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Front Page » June 7, 2012 » Focus » Wedding costs changing along with the times
Published 1,219 days ago

Wedding costs changing along with the times

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Weddings can be expensive, and the reception can account for a substantial percentage of a couple's expenses.

Unlike the days of yesteryear when the bride's parents were responsible for financing the wedding, nowadays many couples pay for their own weddings, and some find themselves cash-strapped and looking for ways to save.

Trimming reception costs is one of the best ways couples can save money, and there are many ways to do just that and still ensure guests have a great time into the night.

* Limit the guest list. Receptions are more expensive the more guests a couple invites, so limiting the guest list is perhaps the best way to avoid breaking the bank to pay for the reception. Caterers and banquet halls typically charge per-person, so trimming the guest list by as few as 20 people can lead to substantial savings. Before sending out your save-the-date cards, peruse the guest list to determine if any guests can be removed. It might be nice to invite professional acquaintances, but if they aren't people you know socially then they aren't likely to be offended if they're not invited to the wedding.

* Choose a buffet instead of a sit-down meal. Choosing a buffet-style reception is another way to save money on the reception. Sit-down meals in which guests are brought their own plates can be significantly more expensive than buffet style. In addition, a buffet might have more options for guests, which benefits larger receptions with guests of various palates.

* Consider a package deal. Couples open to all-inclusive package deals, which typically include the cost of the wedding, reception and possibly even the honeymoon, can save money that way as well. These are most common for destination weddings, but couples might be able to find a package deal in their hometowns as well.

* Host the reception at a private residence. Another way to reduce reception costs is to avoid banquet halls entirely and host the reception at a private residence, whether it's your own home or that of a parent or other relative. This option will save you the cost of renting the banquet hall, but it might only be doable for couples having a smaller, more intimate wedding with relatively few guests.

* Hire a DJ instead of a band. Music presents another opportunity for cost-conscious couples to trim some of their reception costs. Some couples insist on live music, while others are fine hiring a DJ. If you're among the latter, go with the DJ, as disc jockeys tends to be far less expensive than live bands. If you simply must go with a live band, look for a local band who might be more willing to give a hometown discount.

Cost-conscious couples about to tie the knot can save substantial amounts of money by making a few adjustments with regard to their wedding reception.

How to save money on the wedding cake

A wedding cake is a crowning finale to a momentous wedding day. Couples spend hundreds of dollars on tiered confectionary creations, which provide great photo opportunities and even better desserts.

Though a wedding cake is a traditional component of wedding celebrations, professional bakers may charge anywhere from $2 to $6 per guest for the average cake. That could mean spending upwards of $900 for a cake to feed 150 guests.

There are many reasons why cakes may be so expensive. For instance, the equipment used to bake cakes does not come cheaply. Ingredients, such as butter, high-quality flours, chocolate, real vanilla, and others tend to have high price tags. Furthermore, the time that goes into baking and then intricately decorating the cake adds up to quite a bit of labor. For couples who prefer not to spend too much on a cake, there are ways to save money and still savor a delicious dessert.

* Ask a local bakery or restaurant if the pastry chef will create your wedding cake. Oftentimes, bakers who do not specialize in wedding cakes will make a cake at a much lower cost than bakeries known for their wedding cakes. If you adore a dessert at a particular restaurant, ask to have it duplicated.

* Commission an amateur baker, such as a friend or family member, to make your cake. There are many budding cake artists out there, several of which have the cursory skills to create a delicious and aesthetically appealing cake. Friends or family members may even make the cake for little or no cost.

* Keep decorations and flavors to a minimum. The more embellishments and designs you put on the cake, the more expensive it will be. Stick to the basics, and the cake won't cost as much.

* Look into culinary schools in your area. A student pastry chef may be able to produce a cake for you at a fraction of the cost of what an established baker may charge. This saves you money and the student can use your cake as part of his or her portfolio.

* Skip the tiered cake. Tiered cakes require careful stacking and engineering. Also, if the tiers themselves are made of crystal or another expensive material, it could inflate the cost of the cake. Choose a lower-profile cake to save money.

* Serve guests from a sheet cake. Some couples opt to have a dummy cake on display or just a small cake for cutting purposes, and then have waitstaff serve from a simple sheet cake. Guests rarely recognize the difference.

* Shop at a warehouse center. Warehouse centers often have an in-store bakery capable of producing cakes for large crowds. These cakes can be delicious and inexpensive. As long as you don't advertise where you bought the cake, there's a good chance no one will be able to detect a discounted cake.

* Choose ready-made cakes and stack them yourself. Find a bakery near you that keeps a constant supply of specialty cakes in their display cases. Purchase 2 to 3 cakes of the same variety and find cake pedestals from a party or craft store. Embellish the tiers with a few fresh flowers and you have a tiered cake for a minimal cost.

* Think about an alternative to cake. Tarts, pies, cream puffs, and other culinary creations may be more affordable and just as delicious as a lavish cake.

Wedding advice: Be open to ideas and expertise

Once you announce your plans to get married, there's a good chance that people close to you will be ready and willing to dispense their share of advice. Some words of wisdom will be priceless, while others you can store away for another day.

When polling married couples, you will likely find they would change "this" or "that" about their weddings if given the chance to do it all over again. Here is some advice that you can choose to follow for your wedding day.

Tip #1: Trust your vendors

Couples often have unique ideas for their wedding day. It may seem tempting to spell out what you want in minute detail and insist on wedding vendors carrying out your wishes to a T. But the smarter idea may be to give vendors a little more free reign -- after all, they are the professionals.

"I had a vision in my head of what I wanted my centerpieces to look like," offers Jean M., Connecticut. "I gave the florist my suggestions and the 'feel' of what I was trying to create, but ultimately Ileft the finished product up to her. When I walked into the reception hall and saw my centerpiece baskets overflowing with fall-hued flowers, berries and twinkling candles, I was so excited I had left it up to the expert."

When deciding on particular aspects of the wedding, you can give your general ideas, but leave the finished product to the professionals. Don't list every song you want the deejay to play or micromanage all of the poses the photographer should take. After all, experienced pros have likely done this dozens of times in the past and could produce results you never dreamed possible.

Tip #2: Scale down

Unless you are planning on auditioning for the show "Over-the-Top Weddings," it might pay to make your wedding more about being personal and less about wowing the crowd with special effects and expensive treats. It's easy to be lured into extra dinner courses or be persuaded to release doves at the ceremony, but will these extras impact your relationship or the life you will be building together?

"If Ihad to do it all again, I would skip the dessert bar I had at my wedding," says Alice C., Ohio. "The spread of pies, pastries, cookies, and chocolates certainly looked impressive, but it cost me a small fortune. Also, people filled up on the dessert bar so much, they no longer had room to taste my special-ordered wedding cake."

Tip #3: Don't overextend

Your wedding will hopefully be a once-in-a-lifetime event. Therefore, couples often plan to spend a good deal of money to ensure their special day is perfect. Weddings are still viewed as a high-priority expense and most couples save for a long period of time despite sluggish consumer spending reports. According to the market research and analysis firm IBISWorld, nearly 60 percent of couples go over their budgets when getting married. Some do so at the risk of being in debt afterward.

"It can be easy to get carried away in wedding spending," shares Deirdre H., Michigan. "I went way over budget when getting my wedding gown and a few other components of my wedding. My husband and I struggled the first year of our marriage trying to fix our finances and battling a bad case of money-related stress."

Try to stick to a budget as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself not only on the wedding day, but also long after the honeymoon has ended.

Tip #4: Keep it in the family

Selecting members of your wedding party can be challenging because there may be so many special people in your lives right now that you want to honor. Choosing a best man and a maid/matron of honor is a large responsibility because these people stand out in the wedding. Although couples struggle with their choices and want to please everyone, your safest bet is to choose a family member.

"I ended up choosing my best friend over my sister as maid of honor," says Clara T., Arizona. "Although we were very close at the time, we've since grown apart due to work relocation. My sister and I, however, talk and hang out frequently. I regret not having asked my sister to be my maid of honor, considering hers is a friendship I know will last a long time."

Unless you don't have close family members or your relationship with your siblings or cousins is strained, choose a family member to serve as best man or maid of honor.

It is easy to be overwhelmed when planning a wedding, and couples can expect to be bombarded with advice. However, it could pay to heed the advice of couples who have already lived and learned from their wedding choices.

How to have a do-it-yourself wedding

Those thinking about tying the knot in the months to come may be discouraged by how expensive weddings can be. But with a little ingenuity and a hands-on approach, couples can have a wedding that is inexpensive and memorable at the same time.

According to, on average, U.S. couples spend $26,542 for their weddings. Weddingbells magazine states that the average cost for a wedding in Canada is $23,330, up from $20,129 in 2010. These amounts do not include the cost for an engagement ring or wedding bands. With such a high price tag, some couples may wonder if they can afford their dream wedding or if there are ways to cut costs. Having a backyard, DIY wedding can be the answer.

Although some may envision a backyard wedding with picnic benches and Dad at the grill, it can be a much classier affair than that. Smart couples are realizing that the money they would normally spend on a big wedding at an outside venue can be put to better use, either through buying a new home or fixing up one they may already own. Furthermore, for couples who are picky about details, having a DIY event ensures that they can control the details and have them as personal as they would like. Getting Started

A DIY wedding is one that will take much more work than simply hiring vendors and leaving the details to them. But the money saved with sweat equity can be substantial. A well-planned wedding is the best start.

Grab a notebook and start making lists of all the things you will need:

* location

* tables and chairs

* linens

* food

* silverware and glassware

* invitations

* photography

* music

* officiant

* music

* centerpieces and other decor

* cake or dessert

* lighting

* attire

* flowers Work in Advance

Many items necessary for a wedding can be bought in advance. Some couples find that purchasing low-cost items at discount stores turns out to be less expensive than renting. For example, inexpensive glasses and silverware can be bought at dollar stores or chains like Ikea. Later on these items can be kept, sold or even donated to shelters.

Tablecloths don't have to be the traditional kind. It may be less expensive to purchase pieces of fabric from a fabric store and dressing them up oneself. Candles can be stockpiled relatively easy and provide a very affordable means of ambient light. Plan out centerpiece ideas and figure out which components can be bought and stored. Then items can be assembled at leisure. Wedding stationery is one thing that will have to be bought well in advance so there will be time enough to printout save-the-dates, invitations and response cards, as well as mail them.

An informal wedding may mean couples can get simple attire. Buying off the rack may mean a smaller price tag for gowns. Gentleman may be able to fare with sportcoats and slacks. Purchase wardrobe essentials several months in advance to be sure there will be time for alterations, if necessary.

Enlist the help of family and friends to get many of the tasks completed. Upon asking, many couples find there are members of the family who have skills in certain areas, which can be tapped for the wedding. There may be a gourmet chef, a disc jockey, a photographer or even someone who can officiate the vows. Having these people on board means a great reduction in costs. Readying the Venue

Because couples will be doing the work themselves, it's best to start several days in advance of the wedding (weather permitting). Be sure the grounds are well groomed and landscaped. Ensure there are no tripping hazards and that there is a sturdy surface for placing tables or creating a dance floor.

It may pay to ask an electrician or someone who dabbles in electric work to help string some lights to better illuminate the area, especially for when the sun goes down.

Set up the tables and chairs to finalize placement the day before. Figure out where the ceremony will take place. A small arbor can mark the area and make a nice photo backdrop. Dress the tables with linens and settings the morning of the wedding.

One splurge couples may want to make is hiring a waitstaff to help set up food service areas, serve as bartenders and clear away dishes and other messes. This way the bride and groom can mingle with guests.

Other Tips and Tricks

Here are some other ways to save money on DIY weddings.

* Fruit is less expensive than flowers for centerpieces.

* Include postcard response cards in wedding invites. The postage is less, and you don't have to spend money on an extra envelope.

* Be sure to check with your town if you need a permit or variance for having so many cars parked by the house in the event of a backyard wedding. Otherwise you could be facing a fine.

* Many different foods can be cooked in advance and frozen instead of hiring a catering service.

* Consider favors that also double as table centerpieces.

* Bouquets can easily be made with store-bought flowers, some floral tape and decorative ribbon.

* Restrict the bar to wine and beer, and you'll save money on expensive liquors.

A DIY wedding can be a fun, memorable event that costs a couple a fraction of what it would be to have it held at an expensive location.

Helpful hints when choosing floral arrangements

Couples must make many decisions when planning their wedding, not the least of which is choosing floral arrangements.

Some couples have never had to make choices regarding floral arrangements, so it's understandable if they need some help before making a decision that will likely make a significant impact on the appearance of their weddings.

* Go with your own style. Couples should not feel pressured to go with a more traditional style if that's not something that suits them. Instead, choose a style that most appeals to you, be it neutral or bold colors, formal or more casual arrangements, and so on. Your style might also reveal a preference for something other than roses, which is perfectly alright. It's your wedding.

* Stay in-season when possible. When choosing a floral arrangement, it's important to consider when you'll be getting married and which flowers will be in-season. It's possible to find most floral varieties all year, but if you choose seasonal flowers, you'll likely pay less and such flowers will be more readily available and durable.

* Don't go it alone. The wedding day is going to be busy enough without brides and grooms having to worry about arranging the bouquets. A professional florist, ideally one who has come highly recommended, should be able to work within your budget and produce a visually stunning end product.

* Consider candles to save money. Many couples hope for a floral centerpiece at each table, but that can prove costly. If the floral budget is somewhat limited, supplement the centerpieces with candles to save some money. The centerpieces likely won't be as grandiose, but smaller floral arrangements coupled with candles can create a romantic feel.

* Stick to the budget. Couples will find it's very easy to go over budget quickly with regard to floral arrangements. But a good florist should be able to work within your budget and produce an arrangement that's visually impressive without costing a fortune.

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