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Creativity saves big bucks on weddings

Wedding planners and bridal gown shop owners say a recession and strained budget are no excuses for not having a dream wedding.

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CARY, N.C. — Triangle couples are spending about $1,800 less on their weddings than a year ago, but by picking among a few creative alternatives, brides can have their dream wedding for less cash.
Gorgeous Gowns and Wedding Dresses Consignment Boutique of Cary offers about 150 bridal gowns and accessories. Most dresses are priced between $250 and $550 – about half off regular retail.

"Because of the economy, people are proud of the fact that they've saved money," owner Liz Pogue said. "They're seeing that this is a good way to get a beautiful dress at a very good cost and use that savings in other aspects of their budget."

Many of the gowns are new, from closed shops or discontinued lines. Others are on consignment and cleaned from their one-time use. Brides re-selling their gowns get 40 percent of the sale price.

"I have had some girls that have bought a dress, worn it, brought it back and re-consigned it," Pogue said "It is a green savings too for the environment; you're recycling dresses."

The biggest money savers can come from the reception, which usually consumes half of a wedding budget. Simply changing the day or time of the reception can save thousands.

"Definitely, the time of day has a direct impact on the amount of money you spend on food," wedding planner Karen Clark said. Shedding plans for a plated, sit-down Saturday night dinner of shrimp and steak is the first step to saving a lot of money, she said.

"Every bride says they want a party. It's hard to have your guest be in a party mood when they're stuck to a seat," Clark said.

Instead, she suggested, hold a Sunday brunch, Friday hors d'oeuvres or even a late Saturday all-dessert reception.

Creative dishes can be both cheaper and more entertaining than the more expensive, traditional entrees, Clark said. For example, a cosmopolitan salad tossed up in a martini glass says only fun.

"They're not thinking, 'Oh great, they went the cheap way; they're serving salad.' No, they're thinking, ' They're serving me a cosmo salad in a very sexy martini glass, which we love,'" Clark said.

Other less expensive, but cool dishes include gazpacho shots – guests toss down tasty soup in shot glasses – and shrimp ceviche on a spoon – it's got texture, taste and fun presentation in a small package. Guests fill up for less, perhaps $15 to $20 a person, instead of upwards of $50 a person for a sit-down, plated meal.

Alcohol is another big expense during weddings, but couples don't have to give up drinking to lose the alcohol.

Serve mocktails, instead of cocktails, Clark suggested. A bar serving the virgin drinks runs around $5 a head, instead of $40 a person for hard liquor.

"It's fun to watch guests who think they are drinking alcohol react to the 'alcohol' in their mocktails," she said. "But we know that there's no alcohol going on in this, which provides a whole other level of entertainment."

Open-minded, flexible and creative brides can find ways to have a dream wedding even in a recession, Clark said.

"I believe there is no excuse for not having a fabulous wedding on a budget," she said.


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