Lauren Swoboda also heard no complaints from guests who got an open bar and Publix supermarket cake ($400) rather than a champagne toast and a $1,000 cake from a local bakery. The tiers were dressed up with help from her florist, who also helped her nip costs in the bud by letting her "rent" flowers. They were collected at the end of the night and redistributed to hotels and restaurants around the area, which gave Swoboda a significant discount.
If guests are still thirsting for something fizzy with which to toast, wedding planner Sandy Wieber believes there is no need to splurge on the Dom Perignon. "I throw out a lot of full glasses of champagne! More people like sparkling cider," says Weiber, "and it's cheaper."
The printed programs and menus
If your guests can't tell the players without a program, perhaps they've stumbled into the wrong wedding. Ely Anne Vedar runs a boutique agency and advises clients to save both money and trees by skipping the printing.
"Everyone there is there for your wedding, and if they don't know who the bride and groom are then they shouldn't be there," she says. "Save that money and splurge on your food and beverages for the reception!"
Event planner Robyn Bruns believes printed programs can be a nice touch, but they often get left behind after the ceremony. She recommends handing one out per couple rather than per person to cut the cost in half.
Similar cutbacks can be made at the table. "I do believe the guests do like to get an idea of what they are eating, however a menu per person is not necessary. Use one or two menus per table and display them for everyone," says Bruns.
For couples who do decide to go the menu route, it can do double duty, Bruns advises. "Put the guests' names on the menu and then it becomes a place card instantly."
Every couple has different priorities, and one couple's must-have is another couple's "meh." Priorities can even vary between the betrothed. Wieber helps them sort it out by asking them a few questions:
1. Pick your top three priorities: dress, flowers, food, cake, champagne, music, favors or guest gifts, venue, decor, printed items, photography, videography, reception, transportation, drinks or honeymoon. (Wieber notes that grooms always choose the honeymoon, so brides are really picking one, and then the couple is picking one jointly.)
2. What is important in other areas of your lives? Hobbies and ideas about how you'll spend your first honeymoon can help offer clues.
3. Do any important family members have expectations? If they do, that's the fourth priority.
After those are set, Wieber says everything else can be skimped on because it doesn't matter as much. "And if it doesn't matter, then it's a waste of money to go all out in that particular area."
Write down your priorities, stick to your budget, don't spend too much time getting distracted by Pinterest, and you, too, can stroll happily down the aisle together, debt-free, 'til death do you part.