5 On Your Side

Negotiate, check fine print to save on wedding plans

Posted May 19

Peak wedding season is right around the corner, and anyone who has ever planned a wedding knows they can be expensive.

With thousands of dollars on the line, though, there are things couples can do to save money.

According to an industry report, the median cost of a wedding is around $15,000, but many people shell out even more.

Jaci and Adam Fletcher did everything they could to save money on their wedding. The key, they said, was negotiating.

"Everything from my wedding dress to the flowers to the decorations," Jaci Fletcher said.

The couple also bargained with the caterer to allow them to provide their own alcohol.

"We probably saved somewhere between ($3,000 and $5,000) on the alcohol just buying ourselves," Adam Fletcher said.

Consumer Reports found that there are other places to cut back, too.

"We found ways to save on everything from the venue and the dress, to the photographer, the food, the flowers — and still have a beautiful, stylish day," said Consumer Reports' Margot Gilman.

One great way to save is to schedule the wedding for any time except Saturday night. Opting for specific months can help, too—January and February are often the least expensive months to hold a wedding.

Consumer Reports secret shoppers also found a good percentage of businesses charge more just because the event is a wedding.

"In our calls, we found photographers and limo services often charged more for weddings," Gilman said.

Some other ways to save:

» Limit entrée choices for guests.

» Limit hours of an open bar, or for bigger savings, serve only beer and wine and maybe just add a signature drink.

» Send the photographer home an hour early. Many guests leave early, anyway.

And a final suggestion from the Fletchers: Ask your florist about the flowers that will be in season, which are usually lower priced.

Most important to know, according to the Fletchers, is that the cost cutting did not hurt their celebration.

"To this day people say it was the best wedding they've ever been to," Jaci Fletcher said. "And that feels really good."

As for negotiating, be persistent. Treat wedding agreements like any other contracts, and as with any contract, read the fine print.

Consumer Reports found some caterers included a built-in tip as high as 26 percent, and one charged a $7 fee per person to cut a cake brought in from the outside.

That's when you tell people to grab a fork and dig in.

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