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Smart Cookies

Keep that wedding budget from getting out of hand Add to ...

If you’re tying the knot this year and go on a honeymoon, you can expect a price tag of roughly $30,000, according to Weddingbells’ Annual Reader Survey.

The expected cost is up 20 per cent from 2008, a statistic that doesn't surprise SmartBrideBoutique.com co-founder, Leah Andrew, who says that more than 75 per cent of brides feel pressure to have a wedding bigger than their budgets. After years of helping brides-to-be stick to their spending plans, Ms. Andrew shares some of her best tips for creating a day you love at a comfortable cost.

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Save money with a smart space

More couples are opting for one venue for both the ceremony and reception to minimize extra expenses, like decor and transportation. Ms. Andrew says to “look for space that has a natural appeal and is already pretty so you don’t have to do much to decorate.” Less traditional space, like an art gallery or a distillery, can often be the most cost-effective.

And before committing to a caterer for your venue, do your research because nothing is set in stone. Ask questions so you don’t incur surprise last-minute expenses, like a cake-cutting fee or additional charges for a tasting. Ideally your venue will let you bring in your own booze. Ms. Andrew says she saved close to $1,500 purchasing a special location permit and bringing in alcohol. Simplifying your drink menu to beer, wine and a specialty cocktail saves you even more.

Say yes to a less-expensive dress

“Ninety-five per cent of the people I know walk out of a bridal store with a different dress then they had in mind so be open-minded and look at all of the options within your budget,” says Ms. Andrew. She also suggests avoiding sample sales. The frenzy makes you buy on impulse and throwing a gown over your jeans doesn’t quite give you a clear picture that it’s the one.

Instead, shop in-store for the manufacturer and style you love and then look for the great deals online. Ms. Andrew says a lot of brides contact her through her site and e-mail photos of what they are looking for. “I’m a bit like rain man,” she jokes, “I can likely say right away whether we’ve got it or not or show them something similar.”

You can save up to 80 per cent of the original cost by purchasing your gown through SmartBrideBoutique.com, or splurge on your dream dress and then sell it after your wedding to recuperate roughly 50 per cent of what you paid.

Hire some help

Many couples think a planner is a luxury, but planners have a number of packages to fit your budget and often the discounts they get more than make up for their cost. Many wedding planners offer co-ordination services just for the wedding day, a service Ms. Andrew took advantage of for less than $1,000, to ensure your day runs smoothly – from vendors arriving on time to dealing with guests without seats. Planners can also help you put a personal stamp on your day and add the unique details your guests will remember most.

Prioritize your spending

There are some items you’re going to want to shell out for. “I’m a big proponent of splurging in certain areas and wedding photography is one of them,” says Ms. Andrew. Still, there are ways to cut costs. Ms. Andrew worked with a photographer who provided digital prints and created her own wedding albums – three for under $40 with sites like Mixbook or Blurb.

Once you’ve determined where you want to spend, look for other ways to cut costs. Consider postcards for reply cards to eliminate additional envelopes, or simply have guests reply through your wedding website. Getting married on a weekday also reduces your venue expenses by up to 50 per cent.

The registry is another area that can help you recuperate some costs, or put funds toward your honeymoon or future expenses. Many couples are living together when they wed and already have many of the traditional household registry items. Cash registries on sites like Weddingrepublic.com and Depositagift.com are a great alternative as they allow guests to contribute toward the dreams and experiences you want most, from honeymoons to home down payments.

Walking down the aisle debt-free is one of the best wedding presents you can give to your partner. Prioritizing, planning, and focusing on a day that reflects your personalities gives you the best chance to create a celebration well within your spending plan and start your marriage with financial confidence.

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group. Read her weekly column on managing debt and saving money at the Globe's personal finance site.

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