Save Big Without Skimping

Continued (page 3 of 4)

21. Be sly with centerpieces. Choose less expensive flowers that are in season (such as dahlias or local hydrangeas) to use at the base of the arrangement, since they'll ultimately be covered by pricier blooms.

22. Size things up. Play with texture and scale to make all of your centerpieces appear costlier than they really are. Three simple glass cylinders each holding a cluster of stems interconnected with a curly willow, for example, can be just as attractive as a traditional candelabra that's packed with many blossoms-and way more unique.

23. Ask about hidden fees. Before you commit to a venue, inquire about all the little costs-for example, some sites will charge to cut your cake or uncork your champagne. You can save by adding them up and factoring this into your decision about a site.

24. Mark down the meal price. A fancy beef or seafood dish is nice, but a fabulous chicken entrée or even an exotic vegetarian risotto can wow your guests for a lot less.

25. Be a minimalist. Instead of carrying a big, lush bouquet, opt for just a few dramatic flowers, like sunflowers or calla lilies, tied with ribbon. You'll get a chic look for a lower price.

26. Select a well-dressed site. A venue's affordibility depends in part on how much decorating it requires. A grand historic estate, for example, may need only minimal florals for decor-so in the end, this venue might actually cost less than a bare reception hall.

27. Alter the champagne toast. Sites usually charge extra for toasting bubbly, but you can decrease the cost if you substitute prosecco or a sparkling white wine for the French original. Or skip the champagne service entirely: No one will notice it's missing-they'll simply raise a glass of whatever they're drinking.

28. Call upon friends. To free up funds for other areas of your wedding, have craftsy friends (instead of your planner) create your welcome baskets, or ask a relative with neat handwriting to address all of your invitations.

29. Lessen the guest list. Its obvious, but it bears mentioning: Each additional attendee means an extra meal, a bigger bar tab and one more invitation you'll have to pay for. With eight to 10 extra guests, you'll also have to purchase another centerpiece.

30. Limit the liquor. The bar tab can be the biggest budget breaker for many couples. Those in the know make it more affordable at their wedding by offering guests beer and wine only (at least one red and one white), along with a sophisticated signature cocktail.

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