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Tasteful weddings on a budget

Keeping things simple may be the best way to control the costs of a wedding.

By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

It's hard to know what the most important day in a newlywed couples early life is.

Is it the day they are married?

Or is it instead the day they get the bill for their wedding celebration?

Few people have enough money to afford their dream wedding, where a live orchestra plays all the perfect songs, a 10 foot high wedding cake with true representations of the couple top the icing and where revelers can eat the most expensive food they will ever have.

While some may have these dreams, and some can even afford them, they are not realistic. Even the most wealthy of couples should have a budget, a plan and not just pick a wedding day with all the options-all the time saying "forward and damn the cost."

For most people, especially young couples who are already living from payday to payday, any kind of extra expense is a burden. Often parents help or even pay for weddings. But in these days of tough economic times, parents are often just as strapped for the money as the kids.

So what is considered an expensive wedding? For some it might be $1000; for others it could be $50,000.

What is inexpensive is a complete different question however. For some $500 may seem like too much, but wedding costs add up fast.

On the other hand, putting aside dream weddings, no one wants to have a cheap wedding either.

So how can a couple come up with a wedding that is both affordable for them and yet gives the impression of some class?

It is all based on decisions about what a wedding should be.

The more wedding a person wants, the more it will cost. People need to make a decision on whether they would rather have a small wedding that they can afford and yet still have taste, or if they would want more people to come with less amenities.

The first thing to face is that weddings should be for the couple and no one else. Having to impress others should not be the impetus for a fancy wedding.

That being said, having a nice wedding comes down to some simple common sense decisions. Here are some ideas.

•The planning stage should have a time limit. In other words the more time a couple has to plan a wedding the more directions they will be pulled. Long engagements lend to this problem, but short engagements often end in divorce. Use common sense when getting engaged and make the day closer to the present than farther away. It will save money.

•How much should be spent on rings?

Some people live in apartments for years and years after they are married because the rings they purchased were too expensive for their budget. The main thing to remember is that a ring does not a vow make. Many couples choose simple rings in the beginning and a few years later replace them with more lavish rings when their life is more established and that kind of jewelry is more affordable.

This doesn't mean the rings are not important, because they are; but consider the costs carefully.

•What day to marry? Avoid the average day of the week for having a wedding. It seems most people want their receptions on a Friday or Saturday evening. Weekdays work well because while you may send out many invitations, everyone knows that is mostly so people know about the wedding, not for them to attend.

Sundays are also a good day, particularly Sunday afternoons. Weekday and Sunday wedding events often cost less to do too. All the people that one may hire for a wedding (photographers, caterers, event hall) often charge less for week nights and Sundays because they are generally less busy. Sunday drinking also keeps the bartenders bill at bay as well.

•When to marry? Well this isn't about what time of day, it's about the time of year. Spring and summer seem to be the preferred times to get married. So pick a winter or late fall month to tie the knot. Once again, as with day of the week, the costs will be lower and more negotiable because all the vendors a couple might higher are hungrier than they are in, for example, mid June.

•What about wedding favors? The couple should go to some weddings before they have one them self. They will notice that wedding favors are sometimes taken, but many are left behind. And most of those that are taken often go in the trash, at least eventually. Eliminate favors, unless someone else wants to pay for them.

•Where should we have it? Well the cheapest place is in mom and dad's back yard, except if you follow the advice in this story it might be a little cold doing that in January. First pick a venue that allows a lot of leeway such as doing your own decorating and allowing you to choose the caterer you want. While a one stop shop might be nice in a sense, if there is no chance for competition then there is bound to be a higher cost. Also in that way the couple can not only control the kind and quality of the food that is served, they can also control the service and the price.

•What about photography? Uncle Joe may have taken great photos at cousin Vinnie's birthday party last month, but it is best to get someone to take photos that has had some experience. In these days of digital cameras it seems almost everyone thinks they can take photos. It is true that some can, but in most cases one of 100 photos for amateurs turn out right. It is difficult to get 100 photos of the wedding cake being cut, so if Uncle Joe does it, count on the best one being off balance and blurry. Look at what people who are in the business have done and pick the one you like best. Other than what is in the couples mind, photos will be the only memory they have of the wedding; don't scrimp on this so that guests can eat shrimp instead of meat roll ups.

•Who should do the wedding cake? Aunt Mable (who is married to Uncle Joe) may make a great baked Alaska, but if she hasn't made a wedding cake, the couple to be married should not be her career builder. There is nothing wrong with having a private person do a wedding cake, but they should have done one (or hopefully more than one) before.

The problem with the cake is that people often don't realize what goes into one to make it special (and make it so it holds up throughout the reception and still tastes good). This is not a job for a Duncan Heinz specialist, but for someone who understands cake, how it should taste and how to decorate it with the appropriate flair.

Fewer decorations are better that too many that are cheap. If there is a theme to the cake make sure the fairy castle that is created on one of the layers looks like what is it supposed to be and not one from a Frankestein movie.

•What about decorations? The kind of place where a couple is having their wedding and reception will dictate the decorations and the budget.

One of the reasons an outside wedding in a beautiful chosen setting can be so beneficial is that decorations that have to be purchased or rented can be kept at a minimum. But regardless there are some things you can do to make any place beautiful, and it doesn't have to include cheap balloons and ribbon. First of all place a few tealights in glass holders on each table. Using flower petals on the tables to color them is a good idea especially if the flowers can be obtained from a source that is local.

Illusion is part of a wedding. Color and light are keys to making everything look great. But that doesn't mean anyone has to wire the place up like the Las Vegas Strip.

Simple, done well, can be very appealing and easy on the budget.

•What about the invitations? Some people spend humongous amounts of money on invitations that get thrown in the garbage at someones house as soon as they arrive in the mailbox. Many go up on the refrigerator only to be forgotten until there are too many and they also get thrown away.

Those who propose that people should have "green" weddings say that invitations should go out in email automatic reminders periodically the couple of weeks before the wedding. This, of course, is the least expensive way to invite people. However there are a lot of people, particularly older ones, that don't use email. Wedding email invitations may also be automatically dumped in someone's spam box and they may never see it. But it is an alternative.

The cost of a standard printed invitation is little when considering the entire cost of a wedding. But they also are like $5,000 wedding cakes; expensive ones do exist.

What really hurts in all this is the cost of postage. A good way to alleviate some of this cost is to pass out invitations in other ways. For instance, instead of mailing invitations to co-workers, just place them on their desks or in their workspace at the place of employment. For those a couple may want to invite from church pass invitations out on worship day.

In some cases couples have even sent out very simple invitations and then support them with exotic, well designed email invitations at a later date.

What about the bride and grooms attire, as well as the wedding parties?

Wedding attire can be a huge expense; a new wedding dress for the bride, special dresses for her maids and tuxedos for all the guys can add up. The question the bride and groom need to ask themselves is what they want to spend their money on.

There are a lot of wedding dress ideas that can be affordable. First a dress that has been used in the family before can be an option; however it usually needs to be altered to fit the bride.

The groom should also look special and that usually means a tux for at least him; but the couple needs to determine whether all the men need tuxedos or if they can dress in nice suits many of them already own.

It always seems that matching dresses for bridesmaids seem more important than the male attire. But rather than having special dresses made for everyone, can some off the rack dresses that accommodate the party be purchased instead?

The point is that in 40 years when the couples kids are looking at their wedding pictures, will they care that every man was in the perfect tuxedo and every maid was dressed exactly the same? Probably not.

The key to everything is about the couple and what they want and what is affordable for them.




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