Tag Archives: Budget Features

Secret Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding Vendors

Elaine Stewart

Browse budget advice by category: 

► Stationery
► Entertainment
► Catering
► Flowers and Décor
► Wedding Cake

Your Venue

Elegant options abound but costs vary significantly, so take this expert advice into account before you start scouting locations.

bride looking out the window

Getting More For Your Money
The venues that offer the best value are dedicated event spaces, like hotels and banquet halls (generally speaking, sites with prescribed wedding packages). This is because many services you would otherwise need to hire come included, and bundling them together makes your dollar go farther. When shopping around for a venue, "The number one thing is to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples,” says planner Claudia Hanlin of NYC’s The Wedding Library. "Bringing-in always costs more because you have pick-up and delivery charges for every single thing." Many brides make the mistake of thinking an outdoor wedding at a family member’s home will result in a big savings. There’s no site fee, but the cost of transforming a backyard into a full-service reception space (tents, lighting, dance floor, portable toilets) can exceed even the most lavish pre-set package.

Paying Less For Places
Another way to save, says Hanlin, is by holding your ceremony, cocktail hour and reception in the same venue — such as a church or synagogue with an attached hall, or a restaurant with multiple party rooms. The cost of a few extra hours on property is considerably less than renting an entirely separate space, and you won’t have to pay to transport guests between locales. Religious and charitable organizations tend to rent for nominal fees, as do government-run sites like cultural institutions and state parks. Plus, what you do pay to rent these places benefits the community. Parks, in particular, can be great bargains, considering they often include scenic backdrops.

Naturally picturesque locales don’t need much adornment, which reduces your decor budget. The key is working with what you’ve got: "In California there are a lot of missions that rent for very little," says Sasha Souza, the Napa-based event designer, "and they often already have benches in place so you save on furnishings." Similarly, if your site features a stone patio, consider using that as the dance floor rather than renting one.

Pro Tip: At first glance, the fee for renting an empty loft may seem like a steal compared to a ballroom. But as soon as you factor in all the vendors (caterer, servers, bartenders) and rentals (tables, chairs, china, glassware, linens), you’ll see the price tag go way, way up.

Next: Stationery ►


There's so much info to share with your guests before and on your big day. But all those printed pieces add up. Here’s how to get pretty paperie without paying a pretty penny.


Comparing Print Prices 
A significant factor in stationery costs is your choice of printing method. At the most expensive end are engraving and letterpress techniques, where the script is artfully raised off the page. If you like this formal feel but don’t want to pay top dollar, consider thermography — it's much less costly. Offset printing comes next on the price scale, while digital printing is very economical — especially for incorporating multiple colors. Because offset and digital printing are cheaper to produce, stationers recommend using them for all your day-of needs, like ceremony programs, escort or place cards and menus. "These pieces are often left behind at the end of the night," says Karen bartolomei, founder of grapevine design studio in boston. "Splurge on the items that will be delivered to your guests’ homes."

Saving by Consolidating
The more elements there are in a wedding invitation, the higher the price. One insert that’s easy to eliminate is the reception card. "If you’re getting married in a church and having your reception at a loft, print 'Dinner and dancing to follow at tribeca rooftop' on the invite itself," says Cheree Berry of Cheree Berry Paper in St. Louis, MO.

Rather than printing and sending out a veritable booklet of guest logistics in early mailings, stationers now recommend putting travel and lodging details on your wedding website and printing the URL on your save-the-date cards. Day-of items can be scaled back, too. Rather than calligraphed escort cards, print names and table assignments in a nice font on fine paper and display them in frames, or write them on a chalkboard.

Next: Entertainment ►


From the melody that plays as you walk down the aisle to the band or DJ that gets guests out on the dance floor, memorable music is a must. Follow these tips to save on the soundtrack to your soirée.

bride and groom first dancePaying Less For Live Acts
Musicians are almost always more expensive than DJs, so hiring instrumentalists to perform at your ceremony and cocktail hour, plus a band as the main act, will cost top dollar. But cash-strapped couples don’t necessarily have to forfeit live entertainment. If you’re having a religious service, check your venue contract before booking anyone, says Deanna Jones, of NYC’s The Deanna Jones Orchestra. "Often you are already paying for a musician at your church or synagogue and just don’t know it."

If that’s not the case, look into nearby civic organizations and music conservatories. "In some areas, you can book an excellent jazz group or classical trio from a community theater or symphony for a donation or nominal fee," Jones says, and pre-professional students may charge even less. For reception music leads, explore your city’s nightlife scene. A group that performs in local bars or clubs tends to be more cost-effective than a traditional wedding band. As with venues, you may get a bargain rate by holding your wedding on a weekday or a weekend in slow season. Saturday events incur the most competition for services, so they yield the highest price tags.

Thinking Outside the Band 
DJs typically cost less than bands, and some couples prefer them because of the greater variety of songs they can play and the fact that they don’t take breaks. Although iPods let individuals create a playlist and "spin" their own tunes, DJs double as emcees — introducing the bridal party and announcing special dances and toasts. They also provide and hook up speakers, which you may have to rent unless your venue has a built-in sound source.

Lastly, don’t overlook talented friends and family members. Asking your choir-star cousin to sing a hymn at your service or some college buddies in a cover band to play your first dance track adds the excitement of a live performance for free.

Pro Tip: When it comes to booking a band for your reception, size matters. A five-member group will almost always cost less than a nine-piece orchestra (not to mention individual tips and the number of mouths you will have to feed). 

Next: Catering ►


Refreshments are an important part of every party, but feeding all your friends and family can eat up a good chunk of your wedding change. Here’s how to get more bite for your buck.

wedding food

Planning Frugal Fare  
You can reduce almost every wedding expense by editing your guest list, but nowhere does that tactic have more impact than in catering costs. Think about it: Food and drink may run hundreds of dollars per head, meaning that 10 or 20 fewer chairs will result in significant savings. If you can’t get your numbers down, buffets may come in as a budget-friendly option because you don’t have to pay for waiters; however, it’s important to serve less expensive fare that can be easily prepared in bulk.

If you prefer sit-down service, request that guests make their dinner choice in advance. "Taking an order at the table means the kitchen has to have eighty percent of every option available, which costs a lot more," says Seattle-based caterer Lisa Dupar. She recommends including an entrée selection line or insert with your invitations so the chef can plan ahead. Also, giving guests fewer choices to begin with (filet mignon or wild mushroom risotto, for example, instead of a meat, fish and vegetarian dish), or the same sides with each alternative, is less work for the cooks.

Barely noticeable omissions or substitutions can have a profound effect on your final bill, too, says Brian Kiefer, a senior sales consultant at the Chicago-based caterer Food for Thought. "If you’re serving a beautiful salad with seasonal veggies and simply leave off the cheese, you’ll save one dollar per person," he says. Whipped potatoes cost less than fingerlings but make an equally fine side. And if you must have a fancy food like lobster on your menu, offer a small portion as an appetizer rather than an entrée. 

Nixing Excess Expenses
If your catering budget is tight, don’t fall into the common trap of overestimating how much your guests will consume. Do you really need assorted passed hors d’oeuvres, a made-to-order sushi station and a mammoth crudité platter at your cocktail hour? "Pick one hearty, filling display — like a local artisan cheese table with fruits, breads and crackers — and have that be it!" says Dupar.

Another way to cut back is by shortening the event. "Costs are driven by length of time, so stick to an hour or less for cocktails," says Kiefer — noting that, on average, people consume one canapé every ten minutes—and consider trimming an hour off the reception. For even deeper savings, skip dinner altogether, and opt for a brunch, afternoon tea and dessert, or late-night cocktail reception. If you stay flexible and open to new ideas, you'll find lots of creative approaches to throwing a great party that will also save money.

Pro Tip: Don’t get talked into splurging on top-shelf liquors. Go with one or two signature drinks in addition to red and white wine and two types of brews. And if the drinks are passed on trays as guests enter the room, most won’t even realize the bar has been scaled back.

Next: Flowers and Décor 

Flowers and Décor

Nothing says "wedding" like bountiful blossoms — but bouquets, centerpieces and other floral arrangements can make your budget grow out of control. Here’s how to nip overspending in the bud.


Choosing the Blooms 
Flowers can be as dramatically different in price as they are in appearance. The best way to get more for your money is by selecting seasonal blooms that can be purchased locally rather than shipped in. As soon as you set your date and location, ask your florist to suggest flowers that will be available in that place and time of year. You can also save by using a less expensive flower en masse. It makes a striking statement but requires less effort for your florist than arranging multiple blooms, says Hanlin.

Alternatively, by using cheaper blooms like carnations at the base of your arrangements, you can get away with fewer, more prominently placed pricey blossoms. Chicago-based event designer Marina Birch boosts centerpieces with inexpensive greenery, like ferns and ivy. "Any kind of leafy filler adds a lush, organic touch and volume, so arrangements don’t appear skimpy," she says. For ceremony decor, Souza counsels couples marrying in a large church to skip the flowers because they’ll be overwhelmed by the space; just place wreaths on the entry doors.

Non-Floral Looks

Souza loves using hardy perennials like succulents and chicks-and-hens plants in reception displays instead of fussy, fragile blooms; they aren’t pricey and can be replanted and enjoyed long after the event. Branches, topiaries and tree-trunk slices make great nonfloral centerpiece elements, too, while embellishing with fruits and vegetables adds texture for far less than a flowers-only arrangement.

Purchasing decorative items like candelabra or vintage vessels is often cheaper than renting them, says Hanlin, and you can always sell them after the wedding. If your floral budget is really limited, stick to adorning the center of the room (no one will notice if the perimeter is a bit sparse) and find other ways to spruce up the table and chairs. Many venues offer basic linens in an array of shades besides white, and a profusion of one color looks purposeful rather than penny-pinching. Similarly, standard ballroom seats can be dressed up by tying ribbon into bows on the backs.

Pro Tip: "One trick I love is going with the house china but adding colored napkins and wine goblets from a rental company," says Hanlin. "It looks as if you’ve done a custom table, but you haven't."

Next: Wedding Cake ►

Wedding Cake

A decadent confection makes a fitting grand finale, but that fancy finish may not come cheap. Here's how to sweeten your deal and score a cost-conscious cake.

wedding cake

Impressing For Less
Some brides are surprised to learn how expensive wedding cakes run. But they have to look as good as they taste, and that takes effort. "The cake is a dessert, but it also plays a decorative role in the reception — similar to the flowers," says pastry chef Cheryl Kleinman of Betty Bakery in Brooklyn, NY. When a couple’s eyes are bigger than their budget, a baker might suggest preparing a "fake" cake, made of iced tiers of cardboard or foam except for the tier that’s sliced during the cake-cutting ceremony. The guests are then served pieces of an inexpensive cake that’s cut in the kitchen.

Alternatively, you can have a diminutive but dramatic cake that serves 35 presented on a pedestal stand on the escort card table; this way guests notice it when getting their seat assignments but later eat slices of an unseen sheet cake.

Scaling Back on Sugar
Although cakes are priced by the slice, it’s not likely that every single person will indulge — so you can usually get away with ordering a confection that feeds just 75 percent of attendees. Square cakes yield more slices than round ones, and rich flavors like chocolate make people full faster, meaning you can order less and cut thinner slices.

To further cut costs, have your cake divided into very small pieces to be passed on trays during the dancing; this way, you may only need to budget for 25 percent of the guest count. Finally, while it's fun to work with a pastry chef, it isn't absolutely necessary. If your venue has an in-house caterer, consider booking their baker to save on delivery fees. And consider offering a number of single layer cakes in a variety of flavors displayed on a collection of pretty cake stands.

The Tough Money Talks You Must Have Before Marriage

Holly Kylen

pink walletDon't Dodge the Debt

Make sure all the financial skeletons come out of the closet before the big day — discuss school loans, credit card debts and other prior obligations (child support or private loans). As uncomfortable as this topic might seem, you don’t want any unexpected surprises when it comes to debt obligations. Your debt — and your partner’s — impacts not just your collective bottom line, but also your ability to jointly make financial com- mitments, like buying a first home.

Take Financial Inventory

Now is the time to have a heart-to-heart with your future spouse about his financial past, present and future. Talk about retirement and other savings, whether you have wills that need to be updated and work benefits such as retirement accounts, health and life insurance and disability benefits. Explore whether you can save money by going on each other’s health insurance after marriage and consider whether you may need disability insurance to protect your paycheck if one of you becomes disabled and can’t work. Also ensure you are both contributing enough to your workplace retirement plans to take advantage of the employer match.

Play Detective

Take notice of whether your future spouse spends money frivolously, frugally or somewhere in between. Dinners out, expensive vacations and buying the latest “it” item can reveal a careless approach to money. On the other hand, your partner might be frugal, ordering the cheapest item on the menu or splitting the bills down to the penny. Turn the microscope on yourself as well to identify your money personality. Tuning into these clues can help you set realistic expectations for yourself and your partner.

Create a Support Network

Your financial inventory should also include financial professionals who can support you as a couple in working toward achieving your financial and retirement goals. If you already work with an accountant, attorney and/or financial advisor, make sure your partner also establishes a relationship with them — and vice versa. If neither you nor your spouse has ever consulted with a financial advisor, now is the perfect time to find one together.

Look Ahead to the Retirement Horizon

Growing old might seem like it is years away, but planning for retirement doesn’t happen overnight. If you and your fiancé are already saving for retirement through an employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA), you are off to a great start. If not, you may want to consider getting started saving for retirement and set up automatic deductions from your checking account or paycheck directly into a retirement account. This is also an opportunity to talk about your collective budget and make sure retirement savings is a shared priority.

Think About 'Til Death Do Us Part

It may be in the marriage vows, but “death” is not something any bride wants to consider before marriage. That said, marriage is a major event that entails joining you for life with someone else. Protect each other through life insurance and update your beneficiary information on financial and retirement accounts.

Establish Your Roles

You don’t have to figure this out right away, but start to talk about how the two of you are going to divide household finances. Perhaps you pay the monthly bills and day-to-day expenses, while your spouse handles the insurance and retirement savings, or vice versa. Figure out each other’s strengths and natural abilities and play to those in how you divide up the financial responsibilities. 

Be Each Other's Biggest Cheerleader

Make sure you are each other’s biggest support when it comes to making financial decisions. Confide in each other and offer constructive advice. If the financial inventory uncovers debts or other financial challenges, figure out how to tackle the issues together as a team. Don’t forget to celebrate your successes, too. Promotions, raises and reaching financial and retirement goals are milestones that deserve recognition.

Holly Kylen is an ING Retirement Coach and financial advisor at ING Financial Partners, where she developed a Retirement Planning for Women seminar. She also serves on ING’s Women’s Advisory Network Board.

Wedding Costs: Where Does All the Money Go?

Daniel P. Smith

wedding limo
Photo Credit: AveryHouse

Budget Breakdown in the Northeast

The Venue: 11%
Looking to capture the city’s picturesque skyline and customize a blank palette, Sojourner Auguste, executive director of New York City-based Erganic Design, says many local couples turn to New York City’s "raw" venues, namely loft spaces, to host their wedding, directing additional capital to the necessary lighting, décor and other rentals. While raw spaces — be they urban lofts or vast country barns — possess a compelling energy, Auguste suggests couples on a tight budget consider a fully furnished space that already claims the style and character they envision for their wedding day. Check out wedding inspiration for an urban affair here ►

wedding ceremony
Photo Credit: Bethalée Photography

Food and Beverage: 55%
Auguste finds many caterers are willing to customize packages at or near a couple’s budget. Her money saving tip: "Beware of too many specialized cocktail hour and dessert stations, which increase staffing and rental costs."

Photography and Video: 14%
Auguste advises brides to map out a timeline of the day they can then share with the photographer and videographer. "From that timeline, you can then determine the moments you want captured and discern how long you need the photographer and videographer on site."

Entertainment: 5%
Rather than booking live musicians for the ceremony and cocktail hour, Auguste urges brides to limit live music to the reception and to add an extra hour or two to the DJ’s contract to cover those segments. "In many cases, you can negotiate a discounted rate for the DJ’s additional time."

Rentals: 9%
Rental fees can add up quickly. Auguste’s budget-friendly tip: "Make sure you see exactly and only what you need from the caterer, so you don’t have to pay for extra utensils or glassware that won’t be used." Check out our ultimate guide to wedding rentals here ►

Flowers: 6%
"Think beyond flowers," Auguste says, and ask florists about "fillers" that will lower costs without sacrificing beauty. "Many florists provide candlelight or centerpiece décor items that will match your theme at a more cost-effective price point."

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the South 

Budget Breakdown in the South

The Venue: 13%
A number of Southern brides turn to distinctive landmarks, such as historic homes or museums, as their wedding venue. By booking in off-peak months — generally, January, February, July and August — Tara Skinner, co-owner of Savannah, GA-based Posh Petals and Pearls, says brides might secure the venue of their dreams on a slimmer budget.

southern wedding
Photo Credit: Kim Graham Photography

Food and Beverage: 33% 
Skinner advises couples to monitor the rental costs required to outfit special locations like mansions and museums. In some (but not all) cases, an all-inclusive, hotel-based reception might be the more economical move. "Do your homework to find out which option is best for you and your budget," Skinner says, adding that, regardless of one’s venue, Southern couples can’t forget to account for another local tradition — the groom’s cake — in their food and beverage budget. Browse 40 amazing grooms' cakes ►

Photography and Video: 16%
Many photographers and videographers offer packages providing complete files of images or raw footage. While that option might intrigue couples with a creative bent, Skinner urges brides to be realistic. "If you choose a disc of images over a finished wedding album, you will save money initially, but will you actually see your DIY album or video project through?"

Entertainment: 9% 
Though many couples view entertainment as the place where they can trim the budget, Skinner advises her clients to consider the entertainer’s talent and service alongside the cost. "It’s essential to have an entertainer who understands a wedding’s flow and tone as well as one who can emcee the celebration with poise and professionalism."

Rentals: 17%
Some of the most unique Southern venues are blank canvases requiring rental of both specialty and basic items, including linens. If you find must-have (but pricey) linens, Skinner suggests using them only on high-visibility areas, such as the cake table.

Flowers: 12% 
Skinner’s tip: "Consider repurposing your bridesmaids’ bouquets for later use at the reception. It’s a great way to save money without sacrificing style." Check out more clever wedding tricks to simplify your life ►

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Midwest ►

Budget Breakdown in the Midwest 

The Venue: 10%
With a short window to accommodate outdoor weddings, most Midwest brides take the show indoors to places like historic hotels, country clubs or loft spaces that once hummed with machinery. When searching for a venue, Lauren Housley, owner of Chicago-based Ryan Alexander Events, says you shouldn’t neglect key details, such as lighting. "The more natural light a venue has, the better it is for pictures."

bride and groom
Photo Credit: Jai Girard Photography

Food and Beverage: 46% 
Housley calls food an oft-overlooked way to add personalization. "You can work with your caterer to recreate signature family dishes or to create twists on famed Chicago dishes, such as an Italian beef pizza with a giardiniera topping."

Photography and Video: 12%
Creating a detailed shot list is critical. Not only to ensure you get the photos you want, but also to streamline the photographer’s work and make efficient use of his or her time — and yours. (Why pay extra fees if the shots you want are already taken?) Browse 75 must-have photos with your groom ►

Entertainment: 15% 
While many guests love hearing the classics at weddings, you can add a touch of distinctiveness to your day by asking the band or DJ for some interesting songs that are not wedding-day staples. Chicagoans, for example, might request the beloved Chicago Bears fight song or Sinatra’s "Chicago" to add a spirited local flavor to the event. "Add in your favorite nontraditional songs to make your day more memorable for your guests," Housley says. Get wedding song recommendations here ►

Rentals: 8%
You can save on rental fees by asking the venue manager if they would be flexible with the post-reception pick-up time. By arranging a Monday pick-up, for instance, Housley says you can save $100 to $300. And in an effort to minimize delivery fees, "Consolidate tables, chairs and other rental orders from just one or two companies."

Flowers: 9% 
Need to slim down the floral budget? Look to the ceremony location and leverage its inherent beauty as the backdrop. The Chicago area, for instance, is home to some of the nation’s most ornate churches, locations featuring stained glass, murals and other elegant architectural hallmarks. "If you are already getting married at a stunning church, go for a really simple ceremony arrangement that can be repurposed at the reception," Housley says.

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the Southwest ►

Budget Breakdown in the Southwest

The Venue: 5%
Janet Finden, event planner and owner of Cause for Celebration in Phoenix, AZ, urges couples to select a venue that has a food and beverage minimum fitting their budget; When the minimum is met, she says, the site fee is often waived. Couples might also want to consider a non-Saturday wedding, which should result in reduced site fees and, frequently, less stringent food and beverage minimums.

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 64% 
Since portions are planned out and controlled, plated, sit-down dinners can actually cost less than serving your guests buffet style. When working with venues or caterers, Finden says "You can trumpet the planning and portion efficiencies that come with plated meals to negotiate a lower cost."

Photography and Video: 12%
Finden urges couples to review the photographer’s contract to ensure they are receiving a DVD or flash drive of all their photos with print rights. You can later use that disc to order low-cost prints from any retailer. Find out what to ask before booking your photographer ►

Entertainment: 8% 
Finden says you can maximize your entertainment budget by using a DJ for both the ceremony and reception. She says many DJs can easily add extra sound equipment to accommodate the ceremony location.

Rentals: 3%
By selecting a venue with well-maintained facilities, Finden says rental fees should be minimal because chairs and linens will often be made available to you at little or no expense.

Flowers: 8% 
According to Finden, you can reduce your financial outlay for flowers simply by selecting a venue with eye-catching traits, such as a ceremony location with a beautiful natural backdrop or a reception space with rich architectural elements. The southwest is, in fact, well known for rich and lively natural spaces full of depth and dynamic colors. To further reduce flower costs, "Think about using more candles and fewer flowers for evening receptions."

Next: Wedding budget breakdown in the West ►

Budget Breakdown in the West

The Venue: 10%
With water on one side and mountains on the other, West Coast couples enjoy a diverse array of vibrant sites for their wedding, including lush vineyards, ranches and beachfront resorts with endless ocean views. Before visiting any potential venue, Melissa Barrad, owner of San Diego-based I Do…Weddings & Events, recommends that you thoroughly research it online. "Doing so will save time as well as provide key insights on what budget items can be reduced because of the site’s existing characteristics as well as what expenses, such as décor or floral, might need to increase."

country wedding
Photo Credit: SuthiPicotte

Food and Beverage: 50% 
Food and, particularly, beverage can quickly consume much of your budget. Barrad suggests investigating venues that will allow you to bring in your own wine and liquor, either as a part of the rental agreement or through corkage fees. With that go-ahead, couples could then bring in local favorites, such as craft beer from one of the region’s many breweries — Portland, for instance, has more breweries than any city in the world — or wine from Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

Photography and Video: 10%
Barrad says couples on a tight budget might consider hiring a photographer for a "shoot only" package that provides high-resolution images. Then, later, when the bank account bounces back, you can make an album.

Entertainment: 10% 
Barrad suggests looking for multi-faceted musical professionals who can play live music for the ceremony and cocktails — and perhaps even dinner and the first dance — before switching to recorded music for the evening.

Rentals: 10%
"Ask caterers and venue hosts for a comprehensive and itemized quote covering all the necessary materials, such as flatware, glassware, portable restrooms and lighting," Barrad says. In some cases, you might be able to forego or reduce certain items; in others, you might secure items from a different vendor — or even provide them yourself — at a lower cost.

Flowers: 10% 
While flowers contribute to the bride’s vision and the overall wedding-day vibe, Barrad urges couples to embrace novel approaches that can reduce costs. "Hire a florist who is flexible and will even allow you to either provide your own containers or rent his or hers," Barrad says. Find out which flowers are in season for your wedding ►

7 Secret Money-Saving Tricks, Revealed

Catey Hill

bride and groom kiss on forehead

Look in a "next-door town" for venues and vendors.
If you live in a big city, you should consider looking at venues, caterers, florists photographers and more in "next-door towns," which are just smaller towns outside of big cities. Often you can save 20 percent or more on fees. Here's what to ask before booking your vendors ►

Put a "15-minute warning" into your contract with the photographer.
A lot of photographers and videographers charge big-time fees if your wedding goes longer than the time you've booked them for. To prevent that unexpected bill, put a "15-minute warning" clause into your contract stating that they must give you a 15-minute heads up before they begin charging you overtime, and that if they don't, you will not have to pay for those overages. Learn how to negotiate with vendors ►

Take  a tax deduction — on your wedding.
You can get a tax deduction for donating some of your wedding purchases to a qualified charitable organization (note that "qualified" is very important) or even just by having your wedding ceremony at certain venues.

If you think you'll have leftover food from your reception, contact a local homeless shelter and see if you can donate it. If you're not going to reuse your flowers, contact your church to ask if you can donate them (if you had a church wedding, you may be able to leave your flowers there as a donation) or reach out to a local hospital or nursing home. If you have a wedding in a church or synagogue, or at a government-owned locale like a state park, you may be able to deduct the fee paid for the ceremony (check with the locale to make sure it's tax deductible). 

Consider "business" hotels.
Hotels that cater primarily to business travelers are typically packed during the week, but have lots of vacancies on weekend. (These hotels tend to be located in cities' downtown or business districts.) That means they may offer better-priced packages for weddings than those catering to leisure travelers — and typically they're just as nice! Find out how to prepare for out-of-towners ►

To find photographers and videographers, contact your local newspaper or television station.
Photography and videography can be super-pricey. While it may be tempting to hire a photography student, you may be better off by looking for a more experienced photographer from your local paper (look at bylines on the photos and reach out to those people to see if they freelance) or a videographer from your local television station. Often these pros will provide these services for less than "official" wedding photographers and videographers. 

Skip the wax seal on your invitations.
While a pretty wax seal may seem a classy way to seal your wedding invitations, this can end up costing extra. That's because the wax can gum up the post office's sorting machines, which means you will need to have each invite hand-canceled, at around 20 cents per piece. See more ways to save money on invitations ►

Get a "student" to do your flowers.
You may have heard about brides hiring cosmetology students from nearby schools to do their hair and makeup, but few people think to hire a "student" florist. Big cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles have floral design schools. Contact these schools to see if there is a star student who could do your flowers. If there isn't a floral school near you, see if there is a horticultural school nearby (check out GradSchools.com) that offers floral design classes or Google "floral design classes" — then hire the teacher of that class or ask her if she can recommend a great student. Get gorgeous ideas for your wedding flowers ►

Photo Credit: Picotte Photography

the bridal detective
Finance expert Catey Hill is a member of the David's Bridal Style Council and a journalist whose work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, SmartMoney, Worth, Seventeen, Forbes.com, New York Daily News, and dozens of other publications and websites.



30 Unexpected Wedding Costs Brides Forget to Budget For

Sticking to your budget is one of the trickiest parts of planning a wedding — especially because there are so many hidden costs.
Kristen O'Gorman Klein

To help you out, we checked in with wedding vendors and financial experts across the country to uncover the top items that couples forget to think about when allocating their wedding finances.

snowy wedding photo
Photo Credit: Still Frames Photography

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Why Using a Credit Card Can Help You Save Big


Before you sign on the dotted line, take a closer look at which credit card you plan to use — one may be considerably better than another depending on where you’re doing your spending. These days, many card companies offer extra rewards for specific types of purchases — which can translate into savings for your wedding expenses. If you strategize your spending to take advantage of target categories such as online or department store shopping or travel, you can end up racking up extra rewards while paying for your wedding. Here, Jeff Hindenach, director of content at NextAdvisor.com, a consumer research website, offers a guide to the best credit cards for different big-day scenarios.

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Wedding Experts Reveal Their Best Cost-Cutting Secrets

We asked top wedding-industry pros to spill their best cost-cutting secrets. Here’s how to save on everything from cocktails to cake, flowers and more.
Sharon Naylor
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“Ask yourself: what are my top three dream elements? Is the food most important? The band? The dress? Craft your budget around what you know you want, to splurge there and cut back on some things that aren’t as important,” says Christopher Confero, of Christopher Confero Design in Atlanta, GA

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35 Ways to Save on Cake (and Other Desserts)

Divine desserts (including your cake!) for less.
Sharon Naylor
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Swirls of buttercream, cascades of iced ribbons and blossoms — wedding cakes are the stuff of dreams, and it’s the rare guest who doesn’t look forward to the prospect of that magical last course. But there’s no sugar coating it; the cost of confection perfection can soar. Especially these days, with desserts (and dessert tables) such a major trend.

(The national average cost of wedding cakes and desserts will be $451 in 2013, jumping to $466 in 2014, up from 2012’s $437. In areas like New York City and Napa, CA cakes can run as high as $1,200-plus.)

No worries! We’ve gathered loads of ways to slice your costs.

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