Every bride loves a deal–not to mention low-priced reception elements that are so stunning they appear to have cost a fortune. On these pages, we show you a sampling and give you tips for creating a beautiful black tie-style bash without blowing your budget. From a gilded color palette to lush (yet frugal) florals to new ways to dress up your reception tables, these are insiders' best cost-cutting tricks. They're easy to pull off, with products and materials widely available, so you can effortlessly avoid spending more than you'd planned.
High Style This ornate-looking centerpiece is actually a simple stand with carnations, roses and gold balls set in floral foam, $250, by Kim Hirst for Fresh Cut-Design, freshcut-design.com. Stand, china, crystal, flatware, candles and linens, all from Party Rental Ltd., partyrentalltd.com.
Choose haute hues. Color choice is an ideal way to signal the refined style of your event-and even the lowest-priced stationery lines offer wide ranges of color options. A fashion-forward combination, like a pastel shade paired with a muted metallic, can convey an upscale event just as clearly as the more classic white or cream invitations with black, gold or silver script.
Don't “typecast.” Letterpress printing has a luxurious feel, but it can cost more than twice as much as thermography or offset printing. In this offset-printed invitation (left), a contemporary font and artful motif elevate the design, $12 each (includes printed envelope, reception card, RSVP and map), from Invite Delight, invitedelight.com.
Purchase a package. A coordinated set of stationery has an elegant appearance, especially if the designs on each item are similar, not identical. A bonus is the value: Your price per piece decreases according to the volume you are buying-so consider getting matching thank-you notes when you place your order.
Take an artsy approach. Escort cards can require costly calligraphy. Instead, print a list of guests' names and table assignments on fine papers and display in pretty frames (right), $20 each, from Lawrence Frames, lawrenceframes.com.
Choose lively linens. Using the tablecloths that come with your reception site doesn't automatically imply you're stuck with basic white. Ask to see all your options, and select linens in a bright hue or with plenty of texture (stitching, beading and so on).
Add to the ambience. Votives, tapers and lanterns are inexpensive, particularly when purchased in bulk; used en masse, they have an exciting effect on party decor. Place votives alongside your centerpieces to cast a soft glow, and add tapers to give the arrangements greater height. Rows of hanging lanterns are ideal for dramatically illuminating any outdoor path or walkway.
Dream up a unique decoration. Handcrafted sugarpaste flowers and iced accents give a cake its resplendent appearance, but they also drive up the price because they're labor intensive. To get an equally eye-catching version that's not price prohibitive, we had a three-tiered cake (above) iced with fondant and decorated with fresh flowers, silk ribbon and faux pearls, serves 50, $250, from Cakes by Katy, NYC, 603-557-1159.
Be sly when serving. The best way to cut cake costs is to order a "fake" one made of iced cardboard tiers except for the one tier you'll slice during your cake-cutting ceremony. The slices served to guests can come from an inexpensive sheet cake surreptitiously cut in the kitchen. Another option: Choose chocolate. Rich flavors are more filling, so you can get away with ordering less cake and serving thinner slices.
Think outside the (cake) box. A gorgeous stand gives a cake a big presence. Unconventional displays are a nice way to upgrade your confection, too: A bed of refined sugar (resembling beach sand) or even a vintage hatbox borrowed from your grandmother can perfectly play up your theme without costing much extra, if at all.