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Say ‘I do’ to a frugal reception

By Kim Fulscher ·
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Posted: 3 pm ET

Let's face it: The characters Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson portrayed in "Wedding Crashers" didn't crash weddings for the ceremony -- they wanted to get to the party. The dancing, the drinks, the food -- and probably not the bill.

Guests will talk about your legendary reception for years -- but it can be one of the most expensive parts of a wedding, says Jodi Furman, owner of the LiveFabuLESS frugal-living blog. However, she says, there are still ways to keep the class in your frugal wedding.

"It's no longer offering a cash bar," she says. "You really can do an upscale wedding that looks luxe and expensive but won't hurt you and your wallet."

When you tackle your wedding budget, start with the two of the biggest costs of your reception: entertainment and drinks.

Cut loose on the dance floor

If you want music like Adam Sandler a la "The Wedding Singer," you can hire a band or solo artist. But be warned, says Kristin Koch, senior editor of, a band with eight to 12 musicians will cost more than a simple trio or solo artist. Stick to one or two good musicians to keep costs low.

Or, a cheaper option is to hire a DJ -- he or she can keep the tracks moving along while announcing the wedding party and directing the show, Koch says. The average cost in 2011 to hire a wedding reception band was $3,122, and the cost to hire a DJ was $929, according to & 2011 Real Weddings Study.

If you're on a tight budget, Furman suggests using Spotify, the popular music-streaming service that allows users to create free playlists. Spotify is free for a limited number of hours each month and with a few caveats, or you can pay about $10 for a month of the premium subscription.

Another benefit to enlisting a playlist instead of a DJ is there's no risk -- you know your iPod or laptop will show up, and you can control the content, Furman says. (Unless you'd like a creative take on your first song like in "Old School.")

If you decide to use Spotify or another streaming service, you'll still need a body around for some parts of the reception. Hook up a mic, and have a good friend or relative announce the bride, groom and wedding party instead of a DJ.

Have another drink

Take a newly married couple, mix in their friends and family, add a little music and -- voila! -- you get a lot of people wanting to have fun and cut loose. As a result, the liquid bar is a cost that can get out of control. Save on alcohol by offering just wine, beer, and one or two signature cocktails, Koch says.

Or, Furman says, negotiate with the venue beforehand to bring your own alcohol to the reception. Scour warehouse stores for inexpensive drinks, and save on costs by providing the drinks instead of the venue. If you know someone who brews beer, add a fun and personal note to your wedding by providing kegs of it at the reception. Craft and homemade beer can give personality and funk to your reception, Furman says.

And, you won't be "that couple" serving Pabst Blue Ribbon at their wedding.

Tune in to for more ways to save money on your wedding. We'll cover topics such as the ceremony, the pre-wedding day details, and the budgeting and planning.

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