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A Sense Of Place January 24, 2017

Destination weddings have become popular for a variety of reasons, but not all couples can jet off to an exotic locale for their nuptials. Sometimes budget and logistical restraints make a destination wedding unfeasible. But couples who are still dreaming of a picturesque wedding at an exciting destination need not despair; they can bring the "destination" home. There are plenty of ways for a wedding celebration to incorporate inspiration drawn from a faraway place, whether it's a favorite vacation spot, the location of the planned honeymoon trip, or simply somewhere the couple dreams of visiting. Here are a few examples of how brides and grooms can translate a sense of place into the decorations, attire, cuisine, entertainment, and other elements of their special day.

Hawaii

A wedding that draws inspiration from the Hawaiian Islands' legendary beaches, lush vegetation, and well-known tiki culture will offer a fun, comfortable vibe.

Flowers - Select tropical flowers such as orchids, birds of paradise, or hibiscus for the bouquets of the bride and bridesmaids. Skipping the bouquets and having each member of the wedding party wear a floral lei would also be particularly appropriate, since leis are traditionally given in Hawaii in honor of important events - including weddings.

Decorations - For centerpieces, opt for tropical flowers or potted mini palm trees or embrace island kitsch and decorate tables with vintage hula dancer dashboard dolls. Turn a surfboard into a functional decoration by affixing photos or table assignments to it like a bulletin board. Or, turn a surfboard into an innovative guest book alternative by inviting guests to write their warm wishes for the couple directly onto the board with a permanent marker. If your wedding is outdoors, play up the tropical ambiance by ringing the space with tiki torches.

Food and beverages - One sip of a mai tai will transport attendees straight to the Aloha State. Guava and pineapple juice make for tasty nonalcoholic options. A pig roast will play up the luau feel of the reception, and pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and other tropical fruit can be incorporated into the menu. Coconut and Kona coffee flavors will also make guests feel like they're dining in a tropical paradise. For dessert, opt for pineapple upsidedown cake or white chocolate macadamia nut cake. Another option would be eschewing the cake in favor of a Hawaiian shave ice stand, where guests can enjoy an icy treat with their choice of tropical flavors.

Mexico

A festive fiesta with Mexican-inspired details will ensure that members of the wedding party and guests have a great time while celebrating the happy couple.

Decorations - Cheery fiesta decor will set the stage for the celebration. Beautiful picado tissue paper banners can be liberally strung around the reception space, and colorful folk art pieces can be incorporated into centerpieces. In honor of Mexico's strong tradition of observing Day of the Dead, couples may even consider honoring the dearly departed members of their families through a traditional Dia de los Muertos altar, complete with photos, flowers, and food offerings.

Food and beverages - The popular cuisine of Mexico provides couples with numerous options for wedding day fare. Set up a taco bar where guests can create their own tacos from a choice of beef, chicken, or beans, as well as a variety of toppings. Or hire a food truck that serves tacos and other Mexican-style food items to be on-site. For beverages, offer guests margaritas and Mexican brands of beer. Consider providing a dessert buffet offering tres leches cake, churros with chocolate sauce, and - of course - Mexican wedding cookies.

Entertainment - Couples can hire a real mariachi band to play at the reception. Guests will love dancing to mariachi standards, as well as a modern love song or two, performed mariachi-style. Piñatas make for another fun form of reception entertainment. Since piñatas are available in a variety of styles and colors, couples can go with classic shiny star-shaped orbs or find a piñata that showcases their love of a particular sport or animal. Allow the children in attendance to get the first whack before letting the adults join in the fun. The bride and groom can even give guests a mini piñata as a wedding favor.

Swiss Alps

Couples can play up the beauty of a winter wedding and give themselves and their guests a mountaintop experience by embracing a Swiss Alps theme.

Attire - To help the bride's and bridesmaids' dresses to stand up to the winter chill, top them with a faux fur or knit wraps. Stylish coats or sporty parkas will also keep wedding party members toasty and warm in chilly weather. If you'll be taking photos outdoors, outfit the members of your wedding party in matching scarves and mittens to ward off winter chills.

Decorations - Deck out your reception venue to look like a posh Alpine ski chalet by incorporating cozy, rustic elements. A fireplace with a crackling fire will set the ambiance, and vintage snow sports gear such as skis, snowshoes, toboggans, and ice skates can be used as decorations. Add a sense of warmth to the room by using woolen blankets instead of tablecloths or runners. Purchased or DIY snow globes featuring winter scenes make for charming centerpieces. Other decorative ideas include displaying a collection of Swiss cowbells or even an authentic alphorn.

Food and beverages - Whether as the main meal or an appetizer, you can't go wrong with classic cheese fondue. Consider offering the Berner platte (the Bernese platter), a regional specialty that consists of an assortment of meats and sausages, along with juniper-flavored sauerkraut, potatoes, and dried beans. A main course could be Alplermagronen, or "herdsman's macaroni," made from cheese, potatoes, onions, macaroni, and milk or cream. Help revelers stay cozy and warm by offering mulled wine and hot chocolate. Speaking of chocolate, the Swiss are known for theirs, so be sure to play up that ingredient when dessert time arrives by serving Swiss chocolate mousse in addition to an array of decadent pastries. A wedding favor that sends guests home with a few pieces of Swiss chocolate is also sure to be popular.

Japan

Borrowing from Japan's ancient traditions will create a truly lovely and elegant fête.

Attire - The bride and bridesmaids can incorporate the Japanese theme into pre-wedding preparations by donning kimono-style robes featuring bright, floral patterns while styling their hair and makeup. Kimono-style design elements and silk accents can be incorporated into the wedding attire, as well.

Decorations - Go heavy on the cherry blossoms, incorporating them into the bridal bouquets and reception centerpieces. Scores of paper cranes made with beautiful paper also make for charming decorations, whether sitting on tables or strung up and hung in garland form. Paper lanterns, Japanese-style fans, and oil-paper umbrellas can also be used as decorative elements, and miniature versions can make a unique and memorable wedding favor for guests.

Food and beverages - The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is highly revered in Japanese culture, so providing guests with a selection of teas (hot or iced) is a natural choice. So too is serving sushi, though be sure to include rolls featuring all-cooked ingredients or separate Japanese noodle dishes for guests with less adventurous palates. A Kobe beef dish is another option for those who dislike sushi. Other popular Japanese imports that can be served include sake cocktails and mochi, daifuku, and other sweets.

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Wedding Budget 101 January 24, 2017

Couples engaged to be married have a lot on their plates as they begin planning their weddings. Whereas tradition once held that the parents of the bride paid for a couple's wedding, nowadays more and more engaged couples are completely or partially financing their own nuptials. That means prospective brides and grooms must develop wedding budgets that will ensure their first act as Mr. and Mrs. is not paying down debt.

In its 2015 Real Weddings Study, online bridal resource The Knot found that many couples still receive substantial financial support from their parents to pay for their weddings. The survey found that, on average, the bride's parents contributed 44 percent of the overall wedding budget in 2015, while the couple financed 43 percent. The remaining 13 percent was financed by the groom's parents and additional sources. Couples who hope to follow that formula or pay for their weddings on their own can heed the following tips to build wedding budgets that will not break the bank but will still ensure a day to remember forever.

· Examine your collective finances. Few couples know all of the details of each other's finances before getting engaged. While some may still hesitate to share their personal financial information upon getting engaged, an open and honest discussion and examination of each person's finances is the only way to develop a realistic wedding budget that both partners can live with. Once couples know what they can contribute, they can consult their parents to determine if their families intend to contribute.

· Develop a preliminary guest list. A preliminary guest list can give couples an idea of how large and expensive their weddings will be. According to the Real Weddings Study, the average cost per wedding guest in 2015 was $237. While that cost can vary greatly depending on geography and other factors, couples should keep that figure in mind when drafting their guest lists. If need be, keep costs down by trimming the guest list so it includes only close family members and friends.

· Don't count on gifts. Many couples justify runaway wedding budgets by telling themselves that they will ultimately get the money back in the form of wedding gifts. While many guests will give financial gifts, counting on such windfalls is a recipe for accruing debt. Do not build potential wedding gifts into a wedding budget. Couples that do so could be facing considerable debt upon returning home from their honeymoons.

· Gather quotes before choosing a wedding location. Where couples get married will have a great impact on how much money they will spend on their weddings. For example, the Real Weddings Study found that, in 2015, the average wedding in Manhattan cost couples slightly more than $82,000, while the average Alaskan wedding cost just over $17,000. Even within the same city, venues can vary greatly with regard to pricing and offerings, so couples should give themselves ample time to gather quotes and find an affordable venue they like.

· Research the average costs for vendors. Couples can conduct preliminary investigation to determine about how much they can expect to pay the vendors that provide photography, cake, music, and other services. Don't forget to budget for tax and gratuities.

· Build extra costs into the budget. When creating their budgets, couples must remember to include a little extra for unforeseen costs. Building such costs into the initial budget will make these unforeseen circumstances easier to handle.

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Neat Nuptials January 24, 2017

Weddings require a lot of planning. Couples hosting large weddings or even intimate gatherings can easily be overwhelmed by the amount of planning they must do to make their weddings into events they will remember and cherish forever.

Staying organized when planning a wedding is a tall order. It is wise to expect the unexpected when organizing a wedding, and the more organized couples can stay, the more fun they can have during the planning process, and the better they can handle the unforeseen circumstances that are bound to arise in the months leading up to the wedding. Couples may consider trying the following strategies.

· Create separate filing systems for each aspect of the wedding. Rather than maintaining one massive file with information about various elements of the wedding, maintain a separate file for each aspect of the wedding. For example, keep all quotes from prospective florists in a single folder that remains separate from information about other parts of the wedding. Separate filing systems make it easier to find quotes and contracts when they are needed, saving couples the trouble of digging through pages upon pages of quotes, notes, and other information they had stored.

· Maintain a spending spreadsheet. Many couples plan weddings on carefully constructed budgets, but couples can easily exceed those budgets if they are not routinely monitoring and recording their spending or the spending they are committing to upon signing contracts with vendors. Couples should create spending spreadsheets that allow them to track how much they have already spent, how much they are committed to spending, and the due dates of various wedding-related bills. The couple should update the spreadsheet whenever they write a check or sign a new contract, and they should periodically examine the sheet so they can make sure they are still on track to remain at or under budget.

· Hire a planner. If wedding planning is proving especially overwhelming or if the couple simply does not have time to do all the legwork necessary, they can hire a wedding planner. Wedding planners are invaluable resources who can help couples quickly connect with vendors who can meet their needs while staying within their budgets. Planners can advise couples on ways to save money, but also when to splurge. Couples planning destination weddings should inquire about resort-affiliated wedding planners before choosing a venue to host their ceremonies and/or guests.

· Start early. It's never too soon to start planning certain aspects of a wedding, even if it seems like you have plenty of time before your big day. According to The Knot 2015 Real Weddings Study, the average length of engagement for couples who wed in 2015 was 14.5 months. That means today's couples have more than a year, on average, to plan their nuptials. By starting their wedding planning early, couples can avoid having to organize everything at the last minute, which can be hectic, nerve-wracking and sloppy. In addition, starting early affords couples more time to find great deals and stay within their budgets.

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Go Over "Board" January 24, 2017

Turning a dream wedding into a reality may require some creativity. It can be challenging to organize an abundance of ideas, but inspiration boards may be able to help.

Inspiration boards, sometimes referred to as idea boards, are commonly used by interior designers, artists, writers, and even wedding planners. Such boards can be important when starting a new project, especially if all of those creative ideas seem to lack cohesion. Sometimes it is helpful to see things together, rather than in bits and pieces.

Inspiration boards may include magazine clippings, photographs, fabric and color swatches, and quotes or literary passages. As a couple adds to their idea board, they may find a common denominator among their inspirational elements. This can help determine a theme for the wedding or jump-start other planning.

While poster boards may be the more traditional style for idea boards, creative ideas also can be compiled in binders or scrapbooks, which work especially well for keeping all items organized and concise. Plus, they are portable, which means a couple can take their scrapbook to a meeting with a wedding vendor and show the vendor concepts for the wedding.

Later, when photographers, florists, and other vendors have been booked, the couple can attach receipts or agreements to the inspiration board for future reference. This practice will keep all the important wedding information in one place so the bride- and groom-to-be do not have to search through folders or files for important documents. In addition, if friends or family members ask for advice when planning their own weddings in the future, the couple can look back at their inspiration board.

To start building a board or book, the couple should accumulate clippings of photos or articles that resonate with them. As they visit bridal shops and other stores, they can take fabric swatches and pictures of particular looks. Couples may attend bridal shows and take home promotional materials. Remember, inspiration may not always come from wedding-related sources. Anything in daily life may provide ideas.

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More Than A Dream January 24, 2017

Destination weddings can make for memorable moments for brides, grooms, and their family and friends. While the celebrations often take place in idyllic locales that make for a gorgeous backdrop to the celebration of the happy couple, setting the perfect ambiance for such a noteworthy occasion without breaking the bank can be tricky.

Destination weddings ask a lot of both the couple and their guests. Couples may need to visit the location of their wedding several times before the big day, and those costs can quickly add up. Guests will also need to budget for flights and lodging to attend a destination wedding. However, there are some ways for couples to rein in the associated costs to ensure that everyone has a good time without having to worry about finances as soon as the big day is over.

Look for Convenient, Affordable Travel. Some resorts may offer great prices on destination wedding packages, but be careful to avoid locations so remote that you and your guests will be forced to pay for expensive flights. With the rising popularity of destination weddings, many resorts now offer competitive packages; however, if keeping travel affordable for guests is a goal, it is important to choose a location that will allow travelers to book a reasonably priced flight rather than choosing the location based on the cost of the wedding package.

Shorten the Guest List. Trimming the guest list is how many couples curtail destination wedding costs. Invite only your closest family members and friends to the wedding and reception and then host a second, less-formal party for your remaining relatives and friends after returning from your honeymoon. Guests will understand, and you will ultimately get the chance to celebrate with all of your loved ones anyway.

Go Simple and Save. Many traditional weddings include all the bells and whistles, like lavish flowers and elaborate gowns. Destination weddings are often expected to be simplified, particularly if the festivities are at an island location. Let nature do the decorating and opt for native wedding attire if it's more affordable than potentially costly gowns and tuxedos.

Resist Peak Tourist Season. Much like there is a peak wedding season throughout North America, many popular travel spots' economies depend heavily on tourism seasons. Avoid that season when choosing a date for your destination wedding and you'll also avoid the higher costs that are associated with the more popular tourist times.

Go Discount Hunting. Popular destination wedding locations may be willing to negotiate prices on all aspects of the wedding, and those discounts may increase as more guests commit to attending. Resorts recognize that weddings will bring guests in need of lodging, food, and entertainment. Couples can use that to their advantage when negotiating prices. Couples may even be able to negotiate with airlines for discounted airfares if they can guarantee a certain number of travelers.

Buy Local. When planning your wedding, embrace the culture of your chosen destination and choose local foods, flowers, and entertainment. Not only will it make your big day more unique and authentic, but it will also save you money and benefit the local economy at the same time.

Don't Forget... Couples hoping to have a destination wedding in another country may want to plan for a longer engagement than those getting married closer to home. The longer timeframe gives guests more time to arrange for travel, and it allows the bride and groom more time to navigate the requirements of getting married in a different country. Paperwork should be expected, and wedding license applications may not be processed as quickly. Be sure to have a firm grasp of the country's application process, including the possibility of having birth certificates and other personal documents translated into the official language of the country. Also, be sure to check on residency requirements of the country that you hope to marry in. Take advantage of a professional wedding planner, if the resort you choose has one on staff. A professional can make it easier for couples to navigate the sometimes complex laws regulating destination weddings, and a wedding planner's services are often included in resort wedding packages. If no such service is included in the hotel package, consider hiring a local wedding planner to make the process go more smoothly.

Destination weddings can be significant undertakings, but if couples are armed with the proper knowledge and preparation, the bride and groom can enjoy the wedding event of a lifetime and create memories that will last forever.

Ben & Andrea's Majestic Rocky Mountain Wedding

When Ben and Andrea Singer of Lancaster decided to plan their dream wedding, they knew that it would involve travel for their family and friends. "Our family is spread out across the country," Andrea explained. "Regardless of what we did, half of our family would have to travel."

The couple began planning a lavish autumn wedding in their local area, but they soon decided it wasn't going to live up to their hopes for the big day. "We realized we needed to refocus and bring things back to what mattered to us," the couple shared. "We were planning a wedding for other people, rather than a wedding that would make us happy."

With their newfound focus, the couple zeroed in on a destination wedding in a location that was special to both of them: the Rocky Mountains. "Andrea spent her childhood vacationing at the YMCA of the Rockies, and as adults, we have shared this place together. When we decided to go with a destination wedding, it was a logical choice for us, given its significance and our great love of the outdoors," Ben said. "It seemed like a wonderful idea to bring our families together in a place with so many fond memories for the two of us, and it gave us an opportunity to share this place with the people we love."

In the week leading up to the wedding, the couple rented a 32-person cabin where their families could spend time and get to know each other. "It was a surprisingly drama-free week that culminated in our wedding," Andrea recalled. "There were certainly a lot of 'what-ifs' leading up to the wedding, but the YMCA of the Rockies did an amazing job of making our wedding work," noted Ben.

The Singers were thrilled with their Rocky Mountain wedding, and they have a few tips for other couples who are interested in saying "I do" in a special, far-away locale. "Destination weddings can be tricky because you may not even see your wedding venue until (the big day)," Andrea noted. "Plan how you want things to go way ahead of time so that there are fewer surprises when you get down to the wire." Ben and Andrea also recommend that couples decide what they are willing to sacrifice, noting that not all of their close friends and family were able to make the big day. "For some, that may be a sacrifice they are not willing to make. Even something as small as trying wedding cakes or catering options will be something you may miss out on," Ben said.

However, for each sacrifice, there is the reward of lifelong memories. "Destination weddings replace some of the sacrifices with memories you simply can't make elsewhere," Andrea pointed out. One glimpse of the Singers' incredible wedding photos with breathtaking mountain views in the background, and there's no doubt that the couple made a great decision.

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Unlocking Lower Prices: Vendor Discussions December 1, 2015

The average wedding tends to be one of the most costly ventures in a couple's life together. Many couples seek ways to cut costs, and negotiating with prospective vendors is one way to do just that.

Too often couples overlook haggling for better prices because they may be intimidated by the process or simply want to plan the most memorable day regardless of cost. But the key for cost-conscious couples is to find the right strategy to unlock that lower price when meeting with prospective vendors.

· Explore your options. Weddings are big business for vendors, and the competition is stiff. Couples should visit multiple vendors and compare their services and prices prior to making any final decisions. Research will give couples an accurate range of costs and information for future negotiations. Vendors may be willing to match competitors' prices, so knowing what similar vendors charge can provide couples with some negotiating leverage.

· Dress modestly for meetings. It is tempting to want to dress to impress, but very often wedding vendors judge potential clients by their appearances. If shoppers arrive with a designer handbag and driving the latest-model luxury vehicle, a vendor may get the impression that the couple has extra money to spend. While brides- and grooms-to-be do not have to play the pauper, they should consider dressing modestly so their appearance does not hurt or restrict them at the negotiating table.

· Never take the first offer. A good business person will confirm there always is room for negotiation. Couples should avoid answering the loaded question "What can you spend on this?" if the vendor asks. Instead, couples should ask for a price first and realize this first quote can almost always be negotiated. Couples may inform the vendor that they would like to work with the vendor but need a lower price, and they may ask if the vendor can offer a different package or provide a discount.

· Negotiate the big-ticket items first. Discounts on big-ticket items, such as the reception venue, will save couples the most money. For example, it would likely be more cost-effective to get 20 percent off at the catering hall than 20 percent on the wedding gown. Once a couple frees up extra money negotiating on bigger items, they may find they do not have to negotiate as much with smaller vendors.

· Walk away if necessary. Couples should always have a backup plan in place in case they have to tell a vendor they cannot use their services because the price is too high. Some vendors will sweeten the deal, but others will let a couple walk out the door. Couples should also remember that they are more likely to get a better price by being amenable and well-mannered than by making threats or arguing.

· Some deals are not actual discounts. A vendor may be able to work with a couple by offering additional services in lieu of actually taking money off the price tag. Extra photo prints, a dessert bar and an extra hour of time in the limousine may seem like great deals, but that is only the case if the couple truly needs these bonuses.

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Less Is More January 5, 2015

Planning a wedding has many facets. Once couples choose a date and location for their ceremony, they can get down to the nuts and bolts of the big day.

When planning a wedding, many couples are governed by a budget. Budgets often get stretched, but even those brides- and grooms-to-be who spend more than they had initially hoped don't normally find themselves going too far over budget. One of the best ways for couples to reduce costs is to simplify the ceremony and reception. Simplifying a few aspects of the wedding can save couples money without forcing them to make sacrifices that affect the look or feel of occasion.

* Turn floral arrangements into multi-purpose accessories. Bridesmaids typically carry beautiful floral bouquets during the wedding ceremony, but such bouquets are quickly put down and forgotten once a couple has officially tied the knot. Couples can save a few dollars by repurposing floral bouquets and other floral arrangements used during the ceremony. Once the ceremony has ended, couples can use floral bouquets as centerpieces for the reception tables and turn flowers used as aisle markers during the ceremony into small centerpieces on the escort card table or place them alongside the guestbook. This saves couples the trouble of choosing various floral arrangements to display throughout the reception venue and also saves money.

* Scale back on the alcohol offerings. Some couples opt for a full-service, top-shelf bar at their wedding. While that's a nice gesture, it's also an expensive one. Couples can save a substantial amount of money by simplifying the alcohol offerings at their reception. Instead of a full top-shelf bar, couples can offer guests one or two choices of popular liquors such as whiskey, rum and vodka and steer clear of especially expensive brands. The majority of guests likely won't even notice, but couples will notice how much money they save.

* Choose a classic cake. Elaborate cakes may in fashion, but they can be costly. Instead of a specially designed, labor-intensive cake, choose a classic cake that won't break the bank. Classic cakes can add an elegant touch to a wedding without extending a couple's budget.

* Trim the guest list. Trimming the guest list is arguably the most effective way to simplify a wedding while simultaneously saving some money. Once the couple has compiled a list of potential guests, they should peruse the list to determine if there is anyone who can be removed. This is easier for couples paying for their own wedding, as they won't feel pressured to invite any friends or colleagues of their parents whom they don't know personally. But even couples splitting the cost of their weddings with their parents should speak with their parents about trimming the guest list to make the affair a little less expensive.

Traditional weddings are anything but simple. But there are ways for couples to make planning their wedding less complicated while saving money.

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A Tip from a Pro - Affordable Engagement Rings September 4, 2013

"An engagement ring should not be valued by its cost, instead by what you can afford and what your heart tells you to get. You can get more bling for the buck by choosing silver or tungsten instead of platinum or gold, and semiprecious stones verses diamonds. Don't trade in a mortgage for a diamond."

Natasha Hoffman, owner of J&J Bridal (Part of Myth, Medieval, & Celtic LLC), Manheim

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A Tip from a Pro - "Destination" Wedding September 4, 2013

"Want a destination wedding, but guests can't afford to travel? Make the destination your wedding theme. Use exotic, tropical colors in your wedding candles and accessories."

Kathy Brown, Keystone Candle, Harrisburg

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A Tip from Pros - Budgeting and Prioritizing September 4, 2013

"Have a budget. Plan how much you can afford to spend. Choosing what things are important to spend on (is as important as choosing what things are) the lowest on your desires list."

Mary Ann Hoober & Alissa Hoober-Smay, owners of The Bridal Emporium, Elizabethtown

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A Tip from a Pro - Purchase Your Own Items September 4, 2013

"Compare apples to apples. Break out packaging to compare with listed line items, so you know what you are paying for each. If you are able to purchase your own items, such as alcohol, you may come out ahead. Costco and The Restaurant Store have wedding tablecloths and wedding plastic ware that looks like china."

Joyce Perkinson, director of sales at Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum, Lancaster

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A Tip from a Pro - Affordable Flower Girl Dresses September 4, 2013

"Great steal of a deal at Easter and Christmas are dresses for your youngest attendants - these traditionally frilly holiday dresses double as great flower girl dresses at a fraction of bridal salon prices."

Renee Roberts Kopp, wedding planner at Celebrations!, Ephrata

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The Do-It-Yourself Wedding September 4, 2013

Those thinking about tying the knot in the months to come may be discouraged by how expensive weddings can be. But with a little ingenuity and a hands-on approach, couples can have a wedding that is inexpensive and memorable at the same time.

One way to save a lot of money on wedding expenses is to throw a do-it-yourself backyard wedding. The DIY approach also ensures that couples can control the details of their wedding, making it as personal as they would like.

A DIY wedding will take much more work than simply hiring vendors and leaving the details to them. But the money saved with sweat equity can be substantial.

Careful planning is key to managing all the details of a DIY wedding. Start by making a list of all the things you will need, including a venue, tables and chairs, linens, food, silverware and glassware, invitations, photography, an officiant, music, centerpieces and other decor items, cake or dessert, lighting, attire, and flowers.

Money-Saving Tips and Tricks:

* Enlist the help of family and friends. Upon asking, many couples find there are members of the family who have skills in certain areas that can be tapped for the wedding. There may be a gourmet chef, a disc jockey, a photographer, or even someone who can officiate. Having these people on board can mean a great reduction in costs.

* Include postcard response cards in wedding invites. The postage is less, and you don't have to spend money on an extra envelope.

* Purchasing low-cost items at discount stores can be less expensive than renting. Stock up in advance on inexpensive glasses and silverware, candles, and other necessities. Later on, these items can be kept, sold, or even donated to shelters or other organizations that help those in need.

* Purchase pieces of fabric from a fabric store to use for tablecloths and dress them up yourself.

* Plan out centerpiece ideas and figure out which components can be bought in advance, stored, and assembled at leisure.

* Fruit is less expensive than flowers for centerpieces. Or, consider favors that also double as table centerpieces.

* Bouquets can easily be made with store-bought flowers, some floral tape, and decorative ribbon.

* Many different foods can be cooked in advance and frozen instead of hiring a catering service.

* Restrict the bar to wine and beer to save money on expensive liquors.

* Start preparing the venue several days in advance of the wedding, weather permitting. Be sure the grounds are well-groomed and landscaped. Ensure there are no tripping hazards and that there is a sturdy surface for placing tables or creating a dance floor. It may be a good idea to ask an electrician or someone who dabbles in electric work to help string some lights to better illuminate the area, especially for when the sun goes down.

* A small arbor can mark the area where the ceremony will take place and to provide a nice photo backdrop.

* Set up the tables and chairs to finalize placement the day before. Dress the tables with linens and settings the morning of the wedding.

* One splurge couples may want to make is hiring a waitstaff to help set up food service areas, serve as bartenders, and clear away dishes and other messes, freeing up the bride and groom to mingle with guests.

* For a backyard wedding, check with your town to see if you need a permit or variance for having so many cars parked by the house. Otherwise, you could face a fine.

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Simple Ways to Save Money on Your Wedding August 29, 2013

Weddings can be expensive, and many couples are interested in finding ways to save money so that their big day isn't a budget-buster. Unfortunately, such savings aren't always easy to come by, especially for couples with a distinct picture in mind of what the wedding should be. However, even couples strongly committed to a certain wedding style might change their minds once they realize how much that dream wedding will cost. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to keep costs down without venturing too far from your dream wedding.

* Don't go overboard on the gown. Styles are ever-changing, so there's a strong chance brides won't be passing down their wedding gowns to their own daughters someday. Keep in mind when shopping for your wedding dress that it is most likely something that will be worn only once. If you find an expensive dress you like, check to see if there are any other options that have a similar design but are made with cheaper fabrics, which should make them available at a fraction of the cost.

* Get hitched in the off-season. Many couples prefer to get married sometime between the months of May and October. During these months, venues and vendors, including limousine services, caterers, photographers, musicians, and disc jockeys, are often more expensive. If you are willing to switch your wedding date to the off-season, you may save a substantial amount of money. In addition, you likely won't face as much competition for the best venues and vendors as you will during the peak wedding season.

* Trim the guest list. Adjusting the size of the guest list is perhaps the easiest way to save money on your wedding. Caterers and banquet halls typically charge per person, so consider if you really need to invite 150 guests or if 100 will do. Such trimming can save you a substantial amount of money. For example, a banquet hall that charges $120 per guest will cost couples with a guest list of 150 approximately $18,000 for the reception alone. Cutting that guest list to 100 reduces that cost by $6,000. When putting together the guest list, remove those candidates who would best be described as acquaintances. This can include co-workers and other professional acquaintances with whom you don't socialize. Also considering cutting from the list old college friends and distant cousins you haven't spoken to in years.

* Host the reception at a private residence. Trimming reception costs is one of the best ways couples can save money, as the reception can account for a substantial percentage of a couple's expenses. Another way to reduce reception costs is to avoid banquet halls entirely and host the reception at a private residence, whether it's your own home or that of a parent or other relative. This option will save you the cost of renting the banquet hall, but it might only be doable for couples having a smaller, more intimate wedding or those whose families own large houses or expansive properties (like a farm).

* Choose a buffet instead of a sit-down meal with waiter service. Opting for a buffet-style reception is another way to save money. Sit-down meals in which guests are brought their plates can be significantly more expensive than buffet-style dining. Additionally, many guests may even prefer a buffet-style dinner, which will allow them to choose their own entrees and side dishes. A buffet might also have more options for guests, which is a benefit for larger receptions with guests of various palates.

* Trim your beverage budget. The bar tab at the end of the reception can be considerable, but there are ways to save money while ensuring your guests can still toast you and yours with a few libations. Rather than offering a full bar, you can limit the choices to beer and wine, which will be perfectly acceptable to most guests anyway. In addition, rather than paying the caterer for the wine, you may be able to buy your own and save a considerable amount of money. You may have to pay the caterer a fee to pour the wine, but that fee will likely be negligible compared to what you'd pay the company to provide the wine.

* Consider a package deal. Couples open to all-inclusive package deals, which typically include the cost of the wedding, reception, and possibly even the honeymoon, can save money that way as well. These deals are most common for destination weddings, but couples might be able to find a package deal in their hometowns.

* Hire a disc jockey instead of a band. Music presents another opportunity for cost-conscious couples to trim some of their reception expenses. Some couples insist on live music, while others are fine with hiring a disc jockey. If you're among the latter, go with the disc jockey, as they tend to be far less expensive than live bands. If you simply must have live music, look for a local band that might be willing to offer a hometown discount.

By making a few compromises and adjustments to the wedding day plans, a cost-conscious couple can save a substantial amount of money while still hosting a beautiful and memorable event.

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