Top 10 Ways To Save Money On Your Wedding

Budget-Savvy Weddings Transcend Their Price Tag

by Kathleen Kennedy

June 21, 2001 -- Its wedding season again! With wedding costs escalating and the economy in a slump, many couples are wondering how they can host a wedding that will live on in memory--not through bills. It's no wonder that people get antsy when they start to think about coordinating a wedding; the average cost of one is over $19,000! But does it have to be this way? "Absolutely not! There is no need to spend tons of money on a wedding when the most important thing is to make it personal," exclaims Kathleen Kennedy, a chef, stylist and event planner with over 18 years experience in the hospitality industry.

Whether your budget is $3500 or $35,000+, the following budget-savvy strategies from author Kathleen Kennedy's new book, Priceless Weddings for under $5000 (Three Rivers Press, $14.00), will helpbetrothed couples get the most for their money:

** Prioritize - Before couples begin planning their wedding and reception, Kennedy urges them to sit down together and discuss what their top 5 priorities are. Kennedy states, "This will help to determine where to go all out -- and where its fair game to cut corners. For instance, if it is important to you that the wedding and reception by held at the restaurant that you went to on your first date or you know you MUST have a specific designer gown or a certain DJ that you really like -- then you can fit that into your budget and decide to save money in other areas."

** Limit the Guest List - Keeping the guest list as concise as possible can help to drastically reduce reception costs. Most caterers, restaurants and banquet halls charge per-person, so the difference between 100 guests and 150 will be significant.

Reverend Roger Coleman of Clergy Services, Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri specializes in small family weddings and is quoted in Kennedy's book. He suggests, "Not to invite more guests than you can spend one minute of time with. If you invite 300 guests spending one minute with each would take over 5 hours" not including the ceremony, eating, dancing...

** Food - Food can be the biggest expense at a wedding. Strategies to save on food and catering include choosing to have a buffet instead of a sit-down meal, or hosting a high tea, dessert reception, brunch or luncheon instead of a multi-course dinner. Or consider drop-off catering, where the caterer delivers already prepared food and sets it up. Catering all or part of the reception yourself is another possibility.

** Location - There are many options for low-cost or no-cost locations including local and national parks, forest preserves, your own back yard or that of a friend or relative. Also consider a location that offers an all-inclusive package on the wedding, reception, and sometimes the honeymoon too. Choosing to have the wedding during an off-season or on any day but Saturday will also help to cut costs.

** Wedding Attire - A few creative money-saving alternatives to shopping at a traditional bridal salon include: purchasing a gown at an outlet, from a department store in the special occasions off-the-rack area, buying a vintage or once-worn gown and purchasing a traditional gown through the Discount Bridal Service (DBS). Or consider bidding for a gown on-line auction, renting a gown, redoing a mother or mother-in-law's dress or wearing a designer suit.

** Flowers and Decorations - Those that choose to wed in a location that is already decorated will see big savings. To set a stylish mood without much work, plan the wedding to take place in a garden, art museum or a beautifully furnished home. Or consider doing the flowers and decorations yourself. Kennedy states, "One bride I interviewed for the book planted 200 bulbs months before their wedding, and then married right in the middle of the fully blooming cheerful yellow tulips. Another bought 13 dozen roses at a great price from a warehouse store."

** Invitations - This is definitely an area where do-it-yourselfers can show off their skills and pocket the difference in costs. "We "printed" our invitations right on the computer and no one would ever have guessed! We also printed a newsletter that we sent out a few months before the wedding. This helped to alert out-of-towners to make reservations in advance and plan a mini-vacation if they wanted to," Kennedy explained.

** Music - For some couples a band is an absolute must, for others a DJ, which is usually much less expensive, is a great way to cut costs, plus you get an MC to move the reception along. For the die-hard live band or music folks, look for bands that have day jobs and "jam" for fun and/or high school -aged bands. Or have a child violin virtuosos perform for the ceremony--there won't be a dry eye in the place. A rock-bottom budget option is to make your own tapes of your musical favorites.

** Photography and Videography - Weddings tend to go by so quickly, and each moment is so precious, that having a photographer chronicle the event with a still and/or video camera is the only way to really capture the moment for posterity. But can photography be affordable. Kennedy assures that it can, "When we were married, we knew that photography and videography, were important to us, but we also knew that we did not want to spend top dollar for the services. We hired a friend of a friend who was an art school graduate. She gave us a package deal of a full day of shooting, a wedding book, the 3"x5" roofs and the negatives for a VERY fair price. Another friend videotaped the wedding in lieu of a present."

** Bar service - Eliminating or limiting a traditional full bar to one or two hours will really cut costs. Alternatives include serving beer and wine only, not serving alcohol at all or only pouring a champagne toast. Depending on the local laws and the rules at your reception hall, if you are able to buy the liquor yourself and then hire someone to pour it-- the savings potential is enormous.

While writing "Priceless Weddings...", Kennedy interviewed dozens of couples whose weddings cost "under $5000." From her vantage point she feels that "weddings should not be about how much was spent or saved. They should reflect the individual personalities and priorities of the couple getting married."

"Our wedding was only $3500 and it was very low stress and intimate, yet elegant. We celebrated our commitment, our vows and our friendships and really rejoiced in the days' events. I then went on to write the self-help guide, Priceless Weddings for under $5000, so that other couples can plan the wedding day of their dreams, for less than they ever dreamed possible." To ask a question about wedding planning or learn more about "Priceless Weddings", log onto


Kathleen Kennedy's wedding to Gary Kovalsky was held on the July 4th in Bolinas, Ca. at a horse ranch B&B that had spectacular wildflower gardens and a gazebo overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The short ceremony was presided over by their maid of honor and best man who were deputized as justices of the peace for the day by the local town hall. Kennedy wore a silk shantung wedding ensemble that had a fitted rembroidered lace bodice. The groom and the best man wore traditional tuxedos.

Following the nuptials, each pair of 2 guests (there were 50 guests in all) were given a picnic basket and tablecloth. As guests spread out on the lawns under the Eucalyptus trees, they feasted on pesto brie, long stemmed strawberries, champagne grapes and baguettes. There were also bubbles in each basket, which young and old alike delighted in.

After the appetizers were finished, everyone moved to tables on a terra cotta patio. The pair served a buffet of their favorite foods, including spare ribs, fried chicken, al fresco salads, shrimp salad sandwiches, raspberry-lemonade and iced tea. The festivities also included dancing on the terrace to prerecorded tapes, plus croquet and softball for the kids.

Everyone moved indoors to antique-filled rooms for dessert. The cake was a multi-tiered lemon cake filled with berries and covered with buttercream frosting and fresh flowers. Coffee, fresh fruit and Peruvian wedding cookies were also served.

Following the guests' departure, the newlyweds spent the night as private guests of the inn.

Contact: Kathleen Kennedy 847-425-9650 1224 Oak Avenue Evanston, IL 60202