Unique ways to cut wedding costs
Unclaimed cake slicers? A minimalist approach to attendants? Think outside the box and save.
My favorite? The unclaimed cake slicer.
Marjorie Asturias heard about a canceled wedding whose preparations included an engraved silver cake slicer. She paid $10 for it, then had an engraving shop weld on a silver plate with her own wedding details.
"Since I'm not superstitious about these kinds of things, I couldn't care less about the 'symbolism,'" says the Texas reader.
No one would have known had Asturias not outed herself. She did so to encourage others to look at weddings differently. Read on for more tips.
In "How to win contests and sweepstakes," I wrote about a grad student whose 500-word essay won a contest sponsored by an online jeweler. The prize package included an engagement ring and an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City. Not too shabby for a guy who once thought contests were "unwinnable."
Apparently they're not. This Facebook app will get you started. (Post continues after video.)
Julie Vlahon won several thousand dollars' worth of goodies by signing up through bridal magazines and sites like TheKnot.com. Her single biggest haul: "All my invitations, save-the-dates and thank-you cards."
Wedding enthusiast Stephanie S., profiled in "Friends' weddings busting your budget?," recommends the handcrafts site Etsy for bridal-shower favors and bachelorette party gifts. Some crafters give discounts if you buy more than a few at a time, says Stephanie, who's attending eight ceremonies plus numerous parties and showers this year.
Watch daily deal sites, too, for good prices on catering, wine, linens, spa packages and attendant-gift ideas.
Another way to boost your budget: free gift cards. My daughter, her fiancé and I saved rewards points during the two-year engagement. We earned enough to pay for honeymoon airline tickets plus almost all of the food and drinks at the family-catered reception.
Not lucky enough to win your invites? A number of people suggested going virtual through sites like Paperless Post (which offers some free online designs) and setting up personal wedding websites for RSVPs (and updates). Both online options eliminate the cost of stamps and printing.
A couple of readers mentioned wedding apps, which let you cut way back on magazine and book purchases. They can be as generalist as Wedding911 or as specialized as Wedding Speeches.
Connecticut reader Mei-Ling Uliasz, who had a Halloween-themed wedding, haunted yard sales and thrift stores beforehand. Many of her decorations came from the free box, and she spent practically nothing on the jars for her "old-fashioned candy shop" wedding favor.
My daughter paid 50 cents for a wonderfully retro 1950s-era cake topper at a yard sale. Later we saw a similar item on eBay for more than $30. She also bought table linens and serving pieces at yard sales, then sold them on Craigslist after the wedding -- so check there and also on The Freecycle Network.
Denise Winston of Bakersfield, Calif., "cut lots of corners" when she married 12 years ago. Her fondest frugal memory: having guests sign a photo mat instead of a guest book. "Now we have the memory of our day surrounded by well-wishes from friends and family," Winston says.
Cristin Frank of Williamsville, NY, committed a staggering piece of bridal heresy: cutting the wedding party to one male and one female attendant. They "saved a ton on flowers" and all four drove to the ceremony in a borrowed convertible.
Photos were a cinch, too. "We could actually get close-ups of the four of us," Frank says, vs. a group shot that "looked like an eighth-grade graduation picture."
A popular reception trend is renting a picture booth that spits out photo strips of the guests. Lauren Rathvon and her fiancé built their own out of PVC pipe, curtains and photo-booth software.
At least one software brand is free. Since you do have to buy the paper, make sure kids at the reception don't overdo the funny-face shots. Just tell them their little mugs will freeze like that some day.
Readers: Did you think outside the box for your wedding? Have any tips to share?
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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.
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Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.
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