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Say yes to free wedding help

Physical assistance from family and friends helps save money (and your sanity). Just don't turn into a Bridezilla or Groomzilla.

By Donna_Freedman Jul 27, 2012 6:49PM
Image: Newlywed couple (© Purestock/SuperStock)When you announce your engagement, some folks will probably say: "That's wonderful! Congratulations! Can I do anything to help?"

Take them up on it, instantly. Just don't become a Bridezilla (or Groomzilla) in the process.

Even the simplest wedding involves loads of logistics. Who's going to set up chairs, run to Costco for deli platters or pick up Grandma at the airport? In this situation, many hands not only make light work, but they can also save your sanity -- and will probably stretch your wedding budget.

Sometimes it's general assistance that's offered, but you may be lucky enough to have friends or relatives with special talents. A friend of Michelle Baylin used the lace curtains from Baylin's first home to craft a chuppah, a canopy under which the bride and groom stand during a Jewish wedding.

"It was a way for her to be a part of the wedding . . . and we ended up with a wall hanging that's really special," says Baylin, a Maryland resident. Another friend designed and printed the invitations and created an illustration that Baylin used on the wedding website.

Julie Vlahon's cousin, a former florist, offered to arrange all her wedding flowers. Vlahon, who shopped a San Francisco wholesale flower market for supplies, estimates the resulting arrangements cost 90% less than a hired florist would have charged.

Labors of love

Not everyone has a specific talent, but unskilled laborers are needed, too. The time that volunteers spend putting together relish trays and decorating the parish hall for the reception is time you get to spend with the bridal party.

The people who ferry guests to and from the airport, or host shirttail relatives who can't afford hotels, are also to be praised. Imagine if you had to drop everything to pick up Cousin Jane or get Great-Uncle Ed settled in the guest room. (Post continues below video.)

Some people can offer tangible assets: tables and chairs, sound equipment, discounted or free use of a wedding or reception venue. When Sara McKinniss' brother got married, his new mother-in-law donated frequent-flier miles to help pay for airline tickets and a resort hotel for the couple's Hawaii honeymoon. Since the MIL was a long-established customer, she was also able to get the newlyweds special deals on special off-site excursions.

"It saved my brother and sister-in-law thousands of dollars," says McKinniss, who lives in Columbus, Ohio.

Even a simple vehicle loan can be a big help. Cristin Frank of Williamsville, N.Y., borrowed a friend’s convertible, a fun and memorable ride at zero cost versus renting a limo: "The best man drove, with the maid of honor riding shotgun and my husband and me in the back seat."

Show your gratitude

These donations may be freely given, but they are not "free." A skilled photographer or musician could be doing this for pay. The friend or cousin who spends two days running pre-wedding errands had to give up a weekend and maybe even take a day off from work to help out.

Nancy M., who blogs at Notes For My Next Life, wrote several funny posts about the Texas-size drama surrounding a wedding in her friend's family. For example, the friend had to drive for an hour to get Bridezilla to a hairdresser at 8 a.m. on the day of the wedding (which started at noon).

She also had to deal with the young woman's mini-tantrum when a minor snafu occurred with the recorded music. The friend delivered both "a short lecture that no one would know or care" and a shove to get the bride started on her walk down the aisle.

Does that sound like fun to you? Me neither. So be thankful that friends or family are willing to take care of such things.


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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.