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No matter you hear the happiest day of your life doesn’t need to cost you a bunch. Who says that the perfect wedding needs to have 500 of your closest friends, in my opinion as long as the wedding party shows up, with some close friends and family then that is all that matters. For myself, I decided I would rather save for a nice honeymoon or a down payment on a home.

When planning my own wedding, I found that with some extra work it wasn’t that hard to have a great budget wedding. Saving big doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice a nice ceremony and reception; it just means that you may have to improvise a bit. With some time to research and some friends or family to pitch in you too can save big.

Here are 10 points I found that helped when planning a budget wedding:

#1 – Bigger = Earlier

The bigger the wedding, the earlier you start. Many venues are booked 6-12 months (or more) in advance as well as caterers and bands. The more time you have the more bargains you can find.

#2 – Think outside the box

You can save big by going to unconventional places and people for your wedding needs.

a. Venues: legions halls, community centers, a neighbor’s barn, friend’s house or backyard (I had my ceremony at a gorgeous 100 year old lodge for $300)
b. Dates: weekdays, weekend mornings, Mondays of long weekends – by being flexible and going for an off-peak wedding ceremony / reception you can save big. Not to mention that you won’t have to compete with everyone else for catering, florist, photographer etc.

#3 – Get crafty

If you or someone you know has even an ounce of creativity you’ll save tons by making some things yourself like invitations, place cards, gift bags, and bridesmaid gifts. Resources on these subjects are easy to find, either pick up some magazines at the library or look online. If you really want to get into it you could see if the craft stores around you offer any free classes, or check out your local community calendar to see if anyone in the area has craft classes you can take.

#4 – Stop and smell the roses

It is unbelievable how much florists charge, and I could not face paying that much for one day’s worth of flowers. Instead do it yourself. With some roses (or other in season flower), wire, glue and ribbon you can make lovely bouquets, boutonni├Ęres, and centerpieces for about 25% of what it would cost to have it done professionally.

Tip: Instead of buying your flowers from a florist who is only going to carry top quality stock (at premium prices), try a local grocery chain that has a flower section. You can get a good discount on bulk orders (think $15(£7)/dozen or less) and receive some very nice flowers for your budget wedding.

#5 – Go to school

Check out local esthetic schools in the area. You can get all of your spa treatments, manicures, pedicures, hair and makeup done all for the price of one of these treatments at a professional spa.

Tip: do a test run a month or two beforehand to ensure that they can meet your needs. You’d want to do this anyways so it’s not costing you any extra.

#6 – Pare your guest list

For some reason my mom wanted all her friends and their spouses to come to my wedding. Perhaps she wanted to point out that I turned out OK after all. Regardless of how much it was going to cost to add these people, I decided that I just wanted very close family and friends to attend. After all, on your special day should you really look around the room and wonder who some of these people are? IF it seems too much to cut out people then consider having a small, intimate wedding ceremony followed by a huge after party. You may also want to consider doing appys and cocktails instead of the full sit down dinner (this ties in well with the morning or early afternoon ceremony).

#7 – Order Out

Consider a restaurant instead of caterers. Many establishments welcome the opportunity to serve a large crowd. They often have several set menus you can choose from, or you can have a buffet, or even just let your guests choose their own meals off the full menu.

Bonus: You’re not paying extra for the venue, linens, servers, bartender or ambiance.

#8 – BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze)

While this may seem taboo, there was no way I was going to pay for my Uncles to empty the bar, then pass out after yelling at my in-laws. Alcohol consumption is not the earmark of a successful reception. As long as you are surrounded by people you love and no one gets food poisoning then you’ve done it. If this is too much for you then consider drink tickets – 2 per person or however many you choose. Your guests can celebrate your marriage, then pony up for any additional beverages instead of you footing the bill.

#9 – Dress it up

The dress is the one area that you can save huge on, yet surprisingly many women don’t want to. Completely understandable, but I am not a dress person so I strove to spend as little as possible. If you still really want that perfect designer wedding dress creation which certainly does not fit your budget, then consider buying second hand (it’s only worn once right?). This is a great way to get a beautiful dress while still sticking to your budget wedding plan. You can find great deals on eBay, in local classifieds or even at a thrift shop. If second hand is not your style then you may want to try combing the racks at wedding inventory clearing sales, or find a new local designer or recent design graduate who wants the experience.

#10 – Picture Perfect

I admit, in the end the one thing I wish I had splurged on was the photographer. I always thought that wedding pictures looked so staged, so instead I recruited two friends with digital camera and got them to do the work. I love all the pictures they took; it is just that it the lighting conditions were all wrong (it was very sunny so there were a lot of shadows). At the very least, if I was doing it all over again I would try to find a local photography student who could do it right, but not charge the world.

Of course there are probably a million other ways to save on your wedding, but these are the ones that helped me have a beautiful budget. Oh, and one last thing. Ask your wedding guests to not buy any gifts. This may seem weird, but this is what we did. Our intent was that we thought that we already had what we needed, so we just wanted to have everyone come and have a good time. What we ended up with was a whole lot of cash. Let me tell you, we sure had a good honeymoon!

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