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Jewish Journal

How to save on wedding costs without sacrificing

By Anne Phyllis Pinzow

December 12, 2008 | 1:47 am

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.

Planners

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.

Food

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.

Invitations

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.

Tchotchkes

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.

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