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Couples find ways to afford dream weddings

Posted May 7, 2010

— What's not to love about a wedding?

The cost.

In 2009, nearly 8,000 couples spent an average of $21,005 to tie to the knot in the Raleigh-Cary area, according to The Wedding Report, a firm that tracks the wedding industry.

That average is $7,000 less than in 2007, and many couples say the recession has them struggling to afford the wedding of their dreams.

"It has been a challenge," bride Bethany Osbourne said. "There have been times we've been thinking, 'How are we going to do this?' And then we've gotten creative with it."

Tips to afford your dream wedding Tips to afford your dream wedding

Osbourne and her fiancee Mike Schneider set a budget and hired wedding planner Cara Zuehlke to help them stick to it.

"You can have an amazing wedding for a small budget, and your guests are going to have a great time," said Zuehlke, owner of A Southern Soiree.

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Start by scheduling the wedding on any day but Saturday.

Osbourne and Schneider booked their wedding on a Sunday to get a lower rate to rent the venue and found that the day got them other discounts as well.

"Not only are more of the vendors available on a Sunday than a Saturday, but lots of times, we get discounts because it's considered an off day," Osbourne said.

Cut flower costs in half by choosing flowers that are in season and going with more greenery. Trade in dramatic centerpieces for designs that are simply elegant.

"Use floating candles, maybe a few rose petals on the table, something like that just to add some color," Zuehlke said.

"What we're going to do is little nosegays with seven different roses, mini-bouquets," Osbourne said. "I actually prefer those to bigger bouquets, because they (the bridesmaids) have a shorter dress on, very Jackie Kennedy."

Heavy hors d'ouerves can fill up guests without blowing the budget. Limit the bar to beer, wine and maybe a signature drink.

Before buying a dress that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, look beyond the bridal shop.

Scout eBay.com for dresses that have been worn only once. Head to a department store, and check out white and off-white evening gowns. They can offer elegance and style for a fraction of the cost of some wedding gowns.

Consider not providing guest favors. "A lot of my brides are doing a donation to charity for a favor or not doing them at all," Zuehlke said.

Osbourne also planned a different way to celebrate her departure from the reception on to her honeymoon.

"Instead of spending a lot of money on sparklers, flower petals, we decided to get little, tiny marshmallows and bag them on our own. It's a lot less expensive, and it's fun and whimsical," she said.

Zuehkle offered some more money-saving tips for weddings:

  • Cut down your guest list. (Triangle weddings had an average of 128 guests last year.)
  • Print your own invitations with invitation kits you can buy at Michael's or AC Moore.
  • Shop around and compare prices
  • If you really like a vendor, don't be afraid to ask if they can come up with something to work within your price range. If they want your business, they will.

Above all, don't worry about anyone judging your wedding, Zuehkle said.

"The guests are there because they love you, not how fabulous your reception is," she said.

Osbourne said that hiring Zuehlke as a wedding consultant helped her save money by coming up with creative, alternative ideas. She and Schneider learned not to get carried away in all the traditional trappings of a wedding, they said.

"None of these are have-to's," Schneider said. "It's about our relationship and celebrating a lifelong commitment."

"It's been a great exercise in letting us control the budget, rather than letting it control us and what we do," Osbourne said. "It's about you and your groom and what you want for the day."


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  • Viewer May 17, 2010

    We did not spend too much on our wedding 35 years ago; but the marriage held up anyway.

  • sporteered May 17, 2010

    Just got married weeks ago. The wedding itself probably totalled $2500. It was in a gorgeous location, we had about 200 guests and we partied until nearly midnight.

    Our key was utilizing an AFFORDABLE venue (we got a discount because we volunteer at the location), utilizing family for cooking, friends with photography skills, friends with D.J. skills and skipping on the bells and whistles. I even handmade the centerpieces which also made great souveniers for friends and family.

    When I look at the pictures and compare them to high dollar weddings I've seen or been to and get great compliments on the wedding itself I just don't feel like there's anything different I would have done.

    Even the honeymoon was affordable. Spent a week at the beach in a beach house friend's let us use. Since the honeymoon is about us spending relaxing QT together - we didn't need a cruise and lots of sightseeing to do. Just some R&R with no distractions.

    As my groom put it - it's not about making eve

  • boatrokr May 14, 2010

    So much isn't necessary. Skip favors (those are for kids' birthday parties!), and avoid one-use items like toasting flutes, cake serving sets, pew decorations (the bulk of your time is spent at your reception - that's where to sink your money), and limos (how long are you in it? Fifteen minutes altogether?). Have your wedding during an off-meal hour, and you can get by with just punch and wedding cake. Use an iPod instead of a deejay. Don't serve alcohol at all, or limit it to wine and beer, or even just beer. Limit centerpieces to candles. Cut the guest list to close friends and family...most people understand that a couple can't invite everyone they know.

    Too many couples consider the big wedding an entitlement,and behave accordingly. As someone else points out, it's about the MARRIAGE. When the guests are gone and the cake is in crumbs, you've got forty years ahead, and that's the REAL work.

  • mulecitybabe May 11, 2010

    My husband and I went to Tennessee and got married in a park. We spent about $1000 total, and most of that was for pictures for relatives. We're still together after almost 18 years, and we didn't start off in debt. My parents went to Dillon 52 years ago, and they're still happy and married. Couples need to realize it's not about the wedding, it's about the relationship and marriage.

  • Strong31 May 11, 2010

    Well I am getting married in June and I have saved so much money on my wedding by spending conservatively. I bought my dress for $99 at David's Bridal using their clearance dresses (and the dress is simply gorgeous!). I also bought my daughter's flower girl dress, which is made similar to my wedding dress, from David's Bridal for $39 also from the clearance section. My friend and her husband who are great cooks are going to cook all the food and serve it at my wedding, all I have to do is buy the meats. I have a co-worker who takes great professional pictures on the side who is going to take my pictures for me as my wedding gift. A lady in my church is going to decorate the church and the reception area for me as my wedding gift. I plan on buying the rest of my accessories at the dollar store. So as you can see a wedding does not have to be expensive to be great!

  • Mugu May 11, 2010

    Why do these women need expensive weddings? It is a waste of money that these conceited women could be using for their retirement.

  • bill0 May 11, 2010

    "the best way to save money is not to use a wedding planner and instead only hire a day of coordinator to assist in the wedding day activities."

    The best way to save money is not to hire either. 50 years ago, nobody but royalty had weddings like they do today. What young couple just starting out has $21,000 on hand to spend for a party? If you have to borrow money to pay for it, then you can't really afford it.

    I wonder how much lower the divorce rate would be if instead of spending $21k on a wedding, people spent $5k and saved the other $16k for a down payment on a house. Finances are the number 1 cause of arguments between married people. If you do the fiscally responsible thing from the start, you can avoid all the related stress and fights.

  • LuvLivingInCary May 10, 2010

    the savings are totally from a wedding planner perspective...the best way to save money is not to use a wedding planner and instead only hire a day of coordinator to assist in the wedding day activities.