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Love extravagantly, but cut wedding costs

For a more solvent marriage, say `I don't' to open bars and distant relatives

July 01, 2007|Kathy M. Kristof | Times Staff Writer

LYNDSEY MIHOLICH is a bride on a budget. By the time she and Mic Waugh get married in the fall, they intend to have paid off the cost of their elegant wedding ceremony and reception.

To reach that goal, the couple are skipping movies and meals out, aiming to sock away the bulk of their discretionary income before the special event. And they aren't hesitating to break wedding traditions that break their budget.

"It's important to us that the wedding feel warm and inviting and look classy, but not cost a fortune," Miholich, 26, said. "We had to prioritize, taking a look at the things that we really wanted and the things that we figured we could save some money on without ruining the day."

With matrimonial season well underway -- and due to peak Saturday because thousands of couples decided 07/07/07 would be a lucky day to marry -- love is certainly in the air. But if you're planning a wedding for 2008, perhaps on Aug. 8 because Chinese numerology deems eight to be especially auspicious, you might not want to get too wrapped up in sentimentality. If you do, you could pay later.

That's because the average wedding in the U.S. costs $27,000, according to wedding website the Knot. And with Americans marrying later than in years past, the bride and groom are more likely to pay for much or all of the cost of their nuptials. But if you and your life-mate-to-be try to do that without cutting costs, you could very well start married life deep in debt, which wouldn't be auspicious at all.

What can you do, short of turning the affair into a potluck at the park? Plenty, experts say.

Here's a look at the prime targets for saving money:

The gown: Something old or discounted

It's a wildly expensive dress that you'll wear just one day. Then you'll spend $100 or so having it dry-cleaned and packed in a special box that will gather dust in your closet.

So instead of buying a designer dress at a bridal store, the modern, sensible bride seeks out sample sales, at which designer dresses can be marked down by as much as 80%, according to Christa Vagnozzi, senior editor at the Knot.

Or you can apply your finely honed Web shopping skills in the brisk online market for very lightly used wedding wear. Search for "used wedding gown" and you'll get countless hits. Placed high in the list of results are likely to be usedweddingdresses.com, preownedweddingdresses.com and rsvpbridal.com, all of which allow prospective brides to peruse once-worn gowns -- sometimes never worn -- each for sale at a fraction of its original price.

Regardless of how much you pay for the dress, give serious thought to selling it after the ceremony, suggested Mike Sullivan, director of education at Take Charge America, a credit counseling firm in Phoenix. Chances are you'll never put it on again, even if you remarry, he said. (Who would plan for that eventuality anyway?) And don't count on any of your offspring wearing it when they get married, said Sullivan, whose two daughters had little interest in donning their mother's neatly packaged wedding gown for their ceremonies.

Flowers: Impostors offer sweet savings

Miholich, who works as a community service manager in Phoenix for a nonprofit that fights autism, said she got an idea for saving on floral costs from dinners she helped arrange. Pricey tabletop floral arrangements were replaced with candles, mirrors and a sprinkling of cut flowers. It looked elegant at a fraction of the cost, she said.

Miholich also had no intention of walking down the aisle with a $200 bouquet. She arranged to have a high-end supermarket make the bouquets, boutonnieres and provide the flower buds for the tabletops. Total cost: $250.

Those who want the traditional tabletop sprays can cut costs in less aggressive ways, Vagnozzi said. The simplest: Talk to the florist about what's in season.

Consider the popular peony -- a top choice for today's brides. Buy it in the spring and it's $7 a stem. Insist on it in the fall and it will cost $14 to $19, Vagnozzi said. A certain variety of rose looks similar but costs just $3.

Likewise, the sought-after lily of the valley runs $5 a stem -- more than double the price of the look-alike white wax flower.

"Talk to the florist. Explain what your budget is and see what they suggest," Vagnozzi said. If the florist isn't helpful, find another one.

For a church wedding, Sullivan suggests seeing whether you can share flowers. Many churches have back-to-back weddings on summer Saturdays, he said. Ask the pastor if you can contact the couples marrying before or after you and see whether they're up for splitting the cost of the floral displays.

The music: Settle for a digital playlist

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