Don't say 'wedding'
When getting quotes from reception venues, bakeries, florists and other vendors, tell the manager that you're planning a party or an event, but leave out the "w" word. "If you don't mention the word 'wedding,' the price is often 25 percent to 30 percent cheaper," says Alan Fields, co-author of "Bridal Bargains: Secrets to Planning a Fantastic Wedding on a Realistic Budget."
He notes that one Boston television station had reporters call 11 venues and get quotes for a wedding reception. Later, they asked for the price for a retirement party on the same date. Eight out of 11 had a "marriage markup" -- in one case from $65 to $90 per person. "In their defense, catering managers say that people don't drink as much at corporate parties, but I'm not so sure that accounts for all the difference," says Fields. He notes that many reception halls have several different menu packages, so he recommends requesting all of them to get the range.
Florists and bakeries also have discretion with pricing. "We have had florists admit that when they see people wearing a large engagement ring and driving a BMW, they start suggesting the exotic orchids that need to be flown in from Hawaii. But if you don't look like you're having a wedding, they won't go over the top," says Fields.