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By Allison Videtti
Does the potential cost of your wedding have your head spinning? If so, take heart. While the national average cost for a wedding in 2014 was $31,213 (not including the honeymoon) according to a survey by wedding website, The Knot, – you don’t need a small fortune to plan your dream wedding.
You just have to get creative.
For starters, there are a number of ways you can cut the cost of your wedding venue. First, consider having your wedding at an off-time.
“Think about a Friday or Sunday wedding instead of an in-demand Saturday night, which can save you 25 percent or more,” says Lauren Kay, senior style editor for wedding website The Knot.
Also think about the time of year. “June and October are the most popular months to wed this year, but a winter wedding can be far less expensive and just as fun,” Kay says.
You can also skip popular hotels and ballrooms and instead opt for a less traditional venue. My husband and I rented out part of an old mansion that was owned by our local park district. It served as both the ceremony and reception site - and saved us a fortune.
Of course, the cheapest option is to get married at city hall and take pictures elsewhere. My cousin and his wife got married at their local courthouse, then went to the nearest church and public park to take photos. Based on their wedding album, you’d never know they didn’t have a traditional wedding!
Fun tip: If you get married outdoors, you can save on flowers, says Kay. Instead, you can rely on nature to provide most of the décor.
Of course you want to wow your guests with fantastic food and drinks, but that doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. When considering venues, find a location that will allow you to choose your own caterer rather than require you to use theirs. That way, you can shop around and find the best price. You can also think beyond the traditional sit-down dinner: If you have an afternoon wedding, for example, consider serving a brunch or a post-wedding lunch buffet.
If you’re comfortable going super casual, consider doing a backyard BBQ or a potluck. For dessert, opt for a cookie table rather than a cake. A good friend of mine asked her friends to each bring a plate or two of their favorite cookies to her wedding. They had plenty to go around and it started a fun tradition in her family.
Fun tip: The cost of alcohol can add up, so buying your own can be a huge way to save, especially if you buy it from a store that lets you return unused liquor. That way, you can return whatever your guests don’t consume. Just remember that you’ll need to hire someone to serve drinks.
If that’s not within the contract of your venue, consider limiting the hours or serving only beer and wine. But, whatever you do, “… do not make your guests pay for their own drinks at your party,” Kay says. That would definitely be a party foul.
If you don’t absolutely need to have a band, it might be something to skip altogether. If you’re set on some live music, “see if there are any up-and-coming local bands that would be willing to discount their services,” says Kay. Or, hire some music students from the local college (but do plan to pay them something).
When it comes to the DJ, nothing is cheaper than creating a wedding reception playlist and plugging your computer or smartphone into some speakers. Just be sure to have a backup device, and bring your phone or computer charger. Your venue may have speakers, but if not, check out local rental companies and compare prices.
If you do hire a DJ, “hire someone who can play everything from dinner-appropriate jazz to after-party dance hits,” Kay advises. Be sure to also ask your DJ if he or she can guide the evening by announcing dinner, the first dance, etc. You will also need your DJ to help direct the flow of the wedding, first dance, cutting of the cake etc., so be sure to choose someone with personality (and previous experience!).
Fun tip: To get your guests involved, ask them to contribute song suggestions pre-wedding and include them in your playlist. You can even burn the playlist onto a CD and give it as a wedding favor at the end of the night.
We hope these tips serve you well. Just remember - with some careful planning and a little elbow grease, you can make your big day beautiful AND budget-friendly.