by Susan Hawkins
Regardless of the economy, people are still going to get married and, while the wedding industry isn't bullet-proof, it still appears to be thriving in one of the gloomiest U.S. economies we've experienced in a long time. The more affluent among us will still have the elaborate, celebrity-style weddings that the rest of us can only dream about, and the rest of us look for ways to cut corners and scale down to plan a fabulous wedding on a diminishing budget. In fact, according to TheWeddingReport.com, which tracks trends in the wedding industry, as of August, the No. 1 trend is couples interested in cutting costs.
That's understandable, considering the way things are going. Still, the average cost of a wedding these days is about $28,704 (TheWeddingReport.com.) For the most part, these are young people who also want a romantic honeymoon, a nice place to live and, at some point, a family. With the economic future uncertain, cutting back simply makes sense-especially when couples can be just as married for the price of a marriage license (anywhere from $10 to $100 in the U.S.) and a local justice of the peace (fees vary, anywhere from free to $300+.) There's got to be a number at which a couple can have a beautiful wedding with no regrets and maintain confidence in their financial future.
So how are brides paring their planning costs? Here are a few ideas:
Marrying on Friday evening or Sunday
Eliminating ceremony programs and limos
Having the ceremony and reception at the same location
Cutting down on bridesmaids and groomsmen
Reducing the guest list
Making their own invitations, programs, etc.
Choosing in-season flowers
Paying cash for goods and services
Booking everything well in advance
Having an afternoon wedding with just drinks and hors d'oeuvres
Serving champagne for the toast only
Selecting mid-grade liquors for the open bar
Negotiating with caterer, venue, etc. for the best prices
Needless to say, there are many more ways to cut wedding expenses, and an experienced wedding planner (who charges by the hour instead of a percentage of your total wedding) can offer money-saving tips.
Let's talk a bit about that last bullet—negotiating with vendors. If a bride isn't good at negotiating, either she needs to brush up on her skills or take someone along with her who is, because negotiating can save a lot of money. When a bride finds the venue or caterer she wants, she should not act anxious. She should let them know she's "shopping around." If vendors get the sense that the bride desperately wants them, they'll be less likely to offer specials or throw in freebies. The goal is to make vendors feel they have to earn her business. Don't forget, especially with less popular venues, caterers, etc., a wedding is great public relations and advertising for industry vendors.
So what do wedding favors have to do with throwing a wedding in tough economic times? Sadly, wedding favors are often the first thing brides cross of their list of must-haves when, actually, favors are 1) one of the most affordable wedding items, 2) one of the best ways to show appreciation to guests—particularly those who have traveled many miles to attend, 3) an inexpensive way to add sparkle and elegance to reception tables and 4) a tangible memory of a once-in-a-lifetime event. Think about it. Limos are cool, but no one except the bridal party usually sees them. And if the bride has saved money in other ways, there's no reason why guests should go home without a memento of a perfectly wonderful occasion—that didn't break the bank.