Eight Ways to Plan a Wedding on a Budget
And not have it look like you were trying to save a buck.
Your Money’s Worth
Eight products and services for a budget wedding.
Here Comes the Stress (and There It Goes)
A local professor calms prenuptial jitters with her Stressless Bride CD.
By Leah Ingram
Bridal experts will tell you that most weddings hover in the $30,000 range. But in this down economy, budget-minded couples are looking to get the most out of their big day for less. A recent David’s Bridal survey showed that one third of all brides polled plan to spend no more than $10,000 on their weddings. How can you eke out an affair to remember without shouldering a debt that haunts you forever? Here are eight suggestions.
1. Try consignment stores for your bridal attire. Frugalistas everywhere know that some of the best clothing bargains can be found in thrift and consignment stores. It’s no different with wedding attire, where you can spend maybe a few hundred bucks—instead of a couple of thousand—on a dress you’ll wear for just a few hours.
Originally, 27-year-old Haverford realtor Christina Carroll planned to spend $2,000 at a bridal salon for the ensemble she’ll wear to her September wedding. But by going the consignment route, she found a fabulous gown and veil for $842 at Sabrina Ann Once Worn & Never Worn in Ardmore (24 Ardmore Ave., 610-642-6228, sabrinaann.com).
2. Book a restaurant for your reception. With more people staying home rather than eating out, restaurants are likely to negotiate a great deal for your wedding reception. It’s either that, or their tables might sit empty.
“For a day wedding on Saturday or Sunday for up to 65, you can spend $1,000 and have a run of the place,” says Christine Olmsted, events coordinator for Win Signature Restaurants (winsignaturerestaurants.com), which owns Flavor in Wayne and other Main Line eateries.
What’s another great way to save money on your reception? Serve hors d’oeuvres and finger food instead of a sit-down meal. Talk about a no-brainer.
3. Be your own bartender or spirits provider. You can save when you arrange a BYO reception, supplying the alcohol for their event. That way, you reduce the cost of stocking the bar and avoid the exorbitant fees some locations charge (think $35 per bottle) for opening and pouring wine.
Think about simplifying liquor choices to keep the bar tab in check. Rather than an open bar, serve popular mixed drinks that share ingredients—like gin and tonic, vodka tonic, Bloody Marys and screwdrivers. With the meal, provide a bottle each of red and white at the table only; that should satisfy most guests.
4. Fake a cake. You can rent one (some bakeries will provide them for $100) so you have something that looks good for cake-cutting pictures. What you actually serve your guests for dessert is quite different—and a heck of a lot cheaper. For about $40, you can get a regular sheet cake from your local supermarket or warehouse club that serves 60.
5. Think outside the vase with centerpieces. Cluster bowls of fruit or candy, arrange candles, or do just about anything that doesn’t involve fresh flowers, and you’ll have great-looking tables for cheap. Beka Rendell of Innove Events & Paper (930 Clover Hill Road, 215-825-7610, innoveevents.com) in Wynnewood loves the idea of harvest produce as centerpieces for a fall wedding. Then you can give it away to guests so none of it goes to waste.
Haverford’s Carroll found $1 cloth “market” bags on Etsy.com to give her guests as favors. “Then, at the end of the night, people can go produce shopping and fill their bags,” she says of the organic fruit that will comprise her table centerpieces.
6. Save on hair and makeup for you and your bridal party by avoiding a big to-do about updos. There’s no need to book an expensive salon for your wedding-day hair. Instead, make an appointment at a beauty school, where many folks at pricey salons got their start. Empire Beauty School (454 W. Lincoln Highway, 610-594-6181, empire.edu) in Exton offers wedding hair and makeup packages starting at an unheard-of $60.
Save even more by avoiding having a hair and makeup person hanging around throughout the wedding, just in case your curls fall flat. Arm your maids with hair spray, bobby pins and pressed powder (picked up at a dollar store), and make them responsible for their own touch-ups.
7. If you must have flowers, buy locally grown and/or in-season. If you’re not shipping in roses from Texas or birds of paradise from Hawaii, you’re not paying through the nose for your blooms. “Pennsylvania is such an amazing ‘buy local’ state,” says Rendell.
Visit the Local Harvest website (localharvest.org) to find farms and nurseries near the Main Line.
8. Get creative with your music choices. If you don’t plan to have traditional dancing, do the DIY thing with an iPod or MP3 player. Or create a more economical orchestra-like sound with a DJ and a few band members.
By Leah Ingram
Photo albums for less. You can get a professional-looking photo album at CVS (cvs.com) that looks like you ordered it from a wedding photographer—and spent a ton in the process. A 10-page book holds up to 72 digital photos and sets you back as little as $14.99. Best of all, you needn’t wait weeks: Photos are printed in a matter of minutes at the in-store photo center.
Don’t go overboard on teeth whitening. You can get a whiter smile for your wedding without spending hundreds for a professional whitening. The folks behind the Oral-B Pulsonic toothbrush ($69.99, oralb.com) did a study that showed their product, when used with regular toothpaste for twice-a-day brushings, reduced surface stains on teeth by 94 percent. That would give any bride (or groom) something to smile about.
Get cash back on wedding purchases. If you decide to save money by shopping for your wedding and honeymoon online, consider doing it through eBates.com. The site gives you cash back when you visit its online partners by clicking through the eBates portal first. Book a honeymoon on CheapCaribbean.com, and eBates will give you 2 percent back. So if you end up spending $1,200 per person on a travel package, you’ll get $48. That’s more than enough for a couple of drinks at the resort.
Cake-topper on the cheap. Don’t bust your budget having a florist decorate your cake with expensive blooms. Invest in a Cake Vase, a clear plate with tiny holes in it that fits over the top of the cake and allows you to arrange flowers like a pro while keeping the greenery safely away from the icing. Kits come in sets of three and cost less than $20 on Amazon.com.
Play tourist in Philadelphia. Rather than shelling out for a pricey private tour of Philadelphia’s hot spots, treat your guests to a Philadelphia City Pass (citypass.com): $58 covers admission to six of the city’s hottest cultural attractions, including the Franklin Institute, the National Constitution Center and the Academy of Natural Sciences. Purchased individually, they’d cost well over $100. Each pass is good for nine days.
DIY wedding music. MyWeddingMusic.com is a free service that suggests various song choices for the ceremony and reception; you can purchase a three-CD kit with 44 songs for $29.98. Or, if you own a Microsoft Zune MP3 player, spend $14.99 on a one-month Zune Pass (zune.net), and download all the songs you need for your wedding playlist.
Carry it on. Many couples are turning to destination weddings as a way to save money, but no bride wants her dress to end up as lost luggage. Instead, she can pack her gown in the Destination Wedding Kit ($49.95, getmarried.com), a suitcase-like, acid-free container that fits into the overhead compartment of most planes. The kit comes with 56 sheets of protective acid-free paper, and it doubles as a storage container after the big day.
Online invitations. Your guests will never know that you didn’t pay a lot for wedding invites from VistaPrint (vistaprint.com). The company is best known for its free business cards, but it has expanded its services to include printed materials for special occasions. How does 100 wedding invitations for $40 sound? For a bit more per invitation, order gorgeous invitation sets online via Pingg.com. They’ll even mail them out for you.
Local wedding expert Leah Ingram’s new book, Suddenly Frugal (Adams Media), is due out in December. Visit her blog at suddenlyfrugal.wordpress.com.
By Tara Behan
The happiest of times can also be one of the most stressful. Planning a wedding involves a seemingly endless array of decisions, which all come with varying levels of anxiety. Dr. Miriam Franco, a psychologist and sociology professor at Immaculata University, has devised a way to help brides focus and relax by listening to her 20-minute CD, The Stressless Bride (imagerywork.com). Sound too good to be true? You decide.
MLT: What is relaxation and guided imagery?
Franco: They’re gentle yet powerful mind-body techniques that allow people to learn how to become deeply relaxed and practice positive and less stressful ways of coping and adapting to challenging emotional, physical or developmental experiences. It’s a user-friendly method that can be practiced almost anywhere—except while driving.
MLT: What are the techniques like?
Franco: People are taught how to lower tension in their bodies quickly while practicing diaphragmatic breathing. You’re then guided to imagine a safe place or an ideal place of relaxation with any of your senses, then a deep state of relaxation is evoked quickly, accompanied by increased blood flow, lowering of blood pressure, and a reduction of muscle tension, fatigue and body aches. When sensory images— like lying on your favorite beach—are evoked in this relaxed state, the body doesn’t discriminate from the real event or image. All the healing, soothing, restorative and renewing properties of being at the beach are reverberating in the body. When taught how to expand these abilities and apply them to stressful situations and reactions, you have a powerful tool that increases positive coping and the ability to manage a challenging experience with less reactivity, improved presence and focus.
MLT: Where did the idea for The Stressless Bride originate?
Franco: As a psychologist and social worker, I’m well aware of the stress individuals and families can experience when undergoing major life events and transitions. One of the essential components of change is stress, whether good stress or bad stress. At Immaculata, I teach a popular weekend course on stress reduction and guided imagery each semester. Several brides happened to be in one of the courses, and they asked me if I would design a specific script to help them sustain clarity of focus amidst all the pressure and busyness of the engagement.
MLT: Why focus solely on the bride?
Franco: Brides-to-be assume many of the roles, tasks and responsibilities of the wedding. Many are working full time while trying to manage the details of wedding planning. It’s no wonder that many modern brides express stress and worry beyond wedding-day jitters.
MLT: What’s been the response to the CD so far?
Franco: Brides-to-be have really loved it, saying that it’s just the right amount of time to relax and take care of themselves. They enjoy practicing the experiences they want to imagine as a bride, which helps them de-stress. I’m even considering doing other CDs for mothers of the bride and maids of honor.