Save Big Without Skimping

Our 40 best cost-cutting tips for your wedding budget

1. Extend your engagement. A longer planning period means a better chance of getting the best vendors in your price range. Plus, you can typically lock in rates that might increase by the time your wedding date arrives.

2. Imbibe wisely. Many sites offer consumption bars (you pay for the liquor your guests drink) or open bars (a flat fee per guest). If your invitees are light drinkers, a consumption bar will save you cash. One caveat: Make sure you trust the establishment tallying drinks.

3. Limit your attendants. You could save hundreds on the boutonnieres and bouquets, not to mention all of the gifts you would need to buy for a large wedding party.

4. Avoid a Saturday night soiree. Wedding pros charge their highest fees for parties that are held on this evening. If you're willing to move your event to a Friday or Sunday night, you'll probably get lower rates-and even better ones for a weeknight wedding.

5. Marry in the off-season. Prime party times are from May to October in most parts of the country. If you instead plan your nuptials for January, for instance, you'll have a better chance of finding vendors who will drop their rates.

6. Steer clear of holidays. A Valentine's Day wedding will mean higher costs for flowers-and for nuptials on New Year's Eve, your site may charge you overtime rates for staffing.

7. Shop strategically. When searching for a gown within your budget, avoid luxe materials and embellishments. Instead, go for textured fabrics like silk organza, crinkled silk and silk faille, which look and feel more expensive than they are.

8. Inquire about freebies. Some sites include a cake, flowers or a honeymoon suite in wedding packages.

9. Pick a multipurpose venue. If you use one site for the ceremony and reception, you'll save on site fees and won't have to pay for transportation to both spots.

10. Keep it to one card. If you can fit all of your reception information on the wedding invitation, you'll save on the materials and printing costs, and possibly even on the postage.

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