Strapped for Cash

Go down the aisle without going broke.




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Not every bride can afford to glide down the aisle in a decadent pair of Manolos. But regardless of whether she can afford the real McCoy or a faux-but-fabulous pair of “Manonos,” all brides should have the luxury of the wedding of her dreams. With the average cost of an American wedding nearing $30,000, these dreams might need a bit of a financial nip/tuck. Can a sensational wedding be had on a less-than-average budget? You can bet the bouquet on it.

Enter Leeanne Affeldt, owner and coordinator of Make My Day Event Planners in Lewes. Her role depends entirely on the bride—and how much she wants to spend.

“Some brides want our help every step of the way—color scheme, theme, venues. They want us to take care of everything,” she says.  For the bride who wants to save green but still wants the red-carpet treatment, Leeanne suggests a day-of package. “This is great for the bride who wants to plan most of the details herself, save money, but still wants someone to put all the fires out on the big day.”

Leeanne tells clients to move their rehearsal dinner from the traditional Friday night to a Thursday. “Restaurants get packed on the weekends, especially in peak wedding season,” she says. “For a Friday night dinner, most will charge $2,000 to $4,000 just for a room fee.” On Thursdays, however, most venues will waive the fee all together. “Not only can you save the money in your wallet, you have a free day before the wedding to just relax and unwind.”

Obvious money-saving advice would be marry on a Friday or Sunday. Some view this as unusual. But hold that thought—Friday and Sunday weddings just got a lot more chic.

“People think wedding, and they think dinner,” Leeanne says. “But think outside of the box. We’re seeing a lot of luncheons or brunches—mimosas, quiche, crepes, coffee, hors d’oeuvres. It can be just as memorable and elegant.”

Can a bride budget just $1,000 for flowers? The answer is yes, with a little creativity. “Don’t go traditional,” Leeanne says. “You wouldn’t believe the difference in cost between long-stemmed flowers and exotic branches.”  By incorporating branches in your centerpiece (think tall, elegant vases), you can spend $100-$200 per table versus the $300-$400 per table (or more) that flowers will net. If you’re jonesing for color, add stemless flowers around the base. “We always have the brides who cut every idea out of Martha Stewart,” she says. “As long as they’re happy. That’s what’s most important.”

Greta White, owner of the T. Alexander Event Management Firm in Hockessin, couldn’t agree more. Her team goes to great lengths to make sure the bride is happy. In one instance her team ended up serving food after a caterer catastrophe. She and her clients meet in what she calls a “dream wedding” session, in which the bride creates her perfect day. “After she sees the costs and everything that’s involved, we aim for the look for less where necessary,” Greta says.

She suggests silk flowers. They look just as beautiful, and with the right presentation, can be ultra-chic. If you want the real thing, go for accessibility. “Brides should use in-season flowers,” she says. “You pay a lot more for flowers that are out of season.” 

For a trick that a hunting-enthused hubby would approve, Greta suggests a decoy cake. “Instead of spending a fortune on a huge cake, present a decoy cake that is too small for all to enjoy, but beautiful none the less.” The bride and groom can still cut the cake, but a much less expensive (and just as tasty) sheet cake will be served to guests.

It’s no secret that male guests may not be as impressed with party favors as their female counterparts, so to save money, Greta suggests attaching just one favor to each couples’ place setting. In the do-it-yourself vein, Greta says couples are turning to CDs.

“Creating music to remember the wedding by is very popular,” she says. “It’s cheap, it’s easy. Some couples even record a voice message to their guests.”

D.I.Y. was one Delaware bride’s M.O. Erin Proud of Wilmington married husband T.J. in a September fete of all things pink—most of which were products of her own hand.

“I never thought I’d be one of these do-it-yourself brides, but it was so fun,” she says. The Prouds used their home printer and store-bought products to create everything. “We based everything around Michael’s card stock,” she says. “And with 40 percent off coupons always in the paper, it made it even easier.”

Erin was happy with her programs, save-the-date cards, seal-and-sends and even her pink-ribbon VIP chair signs. One foray out of the D.I.Y. world were her invitations. “I realized I could have saved at least $1,000 on my invitations if I had done them myself,” she says. If brides go this route, give at least a solid six weeks from start to finish. She suggests saving on programs. “By the time the programs come into
play, the tone of the wedding is already
set,’ she says. Artistically challenged? Peruse the Internet for templates and directions from other brides, but give credit where credit is due.

Erin found she saved money with little effort on eBay. “Every single thing I found that I liked, I searched it on eBay,” she says. She found veils from $300 to $400. After consulting eBay, she found a similar one and got it for less than half the original price. When asked about her venue, however, she becomes sheepish. “That’s an altogether different story,” she says with a laugh.

Another area in which brides can stash cash is their menu. Contracting with a caterer who doesn’t have a liquor license (but who does have liquor liability insurance) can save because that caterer can’t mark liquor up. Lisa Bixby, president and owner of Wilmington-based Bixby’s Catering, has just that. “A costumer could save 30 to 50 percent,” she says. Since Bixby doesn’t serve fixed menus, the bride designs her own menu. “If they call me and say, ‘I’m a vegan, I’m not a vegan, I like shrimp, I need to cut corners,’ we can do it because it’s individually tailored for them,” she says.

 So no matter what budget you’re working with, one thing is equal across the board—It’s your day. Enjoy it. And don’t even think about your bills until after the honeymoon.


Word to the Penny Wise

Quick tips from the pros


* Leeanne suggest you skip paper mailings all together, besides the essentials, and maintain a wedding website to present info to guests. If you do decide to use mailed response cards, consider postcards. You’ll save on postage, and you won’t have to shell out more cash for envelopes.

* Work the bridal show circuits—and not just for the hottest trends. Bridal show vendors offer a plethora of coupons and specials that you can cash in on for the big day. Delaware Bride hosts two shows, one in February and one in April. Visit for more details.

* When searching for your brides-maids’ gowns, ask to see the discontinued designs. Just because they are discontinued, it does not mean they’re dysfunctional. Erin scored gorgeous pink dresses at a
fabulous price because the designer stopped making them.

* Double-dip where possible. Those gorgeous bouquets that your bridesmaids haphazardly threw on the table? Decorate your wedding cake table with them.

* If you’re having a morning-after brunch, don’t splurge on flowers. Re-use the arrangements and centerpieces from the night before.

* If you’re getting married around any holiday, take advantage of the church or venue’s already-decorated appearance.

* Before you purchase your liquor, inquire if you can return any unopened alcohol. Some liquor stores will allow it, others won’t.

* To cut down on liquor costs, serve the traditional beer and wine and then one signature drink, minus other top-shelf liquors. The Prouds created a “cotton candy martini” that was a sweet hit.

Inviting kids to the wedding? These little guests can be a quick way to cut costs. Instead of buying them a very adult, and very expensive, prime rib dinner, ask if your caterer offers children’s dinners.

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