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Recession-Proofing the Big Day

By Lavender March 26, 2009

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It’s a challenge for anyone to stay starry-eyed about that special day in today’s tattered economy, but a tight budget needn’t mean watering down the “you” in your wedding, or settling for a less-fabulous event. I will show you how to ensure that your caviar and champagne dreams are not merely illusions in a Wonder Bread and Tab reality.

The When and the Whereabouts

According to the US Census Bureau in 2008, some 44,800 weddings take place weekly—predominantly on Saturdays. Pick a weekday or Sunday, which will give you more negotiating room with vendors. Scheduling weddings during “off-peak” times—November, or January through March—you can save 20 to 30 percent.

A nontraditional location can be more meaningful. It will cut the hefty price tag of traditional venues like a wedding reception hall or country club. A civic garden or the beach where you first bumped into your beau is ideal. Rethinking your venue is one of the easiest ways to stretch your budget, and make your wedding day your own.

The Garb

The average Minnesotan spends $2,036 to $3,362 on wedding outfits. Visit <www.costofawedding.com>.
Consider renting, borrowing, or buying secondhand. Take my recently wed ladyfriend, Meghan, as a case study. After her gasp-this-is-the one moment upon laying eyes on a $1,450 La Sposa at an Uptown bridal boutique, she turned to eBay, where she found the exact same gown, size, and color at $850.

Tux-wearers should look for rentals as soon as the date is set to spot specials, coupons, or even package discounts to rent groomsmen/groomslady tuxedos together. Borrow from a friend who sports your size, or prowl eBay/Craigslist for inexpensive gems you can repost postnuptially.

Consider philanthropy. The I Do Foundation—www.idofoundation.org—links engaged couples with a variety of charitable-giving options. Whether new or gently used, all gowns and suits can be donated to its “Dress for Charity Program,” giving 10-percent of the sale price to the charity of the couple’s choice, and the remaining funds to encourage charitable giving at weddings.
The Cinderella Project—www.cinderellaproject.net>—which collects first-run and gently used wedding attire, provides them, free of charge, to high school students unable to purchase attire for proms, graduations, or homecomings.

The Grub and Liquid Courage

With planning and creativity, you dramatically can lower two of the most expensive wedding costs—food and liquor—without sacrificing quality.

Try a potluck. Have close family and friends cook special dishes for your reception, then include their recipes in a little book as party favors.

If you opt for catering, simply choosing a daytime reception—brunch or lunch—will lower costs, while increasing options for potential vendors.

If you crave a dinner reception, try a small business or local culinary arts/cooking school. They’re more likely to be flexible, and willing to offer discounts. Plus, you’ll be supporting the local economy. Whichever route you take, be honest about your budget. Request the least-expensive entrées, and determine whether buffet style is cheaper than a seated dinner.

You can avoid the $1,790 to $2,956 Minnesotans typically spend on liquor. Have a limited bar. Many reception sites charge for every bottle opened, even for a single drink. Offer signature cocktails that only use one type of liquor. Add the suffix “-tini”—if your wedding theme colors are pink and black, offer the “pinktini” with blackberries. Designate a cocktail hour, then serve an inexpensive wine with dinner. If you and your partner don’t drink, don’t feel guilty for choosing a dry celebration. This is your day.

Cake and Flowers

Labor drives the cake’s overall cost, so don’t have your baker craft sugar flowers matching your bouquet. Tie inexpensive lace and ribbon around each tier, or sprinkle the cake with edible flower petals in your color palette. Provide a dessert buffet. Macaroons, fondue and fruit, truffles, tarts, and cookies shaped in the happy couple’s initials will do the trick.

Florists, too, charge for labor. Avoid cascades involving heavy wiring. Choose one type of flower for your bouquet/arrangements. Reducing production time will make a more budget-friendly package. Create your own floral centerpieces with seasonal and local offerings to eliminate shipping costs.

Photos and DJ

Is Sister-in-law Suzie an amazing photographer, or Cousin Carl a fantastic DJ? Think networking for these two aspects of your wedding budget. If you go with a family member, mention that the service can be a wedding gift. Just be sure he or she knows what you are expecting in terms of photographs and music selection.

If you choose a professional service, pick a package that limits the photographer’s hours. Have the professional photograph your wedding party and the cake-cutting, then pass out disposable cameras to your guests. Post the collected images for everyone to enjoy on an online site like Flickr.

Hire a photography student or freelance DJ through Craigslist. You will save money, while helping expand a beginning photographer’s portfolio, and allowing the freelance DJ to network. Don’t forget to check references and ask for portfolio samples to ensure your expectations are in-sync with his or her experience.

Invites, Place Cards, and Favors

Reconceptualize your invitations into personal and affordable. Feel free to steal my example: You and your mate head to a photo booth, and take a series of cutesy shots (bring props!). Scan those images to make multiple color copies on card-stock paper, cut them out, and write the logistics on the back. At $10 for the photos, $12.98 for the paper, and $20 for copies, it’s quirky, unique, and far cheaper than a professional printer.

Make postcards, magnets, luggage-tags, and DIY (do it yourself) for favors. Instead of place cards, have your guests’ names printed on the top of your menus or attached to your favors. Whip up several batches of your great-grandmother’s renowned tarts, or gift the seeds of your partner’s favorite plant and your favorite flower. Leaving your guests with something personal will make your day more you.

In our current economic climate, future partners should think: “Something borrowed, something blue, something old, something used.”

Stick to your budget—or under. You can have the event you always have dreamed of without going broke.

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