smart spending

Pull off a wedding day quickly and cheaply

Fewer guests also mean less food. Many quick-planning brides opt for nicer food for fewer people, rather than passable food for hoards. Even with the gourmet upgrades, the food bill is much lower. Compare a $20-per-person buffet for 200 guests to a nicer $50-per-person sit-down meal for 40. That's $4,000 on food alone versus $2,000.

3. Plan simpler events

Less time results in simpler weddings. All those personalized extras cost time and money. When you don't have time, you're less likely to fall into the bridal vortex that convinces you oodles of add-ons are necessary. Guests don't notice if the candy is monogrammed. They really don't.

"Some of this actually goes back to the way we used to do weddings. Keeping them simpler," says Elise Enloe, a master bridal consultant certified by the Association of Bridal Consultants, who plans weddings in Florida.

"You don't have to serve a seven-course meal and have a 20-piece band," Enloe says. "With this economy, that's what we're seeing. People are cutting back and doing with smaller weddings, or they are delaying the date, but the number one response is to cut back."

One often-overlooked option is to host the wedding at home. After all, you know for sure your place isn't already booked, and its size likely will keep the guest list small.

4. Select off-the-rack options

More stores offer inexpensive wedding dresses in many sizes right off the rack or for delivery in two to three weeks. No rush shipping. No drawn-out alterations.

Fields explains that gown stores are under increasing pressure to compete with online discount dress outlets. "The reality is that many gown manufacturers and bridal accessory makers say you need eight weeks for special orders. But often brides go into the shops and say, 'I've only got six weeks.' Then they tell us a miracle happens. All of a sudden, bridal shops figure out how to get these things without rush fees."

And, even if there is a fee, it's typically just $50 to $100, which isn't terrible if you're saving big bucks elsewhere.

Zaira Knudsen, whose wedding to Precious Knudsen's uncle came after just three months of planning, admits she walked into a discount bridal store, picked out a dress and walked out that day with it in hand. "When you don't have so much time to think about it and make decisions," she says, "then you have to do it fast and pick your best option."

With only a few weeks or months, she adds, "You don't have the chance to change your mind."

5. Be adaptable

Melissa Bauer, spokeswoman for TheKnot.com, a popular online wedding site, doesn't recommend fast planning as a money-saving strategy. Instead, she suggests that all brides comparison shop to find good deals.

But when prodded to categorize what kind of women best fit the quick-plan scenario, she describes brides who:

  • Are incredibly flexible and willing to take what's available as far as dates, times, venues and vendors.
  • Focus more on the big picture rather than the tiny details.
  • Are willing to compromise and potentially toss out their favorite things.

For example, rather than a Saturday wedding, you might need to settle for a Thursday, Friday or Sunday. And compared with an evening affair, morning and afternoon time slots often cost significantly less. Add these concessions to a wedding planned fast and you compound your savings.

4 ways to make wedding planning easier
  1. Leverage the Internet and telephone to do research before you burn time (and gas) seeing places and people in person. Then negotiate face to face.
  2. Choose venues that offer package deals and let them bundle services for you.
  3. Be decisive. Don't sweat every detail.
  4. Consider hiring a wedding planner (typically $50 to $75 per hour), especially if you want to get married in peak season. Rather than making 30 or more calls to find each vendor, a planner can likely make less than five and get you hooked up, including special rates.

Despite what traditional wedding planning timelines say, it's entirely possible to do it in much less time.

Says Enloe, "If you're going to plan a wedding in a year or 18 months, chances are you're going do to a lot of stuff in the first three months and in the last three months, with a three- to six-month window in the middle where not much happens."

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