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How you can cut costs while keeping it a special day

Weddings are expensive. Although formal data on the cost of saying “I do” is scarce, the cost often is $20,000 or more.

The Bridal Association of America, for example, estimates that in 2009, weddings will cost an average $30,860.

If you’re a bride- or groom-to-be, those numbers can seem especially scary in a recession. According to a survey in March by wedding Web site, 40 percent of brides said they have trimmed their wedding budgets, by an average of 16 percent.

But if you’re looking to cut back, where do you get the biggest bang for your buck? After all, there are lots of expenses you can eliminate, from the chocolate fondue bar to themed wedding favors. Here are five ways to save recommended by wedding planners:

Cut the guest list

One way to reduce wedding costs is to invite fewer people. The tab per person easily will make up half of your budget, said Ali Phillips, owner of Engaging Events by Ali in Chicago.

“Looking at your guest list is really important,” she said.

A smaller guest list not only saves you on food and beverage costs, but also reduces the number of tables and chairs, centerpieces and favors you’ll need. Even your wedding cake, which generally runs $5 to $8 per person, will be cheaper. The snowball effect is substantial.

Get hitched in the morning

Hosting a wedding reception during the morning or afternoon can significantly reduce the cost you spend per person, a good alternative if you can’t bring yourself to cut the guest list.

“You’ll save almost 25 percent to 30 percent of your food and beverage budget,” Phillips said, who notes that she has seen a trend toward luncheon weddings lately.

In addition, many venues charge a lower fee for daytime receptions. In Chicago, for example, the venue fee for an evening wedding ranges from $4,000 to $8,000, said Marcia Hemphill, president of An Urban Affair in Chicago.

Because daytime weddings typically are shorter in length — four hours compared with six to eight hours at night — you may pay half the price.

Change venues

You also can save if you skip traditional spaces, such as a hotel ballroom, and host your reception at a restaurant, Hemphill said.

She said that venues such as a local restaurant tend to be more flexible and may be willing to negotiate deals. “There’s not as much red tape,” she said.

Make your own wedding album

Wedding planners say a good photographer is worth the money. But instead of paying one $800 or more to create an album for you, opt to make the album yourself.

“Have your photographer put all your wedding images on a hi-res disc,” Lauren Paige, founder of Lauren Paige Associates in Middletown, N.Y., wrote in an e-mail.

“There are many places online where you can get a professional-looking wedding album or print your images for less.”

You also could negotiate with your photographer and ask to have an album, say, a year after the wedding, when your pocketbook has had time to recover.

Get creative

Even after the biggest expenses are pared down, wedding planners say there are myriad other ways to cut your budget:

On flowers, ask your florist which flowers will be in season at the time of your wedding. Flowers that are in-season cost less.

When it comes to wedding gowns, it’s possible to find designer gowns for a fraction of retail price if you shop strategically.

For example, some bridal shops sell off-the-rack dresses, many of which are discontinued samples or overstock from designers, bringing down the price. (Off-the-rack means you purchase the gown at the store, rather than order it from a catalog.)

Finally, does etiquette require that you send your guests home with a favor at the end of the night?

“Not at all,” Phillips said. “That’s a tradition we’ve all created. It’s perfectly fine to do without.”


The Washington Post Do I have to give a gift on the registry? How do I trim the guest list without hurting feelings? Can we send our invitations by e-mail? Anna Post, great-great- granddaughter of Emily Post and author of Do I Have to Wear White? Emily Post Answers America’s Top Wedding Questions (Collins Living, $14.99), took questions from brides, grooms and guests on navigating weddings with grace and good manners. Excerpts are below.

Question: My cousin is having a weekday destination wedding. I would have to take a week off work to travel, attend the ceremony and travel home. I believe in this situation the bride and groom must expect that many guests won’t attend, but other family members feel declining will cause hurt feelings. Is it rude of me to decline the invitation?

Answer: No, it’s not rude to be unable (for reasons of vacation time or finances) to attend a destination wedding. Do send a gift though, even if you can’t make it.

Q: We plan to not have kids at our wedding reception. My family does not like the idea. Am I right for not wanting kids there even if one of them is my 18-month-old niece?

A: It’s up to the couple and the hosts (as in, those paying, such as parents) to decide about kids or no kids at the wedding. So yes, it’s up to you. But you may have to smooth some ruffled feathers, or lose some guests who can’t find child care. And be sure not to make exceptions – it’s not fair to those who do find child care.

Q: We’ve been in several of our friends’ weddings; does that mean they should be in ours? Is it OK to not have a formal wedding party of bridesmaids and groomsmen?

A: Your guest list is your own to create; you don’t have to invite all the couples whose weddings you were in. That said, if you were in their wedding, you are likely close, and it may make sense. But base your answer on genuine affection for these couples, not obligation.

It’s just fine to forgo bridesmaids and groomsmen if you don’t wish to have them.

Q: My daughter insists that, according to etiquette, the parents of her attendants need to be invited to the wedding. Is that true?

A: There is no point of etiquette requiring the parents of a couple’s attendants to attend. In the case that they are family friends, you might then consider them, but because they are family friends, not because their child is in your daughter’s wedding.

Q: As the father of the groom, I understand my roles to be the three “ups” – dress up, show up, shut up. Are there any other particular roles or functions that I have besides sharing the joy of our son and new daughter-in-law?

A: The first two are musts, but I think we all know the third one is just for humor. The best thing to do is to ask your son and his bride if there is anything beyond having fun that they would like you to do. It’s possible they might ask you do give a reading or be ready to dance with the bride after she dances with her father (not required, but not uncommon).

If you and your wife are hosting the rehearsal dinner, you should discuss whether you will be giving a toast that evening as host (also common).

Q: Is it weird if I don’t invite co-workers who know about the wedding? What’s the etiquette for colleagues?

A: It’s OK not to invite co-workers, even if they know you are getting married.

If there are some people from work whom you would like to invite, treat them as friends and send the invitation to their home address (it’s OK to ask for that), and don’t discuss the wedding in front of those not invited.

The Washington Post| Source