Don't Let Love Hurt Your Wallet


Popular bridal TV shows like “Platinum Weddings” and “Say Yes to the Dress,” can sometimes give the impression that having a decent wedding can create more debt than taking out student loans.

These lavish celebrations, with their sparkling Swarovski crystals and haute couture fashions, can crush the dreams of any bride who doesn’t have a six-figure budget. But couples can exchange nuptials and have their fantasy ceremony without depleting their savings, according to Catherine Sabino, author of “Stylish Weddings for Less: How to Plan Your Dream Wedding on a Budget” (Filipacchi, 2009)

In her wedding research, Sabino says she found that weddings cost about $19,500 on average, with figures that double and triple that amount in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. Those numbers can be terrifying to most love-struck duos planning to wed. “I think you see an average number and you think ‘I’m not going to be able to do it for anything but that number,’” Sabino says. But in reality, she was able to find brides who planned chic ceremonies on modest budgets. Here are some of her money-saving tips for the frugal bride and groom who refuse to sacrifice style on their wedding day.

Go Easy on the Guest List

Some couples may want to invite everyone they know, but more guests on the wedding day means less money in your wallet the next. Sabino says the guest list is the hardest thing for brides to control but the number one way to cut wedding costs. “The reception typically takes up 40 to 45 percent of the overall budget, and most traditional venues and caterers charge per guest,” she says. To stay within budget, Sabino says try to stick to inviting close friends and family and consider having a two part celebration. “You can have a small dinner at a nice restaurant, and that way you can include everybody,” she says.

Location, Location, Location

Choosing an alternative reception site is a great way to save money. “There are lots of different ways to go,” Sabino says, including museums, art galleries, or even a bed and breakfast, which offer great savings on cost per person. She also recommends that couples living in major metropolitan areas explore options in the surrounding suburbs.

When considering the option of a non-traditional wedding venue, Sabino says be sure to tally up costs to make sure it actually is the more budget-friendly option. “You may have to higher your own caterer, or baker, and designer for décor. Those things can add up,” she says.

For brides who prefer a traditional wedding venue, consider the season, time and day of the reception. Sabino says scheduling an event for Saturday evening during peak season is expensive. Instead, she suggests couples consider other evenings, or a Sunday brunch during an off-season month.

A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

One area Sabino warns not to skimp on is photography. “These are once in a lifetime moments and you don’t want your first kiss as man and wife to be blurred,” she says. When it comes to pictures, she advises using a professional rather than trusting a talented friend. To save money, she suggests photographers who offer “shoot and burn” packages. “You get the photographer for four hours and he’ll put all of the images on a DVD. You can do the retouches and the rest of the work yourself,” Sabino says.

While some weddings can cost enough to purchase a small building, it’s not impossible to plan a ceremony on a modest budget. Sabino says brides shouldn’t be fooled by media portrayals and huge monetary figures; instead research and footwork can lead to valuable savings and a happily-ever-after.

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