5 Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding (and Still Have a Great Party)

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Getty Images Believe it or not, there was a time in this country when the standard practice for a wedding was to have a small, intimate ceremony, followed by cake and a champagne toast at the local hall or country club. It was a simple affair that could be accomplished with minimal planning and at a reasonable cost.

Oh, how times have changed.

Today, the average length of an engagement is 14 months, which culminates in a wedding “event” that typically includes 140 guests, 10 bridesmaids and groomsmen, and costs over $28,000. And in some highly populated areas like Manhattan or Los Angeles, the median cost of a wedding tops the $75,000 mark.

This might not be a problem in other cultures where money is the standard wedding gift. Those gifts not only helps the newlyweds pay for their weddings, whats left often leaves them with a nice nest egg to build their new life together.

Unfortunately, tradition in the United States involves showering the bride and groom with much less practical gifts, such as fancy dishes and fondue sets.

The failure of our gift-giving etiquette to evolve as the costs associated with getting married skyrocketed may soon require the traditional statement of “I now pronounce you husband and wife” to be replaced with “I now pronounce you deep in debt.”

So how can a budget-minded couple create a day to remember — one that won’t break the bank — without resorting to paper flowers and hand-me-down gowns? Here are a few suggestions that take a little planning and a bit of creativity, but can save you big bucks on your big day:

1. Combine the ceremony and reception sites. One of the costs that most people don’t think about when planning their wedding is vendor travel time. Florists, photographers, caterers, and limousine companies who have to shuttle equipment and employees all over town make sure to factor that into their quotes, so by having your ceremony and reception at the same place, you can bring the cost of their services down significantly.

2. Choose the right photographer. Nobody wants to capture their special day in a bunch of off-centered, out-of-focus shots, but professional photographers can charge thousands for their services and usually retain ownership of the photos.

Instead, find a photographer whose work you like, then check to see if she has an assistant who’s willing to shoot your wedding instead. Most likely, his style and quality will be on par with the pro, but at a greatly discounted price. And chances are he’ll let you keep your photos.

3. Have bigger tables. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that using bigger tables cuts down on the number of centerpieces and linens you’ll need. In addition to saving money, it allows your guests to converse and interact with more people, which creates a livelier event.

4. Curate the bar. Sure, you want your guests to loosen up and have a good time, but do they really need a Long Island iced tea or a Zombie in order to do that?

Keeping the bar selection to wine and beer — a red, a white, and a couple of different craft beers — will still satisfy the crowd while keeping costs low. And if you want to add an extra, but affordable, twist, create a signature cocktail for the event to throw in the mix.

5. Cut the guest list. Although this might be the most obvious tip, it’s also one of the hardest for couples to do. But the fact of the matter is, almost all other costs –- food, beverage, rental equipment, even venue size — spring from the size of your guest list.

The percentage that you cut your guest list will almost mirror the percentage in cost savings you achieve, so before you invite your father’s great-uncle or your second cousin, twice removed, who you haven’t seen since you were 5, make sure they really justify the expense.

No man is an island, or even a peninsula, so I encourage your feedback in the comments below. And don’t forget to pick up my book, “Trading: The Best of the Best – Top Trading Tips for Our Time” via Amazon.

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