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46 Ways to save at your wedding

Text: Lambeth Hochwald; Photography: Fairchild Archive

November 12, 2014

Wedding and special occasion dresses by Mon Cheri. Furs by American Legend.

Experts – and some savvy readers – share how they shaved huge chunks off their wedding budget. Get ready to shrink your bottom line!

First things first…

1 Love a hand-painted invite? Have a graphic designer create a digitally printed design instead. It’ll look just as pretty but cost half as much.

2 Avoid a long gap between the ceremony and the reception. Not only will a long gap require you to provide drinks and even canapés to guests, but photographers and musicians will charge for extra time.

3 Say no to bread baskets at the table and you’ll trim a small fortune from your food bill.

4 Have guests RSVP online (create a wedding website if that helps) and you’ll save on printed reply cards, postage and paper.

5 Some suppliers will slash their fees for feedback. Ask yours if they’re willing to offer a discount in exchange for an honest online testimonial.

6 Instead of custom invitations, order a DIY print from a site like etsy.com.

7 If you’re marrying outdoors, consider a standing ceremony to save on seating. But hire a few chairs for elderly guests, and keep it brief!

8 Posting one large programme at the entrance of your ceremony is way less pricey than printing one for each person.

9 If you can’t afford a photo booth, create your own! Buy a digital Polaroid or borrow a friend’s camera, set it up in a corner of your reception venue and asks guest to leave you a snap with a love note.

10 The cost of children’s meals is often negotiable. If you ask, many caterers will knock kids’ plates down by half!

11 Scoop up deals by subscribing to potential suppliers’ newsletters and following them on social media.

12 Give one favour per couple, instead of every guest (just make sure it’s something shareable, like cookies!).

13 Opt for a gourmet pasta bar instead of a three-course plated meal.

14 Put your invite, itinerary, map and accommodation info on one trifold instead of on separate cards.

15 You don’t need underplates: an elegant napkin and menu are enough to dress up any place setting.

16 Give up the hard stuff after cocktail hour and serve only beer and wine. They pair better with dinner anyway, and are half the price of a full open bar.

17 Most rental companies have big sales a few times a year – found out when they are in your area, and you can get your hands on things like linen and candles at a much cheaper rate.

18 Double up: put a guest’s name on their menu, so you don’t have to pay for place cards, too.

19 Pay for extra waiters to pour wine at your tables during the meal. That way, you won’t have to fork out for half-drunk bottles of wine on each table. (The average wedding guest drinks half a bottle of wine, which means a 150-person wedding needs 75 bottles. But that number goes up by 25% if people pour their own drinks, mostly due to waste.)

20 Don’t worry about putting every glass known to man on tables. A wine glass and a glass for water are all you really need.

21 Ask a reputable beauty school or salon to recommend a student or junior to your bridal party’s makeup. She’ll likely go the extra mile to help build up a client base for a fraction of what a pro would cost. (Just do a trial to make sure you like her work.)

bridal bouquet of white and pink flowers

Cut flower costs

22 Have your florist create arrangements that work for the ceremony and reception.

23 After the vows, combine bridesmaids’ bouquets to make one large centrepiece (great for the bar or gift table).

24 Mix short arrangements with tall ones to lend your party an eclectic vibe – and save big!

25 Or go spare: think single stems in clusters of bud vases surrounded by candles for extra drama.

26 Invest in a florist for the most-photographed flowers (your bouquet, the head table arrangements), and DIY the rest.

27 Don’t be afraid of carnations! Mixed with other blooms, they create the same lush, fluffy texture as peonies, which can be four to five times more expensive.

How GLAMOUR readers saved big

28 “We served just one meat entrée and filled out our menu with less pricey veggie options.” – Durga Sundaram-McCurdy

29 “I found my dress at a bridal salon’s sample sale and saved 25%.” – Jacquelyn Heidenwag

30 “We found a cellist at a music school in our town for cheap. If they can teach, they can probably play well.” – Suz Garber

31 “My guests weren’t big drinkers, so I paid for booze à la carte instead of at a flat rate. I saved a bundle!” – Natalie Morrison

32 “Videographers in my hometown were expensive, so I found one I loved in a nearby smaller city.” – Rebecca Sanft

33 “Instead of posting paper save-the-dates, we emailed guests a fun video we made ourselves.” – Brad Harvey

34 “I decided against floral centrepieces and went with tall rented candelabras instead. They lit the room beautifully.” – Lindsay Turner

35 “Get married in the morning. We save loads on catering by having a breakfast bar.” – Dantiel Moniz

36 “Our venue was BYOB, so we bought our own wine, removed all of the labels and put our monogram on each bottle. Cheaper and way more personal!” – Jessica Bishop

37 “The more guests you have, the more likely your venue is to come down on per-person costs. Mind did!” – Maria Filoteo

38 “We scored a great deal by marrying on Friday the 13th – a day that’s traditionally hard for venues to book.” – Durga Sundaram-McCurdy

39 “My gown wasn’t my biggest priority, so I ordered a bridesmaids’ dress I loved in white and had it tailored to include a train. It cost a fraction of what most wedding dresses cost.” – Amy Helmes

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Sweet ways to save

40 Skip a big, tiered cake, which can run into thousands, and serve simple single-tier cakes at each table that can also double up as centrepieces.

41 Challenge relatives to a bake-off and enjoy the delicious (and free!) results at your wedding.

42 Replace your dessert with a sweet table. Buy treats wholesale or in bulk.

43 Pack leftover sweets into cut boxes and give to guests – instafavours!

Think like a supplier

44 Be clear about your budget. If suppliers know up front what you can spend, they’re less likely to pad costs or overcharge you.

45 Play a little hard to get. By not fawning over your vendors, you put yourself in a better position. They’ll be more likely to meet you halfway if they don’t think they’re your first choice.

46 Watch out for hidden costs. Make sure common surcharges like the dishing out of your wedding cake to guests, gratuity for your overall food bill and linen hire are listed in your contract.

What are your tips for saving big? Tweet us at @GLAMOUR_sa with #GLAMWedding to share.

Sarah Browning, 24, is the managing editor of GLAMOUR. She moved to SA from London three years ago and lives in Cape Town. In this #GLAMWedding Wedding Blog, Sarah’s sharing her wedding-planning journey with you. Join the conversation! Tweet your thoughts to Sarah via @GLAMOUR_sa using #GLAMWedding.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmbrowning

Find out more about the #GLAMWedding blog here!

Click here to find out how to draw up and manage your wedding budget from scratch.

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