Financial Literacy for Everyone

How to Plan a Cost-Conscious Wedding

Wedding season is upon us, which means American brides and grooms to be–and their families–are shelling out thousands of dollars for caterers, venues, bridal dresses and more. In fact, the average wedding in America costs $24,066 according to a 2010 survey by The Wedding Report. Whether you and your family don't have that kind of money to spend or you'd rather invest in your future than in the big day, here are 15 ideas for cutting back costs while ensuring a memorable event.

1. Set a budget. Talk to your spouse-to-be and both of your families and determine exactly how much you have to spend on your wedding; then break down your costs by category.

2. Know your priorities. Sit down with your partner and ask yourselves what is most important to you. This can help you determine where you'd like to spend the largest percentage of your budget.

3. Do your research. Instead of taking prices at face value, comparison shop, ask for deals and look online to determine the best prices available.

4. Avoid a Saturday or summer wedding. Consider a non-Saturday wedding in a month other than June, July or August for significant savings across the board.

5. Keep the guest list short. The more guests you have, the more expensive the event will be.

6. Ask for a deal. Work with the vendors you're considering to come up with a budget-conscious plan. Many will help you determine small ways they can help you cut back on expenses.

7. Do it yourself or enlist friends to help. Anything you can do yourself is likely to save you big–and add a personal touch. Consider making your own wedding favors, wedding party gifts, table décor or seating cards.

8. Send online or self-made invitations. With a computer, printer and the right software, you can make elegant invitations, RSVP cards and "save the date" cards on your own.

9. Choose a cost-conscious venue. Beach and small-town weddings are often more affordable than weddings in larger cities. For receptions, consider the banquet area of a large restaurant, or your own home.

10. Calling all bakers. Ask a friend or family member to bake some simple, yet elegant one-tiered cakes. You can also order non-event-specific cakes from your favorite bakery and decorate them yourself.

11. Ditch these items. In most cases, limousines, champagne flutes, expensive bridal shoes and a fancy "get-away" outfit just aren't worth the expense.

12. Don't overspend on the bridal gown. If a hand-me-down from a relative isn't an option, shop sample sales and the Internet for affordable options.

13. Save on flowers. Stick to just a few in-season varieties of flowers and shop wholesalers or farmers' markets for great deals. Non-floral items like lanterns are another excellent option.

14. Appetizers are it. Consider serving drinks and appetizers instead of the main course. In many cases, you can also work with your venue to bundle food and venue rental costs for overall savings.

15. Think fewer drinks. If you plan to serve alcohol at your wedding, opt for beer, wine and a signature cocktail instead of a full bar.

Although it's easy to go overboard on weddings, big splurges don't necessarily make for a more memorable day. To get started with your wedding budget, try using this Entertainment Planning calculator. For tips on financial topics to tackle before the big day, check out our section, Getting Married.

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