk and then take them home to construct your own bouquets with the help of family and friends.



Visit these websites for advice about wedding planning, creating your own details, and finding vendors.

 TheKnot.com

 TopWeddingSites.com

 Perfect WeddingGuide.com

 Wedding-Resources.com

  • Transportation—In lieu of a stretch limo, consider renting a charter bus for almost half the price of a limo ride. You can fit more people in a bus and, although it might not fit the theme of a glamorous wedding, it allows you to spend more money on another area of the wedding. If you don't like the idea of riding in a bus, check local trolley rates. But book early, because trolleys usually come in limited numbers.
  • Favors and invitations—Channel your inner creativity at an affordable price by making your party favors and invitations from scratch. Favors don't have to be extravagant. Host a favor-making party with your friends to reel in extra help. Visit nontraditional wedding stores or craft stores to pick up materials for custom-made favors. As for invitations, remember that guests will remember the ceremony itself over an invitation they received months ago. A key element of DIY invites is finding a good printer to get the job done.
  • Videographer—Chances are, you have a member or two of your extended family who is good with cameras and wouldn't mind recording your wedding ceremony. Reward your volunteer videographers with a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store as a thank you for their work.
  • Dress—Score a dress at a sample sale hosted by local bridal boutiques. Many stores offer inexpensive wedding dresses if you buy them that day, and they can deliver them to you in a few weeks' time. Be open-minded when you go dress shopping. If you can find a dress off the rack, you'll also eliminate the need for pricey alterations, which is a huge cost cut.

There are lots of ways to cut wedding costs, but some areas of the celebration just shouldn't be skimped on. Do these three things to please your guests and ensure a great party:

  1. Pay for some drinks. Keep your guests from unhappily digging into their wallets by setting aside money for sponsored drinks at the reception. An easy way to avoid a huge bill at the end of the night is to determine what you'll be sponsoring and what you expect guests to pay for. You could limit the drinks you offer by only serving wine and beer during a specific timeframe.
  2. Hire a professional photographer. The ceremony and reception go by before you can even blink, so hire a professional photographer to make sure every moment is documented. If you want to save money in the photography department, hire the photographer for only a few hours—enough to cover the ceremony and cake cutting—and then enlist a friend or personal assistant to take pictures throughout the reception and dance.
  3. Play good music. A good DJ goes a long way, and DJs generally are less expensive to hire than a band. Research local DJs and check reviews of their performances. Your guests will have the most fun with an upbeat DJ who keeps the celebration lively—and chances are, you will, too.

Published February 15, 2011

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