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Unique ways to cut wedding costs

Unclaimed cake slicers? A minimalist approach to attendants? Think outside the box and save.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 6, 2012 11:17AM
Image: Bride and groom (© Image Source/Getty Images/Getty Images)Since mid-March, I've written seven articles on frugal wedding tactics. During the research I heard ideas that I can describe only as thinking outside the etiquette book.

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.

Frugal preparations

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 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.

Frugal sources

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.


The ceremony/reception
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.

Did you think outside the box for your wedding? Have any tips to share?

More from MSN Money:

Jul 6, 2012 12:16PM
Another great cost saver is asking your reception caterer if there is a buffet "menu du jour" that you can use for the reception food instead of choosing a fancy plated dinner.  When I worked at a banquet hall, many brides choose expensive plates, but hardly ate any of it at the reception because they were too busy socializing & greeting guests to eat (not to mention decompressing from the stress of the day).  Go for the cheap-o buffet.  The guests won't know the difference.
Jul 10, 2012 8:59AM
Here's what we did to save money at our wedding.  Aunt grew and arranged flowers as a gift, cousin that had a bakery run out of her home did the cake, brother-in -law took wedding pictures, we served dinner at the church and supplied the food (about125 guests), bought a supply of alcohol at warehouse outlet and an uncle did the bartending, rented a tent and had the reception at the in-laws home, another cousin arranged for a friends band (yes they were very talented) to play at the reception, the wedding dress was bought off the rack and cost less than the bridesmaids' dress, tux for ring bearer was free because we rented 5 and the 6th was no charge, honeymoon was one day.  My wife and I had no money we could fit everything we owned even after the wedding in our car, cash gifts were much appreciated.
Mar 15, 2013 7:25PM
We just cut out the attendants and had no flowers at all!  Not even to walk down the aisle.  We hired a taxi for the main part of the day (cheaper than a limo) and had a family member drive us to the hotel at the end of the evening.
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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.


Donna Freedman

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.