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Proper planning helps reduce wedding costs
By Tricia Hopper
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Wedding are among the most important events in most people's lives and often one of the most expensive, but careful planning can help reduce the costs without diminishing the enjoyment.
Most brides have envisioned their fantasy wedding day since they were little girls, but when the day actually approaches, they often find their wallet doesn't measure up. With USA Today reporting the average wedding in the United States costing around $19,000 for 200 guests, it's no wonder more couples are choosing to elope. However, Susan Cosgrove, area family resource management agent with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said dream weddings can be affordable.
"Three essential steps to keep in mind when starting to plan are to set a spending limit, develop a budget and then stick to it," Cosgrove said.
In the initial planning stages, Cosgrove advised brides to detail who will pay for what. Discussing this early is important in avoiding misunderstandings later on. Be sure to include all possible expenses to plan a realistic budget.
After setting a budget, Cosgrove said getting organized is the next key.
"Purchase a planning workbook or make one yourself. Get a fat, three-ring binder, loose-leaf paper, tab dividers with pockets and zippered inserts for each divider," she said.
Label sections such as reception, flowers, guest list and music. Having all this information in one place will prove helpful as everything is available at the flip of a page rather than searching for notes kept in a disorganized fashion.
Even with a plan, sticking to a budget can be difficult at times. Cosgrove said two ways to cut costs are to comparison shop and make items when possible. Visit a craft store or craft section at a local store for ideas. Personally making or getting help of friends to make items such as centerpieces and attendant gifts can save money.
"Gifts the bride can make for her attendants range from handmade jewelry to pottery bowls," Cosgrove said. "Be creative depending on your talent and taste."
Other simple ways to reduce wedding costs include holding the ceremony and reception at the same location or not getting married during the holiday season.
"Holiday weddings cost more because you are competing for caterers, photographers, reception sites, honeymoon locations and more," she said.
Since the largest percentage of money is usually spent on the reception, Cosgrove offered tips to reduce the cost of this event.
"If you are serving meat dishes, go with chicken to save money and try to incorporate pasta dishes. Be sure to stay away from out-of-season ingredients, which would be more expensive, such as fresh asparagus in the fall," Cosgrove said.
Having a reception mid-afternoon can mean less food is necessary. The traditional "cake and punch" reception is another easy way to cut costs. Likewise, having several sheet cakes rather than one wedding cake is less expensive while also insuring there will be enough cake for everyone.
Cosgrove encouraged brides to consider personally making food items or enlisting family and friends as volunteers to help reduce costs.
"Trying to do a lot yourself rather than having it catered is always a surefire way to save money," she said. "Remember this is a stressful event for most brides. Whenever plans and costs start taking away from the enjoyment of the occasion, it is time to scale back."