How to save on wedding costs without sacrificing

Several years ago, a character on my favorite television show expounded on the cost of modern weddings, finishing up his tirade with, “And the next morning, you wake up and realize that for the same price as the down payment on a house you’re married to that.”

The average wedding costs about $30,000, and in this declining economy it might not be too long before that will once again be a down payment in Los Angeles.

Most brides want beauty and romance during their wedding — an expression of their love in the form of a grandiose ceremony. But for many couples, a lavish wedding would require a major financial sacrifice at time when few can afford to do so.

For brides and grooms who are focused more on the marriage than the wedding, the following are some cost-cutting ideas to preserve the grand expression, while leaving enough aside for a nest egg.


Unless the guest list tops 300, don’t hire a wedding planner. Their service won’t save you any time or trouble, because they will regularly want to meet to offer you more choices. What you might save in prices with vendors will in turn be spent on their fees. Planners are mostly in the business of selling services, and as a result, they look to increase the extravagance.

Wedding at Home

While people generally think that having a wedding at home is the least expensive, it can cost as much as a banquet hall to rent the tables and chairs, hire a valet service and pay for the catering service to provide and serve the food. Having the wedding in a professional venue only gets expensive when all the extras are added in, from valet parking to serving your guests champagne upon entering.


At a recent wedding, guests were served apples and champagne before they could get their coats off, and then there were exotic hors d’oeuvres, tables filled with fruit, cheese, crudités and dip. Then as they left the ceremony, they were offered goblets of a variety of soups. Entering the hall for cocktails, guests encountered deli, Japanese, Italian, French, Latin and Chinese buffet tables. By the time people were ushered into dinner, the three entrées they had to choose from were hardly enticing.

Instead of stuffing the guests before the dinner, serve hors d’oeuvres and drinks, allowing the guests to mingle without having to get in long lines.

Another approach is to have a morning or early brunch wedding and forgo elaborate dinners.


Next comes invitations; these seem to get more elaborate each year. A recent one came in a box that when opened, a light inside went on. Even the postage was exorbitant. Short of doing the invitations yourself, go for more imagination in the printing and the design than the size and grandeur of the presentation. Leave out response cards. Most people will call anyway and tell you if they’re coming.


Decorations have become more elaborate each year — streamers, horns, hats and even Hula-hoops being handed out just to keep everyone occupied and having a good time. Cutting out all the handouts can save a ton of money, perhaps enough to get a higher quality band that will play music that won’t blast out the eardrums. Plus, all the tchotchkes tend to get thrown out rather quickly, literally money down the drain.

The Dress

Of course, every bride wants to look like a vision coming down the aisle. But designer gowns can cost more than $6,000, and they’re only worn once.

However, there are alternatives, such as off-the-rack gowns that can be purchased for as little as $500. Another practice, which is becoming more popular, is to get a secondhand wedding gown at a thrift shop, a secondhand clothing store or for the more adventurous, by bidding for a gown on an online auction site like eBay. It’s also possible to borrow a gown through L.A. Hachnosas Kallah at (323) 936-3254.

The best way to save money on your wedding is to focus on quality. Think seriously about what is important and the best reflection of the values of the soon-to-be happy couple. Throwing out money to keep up with the Steins reflects the values of others and is a poor start to any marriage.

Anne Phyllis Pinzow is a scriptwriter who makes her main living as a newspaper reporter and editor.

Flower choices can make your simcha a blooming success

You may not wear white for your wedding or hold your ceremony in a synagogue, but chances are you’ll incorporate flowers into your day somehow, whether it’s with an extravagant bouquet or a simple hair accessory. Here’s what to consider when choosing your blooms:

First Things First
Don’t even think about visiting a florist until you’ve chosen what both you and your bridesmaids will be wearing for the ceremony. Your gown style and the colors of your bridesmaids’ dresses will help your florist get a sense of your personal style and enable her to create bouquets and arrangements that will enhance, rather than detract, from the main event — you.
Collect magazine photos of images you like and don’t like, and show them to your wedding/floral consultant, said Jennifer McGarigle, owner of FloralArt in Venice. She’ll be able to help translate your personal style into the visual and experiential vision you have for your wedding.

Color Clues
We’ve come a long way from traditional white wedding bouquets. Nowadays, anything goes, from bright orange to deep red to dramatic purple. Monochromatic or tone-on-tone combinations are a big trend right now, McGarigle said. (Think pale pink hydrangeas paired with deeper pink roses and bright pink asters.)
“Purple is a big hit … but be careful how you use it,” she said. “It works best when there are bleeding shades of purple — from lavender, to purple, to violet. Use crisp white, soft gray or celery green as a contrasting accent.”
Remember that color can come from more than just the flowers themselves. Incorporate accent colors with ribbon or beaded wire in your bouquet and with vases and tablecloths for your table arrangements.
“My favorite combination right now is monochromatic white with antique gold and beige or chocolate brown accents,” McGarigle said. “The gold can come from either the fabric of the containers or linens, like a gold matte satin cloth.”

Let’s Get Practical
Choose flowers carefully if you or other members of your party are prone to allergies, said Judith Sherven, co-author of “The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams” (New World Library, 2005). Gardenias and some lilies, for example, are very pungent and can cause headaches or other symptoms, even for your guests, she said.
You’ll also want to be sure that your blooms will hold up for the duration of your event and be easy to transport if you’ll be reusing ceremony arrangements for the reception (a great way to save money). Sharing your wedding day itinerary with your florist will help her in guiding your floral choices.

Money Matters
Be up-front with your florist about your budget, McGarigle said, and always get a proposal that itemizes and describes each area of décor. If you’re on a budget, prioritize, she said. “Choose the areas you do and do them well.”
If you have your heart set on pricier flowers, like orchids or calla lilies but can’t afford to use them in large quantities, think in terms of simple, elegant arrangements, Sherven said. Use your most expensive flowers in your hair and bouquet (where they’ll be front and center in photos and during the ceremony) and less costly blooms for site decoration. You can also use potted plants and flowers from friends’ gardens to expand on your use of florist arrangements, she said.

Style and Shape
“The biggest trends in flowers right now are modern but not minimalist arrangements,” McGarigle said, “meaning the lines of floral decor are clean and streamlined but lush in color, texture and abundance.
“Mix vases and other containers in varying shapes and sizes for a more eclectic, interesting look,” she said, “but create unity with common shapes, whether round or square. A centerpiece grouping, for example, could combine vases of varying heights in round and cylindrical shapes. For flower combinations, three- to five-bloom variations that complement one another make for cleaner looking arrangements with impact.”

Be Size Wise With the Bouquet
Don’t get stuck carting a bouquet that’s heavy or awkward. It may not seem unwieldy at first, but keep in mind that you’ll be holding it for the duration of your ceremony and through all your pictures. Keep both your body shape and dress style in mind when choosing your blossoms. The three main types of bridal bouquets are:

  • Round posy — either hand-tied (stems are bound and tied with ribbon) or wired (stems are removed to eliminate bulk). Hand-tied bouquets are versatile and work well with all types of dresses. Wired posies make for lighter bouquets and are a good choice for petite-size brides.
  • Trailing/shower. Elongated bouquets like cascades/showers (which resemble waterfalls) and trailing bouquets (which are full at the top, then taper to form a tail at the bottom) are good choices for fuller skirts and/or taller brides.
  • Overarm. Long-stemmed flowers (roses, orchids or calla lilies are popular choices) are tied with a ribbon and held along the inner crook of your elbow. This style suits a modern, slim dress and draws attention to an ornamented bodice.

Peak timing
Choosing in-season blooms will keep prices down, as will steering clear of red roses if you’ll be tying the knot close to Valentine’s Day.

Location, Location
Try to avoid competing with your environment, whether it’s indoors or out. Small bouquets can seem insignificant in large spaces, and extravagant blooms ostentatious for intimate backyard gatherings. Also take note of the floor and wall colors, and the type of decorations already on site. You may be able to save money by making use of in-house plants and archways.

Make It Meaningful
Many flowers have meanings associated with them, for example:

Rose: love, beauty.
Sunflowe: adoration.
Gardenia: joy.
Orchid: delicate beauty.
Lily of the valley: happiness.
Sweet pea: lasting pleasure.
Peony: bashfulness.
Stephanotis: marital happiness.

But what really matters is choosing flowers you love. You can also pick blossoms based on those that have meant something to you and your fiancé as a couple — pink roses for the first bouquet he gave you or lilacs for the bush in your friend’s backyard where he proposed.

The bottom line? “Surround yourself with flowers that bring you pleasure and joy,” Sherven said. They’ll set the tone for your wedding and be a constant reminder of your blossoming love.

Jenny Stamos writes about health, nutrition, psychology, work, money and love for magazines such as Self, Shape, Glamour, Women’s Health, Prevention and Woman’s Day.