Wedding on a Budget: How to Get the Day of Your Dreams on a Shoestring Budget

By Sharon McLoone Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 17, 2009; 7:51 AM

So you're engaged. When you're in love, it doesn't matter that the economy is dragging and employment is sagging. But even in the best of fiscal times, there's nothing wrong with a little creativity to keep costs down.

When I was planning my wedding, my fiancé was an ensign in the Navy and we had just bought a house. Finances were tight, but they always are in every stage of life. So we tapped into our network of friends to plan our big day.

Everyone has friends with skills. Two graphic-artist friends of mine designed and printed our invitations and wedding programs as their gifts to us. On our wedding invitation we asked each guest to bring a flower. Friends and family placed them in vases all over the county-owned mansion where we got married. That's one of my favorite memories of my wedding: I enjoyed how each guest discussed which flower they brought and why.

Lisa Hazell runs a small wedding planning business out of her home office in Orange, Va., after her first job working at a lobbying firm in D.C. coordinating events. Most of the weddings she's coordinated over the last couple of years have been first marriages with the couples in their late-20s/early 30s.

She's seen a definite change in wedding planning recently related to the sour economy. A couple of years ago weddings in the D.C. metro region were averaging about 150 to 200 guests but now most couples are choosing to have smaller weddings not exceeding 100 guests, she said.

Hazell offers tips for wedding planning that keeps things special on a tight budget:

Be careful channeling your inner Martha Stewart

Many brides believe they can save costs by taking a tip from Martha Stewart by getting crafty. While it works to do some things ? you can't do everything. "Many brides want to purchase [craft supplies] and put things together but run into difficulty when you take on too many tasks at one time," said Hazell. She has seen brides intend to make their own bouquets, centerpieces and more"but then time runs out on them and what sounded like a great idea turns into a stressful one." Many also thought they would save money by purchasing supplies at art and craft stores, but didn't realize the cost of some of those items. That can lead to calling a florist to make centerpieces, for example, at the last minute, which amounts to a huge expense.

Look for natural settings

If Mother Nature has done her work, a natural setting like a vineyard won't require much decorating. Hazell has seen more fiances "gravitating toward less" when it comes to wedding planning. She also likes vineyards because they often have great package deals bundling alcoholic beverages, caterers and the venue.

Time is of the essence

The cost of a late morning or early afternoon wedding is drastically less than if you had an evening wedding, especially for events in a standard hotel ballroom.

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