By Andrew Housser
June still reigns as one of the most popular months to get married, with October close behind. In fact, tying the knot in the fall or winter can be a real money saver. If wedding bells are in your future, read on for more cost-saving tips guaranteed to give you a beautiful, memorable day without breaking the bank.
1. Determine your budget.
Before sampling cakes or donning dresses and tuxedos, you, your significant other and your families need to discuss how much each can reasonably contribute to the nuptials. Take a look at your expenses and savings, and determine what you can afford to set aside each month. Keep in mind what you need to do to plan and pay for a honeymoon as well as the ceremony, reception and any other events.
Once you have the number you can work with, decide what percentage you're willing to spend on each item. For instance, if the reception is most important, you may want to set aside half of your budget for that, and only 10 percent for the dress.
3. Think long range.
If your budget can't support the sort of affair you had in mind, consider setting a later date for the wedding to give yourselves a year or more to save.
4. Keep the affair small.
Most caterers and banquet halls charge per person, so the smaller your list, the better. Plus, the more people you invite, the bigger (and hence, more expensive) reception site you'll need. If on a tight budget, sticking with close family and friends can help. Later, host a more casual event, such as a cocktail party and/or casual dinner, to celebrate with more people.
5. Be a smart shopper.
Make a detailed list of the best prices you can find for each item you need -- dress, tuxedo, flowers, decorations -- and then see if you can find the items for less online. Check out sites like eBay and Craigslist for wedding gowns, silk flowers and centerpieces. If you are making several purchases from the same vendor, ask for a discount. 6. Choose an off time.
Reception sites, as well as caterers, florists and other vendors, may offer discounts during the slow season. January, February and March tend to be the least popular months for weddings (except for Valentine's Day). Getting married any day of the week other than Saturday can also save, as can events at less-popular times of day. For instance, it can be much less expensive to host a brunch or lunch than a dinner reception.
7. Do it yourself.
These days, you can easily make beautiful-looking invitations on your home computer. You can find easy-to-do decorating and floral arrangement ideas online at sites such as Pinterest. Shop warehouse clubs for big savings on flowers and make your own centerpieces, favors and attendant gifts. 8. Enlist help.
Do you have a friend who's a good photographer? Know someone who's a great decorator? Perhaps you have relatives who are willing to prepare food for the event as their wedding gift. You can see if friends, or friends of friends, can help with certain tasks at a discounted price.
9. Make your own music.
Disc jockeys and bands can be expensive. But thanks to online music sites and mp3 players, you can create your own playlists, connect the device to speakers and dance all night for practically nothing. Music devices also can be used at the ceremony, or check with your local high school or college about hiring a pianist or violinist for the ceremony.
10. Skip the main course.
Food is a major wedding expense. Buffet meals are cheaper than sit-downs, but you don't have to serve a full meal. Consider just desserts or appetizers when looking at the budget.
11. Cut back on cocktails.
Alcohol can break the bank. To cut back on costs, you could serve only beer and wine, stick to a champagne toast, or limit the full bar to one or two hours. 12. Get a hand with the honeymoon.
Some travel agencies and online sites such as DepositaGift offer honeymoon registries that allow wedding guests to make monetary contributions toward your trip. Getting married during the off-season may mean your travel destination might be off-season, too -- and therefore less expensive.
With some careful budget planning and a little effort on your part, you and your new spouse can enjoy a debt-free wedding and start your new life together in the black.