6 Creative Ways to Cut Wedding Costs

Savvy alternatives that will give your wedding a premium-dollar feel without sacrificing your future savings.

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Brides may dream of a wedding with an endless budget, but costs for extravagant wedding details can quickly overwhelm wallets and loom over couples’ heads. According to the Wedding Report, the average amount spent on a wedding in 2011 was a staggering $25,631. These days, more couples are going the modern route and footing the bill, with 30 percent paying for wedding costs out-of-pocket.

Wedding spending has increased considerably over the past decade. Almost 50 percent of couples surveyed reported going over their budget by getting caught in the upgrade wave. Instead of going the whole nine yards, consider saving on a few key wedding elements that can tame the overall expenses on your big day.

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A common misconception is that cutting costs means cutting quality or an envisioned "wow" factor. However, with some creativity, these savvy alternatives will give your wedding a premium-dollar feel without sacrificing your future savings.

1. Ease off the wedding stationary. Whether it’s save-the-dates, official wedding invites, or thank-you notes, wedding stationary can easily blow a budget into the red. In 2011, paper goods accounted for an average of more than $900, including postage. When shopping for stationary, avoid getting sucked into the frills of lined envelopes, letterpresses, foil lettering, and high-grade fibered paper, which all tack on extra charges.

To bypass these exorbitant costs, opt for simpler alternatives to paper goods. There are beautiful template designs and fonts that can be laser-printed and will save you from hiring a calligrapher, and standard card stock can easily be transformed into a classy invitation for added savings.

[See How to Be a Bridesmaid Without Going Broke.]

2. Avoid budget-stretching Saturdays. Saturday is the most popular--and therefore, the most expensive--wedding day to book. Often, couples need to book up to a year in advance just to get a Saturday date at their desired venue. Choosing a Friday or Sunday can present significant savings to those who are willing to be a bit more flexible.

Also, booking on a day other than Saturday can make negotiating rates and packages with venue coordinators easier, as there isn’t as much competition for services. Other wedding professionals like bands, photographers, and caterers will also likely come at a discounted rate.

3. Get flowers for less. Floral arrangements are strewn throughout the ceremony and reception sites, in addition to being used as accessory pieces for the wedding party. Last year, couples spent an average of $2,030 on flowers, but with the help of your florist’s creative eye, you can lower this expense.

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Many brides fail to realize that they don’t need a specific flower to achieve a certain look. What truly makes a venue or bouquet pop is the color and texture. For example, instead of depleting your funds with Mango Calla Lilies at $10 per stem, Dutch Orange Tulips achieve much of the same look, size, and color for only $3 per stem. Floral artists can always recommend in-season selections at a lower price as well. These alternate blooms still leave guests in awe, but at 70 percent less.

Other floral options include swapping out some arrangements like alter pieces and centerpieces with silk flowers. The wedding party, and of course the bride and groom, can then show off the real deal for photos, but overall floral spending is cut significantly.

4. Opt for bigger tables. Most reception venues have different table sizes to accommodate a range of guests. Where possible, select bigger reception tables to save money on linen expenses and the number of centerpieces needed. Tables of 10 (meaning 15 centerpieces and linen sets) for 150 guests can lead to hundreds in savings compared with the cost of 25 centerpieces and linens for smaller tables for six.

5. Stick to food favorites. While exotic dishes may look impressive on paper, they don't translate as well for your savings account. Not only do catering companies charge less for common comfort foods, apprehensive taste buds will thank you for safe menu options (which also means less waste).

[See 10 Ways to Save on Food Costs.]

Reception catering is often the biggest expenditure that couples must plan for. Work with your caterer for affordable meat and vegetable alternatives that are in season or find out if the reception venue has an all-inclusive catering package to offset costs.

6. Limit the alcohol selection. For some couples, an open bar during the reception is a must. To save on steep venue charges, find out if your location will permit BYOB. At times, limited permits restrict venues in this capacity, so find out about this detail before submitting a deposit.

Limiting the alcohol selection to only wine and beer or serving just a few signature cocktails at the bar can drastically reduce alcohol costs.

If more variety is necessary, some couples turn to friends and family for assistance. Ashley of Seattle hosted a “Stock the Bar” party beforehand, in which guests brought a bottle of their favorite drink to be used at the reception, in combination with the allocated bar budget of the bride and groom.

Having a lavish wedding doesn’t require an unlimited bank account. With so many more expenses down the line, like planning a honeymoon, buying a home, or starting a family, saving money on necessary wedding purchases can have a positive effect on your future beyond the main event.

Jennifer Calonia writes for www.GoBankingRates.com, which provides readers informative personal finance and investing content, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide.

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