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Cutting the bridal budget
5 Tips: Ways to keep the budget in line while enjoying your special day.
June 3, 2005: 2:45 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist
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CNN's Gerri Willis shares five tips on how to cut down your bridal budget.
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NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - These days a walk down the aisle can lead you to destination bankruptcy. From the invitations to the flowers to the food to the band to the honeymoon, the average wedding costs about $27,000 according to Richard Markel, President of the Association for Wedding Professionals International.

It's no wonder half of all couples exceed the budgets they set up for themselves, says Daniel Lagani, Publisher of the Fairchild Bridal Group.

If you're planning to tie the knot, but you don't want to get your budget tangled up, stay tuned. Today's five tips will help you cut wedding costs.

1. Get someone else to pay.

Not only are costs for weddings going through the roof, but you can't rely on Mom and Dad to foot the bill. For that reason, more and more wedding couples are hitting up friends and family for the costs of the photography, the DJ, even the flowers.

And if you're too shy to ask for nuptial money, ask for help paying for the honeymoon. While it sounds tacky, you can do it tactfully, particularly if you use the web to help.

Online registries are now allowing couples to be more creative with gifts they solicit says Rosie Amodio of The Knot. From the wedding to the honeymoon to the future home, there are plenty of ways your guests can chip in.

The Knot's "create-a-gift" program directs guests to gift checks, selected by the couple. Wells Fargo & Co. offers wedding accounts where friends and family can deposit money online.

Honeyluna.com is a honeymoon registry service that "breaks down" your honeymoon into specific items, activities and adventures that your guests can buy.

2. Get bidding.

Go to eBay for savings on designer wedding dresses. A Vera Wang wedding dress can cost over $15,000. But on eBay there are dresses you can bid on for as low as $80. Of course, you'll probably need to have alterations done, but the savings speak for themselves.

3. Eat Chinese.

Sick of beef, chicken or fish? Choose Chinese: Asian-inspired menus are increasingly popular, according to The Knot. These dishes are usually less expensive because they have more vegetables than meat. Or enjoy ethnic food like Italian or Mexican. These cuisines are often cheaper than traditional fare and your guests will think you were creative.

And who could forget the cake? While a large three tiered cake is a part of the wedding tradition, you can still cut some corners on cost. Order a smaller tiered cake that costs about $10 dollars a slice on display, suggests The Knot, and order a separate sheet cake of the same flavor for about $4 dollars a slice to be served to your guests. You can even substitute some fake layers in your display cake that will bring the cost down even more.

4. Be flower-savvy.

The flowers can add so much to the decorations, so don't fret, you don't have to skimp on them.

Instead, save money by skimping on the traditional and going with more exotic stems. Even the little substitutions add up. Why not exchange Black Magic roses for more reasonably priced dahlias in your bouquet and table arrangements? You will save about $4 a stem according to The Knot. With a wedding party of five women and a guest list of 150 people, you've just saved $520.

Judith Rivers-Moore, author of "Beautiful Weddings and Events" suggests placing mirror rounds under flowers to expand their appearance on the table.

Markel suggests getting your flowers shipped in from overseas. Flowers from South America are usually cheaper. You may need to snip some thorns, but the savings can be about 20 percent. Check out www.fiftyflowers.com or www.marisolblooms.com.

But you may not even need to look outside your own town. Events Management consultant Gretchen Strutzenberg says that local trade schools can be a great resource if you want to get a deal on flowers. Students even sell products to customers for the experience of running a florist shop. Check with your local school district or community college and find out about these classes.

5. Get outta town.

Instead of the traditional wedding, take your closest family and friends with you to a far-flung location to witness your "I Do's."

Fairchild Publications says that couples who have destination weddings spend an average of 41 percent less on their reception than those who have the average wedding. How come? For one thing, fewer guests may be invited, and also many invitees might not be able to make it.

For those who can, wedding couples can arrange special discounts on airlines and hotels. American Airlines will give you 5 percent off the lowest fare they have available according to your travel plans if you have 10 or more guests traveling.

If you decide to fly Air Jamaica, the destination wedding package includes the honeymoon. For about $2,300 per couple, the package includes roundtrip airfare, the wedding service plus 5 nights at a hotel and daytime activities like horseback riding and glass-bottom boat tours.

Hilton Hotels offers wedding packages in Hawaii that range from $1,100 to $4,300.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page

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