Frugal is Beautiful:Tips for Weddings on a Budget

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Your wedding is one of the most important events in your life – but it certainly doesn’t have to be the most expensive. These days, the average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,656. If that number induces more stress than the thought of holidays with your future in-laws, don’t fret: you don’t have to pay anywhere near that amount to have a beautiful ceremony and reception. If you budget wisely, you can make a frugal wedding a truly memorable event. Here are 7 tips for weddings on a budget.

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Start comparison shopping. Create a chart to make comparing features and prices offered by the various venues easier. For example, one company might not include the cake while another may skip the linens. Keep track of all the candidates and choose the one who offers your favorite amenities for a price that most closely matches your budget. (Of course, there’s something to be said for choosing a company or person who makes you comfortable and understands your needs – even if they’re not the least expensive option, they’ll save you stress and time in the long run!)

Most places will offer different levels of packages for your event,” explains Brandon Walker, the event manager at of Oklahoma event center Credit Union House. “The trick is to ask a representative to show you all of the available packages – then weigh those against other companies’ offerings.”

Travel to an inexpensive but scenic location. Weddings are generally less expensive in rural areas as compared to urban ones. And while you might think of a destination wedding as a huge economic burden, you’ll probably end up with a smaller guest list – so the overall cost will be lower than if you held the ceremony in your hometown. Go far enough away that only the most devoted loved ones (and your most well-off friends!) will attend. You may want to invite everyone from your co-workers to the mailman, but paying for a small wedding party is infinitely cheaper – even if you have to invest in travel arrangements.

Go public. Many beautiful parks and other public spaces allow weddings and other events for a small fee. Look into aquariums, zoos, galleries and historic sites, as these locations come already equipped with a distinctive ambiance and theme. Most will not include tables, chairs or other necessities, so you will need to make room in the budget for rentals. Contact your local school, church, or community organizations to find out if you can rent tables and chairs – or even borrow them free of charge.

Another option is to have the ceremony outside or in a public space and bring the reception to a local event center,” says Walker. “That way, you have a designated place to celebrate and dance, but you cut the considerable cost of the chapel – which you’re only using for a short ceremony and pictures, after all.” 

Time it right. Hold your wedding in the afternoon or on a weekday. Saturday weddings and receptions usually cost more, as do evening ceremonies. January weddings are generally less expensive than are those in June. Determine the off-season for weddings in whatever location you plan to hold the ceremony; your overall costs will be cheaper, from location rentals to catering, during the slow season.

Rent a vacation home. Instead of renting out an event center on your destination wedding, why not do some of the hosting yourself? Hold the wedding and reception in this one place to save on multiple site fees. Rent a home with a nice garden or yard for the ceremony and hold the reception in the dining room. Reduce catering costs by preparing some of the food yourself in the kitchen. The bride, groom, and guests can stay overnight before and after the wedding. If you really like the location, you can save even more money by using the same vacation home for your honeymoon. You’ll probably be able to find a great rate on a two-week stay in a rental vacation home.

Hold a dry reception. For some people, the bar is the one of the highlights of the wedding – don’t cut it out if it’s important to you and your guests! But if your group doesn’t tend to drink much, opt for a champagne toast and an alcohol-free reception. You’ll save roughly $20 per person! If you have sober folks in the wedding party, skip the champagne as well. Serve gourmet coffee or even mocktails instead. Alcohol is much more expensive than plenty of other drinks, especially if you have to hire a bartender – but anyone can serve coffee. Also, dry receptions usually don’t last as long as those serving booze.

If you can’t dream of a wedding without a bit of booze, choose your alcohol wisely. Instead of a full bar, serve beer, red and white wine, and a signature cocktail that matches the theme of your wedding. Purchase wine and beer from local wineries and microbreweries to add a local touch while keeping expenses down. Eliminate shots and mixed drinks that use bottled liquor to keep tab prices under control. Make sure venues are not charging you extra fees, such as corking fees, if you are stocking your own bar.

Opt for a DJ instead of live musicyou can get one of your playlist-happy friends to do the job. If you do decide to go with live music, hire musicians from your local high school or college. (Be sure to listen to them first!) Save on your wedding and put that money towards your beautiful life together – the investment is so very well worth it.

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