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How To Trim Your Wedding Budget Without Sacrificing

Updated on May 2, 2013
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When you're planning a wedding, it can be alarming how quickly costs add up. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to trim the bottom line without sacrificing key elements you want to have at your wedding. If you're worried about spending too much, here's a guide of things you can do to save a few pennies while still having a memorable event.

Food & Drink

There are several ways to save a few bucks when it comes to feeding your guests and offering drinks. You can offer an appetizer hour instead of a full dinner if you're really trying to save, but this generally only works if you have an early afternoon wedding. If your reception is later in the day, people will expect to be fed a full meal. An easier way to save is by offering a buffet-style meal rather than having each course served separately by wait staff.

Drinks also put a huge dent in your budget. While offering an open bar is often considered the "best" thing to do (in your guests' eyes, at least), it can be extremely expensive to cover alcohol costs for dozens or even hundreds of guests. Save a little bit by offering a signature cocktail for the liquor option and then just beer and wine, or take it a step further and purchase the beer and wine yourself and have the catering staff deal with corking and serving. If you want to save the most, the obvious option is offering a cash bar. Some circles regard this as being a little tacky, though, so if you want to avoid that, you can give guests a designated number of drink tickets (two or three, for example) and then having them pay for any drinks past that. People are less likely to drink alcohol at weddings if they're the ones paying for it.

As for saving money on the cake, there are a couple things you can do. If you love the look of a tall, stacked cake, you can ask the baker to make a "dummy cake," or one where all but one or two tiers are styrofoam. You'll still have to pay for decorating them, but you can save on the edible materials a little bit. To serve the cakes, you can ask to instead buy sheet cakes which are typically quicker for bakeries to put together than stacked cakes—or if you're exceedingly ambitious, you and some volunteers can make the served cakes yourself while still using the fake cake. Your guests will never know the difference, just have caterers serve the cake already plated, or have someone volunteer to set out slices of cake on plates at your dessert table.

Decorations

As for saving cash on decorations, you can opt for simpler centerpieces for the tables or choosing alternatives to flowers. If you must have flowers, choose ones that are in season so that florists don't have to hunt down expensive, hard-to-find blooms. You can also choose inexpensive bouquet fillers like pinecones, baby's breath, sprigs of pine trees or berries, etc.—all of these options cost far less than pricey flower arrangements.

For place cards and favors, you can combine the two by making the place cards into small boxes that contain the favor. Label each box with a guest's names, then line those boxes up on a table for making it easy on guests to find their table. You'll save on stationary costs with this, as the favor is doing double duty.

You can also look for deals on decorative items on websites like Etsy.com or in thrift and vintage shops. There, you can find great deals, and often the products made by online artisans can be personalized.

As for wedding table linen rentals, there are certain fabrics that will likely cost more than others. Try to choose ones in more budget-friendly fabrics that still fit with your color scheme and theme.

Entertainment

Hiring a DJ costs less than hiring a full band (as there are fewer people to pay, naturally), but getting a helpful friend to curate an iPod playlist is even less expensive, and it's perfect if you already know the songs you want to hear. Simply verify with your venue that there's an adequate sound system you'll have access to, then bring the playlist and MP3 player with you, along with a couple of spare chargers for keeping the battery going.

You can also look for a venue that offers an "all-inclusive" package, meaning their caterers, wait staff, and DJ will be included in your venue rental fee. This helps cut costs, as package deals will often be lower prices than contracting each service or product separately.

You can also think about having your wedding in a venue that's less "formal"—for example, instead of a banquet hall, you could rent the atrium at a museum. Less private venues will generally charge less than exclusive places, since they can offer their space for a variety of different events.

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