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Frugal Wedding:  Your Big Day on a Dime


(ARA) - A wedding to treasure doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, with smart planning and a little research, you can have a beautiful and memorable wedding with money left over for the honeymoon.

According to experts at The Art Institutes, the best way to begin planning your wedding is to start with a ballpark budget in mind. Determine your high and low price and then head online to do research. By using the Internet, experts say , you can find prices for everything from wedding gowns to photography to reception halls. This gives you a great starting point.

Once you know what you can spend, Suzanne Morrison-Williams, Academic Department director of interactive media design at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, suggests involving friends and family to help offset costs. For example, she says , you may have friends who are DJs or amateur photographers and are willing to donate their talents for your big day.

“Friends can also help with decorations and flowers,” she says. “Flowers can take up a big part of your budget. While roses are beautiful, they can be expensive. Instead, look for flowers that are in season and usually cost less.” If your heart is set on expensive blooms, she says, use fewer for more dramatic impact.

Experts all agree, though, the biggest cost of almost any wedding is the reception, including the location and food. But with a little imagination, there are inexpensive and creative alternatives to the traditional reception hall. Alison Paster, academic director of the Fashion Merchandising/Visual Merchandising programs at The Art Institute of Philadelphia, recently attended a lovely and quaint wedding on the beach.

“The venue was free, and it was a stunning backdrop,” she says. The bride purchased a dress on sale from David’s Bridal for $99, and the reception included simple covered dishes and grills for barbecue.

Other ideas to borrow from a simple beach wedding, says Paster, include table centerpieces of beach glass in fish bowls, white M&Ms in netting with a silver bow for favors, and wedding invites and programs done on the computer using decorative paper and hand-made accents. Paster recommends finding inspiration from your setting, and shopping at local craft stores for table setting and wedding favor ideas.

If a beach wedding isn’t your style, you can still find a bargain. As the Academic Department director, Culinary & Pastry Arts for The Art Institute of New York City, Robynne Maii wanted a restaurant wedding reception, and with a little negotiation, she got just what she wanted, at a good price. “When we originally started asking about renting a restaurant for our reception, the prices were very high,” says Maii. “However, when you speak directly with the owners, prices go down significantly especially if you want a lunch or brunch.”

More tips for weddings on a budget from experts at The Art Institutes include:

* If you have your heart set on the $1,200 dress, find a dressmaker and you can get it made for $500.

* For elegant food, simpler is better. Guests do not need a large variety of hors d’oeuvres or entre choices. It is better to be specific with what the couple wants and have it executed well. Don’t try to please everyone. You always have better quality with less quantity.

* For the location, try something offbeat like a park with a ballroom or a school gymnasium. Some apartment or condo complexes have clubhouses that they allow residents to use for a few hundred dollars.

* Consider booking your wedding on a Friday night or Sunday morning or afternoon. Since these are not popular days, you may get a discount for using that non-premium time.

* If you don’t have a crowd that drinks a lot of alcohol and you are using a location that includes alcohol in the per head cost, then simply remove premium alcohol and serve only wine and beer. That will lower the cost by about $8 per person. Then reserve about $200 for those few persons who might want whisky, etc.

* Go to your local college, art or music school to find out about hiring students to play music or take photographs. These schools may be able to refer you to students who are often willing to work for less in exchange for the experience and building their portfolio. Be sure to ask for samples and references, but be flexible. Generally, students are not professionals.

Courtesy of ARA Content