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Ceremony & Reception

What's the best way to get plan your ceremony and reception?

1. Prioritize! Make a list of the most important things you want for your wedding and have your fiancé do the same. Are you most committed to having gorgeous flowers, inviting 400 people, hosting the wedding at a particular location, or serving filet mignon and lobster? Knowing your priorities before the planning starts will help you decide what to spend money on, and what you don't mind doing cheaply or doing without.

2. Trim the guest list. This is difficult but sometimes necessary if the cost per guest is going to break your budget. Cross off names on the list of guests who might feel obligated to come to the wedding if they are invited, but would not have their feelings hurt if they are not asked to attend. Think of inviting only relatives with whom you have a close relationship instead of everyone related to you. Invite only the people who are important to you and your parents, rather than everyone you know.

3. Reduce the number of people in your bridal party. You have to buy nice gifts for every member of your bridal party, and that adds up. Plus, traditionally, the entire bridal party plus their dates are invited to the rehearsal dinner. Seven bridesmaids and seven groomsmen, all their dates, ring bearer and flower girls, and their families, plus both sets of parents and all the readers in the ceremony, plus officiant could add up to 40+ people to feed!

4. Have your wedding ceremony and reception held at a hotel, and ask for discounts when family and friends are staying at same hotel. Reserve a block of rooms for your guests several months before the wedding for the best rates. Speak with the appropriate manager when asking for discounts and reserving rooms.

5. Consider having a friend or family member conduct the wedding ceremony. This can save several hundred dollars which your minister may charge. See information on Becoming Ordained to set up your choice of an officiant.

6. Consider a country or small town wedding. Venues, catering, and florists tend to be cheaper in small towns than in large metro areas.

7. Stick to the schedule for your ceremony and reception. Musicians will charge more if asked to perform beyond the time stated in their contract. You will also incur additional limo charges if your event runs longer than planned.

8.  If you don't know any musicians yourself, call local college music departments rather then browsing the yellow pages. Students will be cheaper than professionals.

9. Have your ceremony and reception in the same location to simplify things and save you money. There will be no need for limos to take you to the second location. Many churches have halls that are equipped to handle wedding receptions at reasonable fees - especially if you are a member.

10. Ask friends to lend their talents by helping out with such things as invitations, flowers, and programs. Ask a friend with pretty penmanship to address your invitations instead of hiring a calligrapher. If you simplify your flowers and arrangements, perhaps a friend can assemble fresh or silk flowers which will save you hundreds of dollars. Some of the most attractive wedding programs are printed from a home computer and then creatively assembled with colored cardboard, tissue paper, ribbon, etc.

11. Consider having your wedding any day but Saturday. Fridays are also popular wedding days but may cost a lot less than a Saturday event. For even greater savings, choose a weekday evening for your wedding. Schedule the wedding to allow guests time to arrive at the ceremony after the work day has ended. Many guests enjoy weekday weddings as this frees up their weekends for other activities. Choose a date between November and April to avoid higher peak season rates in many areas.

12. Consider having your wedding during the day, such as a weekend brunch or a luncheon on Saturday or Sunday. The cost for the venue will be much lower and the daytime lighting is better for color photography.

13. Consider altering tradition. If you are doing a round of toasts, guests can toast with whatever they are currently drinking instead of you having to purchase champagne for everyone. Instead of a limo, consider a regular vehicle. If you are happy with just serving beer and wine, skip the full bar and save a bundle on liquor. Consider a lovely formal dress that isn't a traditional gown from a bridal shop.

14. Professionally posed and properly lighted photographs are one of the few beautiful keepsakes you'll have from your special day, but getting them doesn't have to break the bank. Choose an EXPERIENCED photographer who will include ALL OF THE IMAGES ON A CD for one low price. Then you can make as many inexpensive copies as you need rather than pay a huge reprint fee to the photogrpaher. (99 cents each at Mpix.com for a 5x7 rather than $15 each from the photographer.) Also, put together a list the group shots you want, make a detailed timeline for the day, and give a copy to everyone on the shot list. Be sure to "pad" your schedule by 15 minutes so those who run late don't get left out. Also, consider a private pre-wedding encounter for the bride and groom followed by all of the posed photography. Completing everything before your wedding means you can spend the entire remainder of your day enjoying yourself and the company of your guests. (Guests can't stand to be kept waiting between the wedding and the reception.)

15. After looking at the final plan of your wedding, but before paying any deposits, decide where you can simplify the whole process. Consider whether you really need choral singers and a string quartet at the ceremony and a wedding singer and a DJ at the reception. Releasing doves or butterflies or having a candle-lighting ceremony are all wonderful, but may end-up costing a lot of money. Simplicity saves money and if done well, your wedding may seem more serene and awe-inspiring!

16. Remember that the wedding is one day at the start of a life-long commitment. Look beyond the wedding day to the goals you will have as newlyweds. If you want to purchase a house in the next few years, keeping that as a priority throughout the wedding planning process will help you to be prudent about how much you spend on that one day.