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Your wedding: 1 big party

By Kim Fulscher · Bankrate.com
Friday, July 27, 2012
Posted: 6 am ET

A wedding is simply a big party that starts the moment you say, "I do."

And in the past, the couple's parents traditionally paid for the wedding -- which included the engagement party, bachelor and bachelorette parties, the rehearsal dinner and the spa day. But recently "a lot of those old rules have gone by the wayside," says Jodi Furman, owner of the LiveFabuLESS blog.

It's a trend backed up by TheKnot & WeddingChannel.com Real Wedding Survey, which said 42 percent of surveyed couples paid for their own wedding in 2010. The betrothed could possibly expect to shell out a few grand for the pre-wedding celebrations.

It's not just the financial wedding traditions that are evolving. Here are some new ways you can throw your pre-wedding festivities while saving some money.

The engagement party

Your guests will be almost faint with excitement to celebrate your engagement -- and eat your food and drink your beer. But there are ways to save on this festive time.

  • Research the world cuisine in your area -- your favorite Mexican burrito stand, small Thai restaurant, etc. These places usually cost less, offer more choices and serve food with bolder flavors, Furman says.
  • Hold a potluck or barbecue in your backyard. Most guests will ask what they can bring -- and you're allowed to actually assign them a side dish, Furman says. (Paying for every single part of this party is just one of those pesky, expensive traditions that's fading away.)  Or, ask the nonfoodie guest to bring a six-pack of beer or bottle of wine.
  • Change the traditional party hour by planning a brunch or cocktail party. Food and drinks at a brunch will cost less, and your guests will need fewer drinks and snacks at a cocktail party. Again, you're allowed to request one or two items from your guests here.

Bachelor and bachelorette parties

Remember the recent movie about the bride's guy-friend being the "Made of Honor"? As old traditions fade away, more "bridesmen" and "groomswomen" (as opposed to bridesmaids and groomsmen) are popping up. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are evolving, and some couples are combining them for one fun night or weekend getaway.

For the couple, this means spending money at just one party. But if you want to divide parties, there are other ways to save money.

  • Go out for one night downtown instead of a weekend getaway. Some creative ideas include a spa night, movie night or scavenger hunt, Furman says.
  • Use a Groupon, LivingSocial or other deal to plan a cheaper trip.
  • Request a group rate on plane tickets, hotel rooms and activities.

The rehearsal dinner

TheKnot and WeddingChannel.com's 2011 Real Weddings Survey revealed couples spend an average of $1,078 on the rehearsal dinner. That's a lotta food. But it doesn't have to be -- and shouldn't be -- more elaborate than the wedding reception, Furman says. Here are a few ways to cut corners.

  • If the wedding is on a Friday night, the rehearsal dinner will be on Thursday -- a cheaper night all around for parties, says Kristin Koch, senior editor of WeddingChannel.com.
  • Go casual for the dinner, and hold a barbecue much like the frugal one you held for your engagement party.
  • Hold the party at a casual restaurant.

The spa treatment

You and the ladies might need a day of rest and relaxation before the big day. Brides can save here in a few ways.

  • Use LivingSocial and Groupon deals for spa treatments. You can save up to 70 percent off of facials, massages and mani-pedi treatments.
  • Call the salon and request a group discount. Ask if you can get a discount on top of using your Groupons -- it might not work, but it's worth trying.
  • Create your own DIY spa day. Find recipes for facials on websites such as TotalBeauty.com and give yourselves pedicures and manicures. Buy supplies at a drugstore for about half the cost of going to a salon. For the massage, hire an independent massage therapist to come to the house. This may be cheaper than visiting a salon, and the therapist might be more willing to give discounts.
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