The average wedding costs $29,858 dollars, according to a 2014 study of nearly 13,000 brides by The Knot and TheWeddingChannel.com. That's too much money for most of us, so let's look at a few ways to save.
Embrace color: Wearing a white dress to your wedding wasn't all the rage until Queen Victoria did so at her 1840 nuptials to Prince Albert. Wouldn't it be liberating to try something new? Sarah Jessica Parker, Amber Tamblyn and Sharon Stone thought so -- they all married in colored dresses (black, yellow and pink, respectively).
The best part: When you open up your color spectrum, you're no longer stuck thumbing through $1,300 white dresses at the local bridal shop. Instead, you can shop anywhere you'd like, including department stores like Bloomingdales, Macy's and Nordstrom, all of which offer free personal shopping assistants. With a wider selection, your dress will almost certainly cost hundreds less and you won't look like every other bride.
Book a (do) good spot: Restaurants, hotels and lofts make for lovely venues, but consider booking your fete at a museum, fraternal lodge, garden or park instead. If it's run by a not-for-profit organization, the location fee may be tax deductible. Just check with the venue and your accountant to make sure.
Ditch the top shelf: Everyone enjoys an open bar, but what your wedding guests really want is to celebrate you and have a good time. So rather than pay top dollar for a top-shelf selection, save on your bar tab by serving beer, wine and maybe a one sparkling Prosecco cocktail.
Have a friend officiate: Rather than paying up to $1,500 for a religious or state official to marry you, consider asking a close friend to do the deed. Anyone can get ordained online for a low fee through the Universal Life Church Monastery (themonastery.org), which welcomes people of all faiths and already counts Conan O'Brien, Barbra Streisand, Joan Rivers, Sir Ian McCellan and me (!) as ministers.
The ordination then allows your friend to preside over your wedding, which will make it not only more personal, but also free. You should probably pay for their hotel room, though, or at the very least, buy him or her a small thank-you gift. Just be sure to check with the local marriage license bureau to make sure your officiant has the required credentials and you meet the other criteria.
Choose an off-peak time: Most couples get hitched on Saturdays, which is why many venues, caterers, photographers, DJs and others are willing to offer you a bargain price for a Friday night (or Sunday afternoon) affair. Of course, if you have a lot of people traveling from out of town, that might be hard to swing. If that's the case, your next best bet is a Saturday in the winter. Summer is peak wedding season, followed by fall and then spring. Only 7 percent of couples get hitched during the winter, which means if you can make peace with a white wedding, you can find better prices on just about everything.
Do your own flowers: According to a survey on The Knot, $2,069 of the average wedding budget goes toward floral arrangements. Cut the cost in half (at least!) by doing your own. Some tricks: Purchase in-season blooms from your local wholesale flower market or farmers' market. (If you have neither, you can buy flowers in bulk online at Costco or wholesale floral retailers, like FiftyFlowers.com.) Then, buy simple yet chic containers for each table. Ikea has tons of budget-friendly options. Add colorful stones, marbles or vibrant fruit like lemons or limes to the vases and then, the day before your Big Day, plunk some flowers in each. Don't worry if they're not perfect. Wild is on trend.
Cut (out) the cake: Think back to the last wedding you attended. What flavor of cake did the couple serve and what kind of icing did it have on it? Can't quite remember? That's my point exactly. By the time you get to the dessert portion of the evening, most wedding guests are mostly full, sufficiently buzzed and sweaty from dancing. The cake is just a little sweet send-off to the evening. So, rather than spend $546 on it, like the average couple did last year, consider serving something a little less traditional (and less expensive) like cupcakes or fancy donuts. If you crave that cut-the-cake moment, just order a small 12-inch one for the photo op and serve (deceivingly yummy) sheet cake from Costco or Sam's Club to the guests.
Trae Bodge is the senior lifestyle editor for The Real Deal, an online magazine that offers smart shopping tips, curated gift guides and other money-saving solutions, published by digital coupon destination RetailMeNot.
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