For many, the wedding is no longer a one-day affair where a man and woman join together in holy matrimony. Instead, it's a weekend wedding party-of-the-century extravaganza where the festivities last three days of more.
It's estimated that guests alone will spend $500 to attend a wedding these days and that figure doesn't even include plane tickets. The wedding itself costs nearly $30,000, according to a 2005 survey by the Fairchild Bridal Group.
There is a growing army of couples who are wising up. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2003 that even as wedding costs rise, more and more couples are scaling down their weddings because they care about how their hard-earned money is spent.
This top 10 list is for those who are ready to take matters into their own hands by being involved in planning their big day.
Go slow. Pick a non-traditional or slower time of year to get married. Think January, February, or November. Even consider a day and time other than Saturday afternoon when most weddings take place. You can get a break on the venue and from the vendors for choosing an off-peak time.
Limit the guest list. Make your dream guest list and then mark off at least 50 names. Most caterers charge per-person, so the difference between 100 guests and 150 can be huge.
Shop around. Prices and packages are negotiable with most vendors. Don't ever settle for more than you think you should be paying. Moreover, use vendors who aren't primarily wedding vendors and you'll see cheaper prices (such as using a grocery store florist instead of a wedding floral designer).
Get your hands dirty. The more you do, the less you'll end up paying. While your bride and her girlfriends are tying ribbons on wedding favors, you can be running around town running wedding errands. Just ask your bride for a list of what you can do.
Rent. Rent your tux. Some stores will even rent tuxes for $30 a day. If you're wearing a suit and want to buy a new one, ask department store clerks when their next suit sale is or try an outlet mall.
Consider "drop-off catering." The caterer delivers and sets up already-prepared food. Or, have family friends cater the reception for you. Go with a buffet instead of a sit-down meal, or host a dessert reception, brunch, or luncheon instead of a multi-course meal.
Get friendly. Ask friends to take photos at your bridal showers, rehearsal dinner, pre-ceremony, and reception. Hire a professional only for the formal portraits and ceremony shots if you're concerned about the quality of a friend's photos.
Skip the DJ. Hook up a CD player or iPod to the sound system and pump out the tunes. If you're set on having live musicians, hire a local music student(s) for the ceremony and/or reception.
Get sponsored. If you or your bride is set on having a lavish wedding, negotiate with vendors to have wedding services provided in exchange for subtle advertising at the event (the company's name on a card next to the items provided, a listing of sponsors in the wedding program, or even a mention during a speech at the reception).
Honeymoon close to home. The two best and easiest ways to cut down on your honeymoon costs are to stay close to home (to avoid transportation costs) and to limit the amount of time you need to pay for lodging. You can choose a nicer hotel for the same amount you would spend at a less-posh place if your honeymoon is a few days shorter.
The good news for frugal brides and groom is that the trend of the millennial wedding is toward everything simple and elegant, which lends itself to savings. From ring styles to cakes and bouquets, less is more, and with the right planning, your bank account can reflect the savings.
Cara Davis, 27, is the author of Cheap Ways to Tie the Knot: How to Plan a Church Wedding for Less Than $5,000 (RELEVANT Books). www.cheapwaysto.com
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