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Budget challenges -- how to save

The focus of this special day need not be about how much was spent or saved. But, here are some budget-savvy strategies to help make your special day memorable.

1. Prioritize. Decide what are your top five wedding priorities -- dress, location, style, etc. Fit these in your budget and cut costs in other areas.

2. Limit your guest list. Keeping your guest list concise will drastically reduce reception costs. Most caterers, restaurants and banquet halls charge per person, so the difference between 100 guests and 150 will be significant.

3. Watch your cuisine costs. Food can be the biggest expense at a wedding. Research your options. Consider a buffet instead of a sit-down meal, or host a high tea, a dessert reception, brunch or luncheon instead of a multicourse meal. Another possibility is "drop-off catering."

4. Choose a low-cost location. There are many options for low-cost or no-cost locations, including local and national parks, forest preserves, your own back yard or that of a friend or relative.

5. Ambience included. If you choose to wed in a location that is already decorated, you'll see big savings. A stylish mood is already set in a garden, art museum or a beautifully furnished home.

6. Get the word out. Invitations are definitely an area where do-it-yourselfers can show off their skills and pocket the difference in costs.

7. Be a savvy shopper. Shop around and negotiate everything. Seek estimates from at least five vendors in major categories, such as photography, flowers, clothing, the reception area and caterers. Make sure every detail is written in a contract. Don't forget that you have the money. Make the vendors earn it.

8. Do it yourself. Make like you're in summer camp and do arts and crafts. Try making your own bouquets, veil, centerpieces and party favors. But let the experts handle the wedding gown and the cake.

9. Get music on a budget. A disc jockey offers two benefits: a master of ceremony to move the reception along and a DJ is usually cheaper than a band. If your hearts are set on live music, look for bands that have day jobs and play music for fun. A rock-bottom budget idea: make your own tapes of your musical favorites.

10. Catch the candid moments. Place disposable cameras on every reception table. Encourage your guests to help you capture special moments on film.

   
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