Congrats! You are engaged! Planning a wedding can and should be a joyous fun event. However, the stress of planning and budgeting can make even the calmest bride a little batty. Sure, you want a beautiful, memorable wedding, but perhaps you can't afford to splurge on every minute detail. The following are some tips to save you money and help your wedding budget.

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A. Food

    1. Use expensive ingredients such as lobster and shrimp for hors d'oeuvres, rather than in the main course.
    2. How dinner is served affects the price. French service and regular plate service are the most expensive options. Offer family style dishes or a buffet style dinner to save on costs.
    3. Consider breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea or a cocktail party style reception. They are shorter in length and the fare is lighter and less expensive. With the exception of a cocktail reception, guests tend to drink less, earlier in the day.
    4. Ask your caterer for seasonal dishes. Ordering dishes that use ingredients which are in season not only will save you money, but also will be fresher and taste better too.
    5. Check with the caterer if there is a price guarantee. You want to make sure the price you sign today will not increase if the price of certain food items increases.
    6. Consider a signature drink or create a specialty drink(s) and serve that instead of having an open bar. The cost of having a full bar can be quite costly.
    7. Limit alcohol choices to wine and beer, both of which will satisfy most guests. Limit champagne to just the initial bride and groom toast.
    8. Instead of purchasing the wine through your reception hall or caterer, consider purchasing wine wholesale. Many companies will offer discounts when large quantities of cases are purchased. Some wines are available in magnum size, which lowers the cost of the wine per ounce. If you decide to purchase your own wine, discuss with the caterer how much their corkage fee is; but chances are even with the corkage fee, you'll be paying much less than purchasing wine directly through your caterer.
    9. If your catering contract permits it, shop around for a local baker. Your caterer may charge a cake cutting charge this way, but you're more likely to still spend less overall. If the caterer does not permit it, skip the extra desert option and only serve only coffee and cake for dessert.
    10. There are several options for saving on cake charges. You can order a small cake with an elaborate topper for the cake cutting and a second sheet cake that is cut in the kitchen for the guests. Or, only order enough cake for guests, with larger layers on bottom made of iced Styrofoam. (No one will know the difference, and you'll have the tall cake for pictures!)
B. Flowers
    1. While most popular bridal flowers are available year round, some are seasonal. Talk with your florist on cost saving in-season options. It will be extremely expensive (and possibly quite difficult to find) if you require a flower arrangement that is not in season.
    2. Make your flowers do double duty. Design your ceremony pieces to also be used on the reception tables.
    3. Mix economical non-floral embellishments in with the flowers to fill out bouquets and centerpieces. Check with your florist as to what is available and will look best with your flowers.
    4. Think simple. If you want an elaborate bouquet, perhaps your bridesmaids can hold something simple - such as a single rose or a few Gerber daisies tied with a simple bow.
    5. Instead of floral arrangements on reception tables, group favors in a tower on the tables. With so many pretty favor packaging options available, you can surely design a centerpiece to remember.
    6. Single pillar candles or an arrangement of votives casts a calm, peaceful feeling on tables. Check with your reception hall first though - some ordinances do not allow burning candles for fire safety purposes.
    7. If you have a friend who has a flair for crafts and decorating, you can have them go to a local market the day of the wedding and hand select seasonal flowers and arrange them for you.
    8. If you are planning on using rose petals for your wedding, consider using freeze dried petals (they are the real thing) or high quality silk rose petals. Either of the two options will save you money - and will last longer than fresh rose petals. Both will save your from a possible slip and fall (real rose petals are slippery) and won't stain.
    9. Don't overlook floral standbys such as carnations and daises. They are available year round, are usually extremely affordable and when arranged in a group look beautiful.
    10. Flowering bulbs in a clear hurricane vase with stones in can provide for an elegant centerpiece. This is something you can do yourself with a bit of pre-planning
C. Ceremony
    1. Rather than hiring a band, harpist or string quartet to play at your ceremony, see if they allow pre-recorded music.
    2. Ceremony programs are not always needed, some couples do without.
    3. If you want to use a ceremony program, print your own or have a calligrapher just design the cover and print and attach the interior pages yourself.
    4. Check with the ceremony location as to what decorations (if any) they will have at the time of your wedding. Depending on the season and location - they may already have decorations in use (Such as a church during the Christmas season)
    5. Have your flower girl toss silk rose petals rather than the real thing. This will save on costs, be less slippery, and easier to clean up.
    6. Aisle or pew decorations aren't necessary for the entire church or location - just use them to reserve seating for the most important guests in the front of the location.
    7. Ceremony location fee. If you're not getting married in a traditional religious setting, shop around for prices. A backyard or park setting can be just as romantic and cost less.
    8. If you're hiring an officiant, get several estimates. If you like one officiant in particular, see if you can negotiate prices.
    9. For your vows search around quotation and love poem sites to inspire you. Write your own vows rather than hiring someone to do so.
    10. See if your reception hall or area can accommodate a ceremony as well. You'll save on transportation costs and decorations can be moved quickly and easily from the ceremony to reception site.
D. Music
    1. Rather than hiring separate musicians for the ceremony and reception, see if they can accommodate both.
    2. DJ's can be less expensive than bands. You'll be able to have different styles of music - something that some bands can't duplicate quite like a DJ.
    3. Check out local cover bands. Although not your typical wedding band, cover bands usually do cover songs, and may perform just as well as a more expensive traditional wedding band.
    4. Look into local high school or college bands. You may be able to make a great find - both in price and in musical style.
    5. Look for DJs who are new to the market. Beginners usually are starting out with new equipment such as computers and digital music devices - which hold hundreds and thousands of songs. If they don't have your songs, they can find them for you. Beginners will also offer better rates than more established DJ companies.
    6. Hold auditions - either pick from the lot, or have them bid on playing at your event.
    7. If your reception area has the capability - use their stereo. Many stereos these days will play through dozens of CD's in a row so that the music lasts for hours. Make several CD's of recorded music and just press "play". An alternative is making play lists on a MP3 device and just plugging in the player to the sound device. However, this does require some maintenance during your reception, so make sure you designate someone to handle this task.
    8. Check local advertisements and back of bridal magazines. Some companies and bands offer discounts.
    9. Check with the reception location, some have DJs or bands that they work with and offer package deals.
    10. Referrals from friends and family. Perhaps you don't personally know a band or DJ, but perhaps someone you know does. Ask around, you may get a referral and a friends and family price.
E. Transportation
    1. When hiring a limo company check local newspapers, and journals. Many companies offer discounts.
    2. Ask if they have any wedding packages. Many limo companies have standard packages that would include the limo for a set number of hours, red carpet service, champagne and/or beverages.
    3. Some companies may offer cheaper rates during off peak season and on Sundays. Limo companies often can book all or most of their limos for Fridays and Saturday nights, and therefore may not offer discounted rates on those days.
    4. Skip the Bentley or Horse Drawn carriage. Sure they make be whimsical, but if you're looking to cut costs, these are two things you can live without.
    5. If you're looking to drink while being chauffeured to and from, see if you can bring your own liquor, champagne or wine. Purchasing through the limo company will more than likely be more expensive than bringing your own beverages.
    6. Use a personal car to get to and from the reception, and ask a friend to drive.
    7. Don't purchase the limo for the entire day. Paying hourly rates to have a limo driver wait for hours not only is expensive - but also is a waste of your bridal budget. Hire them to take you to the ceremony, bring you to the photo shoot location, and drop you off at reception. If needed, you can hire them to pick you up after the reception in a plain black car.
    8. Before signing with a company, check the contract for their overtime rates. Make sure you stick within the time frame purchased; even 15 minutes of overtime can be costly.
    9. If you find a great price with a company who is a bit out of your area, before signing a contract with them make sure they will not charge extra for drive time to get to and from your event.
    10. Decide upon what type of limo will suit your wedding without going overboard. If you can go with a smaller limo rather than a larger stretch do so. Or it could be cheaper to fit everyone in a larger bus than renting several smaller limos.
F. Dress / Accessories / Attire
    1. Borrow accessories from friends and family. This can provide your "something borrowed"
    2. Look for your dress at designer sales, trunk shows and outlets. Checking out chain stores, vintage shops, consignment stores and sample sales may also provide you with an inexpensive solution.
    3. Consider wearing your mother's gown. The costs of cleaning and alterations will be much cheaper than purchasing a new one.
    4. Accessory and comparison-shop online. Chances are you'll snag a good deal.
    5. Consider tux rental centers which offer tuxes for free when you rent "x" number of tuxes.
    6. Unless you plan on showing your feet, consider a simple comfortable style under your dress. No one is going to take much notice to your heels when he slips the garter off.
    7. If your wedding isn't too formal consider bridesmaid dresses or evening gowns.
    8. If you have a design in mind, a local dressmaker can often design something similar to fit your body perfectly without the expensive designer label.
    9. If your budget is for $2,000 then you will want to look at gowns in the price of $1,000 to $1,200. You'll need the extra money for the rest of your ensemble and alterations, which can be quite costly.
    10. Replica jewelry can look authentic without the costly price tag.
G. Favors / Gifts
    1. Homemade favors can be just as appealing as store bought favors. Think candies, chocolates, soaps and candles.
    2. Comparison shop online. If you see a favor or gift in a store, browse online for the item - with so many retailers out there, you may find a better price.
    3. Ask a talented friend to make cookies or other edible favors and treats. Cookies should be baked within a week of serving, so if you choose this route, don't make them yourself, chances are you won't have the time to do so right before your big day.
    4. Purchase favors that came out the year before. Sure you may have seen that bottle stopper before, but last year's designs may be only slightly different than the same favor in a different style package marketed as "new for the season". Prices usually drop on older favors as newer styles are released.
    5. Skip the fancy packaging. Wrap your favors or gifts simply and elegantly with tulle, organza, or white on white gift-wrap.
    6. Choose wedding party gifts in bulk. Perhaps you can get the same engraved picture frames for the entire party with a bulk discount.
    7. Look for closeouts and or shop in outlets. If you're thinking of giving an item such as Mikasa crystal, see if there is an outlet store in your area.
    8. Rather than giving one favor per guest, consider one favor per couple. However, if the favor you are considering is sold as a "set", such as coasters, give one set per couple. Set items should never be split to save on costs; after all, you wouldn't go into a store and buy just one salt shaker or one coaster for yourself.
    9. Limit the bridal party. The more attendants you have the more bridal party gifts you'll need to buy.
    10. Scout out free shipping, low price guarantees, discounts and coupons.
H. Invitations / Stationary
    1. Although the invitations are the first thing your guests see, they are probably the last thing they remember. Although the invitations should look and feel nice, they need not cost a fortune.
    2. Look into print your own invitations. Many companies sell complete "do it yourself" invitation kits at a fraction of the cost.
    3. Go with Thermography style ink if you're getting your invitations professionally printed - it is a cost effective and very popular alternative. Skip on the engraving.
    4. Some couples skip on the reply envelopes - saving both on postage and invitation costs. Rather request your guests to RSVP on line, by email or by phone.
    5. Skip the save the date cards. Although quite popular these days, it is just an added expense. Instead set up a free wedding website online and announce to your friends and relatives the date.
    6. Cut your guest list. This will save in many areas - from caterers, to favors to invitation costs. Instead of inviting all of your co-workers, neighbors and children - just invite those who mean the most to you.
    7. In this digital age, most people are online. Skip the invitations all together and create an e-card.
    8. Perhaps you or a friend are scrapbook enthusiasts - design and make your own invitations. You're guests will receive a one-of-a-kind invite.
    9. Browse online - many stores work with the same printing vendors - and some are competitively priced - often saving you 25% or more off of retail pricing.
    10. Postcard invitations are a unique way to invite guests to a destination wedding. On the front, a beautiful beach photo, on the back, the wedding details. Have them RSVP online or email. You'll save on printing and postage costs as postcards cost less than an envelope to mail.
    11. Colored ink and lined envelopes can add significantly to your invitation budget. Black ink on a simple white or cream invitation can look simple, elegant and classy.
I. Photography / Videography
    1. Hire a videographer to work just from the ceremony through the first dance rather than for the entire wedding.
    2. Place disposable wedding cameras on your reception tables rather than having the photographer take pictures at every table.
    3. Consider hiring a photographer who is in their last year in art school or has recently graduated.
    4. Some companies offer both photography and videography as a complete package. A package deal may save you money rather than hiring two separate companies.
    5. Lose the prints and go digital. Printing proofs costs money - having your photographer make your proofs available digitally, may save money
    6. Go to a portrait studio to have your engagement photos taken. Some major department stores offer photography service, and usually offer coupons or package deals.
    7. Reduce the number of hours you hire the photographer for. Instead of having them run after you while you get your hair and nails done, have one of your bridesmaids do it instead.
    8. Assemble your own wedding album. Depending on the photographer and number of pictures taken you can save hundreds by putting together your own albums.
    9. Choose a photography package rather than purchasing pictures separately. If something is included that you don't necessarily want, see if you can trade it for something else.
    10. If you have a trusted friend or relative who is good at video editing software and knows how to use a camcorder, think about letting them take charge of the wedding video
J. General Planning Tips
    1. Fridays, Sundays and weeknights are the cheapest for most services. Plan your wedding on those days if possible. Winter weddings are cheaper than summer ones.
    2. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. When you find the service or vendor you want, negotiate the best possible price.
    3. Prioritize aspects of the wedding that are most important to you. By compromising in some areas, you can afford to splurge on others.
    4. Pay costs with a credit card that earns rewards or frequent flyer miles. Just be sure to pay off the bill in full each month it comes in. You may earn your honeymoon flight, and maybe even the hotel room, just by using your credit cards for your wedding expenses.
    5. Think out of the box. Perhaps your wedding can be held in a non-traditional setting. Try to think of places that are different but meaningful to you. Gardens, museums, parks, the zoo, the planetarium, aquariums, an amusement park, a 50's style retro restaurant, even a friend's large backyard could be a potential sites.
    6. In some states, for a small fee, a person can become a wedding officant. Look into your individual state rules.
    7. Be realistic when planning a budget. If you aren't receiving financial assistance from your family for your wedding, look to the future as well. Is a down payment for a house more important? Is paying off a large wedding debt for several years ok with both you and your fiancé?
    8. Make a list of all the things you, family, or friends can do or make yourselves. Perhaps much of the wedding can be prepared without enlisting the help of a professional.
    9. If your wedding is a year or more ahead, start purchasing items as you have extra cash to splurge.
    10. If you're planning on a winter wedding, purchase your accessories and other items the end of the winter season the year before your wedding. Wedding vendors will be looking to make way for the new season's items, and you'll save some cash.
    11. Plan early, make lists, and keep good records. By writing everything down, you'll know exactly how much you have spent, and how much you still need.