The average U.S. wedding costs a stunning $15,400. But you can trim that cost and still have a wedding with all the trimmings.
First, set a budget - then stick to it. Splurge on the things most important to you, but control other costs. Here are suggestions for saving.- THE RECEPTION (average cost of site: $1,600).
Choose a Sunday afternoon in September instead of a Saturday night in June. Hold your reception in a local park or historic house.
- FOOD AND DRINK (average cost: $8,400).
Save 15 percent by serving lunch instead of dinner. Limit drinks to wine, beer, sodas and sparkling water. Substitute a good domestic sparkling wine for imported champagne.
And if you don't have a crowd to feed, fake a cake layer or two by coating Styrofoam with icing.
- PHOTOGRAPHY (average cost: $1,500).
Ask the photographer to shoot only the ceremony and formal poses, then encourage guests to take reception pictures by placing disposable cameras at each table.
- THE DRESS (average cost: $800).
Shop Filene's Basement when it discounts wedding gowns to $199. Or order from Discount Bridal Service (800-874-8794), which sells dresses for 20 percent to 40 percent less than retail.
- MUSIC (average cost: $400 for a disc jockey, $1,000 for a band).
The most expensive dates are in December and June; the slowest month for musicians is January.
- FLOWERS (average cost: $800).
If you're getting married in a church or synagogue, let flowers from the ceremony serve double duty at the reception.
- INVITATIONS (average cost: $350).
Instead of engraving, choose thermography, which gives the same raised-print feel for less. The American Stationery Co. (800-428-0379) sells 100 thermographically printed invitations, reply cards and envelopes for less than $100.
- RINGS (average cost for bride and groom: $1,000).
A 14-karat-gold ring not only is less expensive but also may wear better than a higher-karat gold ring.
- ATTENDANTS' GIFTS (average cost: $200).
Gifts need not be costly - or stuffy. One groom bought his five groomsmen and ring bearer jerseys from their favorite basketball teams and negotiated a discount.
- THE ALTERNATIVE: ELOPING (average cost: $300 or less).
At A Little White Chapel in Las Vegas, a ceremony at the drive-up window is $30. Inside, it's $55.
Still too extravagant? It may cost as little $20 to have the ceremony performed at a courthouse.